Internet Sausage Links

It’s been a while since I’ve come up with one of these link sharing posts. I don’t know if it’s a more conscious attempt to not be online or it’s just the story-fatigue that happens when every day is a constant reminder that shit happens and we humans keep finding ways and means to put pearls on a pig. To be honest with you, I think it’s both, but what else is new? If I shared links on all the op-eds floating around about how we’re all sick of being plugged into the matrix, I would never stop copy-pasting hyperlinks.

ANYWAY.

Speaking of pigs, remember when the New Yorker came out with a story about the guy who pretended he was dying and that his relatives were dead so he could milk all the sympathy to get ahead career-wise? No? It’s a riveting read, and now the book he came up with is up for an award because some people will reward success, no matter the means of obtaining it… – Jezebel

…unlike New Zealand, who refused to acknowledge the gringo who went loco and shot up a mosque in Christchurch by name to deny him the notoriety these crazies obviously crave, a move I totally agree with. I also agree with (and admire) how the country’s leadership did more than provide thoughts and prayers. They flexed legislative muscle to nip similar possible future scenarios in the bud, the way we wish some countries would hurry up and do already – Huffpost

Speaking of (s)nipping, did you know vasectomy cakes are a thing? I didn’t either, but if we’re going to reward something with cake, this makes more sense. Getting your tubes snipped is presumably more agonizing than having a lab tech run a sonic gun over your distended belly in the quest to reveal gender – Today

Ugh. I have never been happier I’m no longer with Fido than I am right now – there’s a lot of things to love about Canada, but our three major telecom companies are not one of them. They do not deserve any cake whatsoever – Mobile Syrup

Ending this with an upbeat cake, or at least, cake-adjacent note, Toronto is to have a new cookie dough parlour downtown this summer. At least we get something to be happy about for a few minutes, before all the pesky reminders that raw cookie dough can be unsafe kick in – Narcity

 

Random Youtube K-Hole: Domo Arigato, Missy Roboto

While robots in music videos is no longer an original theme, it’s always interesting when done right, and there’s a couple new music videos floating around out there that have pretty good visuals, starting with…

365 – Zedd (feat. Katy Perry)

When Taylor Swift came out聽 in 2017 to address her haters with a music video featuring her as an all powerful android, it made quite the splash. Not to be outdone, here’s Tay-tay’s arch-rival with her own version of redundant robot in her collaboration with聽 current hot property Zedd. I say redundant because she isn’t just a Stepford girlfriend, she’s a robot Stepford girlfriend which of course is too much of a good thing. Katy Perry is not known for her subtlety, but she does work hard to ensure the music videos she puts out are at least visually striking. While Taylor’s version was more Ghost in the Shell meets Westworld, 365 draws heavily from Black Mirror, with the mega DJ as a pretty believable human foil.

Nights Like This – Kehlani (feat. Ty Dolla Sign)

February was a good month for robot things, what with Alita: Battle Angel, the previous music video and聽 Kehlani also releasing a music video with a robotic theme. Technology and how it runs our lives has been a running theme since the nineties gave way to the millennium. Maybe it’s a reflection of the increasing disconnect we as a society feel from the everyday. Like 365, Nights Like This also borrows heavily from a Black Mirror-esque plotline.

All is Full of Love – Bjork

Bjorks All is Full of Love was released in 1999, and yet it’s as strikingly modern today as it was twenty years ago. Watching it then felt like being witness to a major breakthrough in visuals. I’ve read enough Vice articles on how wacko the dating world has become with all the dating apps out there, so watching it now in this day and age makes it seem almost prophetic, because this is what human interaction has become, now that we are all well and truly plugged into the matrix. Directed by Chris Cunningham (who also gave us Madonna’s Frozen), All is Full of Love is still the best music video featuring robots (and robot sex) out there, bar none.

ps. that said, my favourite robotic music video is Garbage’s The World is Not Enough, which I loved then, and still love now, although it may not have aged as well as Bjork’s oeuvre.

Campa帽erang Cuba Goes Home

Campa帽erang Cuba Goes Home

Dear Elly G,

I feel a strange kind of sadness at having to leave. I say strange because I鈥檝e never been one for the beach, much preferring lakes or rivers and waterfalls instead. But somehow and someway, this pastel unicorn fart of a beachscape has found a way to sink its claws into me, deep enough for me to want to prolong my stay. Or break my self imposed rules, and come back.

I thought I knew beaches, having grown up surrounded by so many, I took them for granted. To be fair, I鈥檝e never been to Boracay, or Palawan, but I have been to Dauin, and Antulang, and to Bantayan island, which boast beaches with pristine white sand and clear blue waters.

I went in the water on Saturday, in the early hours of the morning, when the sun had just risen. The beach was still relatively free of resort-goers. Just me and a handful of people out to score prime real estate under selected palapas, because apparently these things go fast and the earlier you mark your territory with a beach towel, the better. That didn鈥檛 really matter to me, since I wasn鈥檛 going to be at the beach the whole day anyway. The water is surprisingly warm, the sand like powder under my feet. Surprising, because the last time I was in this part of the world, the water was ice cold. Was it because it was in September and Punta Cana is on the Atlantic, while Cuba shares some of its waters with the Gulf of Mexico? I don鈥檛 know. Whatever it was, it was warm and inviting and as I waded in, it was like entering a fantasy. Chos. I know, hyperbole and a half, but I swear I don鈥檛 think I ever had quite an experience like that in any body of water whatsoever.

For a while it was just me floating on my back in suspended animation. The feeling of weightlessness was almost sensual, water lapping against the sides of my face and enveloping my body in a caress as I stared up at a sky the colour of a faded bruise tinged with shades of pink and yellow, freewheeling pelicans cutting in and out of my line of sight. It鈥檚 been some time since I鈥檝e felt weightless like that. Shut up, it鈥檚 not because I鈥檓 fat. It鈥檚 just that I haven鈥檛 really been in pools, or the beach for a long time. I鈥檓 not a water baby like you, but in that moment I understood the reasons people return to Cuba over and over again. If you could have a beach like that in your backyard, it would be worth it.

And so I felt sad. The view from my suite was spectacular, exactly what I wanted, nothing but a stretch of blue. To know that I will have to go back and have a completely different view, of high-rises and cranes and so much snow, makes me sad somehow. Of course I miss A a ton, and I miss all the comforts of home, but somehow I wasn鈥檛 ready to let go quite yet.

I think this trip has done me good. I believe I might make it a thing, to escape winter for a few days every year, because now I feel like I may be able to see the rest of winter through on my return, without feeling the need to scrape the wall with my fingernails. I don鈥檛 know if I want to come back to this particular resort, or even Cuba, if only because variety is the spice of life, but I think a lot of sun in the bleak midwinter definitely did me a world of good.

Waiting for the shuttle,
Nikka

Arroz a la Cubana: Sorta Kinda Havana Good Time

Avoiding the sunshine. I’m laughing at my past self circa a day ago gloating about staying out in the sunshine, because why then did I sign up for a day tour of Havana, which meant a full eight hours in such heat, I came home with a massive migraine?

So there I was, with a gang of other happy, sunburned retirees headed to Havana. I booked a guided tour for a day trip to Cuba’s famous (or infamous, depending on perspective) capital, just to see what it would be like. Because Varadero is two hours away, I didn’t want to chance going into the capital alone on buses I was unfamiliar with. My imagination, always fertile and ready to go for the worst case scenario, was in overdrive, waiting for the guardia civil, the policia, the men in uniform come to drag me away, lock me up and attach electrodes to my tender parts for every minor infraction, because well, communism (and I am an ignoramus) so I was on my best behaviour.

Here’s what I found:

1. There are barely any Asians in Cuba.

2. About 80% of everyone visiting is white, and the locals automatically assume – not mistakenly – that they are Canadian. (Cuba is to Canada what Boracay is to the Philippines.)

3. I don’t think I’m cut out for guided tours after all.

It was a tour designed to check all the boxes, and we were led from tourist spot to tourist spot to a shop for rum and cigars, kind of like kids in kindergarten on a field trip. I’m used to planning my own itinerary ahead of time, and I like to try and go where the locals go and poke around, so if that is your thing, don’t do a guided tour. I didn’t get to take a lot of good pictures because we passed quite a few sights (El Capitolio, Morro Castle, etc) while still on the tour bus and didn’t have the time to take quality shots. I was also disappointed because I thought we would have some time to get into museums and browse, not just stand outside buildings while the guide drones on about how Hemingway lived in this hotel and how Hemingway drank at this bar. Eh. Yay? It really is my fault, I should have done a lot more research聽 but I only have myself to blame for the last minute decision to go.

The Havana I envisioned was a city that comes alive in the evening, strung about with fairy lights, air filled with salsa music, laughter, the chatter of a people letting loose and stumbling out of nightclubs. The Havana we saw was Old Havana, bleached by an unrelenting sun, occupied mostly by tourists goggling at the state of disrepair. By day, the decay of the city is revealed, its buildings crumbling, paint flaking off of edifices built in the 20’s, mold and water stains caked on like a woman who had staggered to bed after a night of debauchery, fallen asleep without removing her makeup and woke up in the bright light of day. Many of the buildings are gutted with only their facades left intact, and many are in an ongoing state of construction that seems to have been undertaken with gusto but half-heartedly left in disrepair when time, money, or energy ran out.

And it’s quiet. It felt like the only people out were the tourists. We drove through one of the neighbourhoods on the way to having lunch and I wondered where the locals were, because I didn’t see very many of them on the streets. Where were the street vendors? The food carts? The hustle and bustle of the everyday? Nowhere. Havana is clean, almost unnaturally so, and the quiet juxtaposed with all the buildings with paint peeling off is almost eerie.

I am glad that the government of Cuba took steps to preserve and restore many of the buildings in the heart of Old Havana. My favourites are the palaces of stone built by the Spanish, some as far back as the 1700’s, their cathedrals and seawalls imposing and engineered to last. Unlike the buildings that flourished in the early 20’s, theirs don’t need paint, only a thorough scrubbing.聽Through some mysterious alchemy the Spanish made buildings that stood the test of time. It’s their architecture that gives Havana a sort of quiet, solid strength, and contributes to so much of the city’s character. I felt awed by their achievement, and thankful at being able to witness it. Incidentally, Old Havana is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in architecture and history. Maybe just don’t do a guided tour. You’ll have a lot more fun discovering places all by your lonesome!

Campa帽erang Cuba Redux

Dear Elly G,

Ay鈥檊 pag expeck. If Cubans could speak Bisaya, that is essentially what they would tell you over and over. Ay鈥檊 pag expeck. I suppose they鈥檝e become so inured to the foreigners whining about why everything is the way it is – the food, the schedule, the people, the lack of bus stops, they鈥檙e moved to say this ahead of time to prevent disappointment.

Which leads me to the food. (What doesn鈥檛? Everything leads me to the food.) I had a rather late supper last night at the buffet restaurant, and I haven鈥檛 the foggiest idea what these people are complaining about. Bland, my Asian ass. No sauces? Each table had salt and pepper shakers and there was a prominent display of all the bottled condiments one would wish. Tartar sauce. Steak sauce. Hot sauce. Sauce maryosep. I went in fully expecting to be disappointed and I was, except it wasn鈥檛 the food I ended up being disappointed in. It was in people who write reviews despite having no tastebuds worth mentioning whatsoever. Not that I closed my eyes and was transported to heaven, but the seafood was all I could鈥檝e wished it to be. I had grilled salmon and breaded fish (I have no idea what kind of fish it was) and a lovely bunch of shrimp, heads still on, everything as tasty as if it were pulled fresh from the sea, which it probably was. I wonder if some are so used to drowning everything in spice rubs and butter, they can鈥檛 appreciate fresh seafood. I鈥檝e decided to be annoyed at the way people review Cuban food online. Everything is prefaced with 鈥渒eep in mind, it鈥檚 Cuba,鈥 as if it鈥檚 going to be deficient and less than, by virtue of not being… I don鈥檛 know, Europe? Canada? The U.S. of Hey? It seems to come from an extremely limited experience.

Not that I鈥檓 so much more experienced than they are. I just feel that maybe when travelling, a tourist needs to be less condescending and be more open to different things, especially cuisine-wise. Why expect things to be more or less the same as it is at home? What鈥檚 the point of traveling then? At breakfast, one lady caught my eye. All she had on her plate was toast. That鈥檚 it. Five slices of the most boring white bread, browned and buttered. Even her companion pointed it out with a raised eyebrow, and the lady just shrugged, and made a sort of pout. This is probably the kind of person petty enough to go on Google and give this place a one-star just because she couldn鈥檛 find anything to eat. The spread was pretty varied, an impressive selection of cold cuts, breads, fruit, omelette bar, cereal bar, dessert bar, what have you. I鈥檝e been to enough hotels to be able to tell when something is sparse, and believe you me, this was not sparse at all. If anything, it was the opposite.

You know what鈥檚 surprisingly bland? The fruit. Maybe you and I have been spoiled for it, having been brought up in a tropical country, but their pineapple is surprisingly bland and so is their watermelon. I don鈥檛 know if this is true throughout Cuba, though. It could just be this resort, and this island with all the tourists who come here for fun in the sun like it鈥檚 an adult theme park and we鈥檙e all just here to be fed and watered. Kind of like a plague of locusts. We come in, feed until the land is bare, then move on. Maybe the pineapples just can鈥檛 keep up with the rest of us.

Sleep deprived,
Nikka

Arroz a la Cubana: Resortworld 2.0

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I may have lived in Canada a bit too long. I’ve gotten used to the sterility, all the bylaws that treat smokers like social pariahs, relegating them to the fringes, forced to smoke nine feet away from all entrances, skulking somewhere their second hand smoke won’t cause cancer for everyone. This must be literal paradise, because they’re treating this resort like a cigarette fuelled free-for-all. Smoking in the lobby. Smoking at the bar. Smoking at the beach. Smoking at the pool. Smoking in the elevators. Smoking everywhere. (Thankfully, no smoking was done by any of the other folks on the same floor as I was.) They did say Cuba is a throwback to another age, but this is not exactly the the throwback I was looking for.

Then again – and I’ve heard it at least twice now – Varadero is not the real Cuba. So it serves me right, I guess. For choosing what is in real life, Disneyland for adults, where the booze is flowing and the smokers are lit up quite happily and walking around barely clothed, abusing both my eyes and their internal organs. It’s an experience. I’m not unhappy about it. This solo trip has me walking around bemused, almost like I was given a license to watch people in an unnatural habitat and no one cares that I’m gawking because they’re way too busy having the kind of fun none of us get to have elsewhere. A people safari, is what this is. Back home, like everyone else, I tend to mind my own business. I’m usually lost in whatever movie or book I’ve downloaded for consumption whenever I have to commute, so people watching isn’t something that I get to indulge in. It isn’t polite to stare at people in the big city. It isn’t safe either, but in Varadero the rules have gone straight out the window. For all I know, they’re staring right back at me for being an odd duck on my own in a place where it most certainly should be a group thing, but I guess I don’t care either because kevs ever. Maybe that’s the spirit of Varadero. Kevs ever!

Speaking of kevs ever, the man boobs, oy. I’ve seen enough man boobs to last me into the next decade, I think. All the in-resort restaurants have signs reminding guests to keep their shirts on and cover up when coming in, but people don’t read instructions when they’re on vacation, honey. So it’s an overflowing buffet of flesh and ass and yes there are girl boobs too, but that’s boring to me. It’s all the manly jiggles and hairy buttcracks and the sunburns so severe they look like a level six alarm on legs. Sometimes people don’t tan, they burn. The tan ones look like preserved leather, the red ones look like they need a lifetime supply of aloe vera. It’s painful. One woman was walking around with her skin peeling, red patches blooming on her shoulders, revealing … pink patches. Sunburn on a sunburn. Kind of makes me feel glad to be a tropical girl, because I turn golden brown, like a luscious rotisserie chicken. Gloat. As always, I’m staying out of the sun because I’m a vampire with a screwed up body clock here on a people safari.

Arroz a la Cubana: Resortworld 1.0

Arroz a la Cubana: Resortworld 1.0

The tour guide on the hotel shuttle said something that stuck with me. He said “Varadero isn’t the real Cuba.”

Varadero is a peninsula that juts out from the Cuban mainland into the combined waters of the Florida Straits and the Bay of Carde帽as. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the entire Caribbean, with around sixty resorts occupying the entire stretch of beach, an absolute cash cow for the country and a source of employment and income for its residents. For all intents and purposes, Varadero is Resortworld. It’s not about the grim and the gritty. It’s about suntans, booze and fun. I wasn’t there for the real Cuba. Not right then.

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to choose an all-inclusive resort. Not for me on a solo trip anyway… not in a place where alcohol flows like water, and the waiter actually looks disappointed when I ask for some agua, por favor, like I’m letting him down by bucking societal norms and not ordering a glass of red and white, gracias. Unlike my tablemates, who were all in, ride or die, down, insert-whatever-other-phrase-means-completely-invested-in-something. They had paid for all-inclusive, knowing in this part of the world all-inclusive means drink all you can, and by God that was what they were there for and what they were going to do.

I’m exaggerating. Those were the Dutch boys two tables across, who’d been out in the sun so long they were beginning to look like leather. I say Dutch because one of them had a t-shirt emblazoned Sint Maarten and they did seem European. Then again, they could be any random breed of foreigner on an extended tour of paradise. Almost everyone here has a shirt on from some other Caribbean isle like Aruba or Dominicana, as if to emphasize that the Caribbean is their playground of choice. Hell if you can afford an endless summer, why not? It beats holing up waiting for Toronto to resemble a city again, not barren tundra.

Yes, I may have been projecting. Just a teeny tiny bit. My tablemates were a very sweet fiftyish Korean couple over from L.A., here on a group tour (Me: so you went from sunny to… sunny?) assuring me that L.A. is “still very cold.” They did ask for the rioja and the blanco, though.

I like being sober around the completely shitfaced. It’s interesting to observe how one can go from quiet and reserved to uproarious, red-faced, DGAF drunk, unconcerned about how one might come across leering at nubile Cuban dancers in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp. To be fair, try being around a young girl whose tits haven’t yet succumbed to the pull of gravity, shimmying up beside you in a skimpy pink bikini and tailfeathers, an island showgirl romping through your buffet. If you’re three sheets to the wind, you’d leer openly too. It’s dinner and a show, what’s not to like?