Friday, October 31, 2014

the spiderman comes

my friends and i were exchanging scary stories a while ago and, while i didn't have anything otherworldly to include (aside from the fact that i grew up in a haunted house, but it wasn't bad scary, but i guess that's all a story for another time), i did pipe up with the time that i thought i'd gotten bit by a poisonous spider and had to spend the night in west vancouver emerg, waiting for my hand to necrotize. then i realized it's a good story to tell because 1) it's entertaining and 2) it makes me look like an idiot, and who am i to refuse you all that amusement? thus.

(in lieu of a photo of spiders because i understand some people have a paralyzing fear of them, here is a picture of vancouver's lower mainland that i took from the seabus ferry over at north van)

first off, i am a mild hypochondriac. nothing debilitating, but i can't go near dr. google or i might lose my mind over every bump and scratch. i haven't talked myself into ebola yet, but i did call telehealth in 2003 convinced i had sars, and i once went to the walk-in clinic with a weird mark that i was certain was skin cancer, which the doctor witheringly diagnosed as a bruise. i also once thought i had brain cancer because i found a lump on my skull, but it turned out to be an ingrown hair. anyway, that's how it goes.

so i was living alone in vancouver in early 2008, and one night i opened a kitchen cabinet to grab a tea towel. after i did so, i caught sight of a large, ugly spider skittering away from my hand. i made a choking noise and slammed the cabinet shut immediately. (i'm not scared of bugs unless they're surprise bugs. also this spider was goddamn huge and like nothing i'd seen growing up in ontario) after some trepidation, i went back into the cabinet armed with a handful of paper towel, grabbed the nasty bug, tossed it in the bathroom toilet and flushed it away. there! job done.

then i noticed the rapidly swelling welt on my hand.

i gaped at it for a second, my brain immediately going to oh fuck, did i get bitten? then whafuck kind of spider was that? a poisonous one? an ill-advised search online told me that basically every spider in vancouver was poisonous and i should probably get to the hospital asap, before my limbs started falling off. i was a little wary about this, because it was like 9 PM at this point and i had to be up early to open the cafe the next morning, but i didn't want to die from a potential spider bite, so i called a cab and headed off to west vancouver hospital, trying not to freak out. (let's not mention the fact that i forgot my wallet and we had to turn around and go back to my apartment to get it.)

have you ever been to a vancouver hospital emergency room late at night? it's an experience. there were crackheads, creepy homeless dudes, and even one guy getting wheeled in after being shot. then me, a young girl by herself with all the colour drained out of her face in anxiety and fear, and nothing to occupy her (this was 2008, remember, before the miraculous time of iphones). i think i mostly tried to burrow into my coat and read medical pamphlets to pass the time (because if you're in late-night emerg, short of having a fresh bullet wound, you will have a lot of time to waste).

after about two hours, my name was called, and i was led in to see the doctor (though it was probably a nursing assistant) on staff. i explained the scenario - surprise spider, weird hand welt, coincidence?? - and tried not to sound like as much of a moron as i felt. the doctornurse was polite and reassured me that i did the right thing by taking the necessary precaution to have it checked out -- and then she had to consult a giant, ancient tome of medical cases to see if there was any precedent for a bite by this assumed type of spider. between her and three other doctornurses, they couldn't come up with exact advice for me, so one of them simply advised that i "hang out" for about another hour to see if anything bad was happening to my hand. (the rationale being, i think, that spider venom usually starts to kill off cells within a few hours)

i think i made it half an hour before i started to feel pretty silly and bolted. (letting the receptionist know i was leaving first, of course)

sure enough, i got home around midnight, went to bed, got up in the morning and all was fine. my hand was still there in one piece. the suspect welt had all but disappeared.

likely hypothesis? the welt was from scraping my hand on the cabinet drawer as i pulled my hand away from the sudden spider discovery. i didn't really recall doing this, but i sure as hell hadn't been bitten either - it had been too swollen for anyone to discern if there were puncture marks the previous night - and everything seemed to be okay. aside from me and a dire lack of sleep, that is.

if i remember right, i'm pretty sure it was a hobo spider which, if you'll note the research at the end of that link, has been declared "not as venomous to humans as once thought" thanks to research in 2011. 2011! thanks a lot, future.

anyway! there is my hilarrible story of nearly dying from a cabinet scratch. happy halloween, and watch out for any errant spiders or cabinets. i'm off to go see this, finally (just opened today!):

[ music | sylvan essos, "coffee" ]

Thursday, October 30, 2014


on tuesday, the import boy and his missus got to see their first leafs game together.

let it be known about this dear boyfriend of mine: he's very likely a bigger toronto maple leafs fan than i am. i say it's because he doesn't have the years of frustration and disappointment and cynicism behind him, and that's probably true, but it's a good thing because 1) it's nice to have some mostly-unflagging optimism to balance out the frustration and disappointment and cynicism (this is also a good reflection on our roles in general: he is an incurable optimist, and i am a forever pessimist), and 2) it's indefinitely harder to date someone who isn't a fan of your hockey team (i once went on a date with a guy who was a vancouver canucks fan, and i wanted to fire him into the sun).

overall, though, i'd just really missed having someone to cuddle with during leafs games - remember this blog post? it seems so long ago! - and so i've been entirely thankful to find a guy who loves both hockey and the leafs. the above komarov jersey and the tickets to tuesday's game were both presents he got me for my birthday earlier this month (along with a custom varsity jacket and some great socks).

and yet, here we are -- we've since attended two toronto marlies games together (one of which was our second date!), but no full-on leafs games at the air canada centre. me, i've been to a fair number - probably about half a dozen home leafs games altogether, plus one in chicago and one in washington - but the import boy's only been to one, and it was years ago, and he had a partially-obstructed view in the nosebleeds besides. if both respective parties in a relationship dig sports, then there are very few more fun date-night outings than going to a game together. we knew hitting up a leafs game was in the cards for us; we just weren't sure when. it ended up being this past tuesday. hell yes.

our seats were great - there are so few bad sightlines at the acc, aside from the ones the poor boy was stuck with in his first visit - and the game itself was a hell of a lot of fun.  of course, it's always better when your team is the one that's winning -- and that's exactly what the leafs did, once they got a pretty dull first period out of the way.

i almost felt bad for the sabres when the shot clock kept going up and up. but eh, fuck it. all's fair in sprots. especially when it's more or less a packed house all dressed up in the blue & white.

celebrating lots of goaling!

final score: 4-0 for the leafs. we both remarked that we wished we had the money and/or the luxury to just go to leafs games whenever and treat it like a regular night out (like the people sitting around us, who got up and left frequently or showed up 5-10 minutes into the period), but as it is, it's nice to make it a special occasion. sean pointed out that the leafs got a win as my belated birthday gift, so that was an added bonus. now just keep it up, boys.

ummmm that's it. happy devil's night? make sure you watch the crow tonight, it's topical and also awesome.

[ music | cut copy, "lights and music" ]

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

foxing around the edges

today is the day i rank my top three marvel movies! hooray for today!

i've always loved live-action superhero movies. as someone born in the early 80's and raised on spider-man (both the original and the 90's version), the x-men cartoon, and batman: the animated series, cartoons and comics making the leap to real life have always held a special place in my heart. while i wasn't super impressed by the batman movies - i was firmly in marvel's camp, the fantastic batman cartoon series aside - i loved the shit out of the first two spider-man movies. (spidey's always been my #1 favourite superhero.) then the x-men movies came along and i thoroughly enjoyed those as well. then marvel studios really kicked into high gear with the first iron man movie, and i was a goner.

i'm not a super comics expert or anything; i don't keep up with the current runs, although i have a decent enough knowledge of the canon and general backstories. but i'm a fan, and i can hang decently in comic-book conversations, and so i always take an active interest in what marvel's up to these days. (i tend to reblog a fair bit of comics stuff on tumblr as well.) i do think it's a generational thing too -- the run of marvel movies over the last five years have been there during all kinds of weird turbulence in my personal life, and they've always been thankful, wonderful distractions. it means a lot to have something to lose yourself in, pop culture-wise, and these movies have been my escape. it's nice to have a life constant.

first, let's all gaze upon the majesty, awesomeness and grimdark that is the new avengers: age of ultron trailer (whyyyyyy do we have to wait until may 2015):

i am very excited for all of the things.

anyway, after much deliberation - seriously, i don't think i've ever been able to pinpoint a top three before - here are my three favourite marvel movies:

3. thor

thor was a nice little surprise, a beautiful bit of directing by kenneth branagh (whom i love in general), and a perfect example of some of the most spot-on casting marvel's ever done. (i mean, really: they brought tom hiddleston into the wider pop-culture consciousness. fuck yes.) i've had a soft spot for the first thor movie - the second was a bit weak, but oh well, can't win 'em all - ever since it came out in theatres, and it's remained one of my very favourites. my old love for anime and video games has had me well-primed to adore anything with rival brothers at the heart of the story (there are a lot of rival brothers in anime and video games), and the thor-loki dynamic had me more excited than ever for their scenes together in the avengers. i actually went out of my way to pay out the nose for a copy of this dvd on ebay, and i only buy dvds of the movies i really want to show to people, so. worth it.

by the way, again on tom hiddleston as loki -- he acts the shit out of the role. the throne room scene where he more than holds his own next to sir anthony hopkins was phenomenal.

2. captain america: the winter soldier

the second captain america movie got rave reviews pretty much across the board, and you know what? they're right. it works on so many levels: as a superhero movie, as a spy thriller, as an action flick, and even with a bit of lighthearted comedy thrown in there. i saw this one in theatres three times and i think i enjoyed it more each time. again with the perfect casting: chris evans is cap, and it's satisfying to see scarlett johansson grow even further into the black widow role. and i mean, come on -- shirtless sebastian stan is basically the best draw ever. the manpain and angst is again on the anime levels (or maybe i'm just trying to see slash in everything, and can you blame me?), and now i want to see it all for the fourth time. awesome.

1. the avengers

sorry, but it just has to be this one. even back in the days of saturday-morning superhero cartoons, i was always a sucker for crossover episodes -- like when the x-men visited spider-man. that arc was quality, not to mention a novelty that delighted me right down to my geeky heart. so, here it is: the ultimate crossover. it's cartoony and oversized and everything you'd want a comic-book movie to be. i don't think i've seen one this broad and colourful since the early spider-man movies. sure, it's nothing like the morose darkness in the new batman movies (fair play: i liked the dark knight, but i'm pretty sure everyone did), but sometimes you really need more lighthearted fun. again with the personal-life distraction connection -- the avengers came out right before my breakup in 2012 and was still playing in the aftermath, so whenever i was feeling bummed out and needed to be out of the house, i went to see the avengers. i've seen it in 2-D, 3-D, imax, and ultravx. and of course i bought the dvd the day it came out. that much loki can't be wrong.

so. that's it for my list! (very close honourable mention: the first iron man movie, if only because i don't know where robert downey jr. begins and tony stark ends.) relevant to interests: there's a top-secret marvel press event happening today in los angeles, but i'm going to the leafs game so i'll probably miss the coverage as it happens. you know i'll still be checking my iphone during the game intermissions, though.

[ music | temples, "keep in the dark" ]

Saturday, October 25, 2014

sounds of the underground

i've always faced a conundrum as a music journalist: i don't really listen to contemporary music. i'm not up to date on what the kids are listening to. i'm usually hard-pressed to name a "current" band i like - as in, a band that's not from the 80's or 90's - much less one of the ones deemed universally cool (or just obscure enough to be so) by critics. in the last few years, though, i've found that i've been unintentionally curing this dilemma by listening to indie 103.1 every day. a largely indie station broadcast out of los angeles, i've been tuning in since probably 2007 - i recall listening to a lot of indie 103.1 when i was living in vancouver - and have been unwittingly absorbing a lot of good under-the-radar bands from all over the world.

i used to almost never listen to radio stations that would mostly be made up of music new to my ears. i wanted familiarity -- stuff i already knew i liked. here's a dirty secret: if you send me a link to a song or post a link to something that you think is, like, the best song ever, i will probably not listen to it. i burned myself out on terrible music years ago when i was doing reviews 24/7. i used to be of the rather dumb opinion that since i spent so much of my time listening to crappy stuff (with some hidden gems), i'd rather spend my free time listening to stuff i knew i liked. kind of a narrow-minded view there, young self.

anyway, i got out of that rut thanks to the wonder of internet streaming radio stations. indie 103.1 has been my gateway to many new and awesome bands, and i wanted to highlight some of the ones on my current playlist (already, advance apologies if any of these bands are not, in fact, up-and-comers -- they're all new to my ears). if you've got spotify, i have an ongoing playlist being built, so listen and follow along if you feel the inclination (and the noiiiiiiiiize).

here's a few of the songs from that playlist by bands you might not have heard of:

rüfüs du sol - "desert night"

this australian group just played wrongbar here in toronto, and i'm kind of regretting missing it because tickets were probably cheap, but oh well. this here's a really chill single, with delicate vocals and pretty hushed instrumentation coming together to make a ridiculously catchy track. i blame the synth beats. turn the lights down low.

poliça - "smug"

really cool, haunting track with some fantastic female vocals and a solid rhythm. this one tends to get in my head and stay there until i listen to the actual song a couple times, which isn't a bad thing at all. reminds me quite a bit of portishead, if you dig their type of trip-hop (and i definitely do).

gauntlet hair - "bad apple"

i guess i really like fake drumbeats and odd synth sounds (though okay, i'm a depeche mode fan so that makes sense), because this song gets me nodding along every time i listen to it. super cool when it drops down at 1:44. kind of weird and dark but definitely original and deftly made.

the deloreans - "as long as it's you"

cute, slow and sentimental. i probably have a real soft spot for this one because i was listening to it a lot when i was first dating the import boy, but whatever, it's just a nice song. dude's got a neat, resonant singing voice, too. (in case you hadn't noticed, interesting vocals go a long way with me. i love our lady peace, for god's sake.)

last lynx - "curtains"

kind of weird, kind of echo-y, and 100% atmospheric. actually rather relaxing and makes for really nice mood music, or something to play in the background as you're chilling out. my boyfriend likes this one a whole lot.

walk the moon - "anna sun"

this one might be more popular than i think it is - i know i've heard "anna sun" on the radio a bunch of times, not to mention my spin class - but i had to include its raucous upbeat awesomeness here because it's been my #1 feel-good song of the year. they remind me of capital cities, but less annoying.

volcano choir - "byegone"

i'm not a huge fan of stuff off jagjaguwar, but this one's got a neat rolling tune that perfectly uses the crash of drums with ringing guitar tones. great build-up on the chorus to a perfect crescendo of melody and vocals.

magic man - "texas"

i feel like magic man are going to blow up pretty big, if they aren't on the way to doing so already. (tumblr seems to be pretty obsessed with them, on the strength of what looks like a recent opening slot for panic at the disco) very summery and uplifting, like an ideal road-trip soundtrack song. "paris" is also a great tune.

st. lucia - "closer than this"

oh right, "summery and uplifting" -- here's another one! i blasted this tune a whole lot throughout the year's sunny days, because it's a real happy one. st. lucia is playing here at the danforth music hall next month, i think, but tickets there are crazy money so i likely won't get to see them.

death from above 1979 - "trainwreck 1979"

i know i'm cheating with this one - because dfa79 are far from a little-known indie - but i have to give it up for the triumphant return of our finest drum-and-bass rock n' roll duo. this lead single off their new album has got all the heaviness, scronky noise and howling vocals that their legacy has dictated, and i'm absolutely thrilled. (also, once upon a time, jesse gave me some of the best advice i've ever received as a music journo: "you gotta be fucking ruthless.") extra plug for nick, who did the above video and has his own wicked rad band biblical.

also, i saw dfa79 at riot fest last month (first time i'd seen them since 2004!) and they were fucking amazing.

i was pretty sure someone was going to die in the pit during their set. bangin' and vicious. i love it.

lastly, one old favourite that i've been blasting a lot lately:

i'd been having a pretty wretched few days last week - my raging pms was conspiring with the universe to make everything go wrong, and to make it seem approximately one billion times more devastating - but then i remembered that andrew wk exists, and he always wants us to party hard (party hard!). so, i took his wise advice, and felt so much better about life, the universe, and everything. party hard.

anything i've missed? is there anything else i should actually give a listen to? let me know in the comments, friends (or go yell at me on twitter or on tumblr).

[ music | the chain gang of 1974, "sleepwalking" ]