The gay marriage debate.

Dear blog,

I see that, once again, America is debating (and voting on) the "issue" of gay marriage. It's difficult, as a Canadian, not to feel equal parts mirth and boredom. Not to trivialize the importance of people's rights, but I can't help but laugh, because this is ridiculous. Just let people who love each other get married, and let all married people have the same rights as other married people.

I think the world would be a better, happier place if we could stop qualifying things like "gay" marriage and "woman" doctors and stuff like that. It's just marriage. They're just doctors. Using those little qualifying phrases sets things apart as different, and, on the whole, people tend to equate different with bad. Different is the exact euphemism that people use when they want to say they don't like something, but they don't want to be hurtful about it.

Anyway. The whole "sanctity of marriage" thing pretty much went out the window when Britney Spears married that guy in Vegas or whatever, and then again, more recently, when Kim Kardashian stomped all over the sacred institution (ha!) with her pointy, pointy stiletto heels. My feeling is that, if "gay marriage" can't be legal, in the name of the sanctity of marriage, then divorce can't be legal, either. So, there you go, America. Fair's fair.


45 Days, or, what it's like to have an empty husk where my heart belongs.

Dear blog,

Several years ago, when my husband and I were "just good friends" (in part because I was dating somebody else at the time), he posed this question: "Do you watch How I Met Your Mother?". When I replied that not only did I not watch it, but I'd never, in fact, heard of it before, he all but insisted that I give it a shot. The way he described it, it sounded like something I'd be into, so I tuned in at the next available opportunity. And I kind of hated it. I wasn't familiar enough with its premise, I suppose, and the random episode that I first caught was one of the sports-centred ones (I think it was the one where they're all trying to avoid finding out who won the Superbowl, but I'm not positive). When I told this to my then-good-friend, current-husband, he said "No no no... start at the beginning". So I did, and it worked, and now we tune in together, week after week.

The most recent episode featured what I'm sure is going to become one of the show's defining moments, in the form of a daydream soliloquy given by Ted to his then-future wife, about how they're going to meet in 45 days, and how they'll get married and have 2 kids, and how he's going to love her for the rest of his days and beyond. Well, here's the part where you find out that I, apparently, have no heart, because I hated that speech. Like, it had me in a bad mood for the rest of the night, that kind of hatred. And if gif sets on Tumblr are anything to judge by, I stand alone in that assessment.

It's possible that, after bearing with Ted through so many false starts, I'm just set for this show to wrap up already. It's also possible that (sadly, for my husband) I have an extremely cynical opinion of love. Sorry, romantics of the world, but I'm with Summer Finn on this one; our common conceptions of "love" are about as grounded in reality as the average fairy tale. the feeling we experience as "love" is really nothing more than a potent neurochemical cocktail, and when the novelty wears off, so does the dopamine, and suddenly, "love" feels like a very different thing indeed. It becomes less about how you actually feel, I think, and more about how you assume you'd feel if the person you love was to go away.

Suffice to say, I'm not the biggest fan of anything that paints love as this all-encompassing, life-changing, undying, passionate thing, and Ted's 45 Days speech delved a little too deep into that territory for my liking. I mean, in a world where art truly does imitate life, How I Met Your Mother would launch a spinoff series entitled "Couples Therapy", because honestly, who stays married for 20 years plus without that these days?

In conclusion, I am clearly dead on the inside.


Spoiled for choice.

Dear blog,

I frequently feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices that I have in my life. This has big implications (still not knowing what I want to be when I grow up when I'm already in my 30s, not knowing what I'd want to study if I returned to school) and little ones (how do you decide what to pay attention to when there's so much good stuff all around?). Because I lack the basic skills of adulthood, I get freaked out when I think too much about schooling and career oriented stuff, so I'm going to devote this post to things less consequential in nature.

When I was in high school, I'd sit in my classes and just write for a solid hour and a half. Had my scribblings been even tenuously related to the subjects I was purportedly studying, I would've been an A++ student. As it was, I churned out one nonsensical stream-of-consciousness rambling after another (kinda like this blog!) and raked in a steady stream of D's and F's. The point is, I might have been concentrating on the wrong thing, but I could concentrate. Not just on writing, but on books, movies, and albums from start to finish. Blame it on what you will (*cough*THEINTERNET*cough*), but I just don't seem to have that kind of focus in me anymore.

Part of the problem is just being totally spoiled for choice. How are you supposed to find new favourites when there's so much easy access to Whatever Comes Next? I constantly feel like I'm a beat behind on finding the next great new thing, and so I can never fully enjoy whatever great new thing happens to be right in front of me at the moment. If I'm exposed to a band that I haven't heard before, and I love them, I can't just sit back and take in their work. I have to start searching for another band to love. It's a pattern that makes no logical sense, and yet I can't seem to break the habit.

I think the solution might be to find two or three critics whose opinions I can reliably count on to more or less align with my own, and let everything else fall by the wayside. And maybe take up meditation or something, I don't know.  


I've decided to start a new collection.

Dear blog,

I've decided that I'm going to start a new collection. From this day forward, any time I'm out thrift shopping, I'm going to keep a keen eye out for old I.D. bracelets engraved with the names of people I do not know.

I already have a bit of a soft spot for pre-owned jewellery. One of my favourite rings is something I picked up at Value Village. A silver ring carved in the shape of a rose, I wonder about its previous owner every time I put it on. How old was she? Was it something she bought herself and just grew out of, or was it a gift from an ex? Maybe she died and nobody in her family wanted it.

I'm not sure why I do this for people's old jewellery, but not for, like, their old pants.

Anyway. Etsy actually has some pretty rad vintage I.D. bracelets (including an ornate, silver and blue one that reads "Maxine") for not very many Canadian dollars, but I can't decide if that would take away that "thrill of the hunt" element. My favourite pieces in any of my various collections are always ones that I've found unexpectedly.

And that's all I have to say about that!


A list of my biggest regrets.

Dear blog,

I can't really think of much to say about my day. It was spent healing and shopping, and neither of those two activities is particularly interesting to talk about. Instead, I thought I'd create a list of my biggest regrets. Not in a mopey-sad kind of way, just for posterity. Why not?

I regret the following:

+ Not pursuing more of a maths/sciences track in high school. Not only would my career opportunities (probably) have been better, but I would have felt like a smarter human being in general.

+ Not paying attention to music throughout the better part of my 20s. Although, the upside of that is getting to rediscover my love of music now that I'm in my 30s.

+ Every single one of my tattoos. Tattoos are hideous! But I still intend to get more. They're hideous, but also kind of awesome, and honestly, who cares at this point?

+ Not travelling when I actually had the money to do it with.

+ Not getting out more. There's still time!

+ Getting a dog as soon as we did. Sorry, dog. You enrich life in many ways, but you also make it difficult!

+ Not keeping in touch with that one really rad English teacher that I loved.

And that's all I've got today. Remember, I said I'd try to blog every day that I'm off work while I heal from my minor surgery. I didn't say that I'd do a good job of it.


Another PCHH reaction post.

Dear blog,

Someday, for whatever reason, the run of Pop Culture Happy Hour will come to an end, and on that day, this blog will die, because apparently, I suffer from a total lack of any original ideas whatsoever. I just can't help it! The conversations are so good! I can't help but want to chime in. In fact, I might as well make this a weekly blog feature, entitled: "Screaming Into The Wind: A PCHH Reaction Series" (so named because, let's face it, nobody reads this except me).

Let's get to it, then. This week, in one of the better episodes that I've listened to thus far, a good chunk of time was devoted to a discussion of Kickstarter, and the ways in which crowd-sourced funding may have a negative impact on the final outcome of a project. On the one hand, there's "Hooray, this affords artists the chance to still eat while they make great stuff!", but on the other hand, there's "Will the artist still be capable of making great stuff while keeping a financially invested audience in mind?".

Both are good points, of course, but the thing I'm stuck on is the fact that the second argument seems to presuppose that creators are free from the pressure to make their projects turn out a certain way if fans don't have an obvious financial stake in it. I think, in a roundabout way, fans have always dictated the outcome of the art that we consume; it's just that it hasn't always been this direct. Like with New Girl. The funding for that show isn't crowdsourced, and so the writers are, theoretically, free to have the characters do whatever they want. Except, we all knew Nick and Jess would hook up eventually, and of course, they did. It became less about tuning in to see "if" they would get together, and more about "when", because you wouldn't want to miss the episode where it finally happened. My point is that once fans latch on to an idea about the direction in which a show should play out, or what a photographer's pictures should look like, or how a band should sound, then there already exists a financial stake in the creator's Next Move, and that's not a new idea that came along with Kickstarter.

To give another example, let's talk about (brace yourself) Radiohead's release of Kid A (let's all just calm down!). I was a huge Radiohead fan in high school. You couldn't not be, attending high school in the 90's. Fake Plastic Trees may as well have been our collective fight song. And then OK Computer came out when I was 15, and sure, it sounded different, but it was still mopey and sulky enough for me, and it gave a form and a voice to my nascent feelings of weltschmerz. Kid A was released when I was 18, and with my sense of weltschmerz now fully-formed, I cannot begin to convey how entirely disappointed I was with this album full of videogame music. I thought it was some kind of joke that Thom Yorke was trying to pull after how critically revered OK Computer had been. Like, "What would happen if I just made a cd full of noise? Will they still call me a genius?". And I wrote the band off. Even now, more than a decade later, I can listen to some of the more recent Radiohead stuff, and I can appreciate it, but I can't bring myself to deeply love it the way I loved The Bends and OK Computer, because there's too much cognitive dissonance created between the way that I expect Radiohead to sound, and the way that Radiohead actually sounds. So, no more album purchases, and, probably more importantly to the Radiohead camp, from a monetary standpoint, no more concert attendance. Now, do I think any of the members of Radiohead give a flying fuck about my expectations? No! Of course they don't! Nor should they. Sure, they lost my dollars, but they probably (definitely) gained someone else's.

This is my point: The fans of any given artistic endeavour have always had a financial stake in the final outcome. It's just that, with Kickstarter, you can see their stake measured in actual dollar amounts, whereas before, their stake was measured in tv ratings and album sales. In pre-Kickstarter times, the dollar amount was seen after the fact; now, it's seen beforehand. And, sure, that creates pressure to live up to the audience's expectations, but is that any worse than a situation in which you're either receiving pressure from The Big Guns to create something that they think will sell, or else you just don't get to make any real profit from your art at all? I mean, you don't need me to tell you that Nirvana's Nevermind is a fan-fucking-tastic album, but it just sounds so... slick. And I have a really hard time believing that the way the songs sound on Nevermind comes even remotely close to the over-the-top histrionic noisiness that Kurt Cobain was undoubtedly hearing in his head, that shone through on even the cleaned-up version of In Utero (which is, not coincidentally, the album that made a Nirvana fan out of me). The point is, pressure to change one's art in order to make more money from it has always existed. Some artists make the concession, and others don't. And that's not something that I feel qualified to discuss in terms of one being right and the other being wrong; it's just something that is, and will always be.      

I also think that there can be a discrepancy between what an audience thinks it wants, and what it actually wants, and an artist of any merit will know how to finesse that line. I think that we consume art, be it highbrow, lowbrow, or somewhere in between, not just because it amuses us, but because it stirs feelings in us, and to me, the whole point of being alive is to feel as much as possible, because, as they say, you can't take it with you. You're not pleased because you bought the album, you're pleased because you heard the music. What's the point of plodding through life as a seemingly endless string of days, in which you consume much, but take nothing? We line our shelves with dvds and books, but the only ones we really have in any meaningful way are the ones that we take the time to absorb, because the rest all gets forgotten. And I think the things we absorb are inextricably linked to the things we connect to, that make us feel like we are having some sort of shared experience. So, to cite Linda Holmes' example of The Office, if Jim and Pam had gotten together in that fifth episode, yeah, we viewers would have gotten what we wanted in terms of the story, but not in terms of the feeling of it all.

One other concern that was voiced was that of, what reason is there to write a concrete ending to something, if there always lies the possibility of kickstarting a movie, or a new season of a show, or what have you? I think that's a really interesting question, and it sort of gets at the heart of, are you Making The Thing to make money, or are you making it to create something wonderful? Because if your intention is to create something wonderful, then "spinoff potential" probably isn't the foremost thing on your mind.

I guess all of this is to say, the responsibility of creating something worth creating lies in the hands of the artist. Just because you feel pressure, doesn't mean you necessarily have to yield to it.



Dear blog,

What began life as a tiny, waxen bump on my shoulder has become a three-and-a-half inch long incision that burns as though the devil himself sliced into me with a ragged fingernail. Someday, it's going to be a badass scar, and I'm going to have a story to tell, but as for right now, I'm just going out of my head with boredom. See, my job is fairly physical in nature, involving lots of reaching and occasional carrying of heavy things; I was specifically instructed to avoid such activities for the next two weeks, lest I pop my stitches. I was going to try to muddle through, but my manager had the presence of mind to point out what a terrible idea that would have been, and tell me to take the next week or so off. And so, here we are. 

In hopes of not driving myself too far 'round the bend, I've come to make, that's right, a list. I need to do a little brainstorm of ways to keep myself occupied for the next week, living in a city where I don't know anybody, with a dog that howls madly whenever I try to leave the apartment, under the circumstance of not being able to move my left (and, also, dominant) arm very much. I can: 

+ Make some terrible drawings
+ Learn a bunch of new songs on my guitar and/or ukulele. 
+ Spend entire days at a time watching movies.
+ Watch the entire series run of Daria.
+ Listen to every song ever mentioned, no matter how fleetingly, by Stephen Thompson.
+ Read a bunch of books. 
+ Take the dog to the park for long, long stretches of time.
+ Listen to an iTunes U course.
+ Blog every single day (this is going to get dull, but challenge accepted). 

See you on day 2.


Another Sunday pick 'n mix: Music edition.

Dear blog, 

- When I was a teenager, I listened to music in such a different way. I think this is partly because I've grown out of that hormone-fuelled teenaged passion that makes you take music really personally between the ages of, say, 13 and 19 or so. I also think it's partly because we consume music in such a different way in 2013 than we did in 1993. I'm determined to start listening to music more closely again, maybe get back some of that teenaged passion I used to have, hormone-fuelled or not. 

- Tomorrow, we assassinate Phil Collins. I don't think I ever wrote about it here, but I have a weensy touch o' the skin cancer right now. Nothing life threatening, so to make it sound less capital-S Serious and Scary, I've taken to calling the tumour Phil Collins. Who can be afraid of Phil Collins? Either way, I'm looking forward to having it/him removed. Having cancer on your body feels gross in a way that I cannot begin to explain. 

- I spent the evening watching Dave Grohl's keynote address from this year's South By Southwest festival, and it made me feel the full spectrum of human emotions. I subsequently blasted my brain by playing In Utero at far too high a volume, an album that I haven't paid nearly enough attention to in the past decade or so. I remember back in high school, I had a teacher who thought I was pretty 'round the bend for crushing on Kurt Cobain several years after his death. Grown ups, amirite (says the 31 year old woman...)? Anyway, I'd forgotten how good it feels to let Kurt Cobain scream at you for an hour. I know of no better form of catharsis.  


You wanna know why Community is so terrible this season? I'll tell ya why...

Dear blog,

A lot of people are bellyaching over the current (and, let's face it, final) season of Community.  I really didn't want to be one of those people. I wanted to keep an open mind! I wanted to look at Dan Harmon as a figurehead, and wish him well in his future endeavours, but not allow his departure to taint my opinion of the show itself.

The main criticism that I've seen levied at this season is simply that "it's not funny". Disagree. I'm laughing plenty. But I'm not appreciating it the way that I used to, and here's the reason why: Community used to be a tv show that was largely about tv shows. Community brought the word "meta" to the forefront of everyone's mind, and it was great. But then it became too self-aware. See, the problem is that, this season, the writers aren't content to just make the jokes, and the references, and trust their audience to figure it out. They've been spelling it out for us, as if to say, "SEE WHAT I DID THERE?" after every punchline.

The thing that I liked about Community was not just that it was timely, but also that it was smart. Now, it might as well be any other pandering sitcom.

All of my favourite shows are dropping like flies. First, New Girl got... really stupid. And, let's face it, the bar wasn't set too terribly high to begin with, so... Anyway, then Community bit the dust, and now Girls is due to air its season finale pretty much any minute now. What will I watch?? How will I waste my time?? God, I might have to actually read a book or something.

Ha ha, who am I kidding? I can put off reading pretty much indefinitely, so long as I have you, internet.    


Look in a book, *snap snap*, in a book...

(Anybody else remember that song, btw? Was it from Reading Rainbow? Anyway...)

Dear blog,

I realized recently (read: just now) that I spend more time thinking about reading than I do actually reading. Oh sure, I've got the Goodreads account, and I'm very self-congratulatory whenever I manage to actually finish something, but more often than not, I'm dwelling on what I want to read, or ought to read, and not actually turning the pages of any books. In that spirit, I thought I would share my current "to-read" list with you now. Then, in three months time, we can all look back and laugh about how I never got around to reading a single one of these.

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. This would be a re-read for me. Obbbbbviously, I've already read the Scott Pilgrim series in its entirety. And seen the movie. Twice. Jeez, what kind of a hipster would I be (I'm not a hipster)? Lately, I just feel a hankering to return to Bryan Lee O'Malley's video-game version of Toronto, which just so happens to be my adopted city. For that reason, I feel like I'm due for a second reading, if only to see how it feels to read it within the context of the city that I now know. Plus, let's be real, I can just never get enough of Ramona Flowers. I kind of want to be Ramona Flowers. But that's a whole other blog post...

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Another re-read. This book. Oh God, this book. I'm normally very dissociated from the books that I read, and while I have, on occasion, found a novel that warms the cockles of my cold, black heart, this was the first one that ever provoked me to openly weep. And I don't mean a lone tear trickling down my cheek, I'm talking about a full-fledged, messy, drippy cry. A good one for those special times when you feel like you need to reconnect with humanity.

Jazz Age Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I can't say much about this one, as I've not read it yet. I just feel like I should.

The Bedside Book Of... series. I recently came across four books from this series on the clearance rack at Chapters. I've no idea if there are more books in the series; one can only hope. The best way I can explain these books (insofar as I can surmise, I mean) is to say that they're kind of like that "For Dummies" series, except, not for dummies. For smart people. They're slim little books packed with facts about traditionally boring stuff, and the writing's all snappy-like, and I just find myself very, very drawn to them. At least with these ones, if I never get around to breaking the spines, they'll look nice gathering dust on my shelf. They're quite cute. And, yes, I do judge a book by its cover.

Sometimes I don't know how to end a blog post. Uh... books, hooray! Three cheers for literacy!

Must be wearing my extra-charming pants today...

Dear blog,

Today was a totally normal day, remarkable in only two ways, which I will describe to you now.

Way the first: Not to give too much away, but I work in a shop that requires me to prepare and serve hot beverages to people. Okay, it's tea. You're not going to be able to smoke me out if you know that I make people cups of tea for a living, so there you have it. Lots of places serve tea. Anyway, tonight at work, I was just wrapping things up with some customers when one of them whips out her business card, and starts talking to me in a conspiratorial tone of voice about how she's a recruiter for a shoe store, and if I'm ever looking for a second job or a total change of pace, etc., etc., etc. Kind of a lateral move, and I'm not really looking right now, but I have to admit that it's pretty flattering to have somebody walk into your workplace and then try to, like, poach you.

Way the second: Ever just get the feeling, when you're talking to somebody for the first time, that they really dig you? I was getting that feeling from a customer who came in today in search of some "hardcore oolong" (sidebar: AWESOME.). Said feeling was totally confirmed when I was walking through the mall a little while later, and I randomly noticed Mr. Hardcore Oolong, staring at me and smiling. D'awwwww! My inner circa 1995 Courtney Love is a little mad at me for caring, and is spewing some vitriol about "the male gaze" and all that, but let's just be real, it's nice when somebody notices you.

I actually feel like the universe has been throwing me some pretty major bones lately, in the form of small gestures, and, I kid you not, it actually has me feeling so happy that, at times, it physically hurts. I was sitting on the bus today, listening to some tunes, like you do, and my solar plexus just felt like it was on fire, as if my heart was spilling over with too much joy and love and contentedness. I'm sorry (I'm not sorry) if that sounds over the top, but this is not a feeling to which I am overly accustomed. Typically, I walk around in a bit of a self-punishing funk, just waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it inevitably does. So to have a small run of little things that are just good, and nice... it's very heartwarming, is all I'm trying to say.

I guess it just goes to show that the small actions we perform actually can go a long way in helping somebody else. Taking the time to craft a thoughtful response to an email, or share a song, or smile at somebody, can be all it takes to make a difference in someone's life. Like, a really, massively, measurably big difference. Who knew?


A bit of a Sunday pick-n-mix...

Dear blog,

There's no unifying thread between any of these thoughts. I just felt like jotting 'em down. Why not here?

+ I am trying to figure out if I believe in karma or not. After a particularly crummy, no-good, terrible, awful work day yesterday, I came to the conclusion that either karma cannot possibly be real, or else I am paying off one hell of a debt from my past life. But then a string of really nice things happened, including my receipt of a beautifully well-timed (and unexpected) email that put a bright little smile on this dour face of mine. So, I don't know. Is that the universe calling itself out on its own low blows and doing me a solid to make up for it, or just a coincidence?

+ I finally -- finally -- got around to watching Life In A Day on Netflix. I am soooo behind on this one. I mean, obviously. It came out in, what, 2011? I wasn't sure at first. It all seemed a bit heavy handed and melodramatic in the early scenes. I mean, ugh, that score for the first 10 or 15 minutes? I wanted to scream, STOP TRYING TO EVOKE MY EMOTIONS, YOUTUBE!! But I didn't want to disturb my husband, with whom I was watching the movie, so I refrained. Of course, the music eventually changed, and soon enough, I found myself fully engaged with these people. All things considered, it served as a lovely reminder that there are nice, well-meaning people out there in the world. And some beautiful places, too. Ohhhh, gosh. I really have to get over this "deathly fear of flying" thing, and find the wherewithal (and the money) to do some travelling.

+ Sometimes my husband and I have rap battles when there's nothing better to do. We recently discovered karaoke tracks on YouTube, and Friday nights will never be the same because of it.

+ Daylight Savings Time always leaves me feeling vaguely jet-lagged. My brain knows that it's midnight and I should be sleeping, but my body is telling me that it's only eleven and what am I, an old lady?

+ I'm feeling an itch to read some books and see some movies and hear some music that I can really throw myself into, but I just don't know where to begin. Is there any feeling more helpless than that? World, you have some good stuff in you. Where to start??

+ Just hurry up and hit the big screen already, Before Midnight.


Theme Months!

Dear blog,

It's no secret that I've been feeling kind of gross lately. Not to put too fine a point on it or anything, but I was recently diagnosed with a cancerous growth on my shoulder. It's not going to kill me (I've been assured), so I've nicknamed it Phil Collins. The words "tumour" and "cancer" sound so serious and scary, but who can be afraid of Phil Collins? Anyway, I'm using Phil Collins as inspiration to kickstart Makeover March, which will hopefully be the first in a series of alliteratively-titled themed months (Adventure April, anyone?).

So, here are the goals I've outlined for myself for March:

+ Start incorporating strength exercises into every day that I work, alternating upper body, lower body, and core.

+ Yoga every day that I don't work.

+ Never ever ever skip a night of washing my face or brushing my teeth before bed... c'mon... we all do it.

+ Clear the clutter from the apartment.

+ Finally fix this terrible haircut.

I guess the subtitle of March could be, "Trimming the Fat".

I'll keep ya posted, no pun intended. (Okay, yeah, totally intended. I can't lie to you, blog.)