Here there be dragon lanterns

Can’t make it to Ontario Place? Check out these great 360 night shots of these skillfully sculpted, gigantic lanterns currently at the Toronto Chinese Lantern Festival. They’ve got tigers and pandas and life-sized pagodas, oh my. See if you can find the one shaped like the CN Tower.

Also check out shot #4 – that’s a metres-long dragon-shaped lantern constructed entirely out of teacups and saucers.

Choice artwork: A cartoonist’s crib sheet

vanosten.gifAround 1975, Disney artist Carson Van Osten sketched the “Comic Strip Artist’s Kit”, seven large drafting sheets of tips and tricks illustrated in lead pencil. These sketches may have been lost to the sands of time, but thanks to the Internet, but Van Osten had graciously allowed his originals to be scanned and placed on Mark Kennedy’s blog.

Even if you gave up drawing Mickey Mouse in fifth grade, you might want to take a look to see what an effective visual tutorial on drawing looks like – or to appreciate some never-before-seen artwork of your favourite Disney characters.

Universities want to score too

11 schools are boycotting Maclean’s university ranking guide. It’s a surprise, considering the annual Maclean’s university issue is generally considered THE bible for Canadian parents eager to transform their naive offspring to formidable lawyers and doctors.

What’s more surprising is the schools who are doing the boycott. I had actually expected a sour grapes situation, but there’s some perennial high-scorers on that list. UofT, UBC, UQAM, and my own Mac is on the list, and they typically are at the top of their rankings and enjoy overall good mindshare. It’s telling when your winners claim your contest is inaccurate.

Speaking of which, I have a story of my own brush with Maclean’s. They determine what the best clubs on campus were by sending out a random survey to a few select club organizers. I know this because in our university one organizer received TWO ballots by accident because Maclean’s thought he ran two clubs. Why? His club had an ampersand in its title.

Obviously he nominated his own club and one I was also participating in, and that’s what got published in the in-depth profile for our school. Scientific, eh?

I probably should have said something back then, but I was a lot more cynical and a lot less introspective at the time.

Like that stupid robot says at the end of Millennium…

mrG whimsically writes about the so-called End of the World, kickin’ it live Mayan style in 2012:

The elders add that the tipping point acceding to the Fifth Sky doesn’t actually tip on its own; we must use our inner magic to tip it — Sun Ra told us we can change our destiny if we just ask Fate, when Fate is in a pleasant mood; on 12-12-21, say the Mayan elders, Fate will be in a very good mood indeed.

I personally love how he describes the death-and-rebirth prophecy to a laudromat – “changes in cycles are essential stages in any cleansing process”.

Tom Vu and Robert Kiyosaki

Real estate mogul John Reed has written a lengthy but comprehensive deconstruction and critique of the book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” [via MetaFilter] and its author, Robert Kiyosaki. Basically, Reed argues Kiyosaki’s advice to be useless at best, and his claims of fame and fortune unlikely. Even the very existence of the “Rich Dad” are brought into question, as well as much of Kiyosaki’s own biographical information:

There are probably many ways to became a financial genius, but Kiyosaki has certainly chosen an unlikely route:

* flunked sophomore year of high school and had to repeat
* U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
* 3rd mate oil tanker (or was it “Love Boat” type cruise ship?)
* Marine helicopter pilot (or was it fighters?)
* refused to return to ship when it was ordered to return to combat (or just missed the boat)
* Xerox salesman
* failed businessman (nylon surfer wallets)
* failed businessman (rock and roll memorabilia)
* failed author (1993 book If You Want to Be Rich & Happy, Don’t Go To School?)
* failed MBA student
* homeless person
* bankruptcy (or maybe not)

We have this book sitting on our shelf, and while I don’t share Reed’s feelings that it can cause financial disaster to those who follow it, it is pretty much the standard feel-good and vacuous fare that the Oprah Book Club just loves to lap up. Not surprisingly, like “Million Little Pieces”, it seems to be little more than a fanciful story, despite being categorized as non-fiction.

Mind you, Kiyosaki succeeds because he’s got razzle dazzle, and Reed himself could use a bit of razzle dazzle in his own work; since he is a self-professed millionaire, he really should invest in a website designer.

P.S. More financial schadenfreude: H&R Block, the tax return service for people who can’t or won’t fill out forms properly, discovers it miscalculated its own income tax by $32 million.

Disclosure: My pantry looks like a New York taxicab

Now I know why No Name products at No Frills supermarkets have that damn ugly yellow packaging: it’s all part of the sales strategy to pander to the thrifty consumer while scaring away the better heeled, ego-conscious customers who wouldn’t be caught dead skulking under the bare flourescent lamps of a discount grocery.

Such is the case of the unadvertised small cappucino at Starbucks. The small cap is more authentic (everything in Europe is smaller, go figure. Except for their men. Sorry.), stronger, and cheap. It’s also not listed on the board, because ol’ Bucky wants to keep its well-heeled customers’ eyes on the bigger, pricier Venti size. The Small is to garner business from the pennysaver. (At least according to “dismal science” writer Tim Harford; baristas posted on Slate’s message board argue otherwise. They to point out that the fault lies not in the Starbucks but in ourselves: for North Americans, bigger means better, traditions be damned, and they want a calorie-ladened Venti overdosed on sugar and milk.)

Whether the Caffeine Mermaid pricing conspiracy amounts to a hill of beans or not, the economic theory is sound. I remember a clever article written by Joel Spolsky on software pricing. Ever wonder why Windows XP comes in two virtually indistinguishable flavours, other than the “Professional” version is 33% more? Now you know.

Do the shuffle!

If you ever wondered how terrible legislation like the DMCA comes to be, all you need to hear is this excerpt of an interview between a Fox anchorman and the US president regarding his iPod music player:

Bush: All of these. I put it on shuffle. Dwight Yoakam. I’ve got the Shuffle, the, what is it called? The little.

Hume: Shuffle.

Bush: It looks like.

Hume: The Shuffle. That is the name of one of the models.

Bush: Yes, the Shuffle.

Hume: Called the Shuffle.

Bush: Lightweight, and crank it on, and you shuffle the Shuffle.

No truer, clearer words have been spoken about the Apple iPod since a speechless Seal blurted out, “This is the first of one of these things that makes me feel, Wow, OK!” in a 2001 promo video.

Shortly after:

Hume: So you don’t know what you’re going to going to get.

Bush: No.

Hume: But you know —

Bush: And if you don’t like it, you have got your little advance button. It’s pretty high-tech stuff.

I wonder if Apple has a patent on this “advance button”.

Extreme Makeover: Subway Edition

museum.jpg It was with some surprise that Toronto’s transit system made it in Metro Arts’s top 40 prettiest subways, although frankly I don’t think we hold a candle to Moscow or Athens or even Portland.

On that note, it’s reported that the TTC is considering jazzing up three of their subway stations for the tourists, starting with Museum, and tentatively Osgoode and St. Patrick. As you can see, Museum gets faux mummies – which doesn’t look bad on paper, although it’s quite the departure from your typical abstract, low-key tile artwork the TTC is famous for. Opinions are mixed, with avid fans of the Vitrolite tiling disapproving the proposed renovations.

For the record, I don’t really mind the proposals, although I’m a traditionalist when it comes to St. Patrick’s: it’s gotta stay green.

But why Museum, and why not the cramped and dark confines of Union? Or Yorkdale, whose greenhouse roof leaks every time it rains? I figure it’s because the downtown University-Spadina line needs to attract more riders. In addition, this may mean less vandalism: Museum supposedly has the least crime of all the subway stops. How long are you willing to bet until someone sticks their Bubble-licious in King Tut’s eye?