Sarah Kurchak

Entries by Sarah Kurchak

'Metallica Through The Never': Band Talks Their Pixar-Inspired Post-Apocalyptic Rock Doc (INTERVIEW)

(5) Comments | Posted September 27, 2013 | 2:08 PM

In a way, "Metallica Through The Never" has been in the work since the mid-nineties. That was when a plucky little film company named IMAX first approached the metal icons about producing some sort of concert film in their high tech and immersive motion picture format. The band were a...

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Sorry, Louis C.K., But My Smartphone Saved Me

(28) Comments | Posted September 23, 2013 | 4:27 PM

To the best of my Rain Man-like assessment abilities, I estimate that about 78% of the people I know own smartphones. An extremely high percentage of those people have also posted at least one link to an anti-smartphone rant, with an accompanying declaration of smug superiority, on some form of social media in the past year.

Either I know the only people who know how to use smartphones "properly," the only population in the entire world who have managed to navigate the tool without letting it influence their old school behaviours and social programming, or this is all part of some strange ritual self-flagellation that a large swath of iPhone and Android devotees have decided that they need to engage in to atone for their own enjoyment of and dependence on technology.

The latest round of reproach and/or half-hearted repentance came this past weekend when links to Louis C.K.'s already legendary anti-smartphone screed started to flood my Facebook timeline along with the kind of self-righteous commentary that I've come to expect from this phenomenon. The only thing that really changed in this particular cycle was that I shared the link as well. Instead of the usual "This is why I love Louis C.K.!" and "He's absolutely right!" commentary, though, I sent it out into my little social media universe with a simple "FUCK THIS SHIT."

Despite what my inarguably articulate and nuanced response might suggest, I'm not mad at Louis C.K. for what he said, or mad at anyone who agrees with him. I'm just disappointed, exasperated and increasingly frustrated by the attitudes and arguments on which the anti-smartphone ethos is based.

I generally like Louis C.K. and even when I don't agree with him, I usually respect his opinions. The same goes for my friends. But their stance on this issue is ignorant. They are making the assumption that the old, pre-smartphone social structure and rules were better for everyone because they happened to work for them. They didn't, though. And this is why I'm not the least bit ambivalent or apologetic about my smartphone. It has genuinely transformed my life for the better. In some small way, it might actually have saved it.

I mostly wasn't joking when I said that I had Rain Man-like qualities in my first sentence. I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger's with a possibility of Nonverbal Learning Disability if you want to be old school and pre-DSM V about these things). Symptoms of my disorder include an inability to understand and read "normal" social cues, issues with eye contact, hackish misrepresentation on inexplicably popular CBS sitcoms, and problems with the expression of empathy.

Before the proliferation of the smartphone, in a time that so many people I know are now celebrating as some sort of socially-inclusive and welcoming utopia, I was constantly screwing up even the most basic of social tenets and losing friends, if I ever made them to begin with. I'd forget to make eye contact or blankly stare at the other person's pupils for too long and creep them out. I could never figure out how to read other people's body language, facial expressions and tone, and mine were routinely off and off-putting. I would either say the wrong thing, because my slightly out of synch autistic processing speed could never quite come up with the proper empathic response in the right time frame, or just give up and say nothing for fear of what would come out.

These issues haven't disappeared since I first purchased a smartphone just over two years ago, but they're no longer the absolute deal-breakers they once were. Thanks to texting, photo and video messages, social media apps, and whatever other random doohickeys I might find myself playing with at any given time, I am able to augment the more traditional ways to express and experience relationships with forms of communication that accommodate my social capabilities, quirks, processing speed and comfort levels; I'm able to develop bonds and stay in touch with "normal" or neurotypical people and autistic people in a way that actually works for all of us. And while Louis C.K. and his supporters assert that you need face to face contact and the ability to see another person's expressions to build empathy, I've found that occasionally removing the pressures of that contact has allowed me, for the first time in my life, to express all of the empathy that I have always had for my loved ones and fellow humans. It has allowed me to prove that I am a person.

As for the social ills that this kind of technology is supposed to be spreading in the normal world, I can honestly say that, from my slightly removed vantage point, I haven't really seen any major changes. At worst, it exacerbates the kind of bad habits, self-involvement and cruelty that always existed in our society. The person who spends hours dicking around on their phone instead of talking to you at a restaurant or club is the exact same person who would have been looking over your shoulder and trying to find someone more important to talk to 10 or 20 years ago. The kid who posts "You're fat" on a Facebook wall is the same little shit who would have followed you home and screamed it at your house.

The mean kid learning curve that Louis describes in his Conan bit makes for a snappy little story, but it's an oversimplification if not a complete fiction. Kids don't actually see the hurt they cause in another child's face, feel guilt and then learn to become better human beings. My own childhood bullies certainly didn't. My chronically slumped shoulders, my tears - even my anxious dry heaves in the school bathroom - left little to no impression on them. It didn't make them question the insults they hurled at me, the vicious pranks they pulled on me, or the things they scribbled on my clothing. Some people are just assholes, regardless of the tech they use.

And, after a childhood filled with bullying and an adulthood in which I've watched the people I love face all sorts of the half-surmountable odds and tragedies that come with being alive for any period of time, I'm not even sure I agree with Louis C.K. that the constant distraction that smartphones provide is necessarily a bad thing. I personally enjoy a bit of mindful meditation. I don't take music on my long-distance runs because I have a hippie-ish desire to listen to my own breath and hear the the ground crunch under my shoes and be in touch with all of the rush and sadism that comes from making yourself go through something as dumb as a half-marathon. Music - whether you're running with an iPod or listening to "Jungleland" on the radio in your car - is also a technology-assisted distraction, after all. But I don't begrudge those who don't do want to do anything of those things. I spent large portions of my childhood isolated, sad and believing that Dostoevsky and Ian Curtis held all of the truths to our cursed existence, and I can't say I'm any better off or human for it. And I genuinely can't name a single person in my life who needs to be even more in touch with or aware of the inherent sadness, isolation and existential dread of life.

If you can, then maybe your anti-smartphone stance is far more of a danger to empathy and personhood than my ASD and smartphone-loving ways could ever be.


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The Proclaimers In Toronto: TIFF 2013, The CNE And Dodging The Cronut Burger

(0) Comments | Posted September 13, 2013 | 3:00 PM

The last time that The Proclaimers were in Toronto, they very narrowly avoided a major misadventure. Their bass player almost tried the now infamous cronut burger before the legendary Scottish duo played at the Canadian National Exhibition last month.

“We knew pretty much where the stall was and...

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'Lucky Them': TIFF Film Mixes Toni Collette, Grunge, Groupies And Johnny Depp (INTERVIEW)

(0) Comments | Posted September 12, 2013 | 2:45 PM

"Lucky Them" isn't purely about music. The wry drama follows a music journalist (Toni Collette) on assignment to track down her ex-boyfriend, a reclusive musician who disappeared a decade earlier. It's also about loss in general, and the struggle to move on and grow up -- or at least grow...

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'One Chance': Paul Potts Talks Taylor Swift's Tallness And His 'Surreal' TIFF Biopic

(0) Comments | Posted September 12, 2013 | 11:00 AM

Taylor Swift may have stolen the show when she walked the red carpet for the world premiere of the Paul Potts biopic "One Chance" at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this week, but the opera singer and "Britain's Got Talent" winner who inspired the film...

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TIFF 'Metallica Through The Never': Lars Ulrich On Band's 'Love Affair' With Canada

(4) Comments | Posted September 11, 2013 | 10:59 AM

"Metallica Through The Never," the rock band's bold new 3D concert film which just enjoyed its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, was shot at a pair of concerts in Edmonton and Vancouver last year. Their last live DVD, 2012’s "Quebec Magnetic," was filmed over the...

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We Will, We Will, Help You: The Best Benefit Concert Films Ever

(1) Comments | Posted September 10, 2013 | 9:57 AM

12.12.12., the documentary about Harvey Weinstein's massive $30 million-raising show for Hurricane Sandy relief which had its world premiere this week at TIFF, might be the flashiest and most celebrity-laden film about a benefit concert that has ever been released.

You can read our coverage...

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'12.12.12' TIFF: Harvey Weinstein Savages Jimmy Page, Reveals Stunning Kristen Stewart Secret At Rock Doc Premiere

(26) Comments | Posted September 9, 2013 | 1:10 PM

Music and film fans may have come to the Toronto International Film Festival's world premiere of "12.12.12" for the documentary's flashy mix of live performances and backstage footage from the star-studded Hurricane Sandy benefit concert at Madison Square Gardens, but they stayed for the post-screening gossip.

That's not...

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'Made In America,' TIFF: Ron Howard Talks Jay-Z Concert Doc At Toronto Film Fest Premiere

(2) Comments | Posted September 8, 2013 | 1:06 PM

“When you think hip-hop, you think Ron Howard,” Toronto International Film Festival programmer Thom Powers quipped as he introduced last night’s world premiere of "Made In America," the legendary filmmaker and actor’s documentary about the equally legendary hip-hop mogul Jay-Z’s Philadelphia music festival of the same name.

Indeed, it...

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Arcade Fire At TIFF: Indie Group To Score Marcel Dzama's 'A Jester's Dance'

(0) Comments | Posted September 7, 2013 | 11:00 AM

By now we all know that the video for Reflektor, the first single from Arcade Fire’s forthcoming album, will be premiering Monday at 9pm, but that’s not the only new material from the indie rock titans that will receive its debut this month.

"Un Danse des buffons" (also known as...

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TIFF: 'Metallica Through The Never,' Hurricane Sandy Concert '12.12.12' Premiere At Toronto Film Fest

(0) Comments | Posted August 20, 2013 | 1:30 PM

The 38th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival was already shaping up to be a banner year for music films, and today's final round of announcements just turned TIFF up to eleven. In addition to the biopics and rock odysseys already confirmed for the festival, TIFF will...

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Deadmau5: EDM Decline Is Inevitable, Producers Playing It Too 'Safe'

(28) Comments | Posted August 16, 2013 | 9:58 AM

Deadmau5 doesn't think that the current EDM craze can last forever, and he's surprisingly zen about the whole thing. As far as he's concerned, the electronic dance revival he's currently at the forefront of will eventually fade, just like every genre and fad that came before it.

When asked if...

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Deadmau5 Hates 'That Little Prick' Justin Bieber, Loves That BBC Show 'Top Gear' (INTERVIEW)

(46) Comments | Posted August 1, 2013 | 10:28 AM

Deadmau5 is a few interviews into his press day supporting his annual Veld Festival, Toronto's biggest electronic dance event, and he's had about all of the Justin Bieber he can handle.

Less than twenty-four hours after being spotted next to everyone's favourite bucket-pissing

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TIFF 2013: Andre 3000's Jimi Hendrix And Paul Potts Biopics Lead Toronto Film Festival's Music Movies

(0) Comments | Posted July 24, 2013 | 11:06 AM

The Toronto International Film Festival has announced the first batch of films that will be screening at the 2013 edition of the September fest, including a number of high-profile music films like the much-anticipated Jimi Hendrix biopic staring Andre 3000

"All Is By My Side," the controversial picture about the...

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Foreigner Happy 'Glee' (And Peter Dinklage) Covered Their Hits, Say Haters 'Need A Drink'

(0) Comments | Posted July 12, 2013 | 11:25 AM

The wacky teen drama and musical mashup known as "Glee" has been a polarizing topic in the music community since it first burst onto the scene in 2009 with its bizarre plotlines and syrupy pop and rock covers. While some artists have been happy to have the show try their...

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Kanye's Damn Croissants, Sir Mix-A-Lot's Buttermilk Biscuits And Other Tasty Pastry Tunes

(1) Comments | Posted July 8, 2013 | 11:47 AM

It was the menu order heard round the world.

Moments after Kanye West's new album "Yeezus" leaked, Twitter was already atwitter about a particular line from the third track “I Am A God.”

Did 'Ye, one of the most clever and perceptive lyricists of our time, really just...

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Brains, Walking Dead and Rock & Roll: 11 Disturbing Songs About Zombies

(7) Comments | Posted June 27, 2013 | 10:00 AM

Zombie-mania is running as fast and wild as the super-charged infected that ate (almost) everyone in "28 Days Later." Brad Pitt's "World War Z" is rampaging through global box offices while the PS3 zombie apocalypse game "The Last Of Us" is getting some of the best reviews since, well, last...

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Father's Day: 10 Best And Worst Dads In Music

(7) Comments | Posted June 11, 2013 | 1:46 PM

Father's Day is just around the corner and, seeing as how we took the time to talk about our favourite and least favourite rock star moms for Mother’s Day, we figured it was only fair that we share the love and/or hate with music world dads, too.

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No LCBO Strike: 10 Songs For A Happy Victoria Day Long Weekend

(0) Comments | Posted May 17, 2013 | 1:25 PM

Citizens of Ontario, rejoice! The LCBO strike has been averted.

With that haunting specter no longer looming over our heads, we are free to go forth and enjoy our long weekend stashes of booze free of consequence (or at least free of this one particular consequence) knowing full...

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Creed Bratton: 'The Office' Star Talks Space Chickens, Ed Helms' Banjo And The Other Creed

(0) Comments | Posted May 16, 2013 | 9:50 AM

Creed Bratton has some interesting theories.

"I've always thought, if aliens came to Earth, I wouldn't want to ask them anything. I'd want to know what their chicken tastes like," the actor and musician tells HuffPost Canada Music when asked about the inspiration behind the cover for his...

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