31 May 2006

animal corner


ok, if you know me at all, you know i'm pretty high on animals in general. yes, i like them better than people and, yes, like the omnivorous hypocrite that i am, i eat them anyway. i at least limit myself to eating things that had a more decent quality of life while they were with us.

so i have chosen this little space to pay hommage to one of my very favourite animals, other than cats (for those who don't know, my ambition in life, other than becoming an internationally reknown writer, is to turn into one of those crazy ladies with lots of cats).

that animal is the owl. aside from the eerie but incredibly cool trick of being able to turn their heads all the way around without being possessed by the devil, owls are fascinating. incredibly diverse, found virtually everywhere in the world (except antarctica, which they apparently surrendered to the penguins after prolonged neogtiations), still little understood and much feared.

why do i like them so much? because they're at once both adorable and a little intimidating, a hard feat to pull off. because they are the virtual totem of intellectuals everywhere. (remember those oldf-fashioned bookmobiles? have you ever seen one without a picture of an owl on it?) because their voices are fascinating to listen to. (until i discovered that the ring was so quiet that i had no hope of hearing it, i actually had an owl call programmed as my cell phone ring. some day, i'll find a louder one and the world will know... just how eccentric i am...)

investigate as you will. up with owls!

29 May 2006

miss misery


supposedly, misery makes for great writing. from the depths of anguish comes a sort of purity of feeling, a deeper, more honest sort of creative output. or some such crap. personally, i think that from misery comes a load of self-pity and very little else, at least, when it comes to the way that most of us experience it.

i think what’s at issue here is possibly a choice of words. when people talk about the sort of intense emotion that causes some great (although frequently awful) literature, they aren’t talking about the slow, grinding pressure of being crushed under the burdens of everyday life, in a seemingly contradictory existential state of being thrust into proximity with people, while feeling no sense of identification or companionship with them.

what brings out the poet in everyone is more what i would characterise as “anguish”, that horrific, stabbing tearing feeling that your world is being destroyed. you know, that feeling of having your siginificant other leave you, sleep with someone else, give you a venereal disease (or, if you were born under a lucky artistic star, all three at once).

hey, if you haven’t experienced this sort of thing, i highly recommend doing it at least once, if only to get the creative juices flowing. (i can say that, because i’ve gone through it, more than once, so i can sit back and smugly assume that i’ve paid my dues.)

what i don’t recommend is falling into the trap of prolonged, slow, dull depression that seems determined to squeeze on your throat until it presses every last breath out of you in a drawn-out, tedious cycle that pushes you, ultimately, into an unremarkable hole in the ground. this is how people who once had dreams of creativity end up being that annoying person who spends too much time talking about what their life was like ten, fifteen, twenty years earlier. this is not the misery that leads to some sort of artistic epiphany. this is the kind of thing that leads to a long series of half-finished projects of questionable worth that have a nasty tendency towards an inexplicable sameness, no matter what you do, much like every event in your life...

of course, if you wait long enough, this sort of monotony will eventually drive you stark raving mad, which, as we all know, is only a sliver away from genius.

so cheer up. whatever kind of unhappiness you have in your life now, some day, you’ll be able to transmute it into a magnum opus. until then, stuff sucks.

25 May 2006

it's payback time!!

after years of climbing on couter tops to reach your top cupboards and untold hours wondering what mysteries the top shelf hid from us, it is time for the diminuitive of this world to get even.

because now, we are above the law, at least in nebraska. at my height (five foot two, if you're asking), i'm not used to being above anything. i always knew that there were advantages to being little, but other than being able to wear heels without getting a bird's eye view of everyone's bald spots, i hadn't quite figured out what those advantages were. turns out, it's a get out of jail free card. sweet.

if anyone's looking for me, i'll be out dealing with my suv-driving, two-and-a-half-parking-spot-taking neighbour.

18 May 2006

ripped off

i honestly, perhaps stupidly, got a little excited when i head that dna testing had been done in the hopes of identifying jack the ripper. as some of you already know, i'm kind of a follower of the case and so any developments are of interest to me.

however, the article is pretty spurious and draws its information from a source (the so-called "openshaw letter") that is generally believed to be a forgery. the "dear boss" letter mentioned in the article as well, one of the only letters from the whitechapel killer which is given any credence whatsoever (and, most famously, the document that coined the name "jack the ripper"), was never thought to have victim mary kelly's blood on it, seeing as it was sent over a month before she died.

even in fringe cases, journalistic research is really gone down the crapper. i mean, this stuff isn't even difficult to find out.

the search goes on, i suppose. for the best, most meticulously researched information on the web regarding the ripper, check out the case book.

16 May 2006

tough act to follow

what's the most memorable way to start off your tenure as white house press secretary? how about using the phrase tar baby in your first briefing.

and now for my encore, i'm going to draw pornographic cartoons of the prophet mohammed and put on my freshly starched white uniform...

14 May 2006

more mundo alcoholica


inspired by my thoughts on cocktails, and by the fact that i got to try two proper absinthes at the lcbo, i took the opportunity afforded by the weekend to crack open a bottle of damiana liquer that i bought while in mexico a while back. i bought it because it was a local delicacy and it had a cool bottle (see photo)... damiana is apparently a quaint local term for "demon from the ninth circle of hell", which is an appropriate description of the flavour.

taken straight, the drink is somewhat akin to consuming the contents of a zippo lighter followed by a spoonful of honey. not to be deterred, i investigated the possibilities of mixing this concoction with something else in the hopes of making it, if not palatable, at least tolerable. after contemplating the horror which was the dam + jag cocktail (because the only thing i could think of that would make this worse would be to mix it with jaggermeister) and dismissing as possibly dangerous the notion of mixing it in a magarita, i settled on lowly orange juice as a possible solution. turns out that, much like the magic it can work with cheap vodka, orange juice does make it better.

in the meantime, i will contemplate its very attractive bottle, it's amber-like colour and will try to avoid thinking about it's revolting taste.

13 May 2006

spring fever


found another excellent exhibit, this one on the east side of queen at the parts gallery (this is the same gallery that had the mark mothersbaugh exhibit i blogged about last september). again, what you can see on line is nothing compared to the effect of the photography in real life. each image has a lacquered, glassy finish, which means that you are watching yourself watching the art. how very existential...

i would also like to say that today was a really good day. a lot of little reasons, but it was just a very enjoyable span of hours (except for almost suffocating on the bathurst bus...). here's hoping there's more where that came from.

happier hours

although i salute the return of bars that serve cocktails, as opposed to those where you have to explain how to make a vodka and orange, i am distressed by the fact that, rather than making proper cocktails, they generally just give themselves an uber-sleek decor, take whatever bottles have collected dust, mash up the ingredients and serve them in a martini glass to fashion victims.

a well-prepared cocktail can be the highlight of an evening, but it needs to be executed by someone who knows what they’re doing. and too often, there is a confusion between the flat out weird and the low-yield girl drinks that are generally dished out at resorts. the best cocktails have more kick than an angry mule, but taste so divine you’ll be under the table before you know what hit you. the iron fist in the velvet glove indeed.

a few of my favourites include:

the mint julep. do yourself a favour: never order this in a bar. you’re likely to get a mix of creme de menthe and cheap whiskey that tastes like your mouth when you were trying to hide the fact that you were out drinking in high school. the first time i had these made properly, the guy preparing them called a friend of his in west virginia to get the recipie: nice bourbon, fresh mint, brown sugar that you heat on the spot, all served over ice. one of the most refreshing summer drinks ever, but beware, it packs a punch beyond what you would expect from its simple ingredients. tasting tip: let it sit for a few minutes after preparation to allow the flavours to mingle.

the sidecar. rarer than hen’s teeth are the bartenders who know how to prepare one of these properly. i’ve actually been known to walk a couple of them through the process, with mixed results (go ahead, groan, i swear it was unintentional). probably the only cocktail involving brandy that won’t make your teeth rot, this little bomb also involves cointreau and lemon and tastes best when it’s a little on the sour side (to me at least). (warning: some guides or bartenders will tell you that you can substitute triple sec, which is cheaper, for cointreau. don’t believe them.) no one really orders these, or even knows what they are, for the most part, because they faded from popularity around the early 1940s, but that makes the hunt for a good one all the more exciting.

the mojito. luckily, this cuban treat is the essence of popularity right now, which makes them easy to find. chain restaurants even serve them and they’re pretty good to boot. a mix of rum, lime, mint, soda and sugar, they should be required patio drinking in the summer. also worth checking is the mojito’s brazilian cousin the caphirinia, which eschews the mint, but gives much the same effect. the caphirinia is a little more difficult to find, but is gaining in popularity.

i personally think that the cocktail hour is the essence of civility and, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to unwind at the end of the day? despite the fact that the cost per drink is high, most people can’t handle more than a few serious cocktails even if they could routinely drink sumo wrestlers under the table, so you are getting more bang for your buck.

anyone who has favourite cocktail recipies or locales to share, please feel free.

06 May 2006

purdy pictures


since there are few springtime activities as lovely and relaxing as wandering along queen street dodging in and out of galleries, here are a couple of exhibitions worth checking out along the west queen west strip:

at the angell gallery, an exhibition by kineko ivic of monsters-from-childhood type paintings. you can view them on line, but you lose the textural element that makes them so appealing. (see image to the right.)

and at the clint roenisch gallery, a little further west on the strip, there is a stunning exhibit of photography by jack burman, entitled chaos shimmers (through the veil of order). his juxtaposed images of human remains (note: not for the faint of heart or stomach), stark and uncompromising alongside images of baroque cathedrals so detailed they're painful to look at for too long are remarkable. they have an almost physical effect when you see them, particularly given their considerable size.

02 May 2006

learning not to fly

everyone has their annoying personality quirks. some people have a bad temper. some people are insecure (i mean, moreso than the rest of us). some people lie. mine is a little bit trickier for me to define. it's not exactly a competitive streak, not exactly perfectionism, but it has elements of both. whenever i get involved with something, anything, i have to be in charge of it, i have to be the best one at it, no matter what it happens to be.
 
recently, for instance, there was a senior position open at the place where i work. i got my nose out of joint over the fact that i didn't believe i got the consideration for it that i deserved (maybe i did, maybe i didn't). i managed to get myself quite cross over this and was probably a holy terror to deal with in the office. here's the kicker: i don't really want the job. i mean, everyone likes to be promoted, but i'm actually pretty happy with the balance i've managed to achieve. the fact is, i'd rather come home at the end of the day and have some energy to put into writing, which has always been my primary interest, rather than coming home and wanting to sleep or drink because i can't get my mind out of the office.
 
so why would i want to change that? well, for starters, it seems like there is a lot of pressure on people in general to progress, to move forward. and it's probably easier to move forward in your job, which does take up the majority of your waking hours, if you're employed full time, than it is to pursue personal projects, creative goals, etc. jobs are set up to allow people to progress if they want (and if management wants you to). many other things are not so easy to navigate.
 
where my particular personal foibles come in is that i'm aware of every opportunity for progress that comes in front of me, but i am still learning to sort out which ones are actually worth pursuing. really, what this works out to is that i have trouble prioritising. if you constantly feel the need to be the best person at everything you're doing, it stands to resaon that you're probably not going to succeed very often, because your efforts are going to be spread so thin that there won't be a lot of you going into any of these projects.
 
so this is my project for the coming days, figuring out what opportunities are available to me at the moment and figuring out which ones are really worth my time. guaranteed, most of them are just things that aren't going to make me a better or happier person.

perhaps i'll be able to set aside a few minutes at the office to look at this, since i don't have a boatload of new responsibilities to take care of.
 

01 May 2006

welcome to suburban life

the led displays may be the only thing that make the commute worthwhile, but they'll probably wake you up faster than an espresso enema.

before it even got truly stupid


david itzkoff's curious george may date from the year 2000- before september 11th, before the wars on afghanistan and iraq, before his senior staff started getting indicted, but it's still a gem... on the other hand, i may have to hate this guy for ruining a childhood favourite for me...
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