How to Make $2000 in Under a Thousand Words

I have discovered something wondrous.
The golden cash cow! The tree that grows money. The goose that lays the golden eggs! Did you know that people are out there offering thousands of dollars in exchange for a short essay? They are called scholarships. I recently discovered them while cruising the information superhighway in search of ways to pay for school (Can you believe I was actually looking at jobs!?). The first one is for $2000 and all I have to do is write 600 words about some doctor’s quotes:

“Is it always the rich that prosper?”

I say no. I say that only those who are fulfilled prosper. Although it may seem awfully kitschy to say so, I think that true prosperity comes from being happy with ones current situation. The definition of prosperity is “to do well.” If wellness were categorized merely by wealth, then the rich would be much more well behaved. but wellness is the symptom of a culmination of satisfaction. Be it spiritual, circumstantial, or financial.

Prosperity is elusive and we can see clearly in the rampant greed of the wall street culture  that money does not inherently bring satisfaction. In fact, when money is the sole objective and not merely a means to an end, there can be no satisfaction. “Unlimited growth,” the rallying cry of capitalism, spells out this unfettered desire and constant hunger: They are the zombies of our time. But prosperity is not so easily found among the poor either. The truth is that prosperity is not something that can be obtained. It must be attained, and the first step is to realize that you are not prosperous. Once the path has commenced, the second foot will follow the first. A question must be asked: “Why am I not satisfied?” and a decision must be made to rectify the situation. Without this decision, you will remain mired in apathy wishing desperately to be freed from inaction. Similarly, if the first step has been skipped you will continue on fruitlessly, never finding satisfaction because you will never know when you have reached your goal.

If you are among the lucky ones, you may find that you had reached this goal long ago and simply failed to realize it,  or you may find that you are much closer than you thought. You may also realize that you have a long way yet to go, if this is the case, take solace in knowing that the road has an end.

300 words in… I discover that this is, like, a contest… There is no guarantee that I will get the cash. Oh well, I’m a good writer. I can totally win this thing!

Let us return to the concept of prosperity.  I said it was  satisfaction in one’s current situation. I would gnomically express that, although one need not be rich to prosper, those who prosper are rich. Too long have we equated riches with money. You, my friend, might be satisfied  with a wealth of knowledge, a wealth of  friends, or a wealth of spirituality.

Is money necessary for satisfaction? Well, it depends. I could fall in love. My love and I could find an unclaimed patch of land. We could build a home, a cozy cottage by the lake. We could plant a garden, raise a chicken, and a cow. We could live, uncomplicated and at peace. I could be happy in this life. I would be satisfied in my love. I would be satisfied in my work, and I would be satisfied with my life.

But I cannot live in the woods, my life is in the  city.  And living in the city, I must indeed have money. How much, you ask?  If  I could make enough to live more than I worked, I would be satisfied. If I had money to spend on my mind and heart, not just my body, I would be satisfied.

Oh. … It’s a public voting competition. I am supposed to pepper my friends and acquaintances with a barrage of voting requests. Burying them under a plenitude of apathy and annoyance.

But… I’m already 500 words in… Another 100 won’t hurt, right?

So, no! You don’t need to be rich. You need open eyes, to see what needs to change; an open mind, to know what to do; an open heart, to accept the change; and the will to take the first step.

Prosperity requires a plan and a choice. Some are not given the ability to make that choice. That is why those of us who can must realize the privilege we are given and fight for everyone’s right to choose. Because what’s the point of prosperity  if  we don’t do it as the whole human race.

Well, I’m sober(ed) now. And I can clearly see that I was a fool to expect money to be free. I will never (I swear!) be fooled like this again.

*UPDATE*
Oh hey! I just got an email from this Nigerian prince! He wants to give me money! Will keep you posted.

Toronto Web Series Festival: Or How to Meet Cool People

Toronto Web Series Festival just celebrated its inauguration this weekend. True to form, I only found out about it the evening before via random coincidence.

Being the broke student that I am, I was drawn like a moth to flame by that effervescent tagline: “FREE!” Without paying a cent, I was able to attend the festival, see the screenings of all the shows, attend the actual awards ceremony, and go to the after parties. SCHMOOZE TIME!

But wait, there’s more! If unlike me you have some spare change rolling around, a festival pass is only $50 which allows you to attend 11 panel discussions on topics ranging from “Financing web series” and “Courting brands” to  “The web series soundtrack” and “Actors bringing it to the web.” (If you feel like mixing and matching, the panels are $10 each).

I attended all three days and met many wonderful people. On Friday, the festival opened with the screening of the official selection for the Sci-Fi category. This was my first introduction to the following video:

TO WebFest 2014 – Official Trailer by towebfest

I have seen that video so many times over this past weekend that it has lost all meaning.

The official selection was: Abigail, Aeternus, Chronicles of Syntax, El Gran Dia de los Feos, Olympia, One Hit Die, Out of Time, Pete Winning and the Pirates, Polaris, State of Syn, and The True Heroines.

During the talkback,  we were treated to some scrumptiously useful tips:

“Put your generator on ‘Eco’ mode”

“Don’t build huge sci-fi sets out of  Masonite”

“Fewer Locations!”

Saturday began with Children’s programming. I know we all expect kids shows to terrible, dumbed-down pieces of kitschy drivel, but this was not the case. I witnessed some of the best children’s shows I have ever seen. Some short and sweet, like “What’s Inside?,” and others longer, like “My Lupine life.”  I think my personal favourite was “My Lupine Life, ” although “The Invaders web series: Angie’s Logs” wins for sheer cuteness (But Angie does bring it). If you are a film and/or literature buffs, you should definitely check out “Rubber Chicken Players” (If you’re not, just do it anyway).

The official selection was: Kid’s Town, Kimchi Warrior, “My Lupine Life”  By Louis Pine, Out With Dad, Rubber Chicken Players, Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library, The Invaders web series: Angie’s Logs, and What’s Inside?

My talkback tips and bits for this category were:

“We started creating buzz a year in advance”  – Kid’s Town

“The crew donated a lot of their time” – Ruby Skye

“I got this Facebook message, written in broken English, from someone saying they wanted to fund our project. I was very sceptical but I played along and sent an email asking for details. …And then I received a  reply with a specific amount and a contract.”  – Out With Dad, on getting a broadcasting contract in France

“In web series creation, there are no rules.”  – Everyone

The next screening was the LGBT Programme. Unfortunately, I was unable to see this screening so I cannot tell you anything about the wonderful cinema revealed in the confines of that dark auditorium. But I can tell tell you what it was…

The official selection was: GAY NERDS, LESlieVILLE, Nikki  & Nora: The N&N Files, Producing Juliet, Re(l)azioni a catena, The Vessel, Vanessa’s Story, and Venice The Series.

Quick on its tail, the Drama programme made an entrance. “Libres,” a series out of Madrid, stole my attention when they incorporated Catalan. This was totally unexpected because generally a Spanish show would not. Having the Catalan slip into the conversation when the conversation involved Andreu, the Catalan character, was a nice touch that I wouldn’t expect to see on mainstream Spanish television. The series follows a group of seven youth  who, because of the economic crisis, abandon the city to squat in an abandoned village in the Pyrenees.

The rest of the shows were great and they continued the festival’s trend of shattering my preconception of web series as “Like TV but less production value.” Other than “Libres,” I think that my favourite would be “In Between Men.”

The official selection was: 3some, Big Country Blues, CUCKOO, Fight Night Legacy, In Between Men, LES BÉLIERS, Libres, Long Story Short, Someone Not There, Teenagers, and The Steps.

Tidbits and tricks are:

“Don’t shoot in November”

“Edit the script down”

“Know what you want to say”

“Get permission for locations”

“Have a ‘Social Media Person’”

And then the shadows fell, leaving all but the tiniest sliver of light to illuminate the horror of what happens After Dark. The Horror & Pulp programme was everything I hoped it would be.  From B-movie and black comedy, to thrillers and plain old WTF. I don’t know that I have a favourite, although “Bloody Cuts” is definitely up there. #noduds

The official selection was: After, Asset, Bloody Cuts, Esther’s Style, FUTURE DUCK!, Horror Hotel, Malice, Manigances: Notice Rouge, New Eden, Noirhouse, Stage Fright, La Grieta, and Who The F##k Is Nancy?!

“Pinhead, with a magnet”

“Freddy Kruger, I haven’t slept since I began working on this”

“The Mummy, with a pair of scissors”

— Some of the answers given by show creators when asked what  classic horror villain they would like to go up against and how would they defeat him.

The final day was full of hilarity with two whole screenings dedicated to comedy. On this day I again missed things. Namely: “Super Geeked Up Live”  and the Documentary & Lifestyle programme.

The official selection for Documentary & Lifestyle was: What’s In My Bag?, AsapSCIENCE, Burgundy Jazz, Garage Sale Diaries, Last Chance Saloon, Marriage Pressure Points, Often Awesome the series, Tailgate32, and Truth Mashup.

Hey there readers! {Insert funny joke here} Eh? Eh? Alright, I get that humour is perhaps not my strongest suit… But these people knock it right out of the park!

The official selection for Comedy was: Backpackers, Bad Indian, But I’m Chris Jericho!, Day in the Life of Death, Failed First Dates, Job Review with a Vampire, La Brigadière, LARPs: The Series, Last in Space, Miss Guidance, Missing Something, Mommy Uncensored: Confessions of a Real Mom, My Gimpy Life, Off2Kali Comedy, PARKED, Pretty Darn Funny – Season Two, Pretty In Geek, Research., Secret Diary of a Call Centre Girl, Super Knocked up, The Casting Room, The Monstrometer Report, Les Tout-Nus, The People That Touch Your Food, The Poke Folks, Under the HUD, Versus Valerie, and WRECKED.

Also got some juicy gems of knowledge from this one:

“What are you ok with your parents seeing?”

“Shoot a pilot”

“Set some money aside for ‘just in case…’”

“Trust the script”

“Know when you have authority/license”

 

Of course, the info you’ve all been waiting for is “Who won?”

The winners are:

And that’s the festival.

I had a great time this weekend: I made a whole pile of new connections (and friends!), stayed out til 5, and saw a lot of great film. I recommend for  anyone who is at all interested in web series to keep their schedule free for next year.

It only goes up from here.

Return of the working poor – Pt. 1

As the cost of living outstrips the average income available to people wanting to complete post secondary education, we find ourselves poised on the brink of precipitous descent into a reincarnation of Victorian England. It seems as if all the domestic news these days is hinting at this decline: housing prices rise, unions are being attacked, healthcare is being privatized, education is being privatized, public education is being degraded, democracy is being compromised, privacy is being eroded, and the Internet, the last holdout of free access to information, is under threat.

“A report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that since 1990, average tuition and compulsory fees for undergraduates have risen by 6.2% annually — three times the rate of inflation.”1

All things considered, it seems rather trivial to be concerned with whether or not the Millennial generation is spoiled, lazy, entitled, and all too eager to spend their lives in the luxury and comfort of their parents’ home…

But then again, how is it even possible that a group  so large and diverse has collectively decided to be lazy? Why are we being arbitrarily convicted and condemned as unwilling to support ourselves? I believe that the disparagement of Millennials is a symptom of a shift toward the establishment of a class of working  poor.

The Victorian class divide was maintained by creating an economic climate that ensured that an individual had to spend all their time working in order to survive. Leaving them no energy or time to rebel or educate themselves. As the cost of education rises, it becomes more and more the domain of the upper class. Only those children whose parents have enough extra money to put them through university are able to afford it. The rest must take out student loans which, depending on the discipline, can be massive. This means that we are coming into the post-scholastic world deep in debt. If we are lucky and find a well paying job in our field right out of the gate, this is not such a big problem. However, this is not the case for everyone.

“60% of undergraduate students go into the working world with an average debt of $27,000.”2

There are three areas that directly affect this shift: The cost of living, the cost of education, and the availability and quality of work. I want to start with housing because the accusation that we Millennials are lazy and unmotivated is often supported by the fact that we are choosing not to move out from our parents’ homes.

The average monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Toronto is currently $1,400. A minimum wage job, as of June 1st 2014, will pay $11 per hour. With the 20.5% income tax (Combined federal and provincial tax), I would have to work a 40 hour week just to make enough pay my rent. Let’s say I move into a two bedroom with a roommate, reducing my rent to $990. I now have enough to cover my grocery expenses, $250 per month, and cleaning supplies/toiletries, approx $15 per month. This leaves me with $145 for internet, phone, transportation, and going out.

Remember, this is based on a 40 hour work week. Evidently, it becomes unsustainable once I start attending school. Now, any student worth their salt would balk at rent like that. I pay $700 per month for a room in a three bedroom basement apartment. I have also managed to keep monthly grocery costs down to $200. I pay $30 for internet and $62 for my phone. Including transportation, I have an overhead of about $1,050 per month (I walk most places). Leaving me with $350 of discretionary spending.

Even if I limit myself to $100 per month of social expenses, a rather conservative estimate ( 4 $3.50 cappuccinos, 2 $20 drinking sessions, 2 $20 meals),  I only have $250 I can save per month toward school.

In light of this reality, staying at home while attending school begins to take on the air of noble sacrifice. If nothing else changes, that same job now allows me to save up $950 per month. Once school starts I only need to work 14 hours per week to cover my living expenses.

It is true that  housing will not be the same everywhere but the Canadian average still sits at around $900.  leaving it well above easily affordable on a minimum wage job. Many students do not have a university in their hometown and, if they do, it may not offer the training they require. Even if it does, by staying in their hometown students are often opting out of attending a school that offers a much higher calibre of education. Again, staying home is a sacrifice.

If it is possible for a student to stay at home while they go to school, they should choose to do so. They should of course contribute to the household as they would in any other cohabitation, but they should not burden themselves with rent if it can be avoided. This is perhaps the smartest decision one can make when budgeting.

Some might suggest that, if post-secondary education would be such a burden, we consider the option of just diving straight into the workforce. However, this is not as viable an option as perhaps it was. In addition to the fact that there are few jobs with potential for advancement that do not require a degree of some kind, the competition for them still includes those who have them. Overall, it has become almost essential for people who want to build a career and a family to obtain a degree, especially when degrees make a huge difference in projected income. in 2010, the average difference in income for 15-34 year olds with a High school diploma and those with a bachelors degree was around $13,000 per year.

“Half of youth from families with incomes in the top 25 percentile attend university by age 19, compared to less than a third for those from families in the bottom quartile.”3

This leads me back to my opening point: there is a shift toward re-establishing the class of the working poor. The people at the bottom of the economic ladder are being prohibited higher education by the increased cost of tuition and housing, thereby being forced into jobs that provide enough to survive, but not enough to advance. As tuition keeps increasing and the income gap expands, more people will find themselves slipping off that bottom rung.

To be continued…

  Notes 1, 2, 3. NatPost, Get ready for $10K tuition: Canadian university fees rising faster than incomes and inflation, report says

Works Referenced:

Photo source: http://unsplash.com/
Photographer: Martin Wessely
URL: http://37.media.tumblr.com/5d586f521b11de846229fa3cce2fc413/tumblr_myp9enmO9z1st5lhmo1_1280.jpg

Suddenly busy weekend

I had originally intended to make today’s post about
the economic state of students. Complete with much hyperbole. However, I was delayed by a series of wonderful opportunities.

I spent Thursday working on a new music video for Mother Mother.

Friday, I attended a series of lectures on Translation and the Multiplicity of Language  as part of inFORMING CONTENT 2014.

While there, I was able to sign up to participate in the workshops. Which led me to spend Saturday and Sunday creating and performing a beautiful piece of performance art with some very lovely new acquaintances.

Then, Sunday evening, I went to participate in a cold reading of Kenneth Lonergan’s This is our Youth at Howland Company’s bi-weekly reading group.

I tried to have the other post ready for today but the time lost was unrecoverable. Check back Wednesday!

Next Exit for Cabbagetown

You are sitting in a secluded nook, isolated from the tumultuous cacophony of the city by a dense, bushy, hedge. The sun pours down, coating your body in its thick summer warmth, and you recline luxuriously in your lawn chair. Suddenly, a slow meandering wisp of a cloud, which has been drifting lazily across the azure sky, catches your attention. You briefly consider its resemblance to your brother… or perhaps a turtle… before taking another sip of Pimm’s and closing your eyes as you bask in the glorious heat.

Cabbagetown has the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in North America. The neighbourhood gained its name c. the 1840s from an epithet, used by Toronto’s prosperous British residents, disparaging the Irish immigrant’s practice of converting their front lawns into cabbage patches. The area reached its peak of prosperity just before WWI but the war and its aftermath had a devastating effect, throwing the neighbourhood into rapid decline. Long before the great depression, it had already devolved into slums. In the late 1940s, a large swath of the neighbourhood was razed to make way for the Regent Park development (A social housing initiative).

Cabbagetown, before 1940, was the home of the social majority, white Protestant English and Scots. It was a sociological phenomenon, the largest Anglo-Saxon slum in North America.1

It wasn’t until the 1970s, when Victorian architecture was coming back into vogue, that the neighbourhood was revitalized. The current Cabbagetown is actually the neighbourhood immediately to its north, named Don Vale, which was renamed during the revitalization. Cabbagetown is now among the most gentrified neighbourhoods in Toronto and has been the home of celebrities such as Avril Lavigne.2

I live on the edge of Cabbagetown, the west side of Parliament. The place seems to have been frozen in time, feeling somehow separate from the rest of Toronto. This timeless nature makes many things, that would otherwise leave me in a stunned state of disbelief, appear normal, invoking only the slightest twinge of oddity. The day I moved in, while on my way to get some groceries, I encountered two men yelling at each other across the street. One had both hands full with loaded shopping bags, the other a trolley full of recycling. Their incoherencies growing ever more vehement, neither quite managing to step off the curb, as if held back by an invisible force field, the event reached its climax when the man with the bags gently set them down and started  angrily across the street. The other man promptly pulled a bottle from his trolley. Sending the first man scurrying back to pick up his bags and head on his way.  Later that same day, I had another encounter. This time a solo act:

The man is muttering to himself as he walks down the sidewalk. Emitting a loud bark, he begins loudly, if nonsensically, ranting and gesticulating as he walks calmly out into the middle of traffic. He continues to wander down the road, traffic impatiently weaselling its way past him. He stops. He raises his hands above his head. He turns around, fills his lungs with air, and foghorns his distaste for the world. Kicking off his shoes, he finishes crossing the road and disappears. Leaving only a tattered pair of Nike’s to mark his passing.

The compression of culture that happens in Cabbagetown leads to a very tight knit community.  It takes care of its own. The dichotomy of “insider” vs. “outsider” can be seen clearly in the store with its goods on display outside and unwatched, across the street from the Beer Store with the steel shutters, the cop on duty, and the beer locked away in the back room. I have only just started living here and already I have been enveloped.  It also breeds art. This is exemplified by the annual Cabbagetown  Street Festival and its accompanying short film festival.

My experience; however, has been tinged blue  by my dungeon-like home. Living in a basement apartment is not inherently terrible. In fact, it can be quite pleasant. My apartment, which I share with two other people, is small. But it has been exempted many of the flaws of its kind: It is dry, bug-free, bright, and has high ceilings.  Nevertheless: I live where  the sun don’t shine.

This seeming inconvenience led me to discover two wonders of the neighbourhood. The first being Allan Gardens, a botanical wonderland in which I spent many an afternoon completing schoolwork. The conservatory, open 10-5/7, is the perfect escape from the dreary Toronto winter and without it I would surely have gone insane. The second place to spring me from residential captivity was Cafe 650. A delightful little bistro with glorious bay windows surrounding a table I have claimed for many an hour. I became fast friends with the owner and spend almost as much time there as I do at home.

“Allan Gardens used to have a problem with drug dealers who would loiter around outside the greenhouse waiting for clients. That stopped when the city passed a bylaw allowing dogs to be off-leash in the park; the dogs would sniff out the drug dealers.” – Sam, a man I met in the greenhouse.

Now at last summer seems to be arriving and I will no longer be reliant on these little refuges. I will be able to luxuriate on the sun filled deck outside my home, watch the clouds go by, and drink my Pimm’s.

Notes
1. Garner, Hugh. Cabbagetown; a Novel. Toronto: Ryerson, 1968. Print.
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabbagetown,_Toronto

Catharsis

Home is the final frontier of youth. One day the child that filled the house with joy decides the walls are too close and goes out into the great wide yonder… And promptly realizes that he had no idea that this shit is hard.

When I was a kid I never gave much thought to what went onto running a household. I lived in a magical fairy land where there was always food in the fridge, clean dishes to eat from, and clean clothes to wear. I did household chores here and there, thinking that I was making a significant contribution to the family, and I felt justified in being too tired to do dishes after a particularly strenuous soccer practice, or just a bad day. When I moved out, my illusions shattered like the priceless china doll your neighbour’s two-year-old played crash test dummies with. I somehow did not anticipate that the chores I didn’t do would not get done. I also discover the sheer amount of money that is required every month to keep that fridge full.

I am currently in that ambiguous state of independence known as “being a student.” Attending school full time has prevented me from working so I have been surviving on savings and student loans. It is amazing to me that after eight months of living on my own, I still don’t feel independent. Is it really just because my lack of income means I am still being supported by others? The driving need for independence spurs me on as I stalk that elusive beast, the summer job, and the gnawing sense of insecurity builds as my money quickly dwindles, and I feel the oozing stress accumulate the longer I go without.

My choice of school made moving out a bigger step than some. I decided I’d had enough of the prairies and moved to Toronto, 2000 miles from home. Removing the safety net of familial proximity meant that I was committed. I couldn’t just go home if I ran into difficulty. The thing about jumping in the deep end is that you learn to swim. When you take away the possibility of escape, you have no choice but to stand up and overcome the challenge. So far I have managed to put most of the pieces of my new life together. All I need to do is get the glue to pay the bills.

An avid student in the school of life, I always try to learn too many things at once. In an attempt to clear my mind and solidify what I know, I started this blog. I will be posting ruminations, explorations, and creations as I integrate myself into Toronto’s urban jungle. The blog will cover theatre, music, coding, web design, city living, leaving home, and perhaps a little poetry.