One Chilly Evening

 

You fall in love with some places instantaneously. For some, it’s New York City.  Others, Rome. For me, it was Amsterdam. All it took was a single stroll.

Falling in love is something one does without conscious thought, and, more often than not, without any expectations. For a city that was never on my bucket list, Amsterdam surprised me. It was a place I’d mentally pigeonholed as a city people went to for sex and weed. But like so many other sister cities with a rich and varied history and culture, Amsterdam transcended that narrow-minded view. I loved it from the moment I found myself lugging my suitcase down a warren of narrow alleys that were at once claustrophobic and thrillingly mysterious, feeling a little lost, wondering what was around the next corner,  and finding rows of red-lit windows in the early hours of the morning. Without consciously meaning to, I had found myself in the middle of Amsterdam’s infamous red light district, struck by the realization that business never stops. I loved it. I loved the matter-of-factness of it all. There were cheese shops and crepe shops, sex shops and weed shops all within minutes of each other; flower shops, antique shops and a restaurant with an old carousel in the middle. It was weird, welcoming, unapologetic and wonderful. I loved what Amsterdam was trying to say: that humans love sex just as much as they love cheese, so why treat one with any more shame than the other?

Amsterdam is a city that marches to the beat of its own drum and allows everyone else to march to the beat of theirs. If there’s anything I can appreciate, it’s that. It’s an old city, built on commerce and art and I loved everything about it. I loved that it had charm. I loved that it had big fat french fries with mayonnaise and rich, buttery slices of apple pie that sat like a stone in your belly. That it had sweet little poffertjes dusted with icing sugar, and flavourful black licorice. Best of all, that they had FEBO, an automatic “restaurant” with all sorts of strange sounding krokets, and you never go wrong with whatever you pick even if you have no idea what it is, because everything in FEBO is just so damn tasty.

I loved that Amsterdam had cobblestone streets and little street-sweeping machines that came out at night to clean them. I loved that it was designed with not just longevity, but beauty in mind, its core shot through with bridges and canals that  surprisingly do not smell like sewage. I loved its public transit, which was easy to understand despite being in a different language, that people bicycled everywhere, that it was equal parts familiar and not, that its residents don’t really use curtains, and peering into a residential alley is like being like a little human in the middle of giant dollhouses. Everything is open, if you don’t avert your eyes. I loved that windmills were just half an hour outside of the city.

I miss Amsterdam. I miss it whenever I’m out in the middle of a chilly night, walking through the streets of Toronto, breathing in the cool night air the way I was the other night. Something about that combination, a midnight stroll and a lingering chill takes me back to a night when A and I, ravenous and excited, once traversed the streets of an electric city, holding hands and looking for a FEBO.

Random YouTube K-hole: Vertical Horizon

Back in the day, the leadup to the premiere of an anticipated music video was an event, awaited eagerly the way we wait for trailers for a summer movie tentpole. Artists were expected to come out with something worth the wait, and anything less was an insult to the diehard fan.

Not anymore. Not really, anyway. It’s the age of throwaway culture and handheld computers, so anyone can skip the middleman, spend five minutes and make their own music videos. Like these three.

Nicki Minaj, Chun-Li

Does anyone remember when Jennifer Lopez was the one with the booty? We were babies. Look at this. Camera? Check. Giant ass? Check. Nicki Minaj definitely puts the ass in asset and I can’t hate her for working that moneymaker, because if you’re going to commit to having a butt that big what’s the use of not shaking it? While bonered-up fanboys may forgive the crappy lighting, I think it could’ve done with a little less neon pink wash. I don’t get why Chun-Li needs the wi-fi password and Barbie Tingz is lyrically stronger than this, but eh. It’s no Super Bass, but it’ll do for a few replays.

Taylor Swift, Delicate

In a bid to make the world forget that the original video for Delicate is a blatant reenactment of a Kenzo perfume ad, Swifty releases a Spotify video version of Delicate, featuring just… her. In a field. Mouthing lyrics in the sunlight. Lighting-wise it’s loads better than Chun-Li, but its still the visual equivalent of not giving a fuck. It’s clearly the one take, it’s a wrap, I gave people effort with the other video and they shat on me so here ya go kind of vibe. While the video sucks, the single does not and its tropical chill vibe makes it very easy listening.

Maroon 5, Wait

Leave it to notoriously narcissistic Adam Levine to nail the vertical selfie video on the head: utilize an entire array of Snapchat filters, pretend your band doesn’t exist, and just wander around your huge mansion rocking out to a catchy song and being cute. I know a few girls and gay men whose ovaries regularly explode over Adam Levine, and this video for Maroon 5’s Wait isn’t going to help their already battered reproductive areas any. The band did release another professionally shot video for Wait, which features the many looks of Alexandra Daddario and a truly fantastic closing montage, but this first one is a lighthearted romp full of charm and whimsy.

Enough

Enough

The goal was to be stoic. To endure. To get through a single winter without a word of complaint. To brush snow off my shoulder like Jay-Z.

Welp, so long, goal. Because this me losing it. This is me reluctantly counting the days since winter started and once again being reminded that almost a third of a year is devoted to the one season that can kill you, while the weather pundits do their best to rain on my parade because CBC and the Toronto Star have predicted an ice storm this weekend and I can’t. I just can’t.

I can’t sit back and think people probably have it worse in Saskatchewan. That this is paradise compared to Greenland. That I know someone who lives in Norway and never even complains that it’s made of snow and the sun never sets. All the little mental tricks I employ to make myself feel better have worn thin, because it’s mid-April, I’m still wearing a goddamn winter coat and insulated boots to work and now an ice storm is brewing. All I want to do is stop wearing knits but the weather won’t let me and it’s driving me insane. There was snow on the ground yesterday! In April, for God’s sake.

I tried finding Canadian memes to cheer me up, but I’m beyond laughter. Any more of this weather, and you will find me huddled in a corner, incessantly rocking back and forth with my hands over my ears. Yes it’s that bad and yes I’m that far gone and now I’ve run out of words to say so I need to go and calm down somehow. I hereby delegate any further expressive duty re the impending ice storm to Miss Bianca del Rio, who says it better than I ever could.

biancahatesyou

 

Image from Ohh Deer

 

Sharing is caring, and I apparently don’t

Sharing is caring, and I apparently don’t

For anyone who cares to  follow, the perfectly curated lives of a lot of my friends are laid out online like a visual feast. On Instagram, some have over two thousand posts and are capable of sharing ten to twenty carefully selected shots of whatever adventure they’re having on any given day regardless if it’s the same adventure over and over. Adventures in parenting. Adventures in Taiwan. Adventures in bad haircuts, random non sequiturs, shared cooking videos, memes, trailers, jokes, and Throwback Thursdays.

I used to be a lot more active when Facebook was new.  A cursory sweep of my social media activities has made me realize I’m failing at life. Online life, that is. My Instagram has less than three hundred posts. My account is private, and whoever follows me gets the privilege of an exclusive peek at two different pictures of castaway shoes, a random cannoli, some guy at the summer barbecue fest and a little bit of me sprinkled here and there. My posts are fragmented and infrequent and I have never featured a single “story.” To the casual observer, it would seem like I really can’t be bothered to share.

If you’ve visited this blog every so often, it’s a very strange thing for me to say.

There is a dichotomy to my online self. In an online environment where I actually have a web of friends who will see pieces of my life without the need to ask for it, I barely share anything. And yet, I’m an open book to whomever cares to come here, to read a blog, which, unlike my IG, is full of verbal diarrhea and is actually open to whoever cares to find it. I do most of my sharing here, because I figure if someone wants to find about me, I’m around.

I don’t take online personality tests. I don’t pipe up about loving Jesus. I don’t share what I’d look like if I’m male, what my eye colour says about me, or what my mother’s maiden name is (lord knows my mother has no qualms about it) because here’s the thing. No one cares. And anyway, it has nothing to do with who I really am.

No one cares what your personality is based on your favourite salad, or what Disney princess you are based on a few questions off of a personality test. No one cares. The person clicking “Like” is on auto-pilot. It’s like replying with “LOL” to a text message, but not actually laughing out loud. It’s polite, it shows positivity, but ultimately? It’s an empty gesture. I like to save ‘likes’ for something actually worth liking. Like a particularly funny quote. Or a particularly unique snapshot. Something honest, and frank, and real.

No one cares. And also, engaging in these stupid little tests is like signing up to get phished. I feel like this cannot be stressed enough. People should not be giving out sensitive information, like birthdays or maiden names. That fun little game where you come up with your catchphrase by pairing the month you were born with the date of your birth? Phishing. That cute little test that says they’ll tell you what your mother’s maiden name means in a foreign language? Phishing. Think about it. People are lazy. Trying to remember a password is annoying, so we birthdays, or a combination of numbers that mean something to us, catchphrase, favourite vacation, movie, quote, something.

Cambridge Analytica aside, I’m not quitting Facebook. Not that I’m a diehard fan, but I’ve always said trainwrecks are interesting. Somehow, without knowing it, I seem to have retreated. I’m not hiding, I just don’t feel the need to be the kid in class who’s constantly raising her hand. Now, I’m just the kid in class watching the other kids make complete prats of themselves, wondering  if their inner Disney Princess is really reflective of what they’re like on the inside.

Image borrowed from Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator

Random YouTube K-hole: Cathode Ray of Light

Random YouTube K-hole: Cathode Ray of Light

I used to have a rule about liking a particular single: I had to like the music video. It was essential, and a huge influence on whether or not I enjoyed the track. But that rule went out the window with the advent of Spotify. In this, the era of the playlist, music videos seemed like an afterthought. It also felt for a minute like the music video as an art form was no longer really being celebrated, the way it was when MTV put the music in television, so for the past few years, I’d given up checking out music videos.

But like the nineties, music videos are back and having a moment. Lady Gaga, Beyonce and yes, Kanye West, ensured the form was still to an extent, kept interesting and hopefully we’re beginning to surface from a morass of boats, hoes, stripper poles and cash raining down from the heavens. And just like the nineties, CRT televisions are having a moment. With the following music videos, I explore the answer to the question, “where do cathode ray televisions go to die?” (The answer: music videos of early 2018.)

Hey, at least we’re recycling.

Justin Timberlake, Supplies

Not my favourite cut off of Justin Timberlake’s largely panned Man of the Woods album, the single may not be a standout, but its accompanying music video is a smorgasbord of visual stimuli. Illuminati! White gators! Flashlights! Watching the collapse of a way of life just doesn’t feel the same unless it’s viewed on a wall of old school television sets, does it?

Cardi B feat. 21 Savage, Bartier Cardi

For what it’s worth, Cardi B’s Bartier Cardi only gets a mention because its current. And features a video wall. I can’t get with this single at all. Cardi is fun but so far the only rap she’s done that I really liked was her turn in Migos’ Motorsport. I would just as happily use Celine Dion’s Because You Loved Me for video wall purposes, but it’s not in keeping with our theme, and lordy I don’t want to admit how old I really am. Even if I just did.

The Weeknd, Call Out My Name

The music video that jumpstarted this particular k-hole, word on the street is Call Out My Name is about Selena Gomez. Whomever it may be about, I’m loving this single, and the fantasy of the accompanying lyric video. You can watch a world burn through the eyes of cathode ray televisions and you can also watch a heart break. Somehow this with a wall of flatscreens would be like being at Best Buy. At any rate, this video fully belongs in The Weeknd’s wheelhouse – it’s dark, moody and ever so slightly sad. It’s fitting that his latest album is called My Dear Melancholy.