Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Time Dilation Accelerator: The Smoggies

The Smoggies
The Smoggies were pretty terrifying villains.

Occasionally, the Time Dilation Accelerator defies the laws of space and time by going back to review the best (or the weirdest) aspects of the early 90s.

Since the Intrepid is Canadian, it’s only fair that we follow Can-Con regulations and devote forty per cent of our articles to Canadian topics. So, without further ado, we present Canada’s crowning cultural achievement: The Smoggies (or Stop the Smoggies as it was known in the U.S.). The series, which was produced by Cinar Animation in 1988, was a brilliant combination of humour and subtle environmental messages. The characters in the show were original and well thought out, and the opening theme was just kick-ass.

In case the wretched screenshot didn’t give it away already, we’re lying. This show was fucking awful. It had bad animation, idiotic plot lines, and some of the lamest environmental dribble on television. If you were stuck watching this show you prayed that it would be interrupted by a news bulletin or that the transmission tower would collapse.

The Smoggies Earth
Where the hell does this show take place? If it’s Earth, then that’s the worst drawing of Earth that we’ve ever seen.

We don’t mind if a show has an environmental message—there are lots of great eco-friendly shows out there—but when a show tries to cram a moral message down our throats through a lame plot, we tend to get a little steamed. As cartoons go, The Smoggies was pretty predictable. In each episode, the show’s villains (the Smoggies) hatched a downright idiotic plan to steal the “magic coral” from the island-dwelling Suntots. Even though the “magic coral” didn’t exist, the Suntots would always have to intervene to stop the Smoggies, because their schemes would usually be bad for the environment.

The Smoggies Pollution Ship
Look, it's the S.S. "Dumps-More-Waste-Overboard-Then-Could-Possibly-Ever-Be-On-The-Ship".

One of our biggest problems with the show was the portrayal of the Smoggies. The villains, Emma, Clarence, and Pluto, seem to go out of their way to pollute without any rhyme or reason. Take their ship: the only fucking thing it does is pollute. Even when it’s anchored and no-one’s aboard there’s smoke coming out of the ship’s funnel, waste is being dumped over the side, and oil is leaking out of the bottom. We don’t think cartoons should be entirely realistic, but if you’re trying to send a strong environmental message then maybe the pollution should be, you know, believable. Even Captain Planet’s villains didn’t pollute this much.

Our second problem is with the opening theme, which just seems to go on forever and ever and ever. Okay, the thing is only two minutes long, but in cartoon terms, that’s an eternity—especially when the average early 90s cartoon theme was only a minute. Another reason why we hate the opening theme is because it’s so damn catchy. No wonder those of us who grew up in the 90s are all eco-friendly pinko-commies now; we still can’t get this stupid theme out of our heads.

Have you met the Smoggies?
We love the soot and grime,
We make the whole world dirty,
And we have a real good time.

We love to make things messy,
Just as dirty as can be,
And you can bet we'll mess you up


The Smoggies the Suntots
Look, a bunch of poorly drawn troll dolls.

Finally, the creators of this show were just downright lazy: each episode was the damn same, the bad guys were stereotypical buffoons, and instead of coming up with an original look for the Suntots, they just made them eco-friendly Troll dolls. Besides the opening theme, there’s really nothing redeemable about The Smoggies. This is eco-dreck in its worst form: a sloppy mass distributed cartoon.

All images come from the opening theme to The Smoggies.

> Continue Reading: The Time Dilation Accelerator: The Smoggies

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Huffington Post and the Race to the Bottom

Arianna Huffington

By all accounts, Arianna Huffington’s Huffington Post has been a fantastic success. The site, which is an entertaining mix between a news aggregator and a weblog, was started in 2005 and is now the fifteenth most popular site on the internet—just above the BBC and below the Washington Post. While the site’s rapid accession is astounding, it’s also somewhat worrisome. The site only employs fifty-five staffers; all the other contributors are unpaid. If HuffPo, as it’s commonly referred to (yeah, its short-form sounds like the name of a Care Bear), represents the future of journalism, then professional journalism doesn’t stand a chance.

At first glance, Arianna’s experiment seems noble. By giving prominent journalists, writers, authors, politicians, entertainers, and amateurs complete creative control, the site encourages unique articles. The problem is that HuffPo only offers their contributors a means to an end. Free publicity is great if you’re already known. But if you’re a relatively unknown blogger or journalist who wants to break into the industry, HuffPo really isn’t that useful.

The site gives amateur writers a voice in a respectable organization, but at the same time it also undermines the very industry that these writers want to be a part of. If HuffPo is able flourish and profit with thousands of free writers, unpaid interns, and a skeleton staff, what’s to stop every major newspaper from adopting the same format? (Besides the obvious fact that if every media organization just aggregated content, there wouldn’t be anything left to aggregate.)

With all the cutbacks, layoffs, and closures, the news industry seems to be moving closer to the HuffPo’s lean, mean style. To survive, several papers, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have abandoned their print editions, slashed costs, and moved entirely online. As these organizations adopt the HuffPo model, there are going to be fewer jobs out there for paid writers. Unfortunately, this makes the experience and publicity that the site offers somewhat useless.

This isn’t a shot across the bow of every weblog out there or an argument for pay-to-read online news subscriptions. There’s a big future for HuffPo’s style of citizen journalism, but our fear is that Arianna’s web model might just extinguish paid professional journalism altogether. For now, professional writers are content to write for free to promote their paid projects, but when the time comes that they have nothing to promote, they’ll probably stop writing for free.

Photo of Arianna Huffington by jdlasica

> Continue Reading: The Huffington Post and the Race to the Bottom

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: Sunnyside Beach

Every week Toronto Then and Now compares a photo from Toronto’s past to one from the present.

Sunnyside Beach Toronto 1924
Sunnyside Beach. (1924)

Sunnyside Beach Toronto
Sunnyside Beach. (2008)

Where'd all the swimmers go?

The 1924 photo of Sunnyside Beach comes from the City of Toronto Archives. The 2008 photo is by Contrails.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Sunnyside Beach

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Do Jasper

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Jasper Canada 1939
Apparently, it’s royalty week here at the Intrepid (or more specifically, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit Canada week), as today we have another image of the king and queen on their 1939 trip. When war was looming overhead in 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured Canada by train to improve relations. The trip was a huge success. Thousands of Canadians came out to cheer, and hopefully catch a glimpse of the royal couple. This image, which was recently discovered, was taken by official CN Railway photographer William H. Robinson at Jasper Park Lodge in 1939.

Photo by William H. Robinson.

> Continue Reading: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Do Jasper

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mackenzie King Gives King George VI the Finger

Mackenzie King Doctored Photo King George VI 1939
William Lyon Mackenzie King is often considered to be one Canada’s greatest political minds. King, who trained as a lawyer and worked as a professor before becoming a politician, eventually rose to the office of Prime Minister, where he served for twenty-one non-consecutive years. But like most brilliant individuals, privately, King was off-his-rocker. He frequently held séances in which he communicated with his dead mother, Sir Wilfred Laurier, Leonardo Da Vinci, and later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The latter is almost certainly false though, as privately, FDR didn’t like King.

Although King managed to keep his fascination with the occult secret during his lifetime, many of his decisions were still guided by his ego and eccentricities. Such was the case, when he decided to doctor a photograph, taken in 1939, of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), and himself at Banff National Park in Alberta. In the original photo, the three are enjoying a laugh amid the scenery. Though we doubt George would be amused if he knew that he would later be erased from history.

Mackenzie King Doctored Photo King George VI 1939 OriginalThe original photo of Mackenzie King, King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth in Banff, Alberta. (1939)

Mackenzie King Doctored Photo King George VI 1939 Full SizeThe doctored photo of Mackenzie King and Queen Elizabeth. (1939-1940)

By today’s standards, the doctoring job is almost childish. At close inspection, George has clearly been painted over with a tree and some flowers, the shadow where he was standing is still visible, and the brick underneath looks warped. However, it seems that this forgery was good enough to fool the Canadian public, as the doctored photo was used in a campaign poster for the Prime Minister’s reelection bid.

Mackenzie King Doctored Photo King George VI 1939 Close UpThe flowers and tree in this altered photograph are obviously painted on.

Historians aren’t quite sure why King had George removed, but many believe that King wanted to look like he was in charge; as without George, it looks like the Queen is looking up to him.

All photos are from the Library and Archives of Canada.

> Continue Reading: Mackenzie King Gives King George VI the Finger

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Perfect System for March Madness

March Madness 2009

Even for those of us who are clueless about college basketball, March Madness can still be fun if you design a crazy method to pick your winners. No, we’re not talking about some lame system like picking by mascot or favourite colours. We’re talking about crazy fucking off the wall methods that have absolutely no chance of succeeding.

Last year, for instance, we picked the schools with the biggest libraries to win. Our thinking was simple: the schools with the biggest libraries have the most money, which means they have lots to spend on their basketball teams. To our surprise, the system failed miserably. We probably should have done the exact opposite. If a school has a small library, it means that they’re probably phasing out academics so they can concentrate on sports. A few years before that, we figured that the best teams were the ones that trained at the highest altitudes—you know, white blood cells and all. Shockingly, this theory was also a bust.

This year though, we think we have a winner. We decided to pick the schools that offer the most sport related bird courses. Think about it. Basketball players don’t have time for school—too busy with sports—but they still need to take something right? So, to help their struggling athletes many schools have created courses such as sports management, sports marketing, and sports in film. These courses no doubt provide college athletes with the valuable skills that they need to pursue a career outside sports.

Our pick to win: Xavier.

Sports Marketing at Xavier
Sadly, this is an actual image of a sports marketing class at Xavier.

Like our previous attempts, this method probably won’t pan out, but so far it looks like the best scheme-to-date.

> Continue Reading: The Perfect System for March Madness

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Obama Would Annihilate Palin in a 2012 Presidential Face-Off

Obama and Palin

According to a new Public Policy Polling Survey President Obama would obliterate Sarah Palin in a hypothetical 2012 Presidential election by more than 400 electoral votes [PDF]. The national opinion survey, which was conducted last week, indicates that Obama currently leads Palin 55-35 per cent. If the match-up were to occur today, the election would be one of the biggest popular vote blowouts in American history—even overshadowing Richard Nixon’s victory over George McGovern in 1972.

Although any match-up is premature, several Republican opinion polls suggest that Palin is strongly favoured as the Republican nominee for 2012, despite the movement within the party against her. In fact, the polling survey indicates that Palin’s unpopularity within her own party would probably do her the greatest harm. While only three per cent of Democrats are unsure about who they would vote for in an Obama/Palin contest, eighteen per cent of Republicans are undecided.

So, on a state-by-state basis, what would the results look like? What states would Obama pick-up? Which ones would Palin lose?

Obama Palin 2012 Electoral Map

States Obama Would Most Likely Pick-Up
  • Missouri
  • Louisiana
  • Georgia
  • Montana
Toss Up States
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Arizona
  • South Carolina
Palin might be popular with some Republicans, but unless she finds a way to revitalize her tattered image, she's probably not going to be the Republican nominee.

Electoral map template comes from the New York Times.

> Continue Reading: Obama Would Annihilate Palin in a 2012 Presidential Face-Off

Toronto Then and Now: Yonge and Dundas Square

Every week Toronto Then and Now compares a photo from Toronto’s past to one from the present.

Yonge and Dundas Square 1926
Yonge and Dundas Square, looking west. (1926)

Yonge and Dundas Square 1926
Northwest corner of Yonge and Dundas Square. (1926)

Yonge and Dundas Square 2008
Yonge and Dundas Square. (2008)

Hasn't changed a bit.

The 1926 photos of Yonge and Dundas are from the City of Toronto Archives. The 2008 photo of Yonge and Dundas Square is by K-Billz

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Yonge and Dundas Square

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Much Does it Cost to Operate Air Force One?

Air Force One

Air Force One is a symbol of American power. The 747’s presence, grandeur, and mythical stature never ceases to captivate audiences (even when co-starring with Harrison Ford). But despite Air Force One’s almost omnipotent qualities, I really don’t know the yearly cost of the plane. In my article on the operating expenses of the White House, I quoted Kenneth Walsh’s (low) 2002 estimate in the Washington Post of $200 million a year. The cost is probably far higher now, as Walsh's figure fails to account for any measures aimed at beefing up security after September 11 and the rise in fuel prices since 2002.

More recent estimates suggest that Air Force One costs $68,000 an hour (mostly for fuel), but the yearly costs to operate the two 833,000 pound behemoths (yes, the president has two of them) are still a mystery. One of the problems with calculating the cost is that part of the expense depends on the total travel hours, personnel costs, backup aircraft, and sometimes even ground transportation. All of this can get pretty pricey. In 2000, one of Clinton’s week long trips to Asia cost an estimated $63 million. Sometimes these costs are lumped in with Air Force One’s budget, and sometimes they’re not. Many of the costs are also classified, which makes them difficult to determine.

Since 2002, Jet fuel prices have gone up about twenty per cent, so if I had to estimate, I would guess that Air Force One's yearly operating expenses are somewhere between $240-280 million (though even this estimate might be far too low).

Photo by Kris Klop.

> Continue Reading: How Much Does it Cost to Operate Air Force One?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: All Aboard at Union Station

Every week Toronto Then and Now compares a photo from Toronto’s past to one from the present.

Trains Arriving at Old Union Station
Trains arriving at Old Union Station. (1907)

GO Train Arriving at Union Station
The GO Train arriving at (new) Union Station.

Photo of Old Union Station from the City of Toronto Archives. Photo of the GO Train by Keith Watson

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: All Aboard at Union Station

Businesses Are Most Likely to Abuse Ontario’s New RFID Driver’s Licenses

Minority Report Gap

Privacy be damned! In June, 2009, residents of Ontario will be getting new driver’s licenses equipped with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips. The chips, which are being touted as a cheap and easy alternative to passports at the border, broadcast personal information to RFID readers at a distance of thirty feet. The new cards are expected to improve border security while reducing wait times. Imagine driving up to the border and instead of having to hand over your passport, the border officer has already gone over your information and is waving you through.

While these chips sound great in theory; in reality, they’re a privacy nightmare, as they never stop broadcasting. The detailed information that the new cards contain will be accessible to anyone with a hundred dollar RFID scanner. Identity thieves are no doubt salivating at this prospect, and although they pose a threat, the real threat to our privacy will come from companies.

What if Best Buy or the Gap decided to scan every customer and then used that information to sell us stuff? We probably won’t be seeing Minority Report style digital billboards that address us by name, but we suspect that many corporate retailers would use this data to create mailing lists to bombard us with product information. Do you really want Best Buy to know how many times you shop there, or worse, how often you leave with a purchase?

Screen capture from the film Minority Report.

> Continue Reading: Businesses Are Most Likely to Abuse Ontario’s New RFID Driver’s Licenses

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A 21st Century Depression

Where's my Fucking Bailout

With the world’s banking system on the brink of collapse, we started to wonder: what would a twenty-first century depression look like? Nothing like the last one, that’s for sure—dust bowls and the Joads are so 1930. We thought this over and if the economy goes belly-up, we think that these are some of the most likely scenarios.

Eating Habits
Gross Cheeseburger
  • Cheaper Calories: More fast food and less healthy or environmentally conscious food (goodbye organic fruits and vegetables).
  • Obesity: Economically depressed individuals will start to turn to comfort foods and stop renewing those expensive gym passes.
  • Cooking at Home: People will start to cook more meals at home (cookbooks and cooking videos are going to be big).
  • Urban Farming: Vegetable gardens will be a lot more common. People might even start investing in chicken coops.
  • Cheap Booze: Fancy wine sales will fall, as boxed wine sales skyrocket.
Housing Foreclosure
  • Re-Urbanization: Re-urbanization is already on its way, a depression would just speed it up. Cars are expensive, and commuting is cheap if you live where you work.
  • Suburbanized Ghettos: As the upper and middle classes move back to the cities—gentrifying their cores—they’ll push the lower classes out to the suburbs where impoverished ghettos will start to spring up.
  • Renting Over Owning: If housing prices continue to plummet, it will make more sense to rent.
  • Living with the ‘Rents’: To save money, more kids are going to stay in their parent’s house after they finish school.
Crowded Subway
  • Easy Transit Access is King: The most desired areas to live will be those that are well-serviced by metro transit systems.
  • Crowded Subways and Empty Laneways: Gas is cheaper now, but it’s still not that cheap. Lots of people are going to stop driving and transit systems are going to see a lot more use.
Hart House Entrance
  • Worthless Degrees: That master’s degree in history is worth even less now. Get some real skills, ya bum!
  • (Expensive) Worthless Degrees: With tuitions still going up, university will be too expensive for many North American families. Subsequently, as admissions drop, so will standards.
  • No More Drunken Debauchery: University towns will still be drunken hell holes, but there won’t be as many students to fill them. Cities like Boston are going to suffer.
  • We Don’t Need Any Wrapping Paper: Public schools, particularly those that heavily rely on fundraising, are going to be strapped for cash.
Goodwill Clothing
  • Hand-Me-Downs: If there’s a depression, used clothing stores are going to be big.
  • Goodbye Topless Mannequins: In bad economic times, people trade down—so Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, and the rest of the high-end clothing stores would soon be out of business.
Smashed Laptop
  • Rotten Apples: Macs are expensive; if times get tough, people are going to trade down, and buy cheap PCs.
  • The Small Neighbourhood Computer Shop: Instead of buying a new computer, a lot of people would probably try to fix their old one or buy used. This is something the big box stores aren’t equipped to do, and might lead to a proliferation of small neighbourhood computer stores.
  • Prepaid Mania: Cell phones are expensive. People trying to save money will most likely downgrade to prepaid phones.
Television Family
  • Culture is Dead: Those grants for the arts are going to go the way of the avant-garde aluminum sculpture of the dodo bird.
  • Who’s My Baby’s Daddy: The unemployed are going to need entertainment to forget their woes, and there's no cheaper form of entertainment than television. Maury’s ratings are going to go through the roof.
  • Empty Theater Seats: Unless movies (and movie popcorn) come down in price, people are going to stick with their televisions.
  • Surfing to the Max: Out of a job? Need twelve hours to kill everyday? May we present the Mecca of free entertainment: the internet.
Obviously, this list is incomplete and since we haven’t had a 21st century depression yet (fingers crossed) we really don’t know what one might look like.

Source: Depression 2009, What Would It Look Like, by Drake Bennett

Where is my "fucking bailout" by Politics for Misfits. Cheeseburger by Food in Mouth. Blue House by Chad Davis. Crowded Subway by SeraphimC. Hart House Entrance by Gogoninja. Goodwill Clothing by Viewerblur. Smashed Laptop by analog chainsaw. Television Family by Franca Alejandra.

> Continue Reading: A 21st Century Depression

Toronto Then and Now: The Humber River Gets Iced

Every week Toronto Then and Now compares a photo from Toronto’s past to one from the present.

Wadsworth Mill Ice
The Wadsworth Mill after a nasty spring thaw.

Humber River Ice
Étienne Brûlé Park after the thaw in February.

Usually, we don’t think of the Humber River as a raging torrent, but under the right conditions the river can do an impressive amount of damage. This year, heavy snowfalls and a flash thaw in February turned the Humber into a swollen beast that tore up Étienne Brûlé Park—scattering picnic benches and shattering informational displays—leaving a mountain of mini icebergs in its wake. Normally, the city is able to manage the chunks of ice that build up over the course of the winter, but the speed of this year’s thaw caught everyone unprepared. In the past, the spring thaw was just as deadly, as this undated early nineteenth century photo of the Wadsworth Mill—which once sat on the Humber at St. Philips road—demonstrates.

Photo of the damage at Étienne Brûlé Park by Chris Drost. The Wadsworth Mill photo comes from the Weston Historical Society Collection.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: The Humber River Gets Iced

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Facebook's Not About Networking, It’s About Broadcasting

Entire cybermelli doll collection

According to research conducted by Cameron Marlow, Facebook’s resident sociologist, the average Facebook user has 120 friends (although, women tend to have more than men)—out of this group, the average male user regularly corresponds with only seven friends, while the average female only interacts with ten. The information that most users post to their accounts is obviously for the benefit of their close contacts, but as this study indicates, Facebook members really aren’t networking on a large scale—as was previously thought—instead, users are only broadcasting information about their lives to casual acquaintances. Facebook may give us the illusion that we’re keeping in touch, but in reality, our close circle of friends is as tight as ever.

Original photo by cybermelli

> Continue Reading: Facebook's Not About Networking, It’s About Broadcasting