Bring me the Chianti

Bring me the Chianti

This triggered me today.

I don’t usually like using the word ‘triggered’ because it brings to mind the ridiculous slang that’s considered hip these days, like bae. Or shookt. Woke. Ship. Cray. Having a tiny computer in our pocket 24/7 has  apparently given us all ADHD and no one has the time for syllables, or a proper vocabulary. Don’t get me started on the egregious abuse of the word iconic.

However ‘triggered’, in this particular situation, is an apt word for me to describe the way I’m feeling. Because #affected!

TL;DR: vegans organized a protest against Antler, a Toronto restaurant that boasts wild game as a big part of their menu; as they waved murder signs outside, the owner proceeded to (expertly, from the looks of it) butcher a leg of deer in plain sight.  Shock, horror and injured feelings ensue.

So, I was there for the comments, and ended up down a rabbit hole of commentary, which is par for the course when it comes to a topic as polarizing as vegans versus the world. Sometimes it seems like there’s a chapter somewhere in the militant vegan gospel that says if they won’t eat animals, woe to the rest of us who insist on doing so.

This is why I have a problem with militant anything. Militant vegans. Militant feminists. Militant racists. Militant religionists. Militant cyclists. They’re always free to believe what they believe in, but disagree with them and all of a sudden they’re the victims. It’s always their way or the highway, conveniently sidestepping the fact that having an opinion is a right that belongs to everyone. It leaves a sour, angry feeling in the pit of my stomach, which is how  I feel when it comes to people who claim to educate, but are actually intent on ramming their own beliefs down your throat.

At its core, my problem with militant anything is that it’s sanctimonious, it’s preachy, and it’s rude. If you’re okay with voicing your opinion that meat-eating is wrong, you should be okay with others who think otherwise and have the nerve to say so. I would like to think not all vegans have such a warped, blinkered worldview. There is a difference between education and straight out indoctrination.

So I am standing up and giving  Team Antler a slow clap for this masterful move. First of all, it’s his restaurant. If he wants to butcher a leg of deer in front of all and sundry, that’s his prerogative, the same way it was the protesters’ prerogative to gang up on a local business and wave meat-is-murder signs in front of paying customers. If he wants to have a menu that’s mostly ethically raised, locally sourced meat, that’s his choice. Don’t force a restaurant to add vegan friendly items to the menu just because you think animals have feelings and humans shouldn’t eat meat. The solution is simple: if you want vegan food, eat somewhere else. Why is that concept so hard to grasp? It’s Toronto, is there a dearth of choices? If there’s anything there’s a dearth of, it’s common sense. The word of the day is dearth. Scorched dearth. Dearth Vader. Dearth Becomes Her. Dearth, dearth, dearth.

Clearly, I’m raving and now need food. I think I’ll eat at Antler soon. I like meat, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

 

A quick run-through of my initial reaction to the official trailer of Avengers: Infinity War

The official trailer for Avengers: Infinity War has been released, and I just realized I feel  the way I used to feel catching a featured music video from an upcoming movie on MTV. Why? because I’m old and music videos used to function as unofficial trailers. Anyway.  It’s here!

I have no idea how many times I’ve hit replay because that thunderous Avengers theme is so emotionally manipulative, I don’t know where to begin. Or maybe I have all the feels because I’m revisiting how much money I’ve spent on the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the past ten years and this April I might end up spending even more. If the movie is as great as its trailer, I just might watch it a couple more times. Or five. It’s like the MCU is a goddamn annual subscription or something, you guys.

(It is.)

So, a few things:

Are we 100% convinced that Thanos is Josh Brolin and not Bruce Willis in Smurf drag?

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Teen Groot!

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Rocket Raccoon and the fervent hope that Pepper Potts doesn’t appear anywhere in this movie!

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Doctor Strange as the 1% who want to know where the hell Hawkeye is and his adversary as the rest of us who don’t give a rat’s arse!

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And lastly, but not leastly, I expect the mandatory Marvel superhero heaving beefcake shots to be on a strict 1:1 ratio.  Or this happens.

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Sorry, paying customer here. It’s only fair.

Yes We Can

Yes We Can

I’d heard of the Peabody Awards, but had never dug deep enough about its origins. Yesterday, George Peabody was the Google Doodle. The original billionaire philanthropist, old George gave over half of his money away and was so thrifty, he still took the bus. His only indulgence was an apple a day and he turned down a baronetcy offered by Queen Victoria, which tells us he had a set of brass balls as large as the state of Texas.

I like successful people who haven’t let their money change who they are. In my cursory research of interesting factoids related to George Peabody,  a list of billionaires who still do real things crossed my radar. If anything, I’ve always thought the family behind Wal-mart are a bunch of awful people, but knowing one of them drives a fifteen year old rustbucket was a nice surprise. Granted, rich people aren’t always angels sent from above. They are first and foremost all about business, which is a cold mother, especially when it comes to profit.

For all we know, George Peabody was closer to a crabby, tightfisted miser than Santa Claus. Even so, his kind of realness is the kind that I respect. Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day money is for spending and all the accoutrements are great, but I’ve always been at home with the idea that you don’t have to have something. You just have to know you can get it if you want to.

Like I want to know I can own a Ferrari if I want to, I just don’t need to have one. Or I want to know I can buy an island if I want to, but I’m not going to bother. And I want to know I can get a reservation at the world’s most exclusive restaurant if I want to, but I don’t have to go because I’d rather have Popeye’s chicken. Or I want to know that I can stay out until four in the morning and get shitfaced, but I don’t really need to. That’s it, really. Just knowing you can.

There’s no need for bullshit mega-mansion swag with the fast Italian cars and the private jets and bespoke clothing. They’re fun, and if I was a billionaire I would probably have bigger indulgences than George Peabody’s apple, but I want to think I wouldn’t be what Migos calls bad and boujee. I want to think I would be like Bill Gates, who still rocks a $10 Casio even if he has more money than the GDP of certain developing countries. I want to be a billionaire who still eats tempura at the boulevard because it’s yummy. And because I can. No need to show it, just have to know it. There’s freedom in that.

 

Image from Mental Floss

The Paralysis of Choice

Lately my weekends have been spent at home, doing nothing. Not that I’m forever out and about, but it’s very unlike me to let a month go by without at least attempting to discover something new. These days though, things seem to be rote. Even my food adventures are rote. I’ll visit my favourite  bakery in Chinatown (I’ve found Hong Kong style bakeries to be closest in taste to Philippine-style breads), maybe drop by my neighbourhood jerk joint for oxtail if I feel like it, or  hit up my secret go-to in Ossington – which I refuse to name because I selfishly don’t want it to get too popular – for Portuguese rotisserie chicken. I’ve slowly felt myself falling into a rut, which is not something one should fall into, not when one lives in Toronto. There’s so many things to do and to see, falling into a rut is almost inexcusable.

But there’s only so much adventure I can bring myself to do. I spent a year or two feverishly trying out new things, the goal being to find something I liked and could stick with, a huge chunk of the new things being places to eat at. Like where to go for brunch. (Check.) Or Cajun. (Check.)All-you-can-eat Indian. (Check.) Ramen. (Check.) Peking duck. (Check, check.)

So I sifted through the morass of my internal wiring, trying to see what was up. Is it getting older? Laziness? Predictability? If I’m being entirely honest, I think some of it is that. And then it hit me. The real problem is having too many options. I feel inundated with them. It’s Toronto. Turn a corner, and something’s happening. A new restaurant. A new Instagram-worthy little nook. Something. There’s always something, and I find myself with so many options, I feel paralyzed by my inability to choose.

Even deciding to stay in and watch something can be paralyzing. What platform do I use? Netflix? Hulu? Amazon Prime? And once I decide which one I want to use, another round of choices begins. Do I watch a TV show? If so, what show? Do I watch a movie? If so, what genre? And once I decide on a genre, what movie? It’s exhausting, like my life is suddenly a long-ass exam comprised mostly of questions with multiple choice answers.

It’s been said humans are only capable of making a finite number of good decisions in a day. Once we pass that number, the quality of our judgment starts to decline, one main reason tech titans like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg always wear the same thing any given day; it lessens the amount of choices they have to make, freeing them to hopefully save that mental energy to make better choices.

I don’t really know where I”m going with this except to say that’s what I came up with today. The inundation of all that’s possible and all that’s new has me paralyzed.  I sometimes find myself with so many options, I’m wracked by indecision, struggling with the inevitability of regret, because I know no matter which choice I go with, I may end up regretting not choosing differently. And I don’t like regret. It tastes bad. Indecision tastes bad too, but it’s a little more palatable, so I end up on the couch refusing to make a choice. Which comes with its own taste, and its own brand of regret.

Sleeping With Swamp Thing

Sleeping With Swamp Thing

I was looking forward to The Shape of Water, something Le Hubs and I have been planning to go see, but through a combination of factors – chief of them being apathy because it’s winter – didn’t really get to see until yesterday.

The Shape of Water, which, by del Toro’s confession, came from his obsession with the Creature from the Black Lagoon, is the story of what would happen if the girl ends up with the creature. It doesn’t help that the creature – referred to as “The Asset” – looks so much like Abe Sapien from Hellboy, it’s hard to silence the voice in my head screaming “origin story!” (For the record, I wasn’t the only one doing this.)

Set in the Cold War era, Elisa (Sally Hawkins, here a soundless tour-de-force) is a cleaner who works for a top-secret government institution whose main goal is to outstrip the Russians in the race for space dominance. She’s mute, lives above a movie theatre and has friends who are full of spunk: a gay BFF (Richard Jenkins) and a sassy black woman (Octavia Spencer, earning every inch of that Oscar cred) at work. Her life is a routine, and she seems content. Well, content enough. Whatever frustrations she may have are exorcised in her bathtub  before her morning even begins.

A story isn’t a story unless something happens, so of course something happens to Elisa, in the form of a mysterious tank brought in one day by Strickland (Michael Shannon, channeling that intense menace as always) who turns out to be the worst sort of alpha male. Twisted, racist and brutal, Strickland is dismissive of and yet inexplicably turned on by, imperfection.

The tank holds The Asset, an amphibious humanoid (Abe Sapien!) caught in the wilds of the Amazon and dragged to America for dissection because scientists need answers for allowing astronauts to breathe in space. Elisa meets The Asset (Abe Sapien!) and feels sorry for him. She decides to keep him company during her lunch break, and their unlikely bond is formed by  hard boiled eggs and classic oldies. Despite The Asset (Abe Sapien!) having a bulge as unobtrusive as a Ken doll, there are clearly sparks which lead to the inevitable.

Other things happen of course, as they must, because stories have to have beginnings, middles, and ends. There’s a beautifully evocative scene involving some towels and taps that are allowed to run. Stripped of everything, The Shape of Water celebrates love in its purest form, where looks don’t matter, shortcomings are overlooked and physical barriers are swept aside, the way humans have improbable sex with dinosaurs in those crazy erotic fiction novels that actually exist.  But having effectively silenced “Abe Sapien Origins!” the voice had popped up again, squeaking things like “monster porn!” and “slimy, slithery, splendid!”, the possible mechanics of this particular scenario so distracting, it messed with my ability to appreciate the movie  for how visually striking and remarkably tender it really is.

Maybe this was because I didn’t go in expecting a love story. That’s on me, for ignoring every obvious marker and breathless movie blurb. To be fair, I never expect a romance when it comes to Guillermo del Toro. Not even when it’s marketed as one. (Exhibit A: Crimson Peak.) To watch a Guillermo del Toro film is to surrender to the clutches of the visionary equivalent of Edgar Allan Poe, even when he goes full-on Technicolor with something like Pacific Rim. It’s the dance of the dark, and the sinister, everything imbued with the sweet scent of rot that seeps through his work. If there’s any sort of romance to be had from del Toro, it’s the deep and abiding love he has for the macabre.

 

Artwork by James Jean, by way of the official website of The Oscars

I hope Jane Fonda adopts me

I hope Jane Fonda adopts me

When you grow up in a small town and cut your teeth on the Disney renaissance, getting out is always the goal. Not that getting out was never the goal, but all those songs about being part of some other world, there being more than a provincial life, a whole new world, going the distance while the wolf cries to the blue corn moon because it’s the circle of life? Come on. I was practically being programmed to leave.

At nineteen, itching to go out and explore the world, the sight of  four privileged women running around in expensive outfits, living out their thirties in the playground of New York City was an eye-opener. What the Golden Girls is to some people, Sex and the City is to me. Until then, the longing to leave was just that. A longing. Some sort of nebulous desire to go out and somehow, have the adventure of a lifetime. There was a goal but it wasn’t exactly defined, until SATC came along and defined it.

Living in New York City was not my goal. Neither was it to be a part of a fab foursome (I would be Miranda). But what I wanted was to be an adult with people who gave me understanding and acceptance, to have my own place, to explore the idea of brunch, buy whatever caught my fancy and do whatever and whomever I wanted to do, whenever and wherever I felt like it. Sure, in my fantasy world I also weighed less than a hundred pounds and there was little to no Netflix, but that benchmark aside, I think I got what I wanted.

So here I am, the same age Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte were, and I realize adulting is fun. It’s also a horrible ball of crap. You can’t just ignore the price of living on your own, blithely going through life and ten different credit cards in the hope of landing a job at Vogue as well as the eligible bachelor you’ve had your eye on since day one. Work has to be done. Bills have to be paid.

So what happens when you get what you want and all of a sudden realize you want even more because humans are never satisfied? You find something new to aspire to. And now, this is my new fantasy:

Yes, I know, another fab foursome of privileged white ladies swilling pinot and enjoying their hard-earned comforts, maybe I’m just too colonized for my own good. But hey, I’m with it.

Skin colour aside, what I really want is to be best friends with Jane Fonda, who is my current guru and life coach, although she really should lose that janky-ass wig… no. Skin colour aside, what I really want is to be with people I’m comfortable with, who I like, and respect, who love books, and reading, and who haven’t lost their zest to learn and discover new things, despite probably taking ten separate medications for ten separate ailments. It’s vital to still have enough joy and verve left to strap on the world’s most ridiculous push up bra, go out there and really grab life by the balls. So yes. Yes. This movie will be my Waiting to Exhale. And yes, I’m going to watch it. When it comes out. In theatres. And if I don’t, on Netflix. I think. Oh sod it all, I’ll set a reminder.

 

Image borrowed from The Mighty