Old Sock Drawer

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#106: The value of joke candidates.

March 25th, 2010 by Mary Leong

Currently listening to: “For Love and Your Mother’s Sake” – The United Steel Workers of Montreal

(The second part of my post-elections rundown.)

In this year’s AUS elections, the candidates included an exceedingly high proportion of joke candidates not usually seen in undergraduate society elections. With four fictional Star Wars characters running in the races of VP External, VP Finance, AMS Representative, and Senator, this not-a-slate produced victories in the VP Finance and AMS Representative races. Running uncontested in the former, and as one of six candidates in the latter, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Admiral Ackbar now hold positions which they, despite their expansive intergalactic experience, will doubtlessly find engaging and occasionally challenging.

From beer kegs (Kommander Keg in the 09/10 AMS elections) to potted plants (my father’s graduating year in University of Manitoba) to fictional characters (see above), joke candidates have become quite the staple in student elections. And thank god for that, because a solid percentage of people engaged in student government take themselves way too seriously. Satire and parody is often needed to remind us all that we’re just students, for goodness’ sake, and the petty sniping of student government elections really is nothing but petty.

Aside from ensuring that candidates don’t get ahead of themselves, elaborately-designed joke candidates are a great way of engaging students who wouldn’t usually be bothered to vote. Does it really matter how one goes about raising awareness? Isn’t any involvement welcome involvement, at this point? There is something to be said about being able to check Darth Vader off your ballot (unfortunately, not a reality in the past election, which I am just a titch bit miffed about). Frankly, the vast majority of students will probably be blasé about any given issue on the AUS agenda. They will, however, be amused and roused into taking a closer look at the elections if permitted to vote for King Arthur (the Holy Grail version, not the mythology version, mind you).

It’s only too bad slating is forbidden, or a reincarnation of the Rhino Party of Canada in AMS terms would be absolutely brilliant…

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#105: Post-election musing

March 23rd, 2010 by Mary Leong

Currently listening to: “Telephone” – Lady GaGa

Now that AUS elections are done and over, perhaps it might finally be appropriate for me to comment briefly on it, and the assorted accompanying drama. But first, let me extend a warm congratulations to next year’s newly elected councillors and executive. With the introduction of a new team, I am excited and hopeful in seeing how things will pan out over the next year.

Firstly, the $60 000 allocated to elections. In early March, I voted in favour of giving this money to the Elections Committee and UBC Votes team. This year’s turnout of nearly twice that of last year’s election (700-ish this year, vs. 300-ish last year) total voters can be attributed to the efforts made to raise the profile of elections through the harmonized elections events held throughout the week. From free food (!) to the Said the Whale concert to an epic dance party at the Museum of Anthropology, the UBC Votes team definitely did a stellar job at trying to raise awareness that student elections were ongoing.

However, that being said, even with these efforts, Arts failed to meet quorum (10% of students or 1000, whichever happens to be less) and Science’s election turnout was dismal as well (300-ish online votes if I heard right?). Why this unshakable voter apathy? At which point did students start to decide it was alright not to pick people to represent their interests and decide how to put their student fees to good – or well, better – use? Or more pertinently – at which point did students start to believe that it was alright to leave the voting to others, and follow up by grousing about how the AUS is ineffective and irrelevant to their lives? Far from defending the actions of the AUS with regards to what we’ve done – or rather, what we haven’t done – this year, I simply wonder what would have been different this past year if voter turnout had been higher for the 2009/2010 elections. In fact, I wonder that a lot about student government this year: if voter turnout had been higher and more properly representative of the student body at large, what would have been different?

Then, an election with multiple uncontested races; yet, the races which were contested ended up being ridiculously close- possibly the closest in any AUS race ever. The tiebreaker vote cast by Elections Administrator Matthew Naylor for the presidential race gave Brian Platt a one-vote victory over Ryan Trasolini. Doubtlessly a harrowing race for all parties involved, I am pleased, very much so – very much gratified at the direction this could take the AUS in the next year, and look forward to seeing how things pan out this upcoming year.

The race which I was running in, that for the position of AUS VP External, was also relatively close, with a 30-40 vote margin between myself and 2010/2011 VPX-elect, Carolee Changfoot (congratulations, dearie!) I had an incredibly fun time campaigning for it – my lovely photographer, campaign team, and all friends and supporters who’ve been a beacon of light and joy over the past weeks, thank you so much for the hugs and endless puns involving the word “rock”. My favourite might just be “demrockracy”. SO much win. As I mentioned in my message out, I’ve got some shenanigans up my sleeve so watch for those, and Tea Talks and Treats will resume once I bake more stuff.

This entry is getting to be quite lengthy: I shall follow up tomorrow/later tonight with a rather extensive post on the value of joke candidacies, so watch for that.


P.S. Valentina, I finally caught a glimpse of you at yesterday’s AUS meeting! Hello there!

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#104: Wonderland, indeed.

March 18th, 2010 by Mary Leong


I took a veritable journey down the proverbial rabbit-hole in watching Tim Burton’s remake of Alice in Wonderland. What an absolute spectacle! One has come to expect that sort of visual extravaganza in any Tim Burton film, and indeed, it did not fail to impress. Other sequels to Alice have come off contrived, but Burton manages to make it work. An absolute delight to watch with whimsical dream-like sequences melding animation and live acting, the film retains the bizarreness from Lewis Carroll’s original text, forcing viewers to suspend disbelief as they are tossed haphazardly from scene to scene. Watching it in 3-D had definitely been a good idea. To top it all off, the musical sequences were fantastically trippy.

Highly recommended – I give this film four and a half hookah-smoking blue caterpillars out of five.

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#103: Empire of Illusion – revisited

March 18th, 2010 by Mary Leong

So The Tyee published an interesting and exceedingly eloquent analysis by Stan Persky of Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion. As you might recall, I granted Empire of Illusion the title of “the one book you must read of 2009” in my end-of-year arts and culture rundown. I see Tyler has taken my advice and gone off and read it.

With the decline of literacy in favour of popular culture’s garishness, I share Hedges’ grim fascination with the direction the world is heading. The article prefers to observe popular culture in a detached manner rather than viewing its detrimental effects. An interesting take, but one I must disagree with. Persky comments that Hedges fails to take into account the literal causes of literary decline, such as the rise of social networking on the Internet, decline of book-reading, and increasing “knowledge deficits” in youth – a failure at being informed about history, geography, literature. He goes on to state that Hedges’ examples are for the most part, unrelated to actual literary decline and an overly bleak look at things.

On my part, I beg to differ. Persky does not account for the fact that his literal causes of literary decline – less reading, more Twitter et cetera – is caused by the examples Hedges chooses to draw from. A steady lack of interest in books doesn’t simply emerge from nowhere. Decreased attention span in youth leading to the lack of interest in books? Hedges attributes it to the rise of “spectacle” – pornography, reality television, falsified entertainment wrestling. The rise of education for money-making rather than education for erudition. The reign of a relatively unintelligent plutocracy (for more on this, read Idiot America). Why would you even think of reading when you could get your information from YouTube?

I quote verbatim from Persky’s article, “So, it’s a book about rather than for the unwashed but shampooed masses whose minds are inundated by junk culture.” And so, I ask, why not? Once the clock has gone forward, what is there left to be done? Rousseau would say we’ve gone so far down that there’s no way to turn back the clock and rescue ourselves from the state we’ve fallen into. We’ve given up the noble command of the written word in favour of visceral entertaiment and there is no going back. The only thing we can do now is to acknowledge that this regression is quite real indeed: we cannot go back, but we can move forward to something less destructive.

Once again, I firmly encourage you to read Empire – I definitely want to know what you guys think.

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March 12th, 2010 by Mary Leong

Currently listening to: “Die Vampire Die” – [title of show] OBCR

Undergraduate Society Elections start at 8 am tomorrow! If you’re in Arts, Science, Engineering, or HKIN, exercise your democratic rights and vote at ubcvotes.ca!

This time round, I’m running to be your AUS VP External.

rock the bureaucracy

You’ve read my blog; you know what I’m like inside and out, quirks and oddities all-encompassing. You know I like tea and baking, play random musical instruments, and I’m a total Stiglitz and Zimbardo fangirl. BUT here’s why you should vote for me.

I’m running on a financially sustainable and sensible platform encouraging student participation in the Faculty of Arts through branding and marketing, and increased inter-faculty engagement. For a more detailed platform, check out maryleong.ca and feel free to email me with any questions.

And if it’s any encouragement, voting gets you free entrance into all the amazing events the fantastic Elections Committee have organized! So yes- make your undergraduate society TRULY yours by voting and taking a stake in its growth and development!

I leave you with a link to a Youtube video, as WordPress is still not working for me.

Those nine people will tell nine people
Then we’ll have eighteen people loving the show
Then eighteen people could grow into
Five-hundred and twenty-five-thousand, six-hundred people
Loving our show
Nine People’s Favourite Thing


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