Spending an Evening with Noel Fielding

This year has been filled with sadness and trauma from the very get-go. From the untimely deaths of people like David Bowie and Alan Rickman, to the many horrible attacks around the world, we have slingshot from one morose event to the next. 

I had a chance to see Noel Fielding on his first North American tour this past Tuesday, the day of the Brussels terrorist attack and the day that former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died. What started out as a sad day ended in mirth and laughter. Because that's what Noel Fielding does. 

Noel Fielding understands pain and he knows that other people and his audience feels it too. He chooses to use his talents to transport people into a fantasy world for 2 hours. He erases the pain for awhile. You forget you're in a an uncomfortable chair with someone's purple toque blocking your way. You're in Noel's world which is a happy place full of Hakuna Matata. No worries for a small amount of time. 

I got quite frustrated a few days ago when someone on Twitter said that every time, before you hit publish on your latest podcast (which could sub in for blog post, review, comic, song, movie, etc.), ask yourself whether it's special. And if it's not, DON'T PUBLISH IT (won't say who it was, but if you go far enough back on my Twitter feed, you can probably figure it out). I felt quite upset about this and it took me a bit of time to figure out why. Not only is it an incredibly snobby thing to say, I would never write a single word ever again if I had to make sure that everything coming from my keyboard was "special". 

How do we even determine what's special? We're already constantly concerned with censoring ourselves. If we had to stop and think  about each and every creative output, would any creativity even exist anymore?

Noel works in the "throw it at the wall and see if it sticks" capacity. You never know what's going to happen next. You don't know if what appears to be a misstep is actually highly calculated or was in fact a simple goof. He takes you out of reality for a couple of hours and you enter his world of "what if". From straightforward to absurd to surreal jokes, Noel covers the gamut of comedy with exuberance and childlike playfulness. Like my other fave, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Noel's genuine happiness and excitement to be on stage performing is palpable. 

I felt like I had witnessed something incredibly special watching his show. I know for a fact that I will never see anything like it, with its mix of stand-up, plasticine animation, costume changes and beautiful shirts. If you're lucky enough to be able to remove yourself from reality for two hours, please go spend an evening with Noel Fielding. 

The Revolution Has Begun on Mr. Robot

Looking for a show that will spin your head on its axis until you no longer know what's real and what's not? Looking for a show that is hacker-chic with attempts to bring down capitalist society? Looking for a show with a POC protagonist.

Starring Rami Malek and Christian Slater (in a show FINALLY deserving of his enormous talent), "Mr. Robot" is about an anti-social cyber-security advisor by day, vigilante hacker by night, played by Malek with unbelievable aplomb. Elliot, our protagonist, is twitchy, lonely, brilliant and an addict (morphine being his drug of choice). 

He also talks to himself.

And he also might be seeing things.

Did I mention that everything that's happened so far might just be happening in Elliot's mind? Or is it?

Having an unreliable narrator, because Elliot is our narrator and protagonist, is a very difficult thing to pull off. You don't want your viewers to lose interest because they have no concept of reality or what matters. 

Right now, the show is finely balanced, maintaining a decent amount of ambiguity of whether Elliot is really now part of fsociety, an Anonymous type group that is trying to take down the large E Corporation (which Elliot only refers to as Evil Corp), by hacking the system, or if it's something that he's just conjured. 

The head of fsociety is a man named Mr. Robot who is even more enigmatic than Elliot. The forums on Reddit go back and forth between whether Mr. Robot is a Fight Club-like figment of Elliot's imagination, or an extension of his personality, or if he's actually real and running the show.

So far, I feel like all of this exposition might not be convincing you that this is the best new show of the summer. But it is. 

The acting is unbelievable, Rami Malek is truly a revelation in this show. The writing is great, the conspiracy element is completely frightening (we do get a peek behind the doors of Evil Corp and oh boy, does it seem just as evil as Elliot believes) and it's shot beautifully. It's a mind-bendingly good time. 

Elliot is an incredibly compelling protagonist, despite his unreliability. He suffers from a social anxiety disorder and his way of getting closer to people is by hacking them. We get mini-glimpses into his childhood, which for all intents and purposes, looks like it sucked, hard, giving us a better idea of why he keeps his distance from people now. 

From its characters to its intriguing plot, "Mr. Robot" is sure to keep you on your toes in one way or another. 

Playing the Shame Game

So we're going to ignore the fact that I've been absent for an entire week as I've been beleaguered by a cold and I quite frankly could not be bothered. In fact, I'm still quite sneezy and sniffly but I MUST PRESS ON!

I'm seeing the author Jon Ronson speak tonight at U of T and as I'm a bit of a n00b (do people still say n00b?) to his work, I figured I would take the weekend to go on a Jon Ronson binge.

I read The Psychopath Test, watched Frank, and listened to Ronson on NPR's podcast Bullseye and Marc Maron's WTF

(Seriously, why did I not delve into this world sooner???? Shame on me, *rimshot*... see what I did there?)

Of course, I knew of Jon Ronson, having worked in a book store and having seen his many titles all over the store, heralded as must-reads and bestsellers. But I didn't really want to read about psychopaths (as an anxiety sufferer, this honestly seemed like a scary thing to do), I'd heard enough about extremists in the news, and I didn't really want to know why men were staring at goats.

But then Ronson's latest book was released, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. And something inside of me clicked.

I'm very fortunate to have never been apart of any online targeting, but I'm definitely not alone in having been on the bad end of a bully stick in elementary and high school. However, the most shame I've ever been subjected to has always come from one person.

Me.

Duh. If you've read anything on this site in the past, this statement is a total given.

Usually my shame comes from three different places: not doing enough with my life, not eating as well as I could, and not exercising. These aren't atypical for many people, I would assume, but as self-aware as I am, I just can't seem to shake that feeling of negativity and hurt that I throw at myself on a relatively constant basis.

Of course, I don't only shame myself. I shame others too. It's so easy to, especially when you don't even have to say it out loud. I can feel my superiority complex bouncing around, tsking and pfting at people who DON'T KNOW THAT ONE THING THAT I KNOW AND HOW DO THEY NOT KNOW THAT???? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM??????

Over the years, I've tried to get this impulse in check. It doesn't win you any friends and that rush of power only lasts so long. 

But what of the people who take their shaming to the next level? What of those who make their shaming public? And what happens to the people they are shaming?

It's easier than ever to get into the shame game. Posting anonymously on YouTube videos, Twitter feeds and Instagram pix has become the new normal. From commenting on someone's weight, all the way up to calling people out as racists, homophobes and misogynists. Because, what doesn't feel better than knowing that you're at least better than that stupid idiot who made that dumb off-hand comment? And how great is it that no one need know who you actually are, so you can continue to berate and bully?

Of course, nothing that I'm saying is new. We're all aware of this kind of shaming and how detrimental it can be to both shamer and shamee. I, for one, cannot wait to find out what Ronson has to say about the shaming process and what it's doing to each and every one of us.

Ronson's talk is titled "Shaming as a Form of Social Control: What Is It Doing to the Shamee – and to All of Us?" and he will be speaking tonight at the Rotman School of Management at 6:00pm tonight. Follow him at @jonronson on Twitter and READ ALL HIS BOOKS!

Later days!