Category Archives: Fun

All you need is fun

Your humble correspondent dances disco-style at the beginning of the Love Mob

Your humble correspondent dances disco-style at the beginning of the Love Mob (photo from the Facebook group)

I do like fun. And as long as an event has that as its primary goal, I’m all for it. Even if it’s a tired formula like a choreographed dance or a lip dub.

On Sunday, I played hookey from PodCamp to participate in an event called “Love Mob Montreal“. Not crazy about the name, but maybe that’s just because I’m not in touch with my emotional side. As I mentioned in the previous post, it was an MP3 experiment that made sense to everyone with headphones but no sense to all the bystanders without.

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Montreal’s MP3 experiment

UPDATE: Read about how this event went.

It’s called “Love Mob Montreal“, which sounds kind of weird, but it’s actually a Montreal version of Improv Everywhere’s famous MP3 Experiments (Improv Everywhere prefers people not use their names for independently-organized events, to avoid confusion).

The idea is that all the participants download an MP3 audio file to their iPod or other portable media player. They gather in a common place, and at a specified time they all press play simultaneously. The audio file contains instructions for what the participants should do. Since bystanders can’t hear the audio, the experiment gives a sort of surreal image of a bunch of people doing crazy things in unison.

The Montreal event, organized by a “flash mob” group with some pretty poor web design skills, takes place today (Sunday) at Place des Arts, at what appears to be 3:30pm (the event lists the time as 3:30pm in English and “13h30” in French, but it had previously been established as 3:30/15h30).

Unfortunately, that puts it squarely in conflict with the Day 2 afternoon sessions of PodCamp Montreal. At first I figured the events would be related because they were on the same weekend and I had heard about the Love Mob from someone involved with both. But that’s not the case, and I’ll have to ditch at least two PodCamp seminars in order to participate.

The MP3 files themselves have just been put online: English, French (UPDATE: Links fixed, sorry). Participants are asked not to listen to them before the event. Instead, remember to bring a watch or other timing device that’s accurate to the second, a media player with the MP3 loaded, and a white, red or pink T-shirt, and be at Place des Arts for 3:15pm.

Facebook has over 400 people “confirmed”, which means about 40-50 will actually show up, give or take 200.

Last chance for fireworks tonight

Australian fireworks on July 4

Australian fireworks presentation on July 4

The annual fireworks festival has its closing ceremony tonight at 10 p.m., which will be your last chance to see these amazing shows until next summer.

As usual, the best (free) spot to view them is in the parking lot where René Lévesque and Notre Dame meet (Papineau metro). Be sure to bring a radio (105.7FM) to listen to the music that goes with the display.

You can see detailed reports and photos of the previous presentations at the fan site montreal-fireworks.com.

The Michael Jackson publicity stunt

Look, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m anti-fun or something, because I really do enjoy it when people just go out and do something silly, if only for a few minutes.

But when you have an event involving a professional dance troupe that you’ve publicized to the media, when you have dozens of journalists present, when police and a government minister are taking part, can you really call that a “flash mob“? If so, the term has lost all meaning and should cease to be used.

No wonder groups so associated with the term, like Improv Everywhere and Newmindspace, have rejected it. I think it’s time we all follow their lead if it’s going to be commercialized like this.

Call it a publicity stunt, call it a public performance, call it street art, but don’t call it a flash mob.

UPDATE (July 30): Similar thoughts from Patrick Dion, Jean-Philippe Rousseau and Le Détesteur, plus a defence from a participant.

They may take our lives, but they’ll never take OUR PILLOWS!

Rule No. 1 about outdoor pillow fights: don’t hold them in the rain.

Pillow fight

Rule No. 2: There are ways around Rule No. 1.

Despite the annoying showers, the planned Montreal event on World Pillow Fight Day took place as scheduled, with about 30 participants whacking each other over the head with bags of foam (feathered pillows were banned as they create a mess) for about half an hour.

Much of the success came from the quick-thinking of organizers Robin Friedman and Jody McIntyre (the same people behind metro parties, bubble battles and pretty much everything else fun in the city over the past couple of years). They brought along clear plastic bags for people to put their pillows in so they wouldn’t get wet.

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There’s no such thing as a flash mob

When I interviewed Newmindspace co-founder Kevin Bracken after Montreal’s first metro party in 2007, the Torontonian told me he hated the term “flash mob“, mainly because it was created in order to make fun of it.

After following various events that have been referred to as flash mobs in the media, it’s hard not to concur, if only because the term has been used to define almost any public gathering of strangers organized online.

Most events of this nature can be split into one of two groups:

  1. the Improv Everywhere-style stunts in which people who may or may not know each other get together and pull a prank on unsuspecting bystanders in a public place
  2. public fun activities like metro parties or silent discos or snowball fights (such as the events Newmindspace organizes on a regular basis)

The latter more accurately fits the description, but is hardly worthy of the rather negative term “mob”.

I bring this up because of an event that happened yesterday: a public spectacle at the Berri-UQAM metro station that the public was invited to participate in. It was described as a “flash mob” by its creator, but it was really just a PR stunt.

A PR stunt for cancer prevention, which I’m all for and everything, but a PR stunt nonetheless.

What bugs me most is that this was organized through a “flash mob” Facebook group which was taken over by a marketing company without its members’ permission. I suppose it’s not the end of the world. People can just remove themselves from the group if they don’t like it. And who’s going to oppose a public event for cancer awareness?

But it’s an example of grassroots fun being usurped by corporate interests. Instead of “flash mobs”, they’re now “street marketing” events. Yesterday, it was a yellow-scarfed song for cancer research. Will the next one be shilling for Doritos? Will commuters have to live in fear every day they go to work because they might be forced into some ill-conceived marketing stunt in which they’ve been made the sucker?

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for non-corporate fun, Montreal’s pillow fight is Saturday at 3pm at Phillips Square.

Nuit Blanche Part 2: Art Souterrain

Art Souterrain

I’m not an art critic. Or an art lover. Or really an art anything. So when I look through the guide to the Nuit Blanche, I glaze over all the art galleries, dance performances, films, plays, DJs or anything else of the sort. Instead, I concern myself with fun things in the Old Port or anything that’s funny.

But something about this “Art Souterrain” project caused me to want to go there. It was free, it was in a heated environment, and you could walk through it all without waiting in lines, checking your coats or feeling guilty about leaving early. You could spend about 10 seconds at one installation and then move on to the next one. And that’s pretty much what I did.

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