Monday, March 28, 2011

let's get physical

getting this clarified first and foremost: i don't like to exercise, but i don't like being idle either. i'll try to explain.


disclaimer: this is definitely not me. image via buzzle.

after many teenage years of sloth and inactivity, i picked up on the gym habit when i was nineteen, in my first year of university. although it was hard to notice the freshman 15 creeping on - i was slightly heavy to begin with - there came one evening when i looked down at my belly creeping over my belt (ironically, while i was eating chocolate-peanut butter haagen-dazs straight from the container -- for dinner) and realized this couldn't go on. no more eating chinese food at 3 a.m. on the weekend with my friends before sleeping a few hours then hitting the brunch buffet at the dining hall.

fortunately, the building i was housed in as a dorm (it was actually a passable cheap hotel downtown) had a bare-bones gym on the main floor, and so in the evening hours - hopefully when no one else was around - i would drag myself down there and run on the treadmill for 20 minutes. i can't even remember if i did anything else. but that almost-daily exercise started me off, and the following year i started hitting the campus gym often. after that, gyms and cardio became a constant in my life -- even if my loving and loathing of physical exercise remained 50/50, so i could never actually call myself a gym junkie. (i was still a lazy teenager at heart.)

over the following eight years, i was a member of five different gyms; system fitness in the beaches, a community center gym in vancouver, back to the university gym when i moved back to toronto, eclipse fitness in little italy, goodlife fitness downtown. i also did laps on a nearby high school track when i lived downtown, ran the beach boardwalk almost every morning when i lived in the east end, and took twice-weekly spin classes for over a year. oh, and no matter what, i always made sure i walked for at least an hour every day.


image via well + good nyc.

whew.

if this seems rather insane, it probably looks that way. but in the last three years, i've been acutely aware of the fact that i'm working desk jobs, which means i'm sedentary for eight hours a day. and, as i mentioned at the beginning of this post, while i may not like the idea of doing hours of cardio, i hate being idle. i get twitchy and pent-up if i'm sitting all day, which i usually am. and so trying to be active outside of work hours was a priority, with spending weekends and evenings in the gym being a frequent habit.

until now, that is.

my year-long contract with goodlife expired today, and i'd planned not to renew. although there are two locations within walking distance of me, they're both too crowded for my liking, and they seemed to cheap out a lot on basic things (the hand soap dispenser broke, and they replaced it with a watered-down bottle of drugstore-brand sanitizer), which doesn't sit well with me when i'm paying $88 a month. plus, after reading multiple primal/paleo blogs about how unhealthy "conventional" exercise is - essentially it's unnatural movement that's hell on your joints - i was ready to try something different. i decided to make a radical turn and try out this whole "fitness game" phenomenon.

thus, i bought an xbox 360 with its corresponding sensor device, the kinect. (requisite disclaimer that xbox is a client of the public relations firm i work for, though my choice was made independent of this.) included with it was dance central, and i also picked up kinect your shape to go with it.


insert "also sprach zarathustra" here. image via xboxkinectdeal.com (where i didn't buy my xbox from, but oh well).

this was a tough decision. i hadn't been in the video-game buying market since my late teens; my rabid gamer girl status had declined severely since i was, oh, seventeen or so. i'd vaguely considered getting a game system over the last year, but if i was already seated from 9 to 5, why would i want to come home and sit my ass in front of the t.v. for the rest of the day? i don't even like t.v.

but in the last few years, the phenomenon of "workout games" has developed, which i observed with a keen eye.  at first, i was skeptical, doubting that there was any way you could get a decent workout from a video game; but the more i've seen (and the more testimonials from acquaintances that i've gathered), the more i'm willing to give it a shot.  right now, it doesn't seem so different from having workout dvds (which i've never connected with because i like interaction).

i know i might regret this. although there have been many occasions when i've inwardly loathed and cursed the gym, there have been other times when it's kept me sane. literally, having a gym to work out in has been one of the main constants in my life for the last eight years, and a lot of them ended up being like my second homes. they were mental and physical therapeutic releases, time-killers, and a cure for boredom no matter where i was living. ("nothing to do tonight...might as well go to the gym.")  gyms have been so much a part of my regular routine for years and years that i'm already wondering if i'll be okay without it to cling to. such is the way change is, i suppose.

but! i made a deal with myself: try the xbox workouts for six months. by then, the xbox and games will have paid themselves off in terms of regular monthly gym fees, and i'll have a better sense of if they're working for me (or if i've bought marvel vs. capcom 3 and spend all my time playing it instead).  i'm not the sort of person who relies on human company or classes for motivation - in fact, i prefer working out alone - so i'm hoping this works.  it'll be fun, if anything.

and now if you'll excuse me, i'm going to go stare eagerly at the street for the delivery truck.

[ music | iggy pop, "cry for love" ]

Sunday, March 27, 2011

indie coffee passport series - part 13

the indie coffee passport is a fun initiative invented to get torontonians out to try the city's independent coffee shops. from september 1st, 2010 to march 31, 2011, $20 gets you a little paper pass that lists off 24 participating coffee shops, and allows you to a free coffee up to $5.

i'm not affiliated with the good people behind this idea, but i figured it'd be a blast to get a passport and try to hit up all 24 cafes in the next seven months. (in the interest of fairness, i will get the same thing at every cafe -- a large drip coffee, with cream but no sugar.) i love coffee - it's been flowing through my veins since i was fifteen - and given that i've been a barista, cafe supervisor and cafe manager across toronto and vancouver over the years, i feel like i'm up to the highly-caffeinated task!

thirteenth passport stop: the green grind




since we're swiftly bearing down on the passport's deadline of march 31, i've come to accept that i won't hit all 24 stops, but damn if i won't try to hit up any of the unvisited spots that are within decent access of me (as in, not in the furthest reaches of the junction). to that end, i noticed that there was a cafe in little italy that i could easily reach, as well as a spot on queen west that i could swing by. so i formulated a plan to work around my weekend: the green grind on saturday as i ran errands, and quaff cafe as i headed to the west end to watch my boyfriend's hockey tournament.

first up: the green grind. and there's a few little stories here, as there always is when it comes to me and this city (and coffee, of course).

my last job before my current one - yes, the one that ended in this - was, in essence, my first shot at an "adult job". up to that point, i'd only ever worked part-time joe jobs for a few bucks above minimum wage, and i really needed a 9-to-5 salaried job if only for the experience. i'd also just gotten back from vancouver, and i was needing a well-paying job desperately, since i'd just moved into a rather costly apartment by myself. (funny enough, i'd been living with the boy up to this point, and at the time he lived just kitty-corner to the future site of the green grind. my first year back in toronto was primarily lived in little italy, basically.)

enter an interview with the aforementioned last job. said job's offices were located in the building next door to what would later become the green grind -- but at the time, the green grind was some dodgy empty building above a dodgy pharmacy. and one thing i'll always remember when i pass by that location is sitting on those steps on a hot summer day, trying to banish pre-interview jitters and frantically reading over my pre-planned interview answers.


these steps.

of course, i ended up landing the job, and about a year later, the green grind moved in next door. it was definitely nice to see something worthy (an indie cafe, of course) go into the empty space where i once paced and freaked out, feeling as though my future was on the line.

anyway, the more contemporary part of the story is that i've started to move (albeit slowly) towards more organic living in the past year. part of this is the primal lifestyle influence; if you're going to stake your entire diet on meat and vegetables, it has to be damn good meat and vegetables -- as in, organic grass-fed beef and fruit & veggies grown without chemicals. and as i've started being more conscientious of the ingredients list of the groceries i buy (i like michael pollan's philosophy -- be wary of anything supposedly "natural" with more than five ingredients), the boy's started to follow suit, buying organic meat, eggs and fruit. they're little steps, but we're making them, and it really is good to see a cafe offering people the opportunity for little steps as well.



entering the green grind for the first time, it's easy to notice two things: how bright it is, and its communal atmosphere (the one long table a la dark horse espresso helps with this fact). there's a huge colourful mural to one side, and what looks like either a small gathering of friends or an impromptu saturday book club to the other. all in all, a pretty cozy-looking spot to spend an afternoon. (even if i'm opposed to communal tables, mostly because i'm antisocial.)


cute little window spot!

if you check out their website, they state that "The Green Grind’s mission is to provide first class coffee in a unique setting without contributing to environmental destruction." environmental destruction is definitely something to be avoided, and when you think about all the plastic lids and garbage paper cups and stir-sticks and everything else that gets used and thrown away when you're getting takeout coffee...yeah, it certainly adds up. aside from making sure that all their takeout coffee supplies are biodegradable, the cafe runs on "bullfrog power" (which is clean and renewable energy) plus all edibles are fair-trade and organic -- and the coffee is locally roasted as well. quite the list -- and quite the impressive wall of certifications to show for it.



the barista was pretty flat and unresponsive beyond fetching my coffee - asking for a small coffee got me a cup poured out of one of two unlabelled carafes behind the counter - and i think i got the wonky eye for snapping photos of things, but so be it.  (i always wonder if i should give the baristas the heads up that i'll be blogging about this so i'll be taking photos, but it sounds fantastically douchy to me to use "i'm a blogger" as an explanation/excuse for anything.)



baked goods are hella expensive, though -- the price for all-organic living, i suppose.  however: free wifi!  the mythical unicorn of toronto coffee shops. (honestly, coming from vancouver - a city practically blanketed in free wireless internet - it arses me to no end that there are so many coffee shops in toronto without free wifi.  future bakery, my absolute favourite hangout in the city, can't even pull in a rogue signal.)



again, plenty of reminders in and around the well-organized condiments bar that everything is recyclable/reusable, so get to recycling/reusing.



the coffee itself was strong, but with smooth fruity undertones to it -- i'll be a bean snob right here and peg it as probably having ethiopian origins.  i wasn't overly impressed with it though, for some reason.  maybe if i actually knew what kind of coffee i was drinking, i would have paid more attention. (i also distrust the general freshness of carafes.)  again, i also got the sense that the green grind wasn't entirely focused on coffee, but instead splitting its focus on all areas (coffee, espresso, tea and food), which generally means that more importance is placed on special drinks rather than plain ol' coffee.

so for all you environmentally-conscious hippies out there - or, you know, people just concerned about their ecological footprint - the green grind is the option for you.  if you're just in the neighbourhood looking for coffee, i'd head down the block to manic coffee instead.  but that's just me, fence-straddling, half-assed, semi-organic citizen that i am.



The Green Grind
567 College St
Toronto, ON

Friday, March 25, 2011

ides of march

so, i've been busy puttering around, doing things, adding things and fixing things. it's how my life goes, more or less.

two weeks ago, i added the widget for the japan earthquake animal rescue and support's chipin fundraiser to my sidebar on your right; it runs until april 11, and anything you can give would help out. (here's some images of animal friends niigata getting ready to help. also, the photo at the bottom of the crying man reunited with his puppy just rips me up inside.) because i donated $100 to the red cross (plus, the following week, my employer pledged to match dollar for dollar contributions to the red cross, which was an extra bonus), i gave the support network the same amount -- animals deserve the same as people, after all, and they tend to get forgotten during disasters and crises.

funny thing, though -- the whole disaster, seeing all the japanese text on screen and hearing people talk, has really made me want to get back into polishing up my japanese language skills. to that end, i registered for an eight-week intermediate-level japanese course (i tried taking a beginner's course once and was immediately bumped up to advanced, so here's hoping i won't be out of my league) that starts on the 31st. so from then until mid-may, two hours of my thursday evenings will be spent learning - and re-learning - ye olde 日本語. and not gonna lie, for once i'm actually stoked for an evening class -- i've even asked my mother to mail me my kanji dictionaries from home. so now i guess we'll see if it really is like riding a bike.

i've also been busy makin' foods:



guinness chocolate bundt cake with baileys ganache, baked for friend melissa's goodbye party (she was moving back to vancouver). first time breaking in my anniversary bundt pan and it turned out spectacularly. used the recipe from smitten kitchen.



ginger macadamia nut brownies, from elana amsterdam's excellent gluten-free almond flour cookbook. basically as "healthy" as baked goods can get, made with almond flour, fresh ginger, nuts and organic dark chocolate. froze half the pan because there's no way i could let myself eat two dozen brownies in a go.



roast beef sandwich made with fake bread (also from elana's website). got the roast from my west side beef box and it turned out beyond perfectly. (look at how reddish-pink it is, omfg)  i can never eat overcooked, gray deli roast beef again.



vegetable quiche with an almond flour crust, also from elana's cookbook. this was the first run; the second time i made it a couple of weeks later, i added bacon. because everything's better with bacon, obviously.

you saw my last blog post, right? (if not, pro tip: just scroll down a bit.) all in preparation for bake sale mania. seriously, the planning has begun and the ideas are getting a little out of control. (as i mentioned on twitter, i honestly did pull up a quick spreadsheet to use for inventory and budgeting purposes. i am dually horrified with myself.)

and now, for a different direction...

adrian left a very reverb 10/11-esque comment on one of my posts last week,

"Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010."

2010, hmmm...alright, i'll bucket this as a point-form list that'll be mostly scattered and definitely not in chronological order (because i'll be on a five-minute time limit, after all).

- west-end living, flooding basement and all
- the months of funemployment (and how much it eventually grew to suck)
- watching the gold-medal men's hockey game at the olympics
- endless patio drinking in the summer with the boy
- being a kitten-feeding volunteer at the humane society
- trying (and failing) at pole-dancing classes (but hey, at least i tried)
- work trips and feeling like an adult for probably the first time
- undertaking the indie coffee passport series, which probably won't be finished on time (but again, at least i tried, haha)
- the first time i saw the nighttime view from the apartment that we'd be moving into
- when i got the phone call to offer me my current job, thus ending the suckage of funemployment
- nyc trip in october and the corresponding cmj 2010
- discovering the primal lifestyle and subsequently cutting all the crap out of my diet (my late-2010 relapse just served to make me bounce back more dedicated than before)
- my birthday c'mon show!
- starting my tumblr and re-starting this blog
- every time i realized how much i'm absolutely in love with toronto

...and that's it for 2010, apparently. for 2011 right now, though, i'm working towards filling my life with lots of cool & fun things in the near future -- the bake sale, spring double-dates with good friends, housewarming parties, japanese classes, planning and eventually creating a balcony vegetable & herb garden (more on this soon), a trip to chicago for the may long weekend, learning how to use a video game system for exercise, an eventual haircut and new spring clothing, and myriad other exciting things to help usher in springtime 2011.

forward!

[ music | mgmt, "electric feel" ]

Thursday, March 24, 2011

giving back

brief interruption, but i wanted to plug this awesome charity fundraiser that i just signed up to take part in:



(no, not "bikes" - "bakes".)

i'm taking part in the toronto bakes for japan bake sale -- specifically the sunday april 10th date at the rivoli downtown. i promise the following delicious home-baked goods: a pan of blondies overloaded with goodness, a dozen chocolate-chip oatmeal peanut butter cookies, and slices of the best goddamn banana bread you've ever tasted.

even if you're not a professional, if you fancy yourself the baking type - and i know a few of my readership do - then head over to the website and sign up for one of the three four dates (saturday april 9 at the farmers' market at evergreen brick works from 9 am to 1 pm, and sunday april 10 from 11 am to 3 pm at liberty noodle, the rivoli, and cafe diplomatico). they're accepting baked goods as well as donations of raffle prizes and/or volunteered time to help out at the events. i know i'll be sticking around to help out with the sale of goods on sunday.

suffice it to say, i'm seriously excited about this undertaking -- i love the concept of bake sales and never get to participate in them myself (not being a soccer mom and all), and the fact that 100% of the proceeds will be going to the japanese red cross society is an added bonus. (i even tweeted about this idea way back on march 12!)

let me know if you'll be joining the initiative that weekend, either by baking or buying -- it's only three weeks away, so get planning now!

[ music | the cure, "lovesong" ]

Monday, March 21, 2011

indie coffee passport series - part 12

the indie coffee passport is a fun initiative invented to get torontonians out to try the city's independent coffee shops. from september 1st, 2010 to march 31, 2011, $20 gets you a little paper pass that lists off 24 participating coffee shops, and allows you to a free coffee up to $5.

i'm not affiliated with the good people behind this idea, but i figured it'd be a blast to get a passport and try to hit up all 24 cafes in the next seven months. (in the interest of fairness, i will get the same thing at every cafe -- a large drip coffee, with cream but no sugar.) i love coffee - it's been flowing through my veins since i was fifteen - and given that i've been a barista, cafe supervisor and cafe manager across toronto and vancouver over the years, i feel like i'm up to the highly-caffeinated task!

twelfth passport stop: red rocket coffee



the fact that i actually do like bush x is a coincidence.

on a mopey, gray, depressing sunday, i decided to take my mopey, gray, depressing self out to the east end for a visit.

and as i walked down and around my old longtime neighbourhood of east leslieville/outer beaches, i did some thinking. the weather was lending itself nicely to some introspection as i was on my mission for east side caffeination.

i'm a few years away from thirty. i've got a solid well-paying job, a great relationship that's in its fourth year, and a downtown apartment with a gorgeous view. but if i can be honest, sometimes i miss being a single twentysomething fuckup living alone on the east end and working part-time shitty joe jobs to get by. i'm probably looking at those days through nostalgia-tinted rose-coloured glasses, but it feels like there was a lot more...promise back then, if that's the right word for it. i didn't have any ties to anything - no relationship, no career job, no longterm residence - and so it felt like my future was open wide, to steal a line from modern english.

sure, i can remember being pretty miserable at times - hell, you can read my old blog (mostly in summer/fall 2006) and get sort of a sense of that - but at the same time, there was so much anticipation for my future and all its possibilities. and this feeling is all over the east side of toronto for me, especially in all the places where i have so many memories.

if i ever end up being single again, i'll most likely immediately move back to the east end. (the boy hates the east side of town and wouldn't live there if you paid him.) these days, though, i find it hard to make the time and/or excuse to visit; it's sort of out of my way, plus i get uncomfortable facing down the ghosts. (also, people still recognize me on the east end, which is slightly weird. but i stood out a lot back then, so it's not totally implausible) but as i said, on a crappy dull sunday, my mind wandered to the idea of making a long-overdue pilgrimage to my old neighbourhood. and, to seal the deal, i remembered i had an unused coffee passport stop at red rocket coffee on queen east. plans decided.


my past vegetarian self really loved their black bean wrap, fyi.

i'd already hit up the new red rocket earlier in my passport journey, and you can check out that post's intro for a little bit of my background with this place. basically, i was living in the area when this cute little basement cafe moved in, and there were few people more overjoyed than me at the sight of a quality indie coffee shop en route to my workplace at the time. although i wasn't quite part of the cafe culture at this point in time - i didn't have a lot of free time, nor did i own a laptop (i actually wasn't freed from the shackles of a desktop until august 2007) - it became a semi-regular stop for me as i went to and from work.



returning now on the first day of spring 2011, i noticed that they'd definitely expanded their wares - check out the wide selection of coffees and teas for sale above - but the cozy cool basement vibe hadn't dissipated, even with the addition of a patio on ground level (that was obviously still closed for the season).  Sure, I have no doubt the place is still choked with yuppies and yoga moms, but it was neat to pick out who the obvious neighbourhood regulars were.  (also weird: the girl walking behind me approaching the cafe was on the phone with someone, and said something like "yeah, this is another cafe on the passport..." we are legion)


i would most definitely wear one of those t-shirts. also, check out the awesomely clever "ground control" sign to the right.

also, a note to any fellow passport travelers and/or coffee bloggers: baristas and customers alike really do look at you like you're some sort of creeper if you're taking photos with your mobile.  it's not the most comfortable feeling in the world.



again, i had to break my regular tradition for a (spiced, half-sweet) red rocket -- which, if you missed it in my past rocket post, is coffee with chocolate syrup and espresso. back in the day, if i was pulling a long late-night shift at the supermarket - usually 2:30 p.m. until 11 p.m., because i often closed the cash office - a red rocket would get me through. and even though i've finally exhausted myself on sweet coffee drinks (working at cafes with endless samples for a couple of years will do that to you), somehow i can't break the allure of this delicious concoction. and sure enough, as i walked down queen east in my black leather coat, drinking coffee and walking life on queen east go by, my spirits definitely lifted. i felt like i was home. i felt like my old self again.

and that was definitely worth the trip.




Red Rocket Coffee
1402 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON
(416) 406-0880

Saturday, March 19, 2011

it's only in the blood


apropos of nothing, this is me dressed as a nurse for halloween four years ago, along with a guy dressed as myspace. remember myspace? yeah.

so, i've always been something of a hypochondriac.

i wasn't a sickly child per se, and though i did have some weird stomach problems, to this day i can't figure out if i just thought them up. it's entirely possible, i suppose. but to this day, i still have a penchant to mildly obsess over aches and pains and other strange bodily ailments that i - and the mayo clinic website - can't explain.

it couldn't always be described as "mildly", though. i've gone to the walk-in clinic thinking i have skin cancer (the mark turned out to be a bruise) and obsessed over a small lump on my skull (which turns out to be an ingrown hair). oh yeah, and i all but managed to talk myself into colon cancer last summer, right up to the point where i had a colonoscopy "just to check" -- never mind the fact that the chances of having colon cancer below the age of fifty are microscopic.

and let's not go into the time i went to the emergency room because i thought i'd been bitten by a spider, when it just turned out that i'd been scraped by a drawer. long story. lots of sheepishness.

my point, though, is that all this worry is basically for nothing, because i'm in absolute optimal health. i had my annual physical last thursday; i have a full physical done every march like clockwork. having a father who once fell off a very high ladder and ripped open his knee almost to the bone - but didn't go to the hospital for four days - i've had it more or less ingrained in me that checkups are important. tests are important. if you're not feeling right, see a doctor. it's a very adult thing, i think -- to take care of oneself. at least, it certainly feels that way, to take responsibility for your health and well-being into your own hands.

anyway, the result was that my heart rate was fine, blood pressure was fine, no lumps found in my breasts or anywhere else on my body, good and bad cholesterol were both balanced (and my ldl cholesterol - the really bad stuff - was so low they couldn't even test it). got five(!) vials of blood drawn - for me who's terrified of needles, this was no small feat of courage - to check a variety of things, including my blood type since i might actually not be type o after all (i assumed both my parents were, but only my father is -- my mother is type a or something, and her mother is ab negative, so it may be valuable that i find out what i am).

all in all, i have only two health problems: recurring anemia (which i'm on iron supplements to fix) and a tilted uterus, which i basically can't do anything about. as far as genetics go, i basically hit the lottery -- no hereditary diseases or cancers on either side of the family, plus a history of long life. darwinism superiority right here.

it wasn't always this way, though, and it was my own fault.

a while ago, i was a band groupie, and being a band groupie (a conscientious one, anyway) means frequent tests for stds and other scary things. (as my mother put it, "honey, you may be worried about getting pregnant, but there are much worse things.") i was an idiot girl putting herself at risk with idiot boys - all of which declined condoms, and i'll admit i never enforced it - and i will be the first to say that there's very little more terrifying than sitting in a clinic, waiting to get your hiv test results. (consequently, the relief when you find out you tested negative is beyond comparison.)

but it was after all these scares and risks took their toll that i really woke up and started taking care of myself, and my long-term health became a priority over my living-for-today recklessness. ever since then, as i said, i've had an annual physical - pap smears once a year, always, and i'm continually thankful that they come back normal - and paid close attention to my body. you never know what can manifest even after the wild years are done with, which is the scary thing.

so yes, being a hypochondriac is a pain in the ass, but whenever i get it balanced out, it really serves its purpose by getting me to pay attention to things that might be going wrong. i don't want to say i have nothing to worry about just because my genes say so.

conclusion: check-ups are good. get one soon, whether it's a doctor or a naturopath or whatever area of medicine you prescribe to. kick off springtime in good health. end rant.

p.s.  due to recurring shoulder/neck/back pain from work and stress, just had my first deep-tissue massage session today.  whoever said that massages were relaxing?  my muscles are still screaming at me.

[ music | marlies vs. adirondacks hockey on t.v. ]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

people are people

wanted to talk about two things in this post -

one: i'm fairly sure everybody has a cooler life than i do right now.

...well, okay, that's obviously a strong generalization, and maybe it's just because half of my twitter list is in austin right now for south by southwest (and having the best time in the universe from the sounds of it), but reading updates about the cool things my acquaintances are doing makes me more sad than envious these days. mostly because i know i used to have an equally cool life way back when, and even now, i'm not really doing a hell of a lot to make it better. stop being so jealous and start doing things in your own life to make you happy, i keep telling myself, but somehow the lesson isn't sticking. logistics are getting in the way, i guess.

when i browse through facebook - devil of a tool that it is - i see an array of close friends and good acquaintances (i'm selective about whose friend requests i accept -- only people i know and have met face to face in real life, basically), many of whom are doing sxsw, cmw, or just generally reporting on the cooler shit that they're doing with their lives. now, i know it's all curated, basically; who makes a big deal on the internet about the more mundane moments of their life? (wait -- don't answer that. i'm sure some people do.)

but me, i don't have much to report these days -- nothing worthy of facebook updates and nothing worth blogging about, as i'm sure you've noticed. and so the lazy uneventful life trudges on, with me standing at the sidelines and wondering what the hell i can do to make it better -- or even where to start. (suggestions are, as always, appreciated.)

and as i said, it's somehow that much worse when you can remember a time that this sort of life was a blasphemous idea to you, and that you once had so much more than just this.

okay, let's get away from the self-absorbed me-time and hit a bigger topic:

two: japan.

i love japan. i have loved japan since i was about thirteen years old. it was my absolute addiction to anime, manga and video games that really helped me get through my parents' divorce at that time and, as dedicated as i was to those fantasy worlds, i came to love their originating country just the same. i even taught myself japanese as a teenager, just so i could understand better. (i can still read it pretty well today, and the small amount i can speak is done with a very well-replicated accent.) by the time i got to university, i decided to minor in japanese studies; an ambition that was shot down when i never managed to enroll in the japanese language courses before they were filled up by other eager students. still, i did take a great japanese history course in my third year, and it stands out to me as probably one of the top university courses i took. (the tutorial class when we were asked to debate "world war II: were the japanese right or wrong?" absolutely blew my mind. in a good way.)

i've never gotten to go to japan in my life, though - not yet, at least - not even when i was living in vancouver and it was cheaper to fly to kyoto than it was to toronto. i just didn't have the money. but my father has since been to japan, bringing me back a yukata, a jewelry box and an array of other goods that he knew i'd appreciate (he also took care to get me souvenirs from japantown when he visited san francisco), thus reminding me of my adolescent love of a country i'd never seen.

i always assumed i'd go one day -- once i got over the idea of a twenty-odd hour flight, that is. but then i woke up on friday morning to see a bunch of facebook status updates about japan, and i went to the newspapers online, and my heart sank to somewhere around my feet.

i haven't been living under a rock, obviously -- i know about indonesia and haiti and christchurch, and god knows i felt awful, but this...this was different. this was the unknown country that i adored. this was the language that i'd so carefully taught myself to understand, scrolling across news screens overtop of scenes of mass destruction. this was a place i'd always wanted to go to, being washed away, never to return -- along with god knows how many human lives. and that left me with a horrible empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

and so the entire day, i kept up with twitter, and the news online (especially this thread on oh no they didn't!, where hundreds of users echoed the same helpless, worried sentiments i was feeling) and the television special reports that basically just showed the same horrible footage on a loop. an entire prefecture getting washed away. the aftershocks still occurring. i couldn't even imagine how the people there were coping; i still can't. the fact that they look so stoic and so grateful for the help and kind thoughts makes my heart hurt even more.

here are some places where you can donate to japan; at the bottom of this post, there are even more options. i donated a chunk of my savings, and i was planning on giving blood until i found out that they wouldn't accept it because my blood isn't healthy (i'm badly anemic and have been on iron supplements for months). i'll likely be doing more in the coming weeks, because although there have been so many natural-disaster tragedies in recent memory, this one hit so close to home for me -- even if it's a home i've never set foot on.

but still, parts of this have made me absolutely fucking hate humanity. (...and here comes all the profanity, because this makes me so angry.)

people who were talking about how great the surfing was going to be in hawaii and california once the waves hit. people who make racist jokes about "how are they gonna tell the bodies apart, they all look the same". people who made "godzilla" and "pearl harbor" trending topics on twitter -- the former obviously insensitive jokesters, and the latter vindictive fucks who still believe that americans should "get back" at the japanese for something that happened seventy fucking years ago. seriously? who the fuck thinks that way? who? (if this doesn't piss you off, i don't want to know you. at least frogman's response was aces.)

and these are also the people that believe japan brought it on themselves, that they deserved this somehow, and that they don't deserve help. mostly because of something that happened seventy years ago.

good god. good god. the racism just staggers me. it actually makes me ashamed to be caucasian, if this is how caucasians continue to see the rest of the world -- as white, or non-white. how long until the idiots among us actually realize that we're all human beings underneath our skin colour?

the only silver lining to this fuckery is that it makes me want to be a better person to make up for all those bags of human fucking waste out there.

anyway, i'll stop before i start cursing up even more of a blue streak. just remember to be good to people.

[ music | yeah yeah yeahs, "bang" ]

Thursday, March 3, 2011

life and how you live it



March Prompt: If March 2011 was your last month to live, how would you live it?

oh, man -- heavy topic. then again, i'm very much one of those people who often ponders her own mortality (it's left over from my goth leanings, i'm sure), and sometimes i do run down that train of thought: what if this is my last day/week/month to live?. because really, none of us know what could happen today, or tomorrow, or whenever. it's all a matter of time.

but i'm slowly digressing. this prompt actually took a bit of thought, when it came down to it, because i found i couldn't really nail down specifics. it's easy enough to have conceptual ideas of a last-month bucket list, but i'm willing to bet this is the sort of thing that doesn't really become clear until it becomes a reality (which hopefully won't happen, touch wood). so here's what i managed to come up with for me:

- spend the time doing things i want to do, and nothing that i don't. this is simple enough, i suppose, but if i knew my time was limited, i'd say fuck it and let my id do its indomitable will. i'm not saying i harbour a secret wish to loot and riot and run naked through downtown toronto, but i'm sure i could think of a few stupid/crazy things i've always wanted to do. (none i'd be willing to share here, though.)

- travel. i'd try to hit the destinations i listed at the bottom of this post, as many as possible. i'd make sure to get vancouver in there, if only to make amends with that city and my days there.

- tie up loose ends. mostly with boys, but a few with friends and acquaintances. the boys, though...yeah, there's a couple that i'd have some things to say to, if only to get closure before the curtain came down. (i guess that means i'd have some confessions to make to a few girlfriends and wives as well, but i don't really seek forgiveness there -- it takes more than one person and a remarkable amount of oversight, after all.)

- eat dessert. mostly a lot of cheesecake.

- spend money on things i don't really need, but want anyway. again, there really isn't much i can think of off the top of my head, but probably stupid things like video game systems and big-screen tvs and books, lots and lots of books. i'd actually spend a lot of my last days reading, i think.

- be with my family at the end of it all. this should go without saying.

[ music | queens of the stone age, "go with the flow" ]

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

radio silence

first, check out this awesomely self-satisfied cat:



i love. (to quote my friend amanda, "i don't know anyone who needs a cat as much as you do." and i do.)

now, here's some artsy-ish (aka blurry as fuck) photos from the c'mon gig last friday:











this gig was part of the bovine sex club's series of 20th anniversary shows, which is mindblowing and awesome to me. the bovine's been my second-home bar since i was nineteen; even now, although i don't hang out there nearly as often, going back feels like coming home. so many familiar faces! here's a cool history of the bovine, told by the people who were there, many of whom are still there. (darryl always gives me hugs and compliments -- he's awesome)

but now, we are into the month of march, which is slowly but steadily picking up steam as far as social plans go. cmw is coming up (i'd almost forgotten, which is funny considering i used to base my spring/summer around toronto's two big music fests), and though i refuse to call it "canadian music fest", it's still looking to be a significant deal. i've already made a few plans to see some bands - i'll be without a laminate pass around my neck, but i'll be getting sleep this year so that'll be nice - and attend a couple of parties, but nothing totally extreme. that is, nothing like the old days when i was trying to review 20 bands in three days.

truth be told, it chips away at my soul a little bit to dip my toes back in the music industry world these days. that's where i've always wanted to be, after all, and the fact that i conceded defeat - however temporarily - to get a job in the "real world" (you know, one that pays well and doesn't have the threat of collapsing under me any minute) still stings a little bit. don't get me wrong, i'm alright with my career right now -- but i was a little surprised to realize last week that if i were offered a job in the music industry nowadays, i'd be very, very hesitant to accept. and i'd have killed for a music job five years ago.

it's a sad state the industry's in, although i'm sure nobody even remotely close to it needs to be told that. (hell, i may not be doing much music journalism anymore, but i still live with a working musician, and i know that it hasn't gotten any easier.) and it, like journalism, is no longer something that i can stake my life and future career in. others are - and are still trying - and good for them, but damn if i personally don't need a little more stability in what i do. i have the guillotine blade of student debt hanging over my head, and i'd be forever conscious of that fact even if the bank wasn't automatically removing a large percentage of money out of my account every month. sigh.

and so i really do feel trapped, at least a little bit -- very damned-if-i-do, damned-if-i-don't as far as career aspirations go. i know i've ranted about this in past blog posts, but it's a hard adult thing to deal with. (as i rebutted to dean when he said that he doesn't think about the future much, "i'm twenty-seven -- all i have to think about is the future.") it's hard when you still can't identify what your bankable life skills are -- thus severely limiting your job choices. hence my feeling scared and uncertain about my future, especially when i once staked my future so wholeheartedly on an industry and a profession that are both crumbling.

once you've worked in the world of music, "you can never leave," as a friend of mine said last week. and that's very true, whether you're a musician or an industry stooge or what. once you're in, a part of you is in for life. once you're out, a part of you always wants back in. it sucks, but it's the truth.

anyway, apologies for the navel-gazing -- my professional present and future have been very much on my mind lately, mostly due to the time of year, the season, and so on. after all, it was this time last year that i was on my final day of funemployment, and one year later finds me not uncomfortable but still not certain of my destiny. as much as i've been an impatient girl since birth, in this case i know i'll just have to wait and see.

now i'm off to peruse my new cookbook and drink a lot of red wine.

[ music | the mission uk, "wasteland" ]