Writing in my dorky blue and pink notebook, I looked up to see a cute face smiling back. Who says this volunteer writing thing doesn’t pay in its own way?

Today’s review. It might be erring on the longer side, but I found myself so attached to each act. That’s why we have editors, right? For these reviews I’ll post them here until Live in Limbo does, then I’ll switch them out with a link to the posted review. That way Google analytics don’t pack a shit fit and you get to see my work in a much snazzier format with pretty pictures. Doubleplus good, right?

With a wry smile, Donovan addressed the crowd. “My last record was nominated for a Juno. It’s a Juno loser, pick it up.” Between his laidback manner and self-deprecating wit, it was easy to be drawn into his performance. Dressed simply in a black wool sweater, toting an acoustic guitar, his presence evoked life experiences translated directly to music. An Ontario born singer-songwriter, Donovan Woods’ gentle folk rock melodies have a unifying quality; they draw on the well of shared human experience. He’s as much a storyteller as he is a musician.

In the intimate surrounds of the Drake Hotel Underground, his sandy voice rang out crystal clear and the stories he weaved shot straight to the heart. Your Daughter, John told a tale of regret, of paths taken and loves lost. How Much is That Hat manifested themes of envy and desire to live above your means. “How much does a hat like that cost?” he crooned “oh if it was mine I‘d never take it off.” A skilled guitarist, his crisp strumming reinforced the veracity of his lyrics. He sang the words as if he’d lived them and it was impossible to imagine otherwise.

Quiet and appreciative, the audience swayed back and forth with wistful smiles and dewy eyes. When he stumbled in the first verse of a new track and forgot his own lyrics, they were on his side. He tried a few times to regain the momentum, but with a sigh he gave a laugh and moved on. With such a forgiving crowd, the mistake was acknowledged and overlooked.

An anecdote sprang forth about a man who’d lost his girlfriend to another man and asked Donovan to write his story into a song. “I don’t want to ruin anything” he says “but he didn’t get her back.” It might not have been his story, but the song was all his own. The humour was evident and the humanity of it all was intact, leaving the audience humming from the afterglow.

If Donovan Woods was a storyteller, then J.E. Sunde was a troubadour lost in time. A past member of Wisconsin band The Daredevil Christopher Wright, his solo project draws favourable comparisons to The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle or The Tallest Man on Earth. His lyrics were sprawling and poetic, edging on the metaphysical at times. Abstract and visual, words painted a colourful collage of deeper meaning, drawing heavily from shades of grey. Simply put – dude can write, yo.

With his energetic demeanour it was easy to be pulled along for the ride. Delicate voice slinging lines with the tact of a seasoned actor, the songs captivated and transported the audience to disparate worlds. Rabbit Trail traipsed along like a lazy love letter to the fallibility of man, dropping casual references to Sodom and Gomorrah, ritual sacrifice and suffering, strung along with the calm weightlessness of a humid summer afternoon. Describing his style as “sad with the cathartic effect of making you happy”, his melancholic lightness was all too evident on I’m Gonna Disappoint You. Trilling with a reflective tone, his words cast an abiding affection for the fleeting trappings of infatuation.

On Rabbit Rag and I, he plucked his guitar like a harp, weaving a heart breaking tale of broken homes and a drifter’s search for meaning. “Rabbit Rag will take all your money, take your heart, take your name.” he sang, voice rising emphatically, drifting down with the subtlety of a falling leaf.

He rounded out the set with a couple half-finished tracks. Conceding his unconventionality he admitted “I just get excited about things and want to share them.” The enthusiasm he held for his work rang true through his performance, given the roaring applause his farewell received.

If the crowd was seeking a departure from acoustic folk they found it in Phox. The Wisconsin indie-pop sextet oozed a feisty, sass from the moment they took the stage. Having met at the same high school, their friendship shone through their nuanced chemistry. Lead singer Monica might’ve been the focal point, but the way the band gelled, the whole band shone bright.

Young and cheeky, their amicable banter made the songs accessible and engrossing. Introducing the track Leisure, Monica remarked “This song is about when you start seeing someone and your friends ask why you never come out any more. You say ‘have you heard of pizza and sex?’” When the song hit, it brought with it a lush, full sound. Everything found its space without once feeling busy. Ambling bass was complemented by a flirtatious brush of cymbals and light trumpet flourishes. 1936 carried an upbeat small town feel with sprinklings of banjo and poppy vocal ping pong.

As the songs stacked up the band’s zeal never wavered. The vibrant harmonies rose richly and the tracks rolled on with an organic, almost improvisational tone. A beautiful grasp of contrast that never felt conflicting, Phox melded tropical calypso melodies with smart pop sensibilities. Twinkling keys and barely there banjo found themselves bolstered by glam rock guitar and punchy Elton John style piano. In seconds a bold ballad could fall back to a tipsy whispered confession without skipping a beat.

Even in such a sensory swell, moments stood out. Calico Man found Monica performing a stripped down solo number with pangs of a mournful moonlit waltz. Garden of Night saw multi-instrumentalist Zak Johnson take the mic for a punchy indie rock ditty while Monica called for the audience to howl like wolves. Without hesitation, eager howls filled the air. Closer Espeon, an inspirational ode to defiance in the face of decay was dedicated to Monica’s “awesome” younger sister. “Thank you all for hanging out with us.” She remarked, and the words carried weight. The performance felt inclusive, welcoming, as if we’d all been through something together. Still at the start of their tour, it’ll be a wonder to see how the road shapes their sound in the months ahead.

Tally ho sounds like an offensive imperative.

Oy vey. I feel the excesses of the week starting to take their toll. Fatigue, dismal weather, poor diet and lack of decent exercise are combining to form the Voltron of ennui. I’ve got a gig to review later, but with the last band taking the stage at 10.30pm I know I’m not gonna have the time to write before my CAMH study tomorrow morning. Then I’ve gotta rush home, write my review, clean up the house and stow everything away into my room so my landlord can renovate while I ship off to my relatives’ place on Thursday after work. Coming up on a year living in this city, still without a decent job, getting by on the power of thrift and I’m sure you’re getting the picture. Add to the pot the endorphin rush of having my good friends staying with me and the subsequent emotional deficit at their pending departure. A recipe for something unsavoury by any means.

We went out to the Toronto Islands today on a sea of recommendations. In a word: Underwhelming. The weather was overcast (which could have been the central issue), the scenery was relatively unexciting, the beaches paled in comparison to beaches back home and we were unfortunate that my friends happened to visit during the school holidays. Even on a Tuesday there were hordes of kids running around. Usually I’m paid to deal with that sort of thing. It’s not a drawcard on my days off. The petting zoo was nice and would’ve been the highlight if not for the aforementioned children. We’d brought a packed lunch, but the grey clouds weren’t conducive to a pleasant lunch. Poor timing. Maybe we did it all wrong. We walked all over, from one side to the other but didn’t really find anything that called to us. I’m guessing a massive attraction of the place is to grab a couple of cold ones and relax at the Hanlan’s Point clothing optional beach, but with long-time close friends it felt like it’d be an awkward choice. Despite our eagerness at getting around the island, none of us were feeling it. I’m not giving up on the islands, but I think I’ve gotta see them in the right light to really take in their charms. The cartoon map made it seem more fun than a barrel of monkeys, hardly faint praise.

The impending pressures of the next little while aren’t doing wonders to keep me aloft. Having my friends here, talking about seeking employment on their working visas has really hit home how little I’ve risen. I know I’m working far under my talent level, wasting whatever skills I’ve built up over time. I’m confident that I can handle any of these jobs I’m applying for, but I’m clearly not playing the game well enough to let prospective employers know the same. As easy as it is to fall back on the mantra of “no experience is wasted experience”, I know there are more valuable tasks I could throw my hands into. Why am I out there applying for borderline minimum wage jobs? If you tread water for long enough, the prospect of swimming gets increasingly daunting as time goes by. The more letters of denial or lack of responses that come my way, the harder it is to muster enthusiasm to keep putting myself out there. Though I’m managing and breaking even, I know I’m not achieving the quality of life I desire. That’s a sobering prospect. It’s when you need that extra kick of incentive or fire to ignite, sparking the thrust to get up and atom.

Even presently it’s easy to see that this is a trough. One of the many hurdles in the decision to try out a new life. Give me a week and I’ll be back on top of things, turning my frown upside down involuntarily and loving every minute. It’s probably a boon that I’m busy, giving me no time to sulk or wallow. For all I know I could meet someone tonight at the gig who has contacts to where I want to go. Chin up, cheerio, pip pip and other archaic Britishisms.

Yes I think to myself… what a punderful world.

Formicophilia exists. Contrary to expectations it’s not a fetishistic obsession with laminate bench tops, but rather a love of something quite different. Insects. Half of me is fascinated and the other half is trying to figure out some streamlined insects/incest pun. Incecsts? According to intense wikipedia study (of their lengthy 3 sentence entry) it’s not so much a fantasy of engaging with interspecies intercourse, but rather the sensation of being stung or bitten enhancing sexual gratification. I guess when these fellows go to Thailand they can skip Patpong and just lie on the beach to have themselves a one person party. I remember waking up one day with over 40 mosquito bites and exercising every ounce of willpower to not hire myself out to cats as a human scratching post. Imagine if these formicophiliacs got a hold of a bullet ant. It’d be like mainlining cocaine straight into their frontal lobe. Yowza. Clicking around to linked wiki articles, ophidiophilia seems to be a thing. I’ve never seen snakes as sexual beings, but it’s nice to know that if I did, I could find my people. I guess there’s the obvious female gratification from a snake (just think hentai), but male would be a bit harder to come by. I kind of worked that out as a pun half way through, I’ll allow it. I’d never before considered jerking myself off with a snake. Isn’t imagination a wonderful thing?

I have no problem with kinks. If the things that crank your wank aren’t gonna harm another living soul, if it’s fully consensual then why should I take issue with it? If it meets those conditions, why should anyone take issue with the fun things someone does in the privacy of their bedroom? Just because it’s not your thing, why would you get in the way of someone else enjoying it? I think scarification is a tad silly, but if it’s done by choice then what does it have to do with me? I don’t think anyone is truly vanilla. I think deep inside we all yearn for things that veer off the narrow path that society deems as “normal” or “acceptable”. I know I’ve got a few. I feel fortunate that anything I’m into doesn’t leap headlong into those darker shades. Consent is probably my number one turn on, which counts out children and other non-humans. The idea of really hurting someone scares me a little and I haven’t found much attraction to inanimate objects. Even though I think a Gamecube lunchbox would be totally adorable.

Not being of the squeamish persuasion, I tend to find non-standard kinks to be utterly fascinating rather than disgusting and off-putting. Is there such a thing as a psychiatrist/psychologist who dabbles exclusively in sexual fetishes? How would that not be the most interesting job in the world? Looking into the evolution of an individual’s personal culture to establish how these preferences came to be. How does someone form a mannequin fetish? Would it have anything to do with being a child stranded with your mother in the womenswear section of Farmers? Or getting a little bit too attached to your sister’s Barbie dolls? How many amazing fetishes exist out there right now that we’re blissfully unaware of? Would someone be getting off to the sound of me typing away right now? Would they have keyboards carefully positioned around the bed for easy access? Is there actually someone for whom laminate bench tops really get their heart racing? What would they do with a night alone in IKEA? What wouldn’t they do?

Louis Armstrong said it best, what a wonderful world.

Hofficially the best Bad Movie Nights in Toronto. Because the best defence is a good Hoffence.

I know I’ve given love to Bad Movie Night Toronto before, but I see no reason not to do so again. In fact, seeing as there was still standing room in the bar, I see every reason to do so again. The event is exceptionally well run by a friend of mine. He puts a metric fuckton of work into sourcing enjoyably terrible flicks that’ll invite the requisite amount of armchair critics and cries from the peanut gallery. Not only that, but there’s always a bevy of supporting media to bulk out the theme of the evening. There’s audience interaction, plus hilarious exposition and backstory that reveals just why these films turned out as terrible as they did. There’s a warm, cosy community feel (that I’d describe as womb-like if it wasn’t such an awful description) that encourages people to speak up if they’ve got relevant information to share. I brought two friends along who were lukewarm on the idea and, much like the unexplained mutant power of Bad Movie Night Toronto alumni C Me Dance‘s central character, they were converted by some divine compulsion. It’s so infectiously enjoyable to unify with others to cruelly ridicule some of the most mind-boggling material to be committed to celluloid.

Take tonight’s theme: Too Much Hasselhoff?! The main event was the 70s blatant Star Wars rip off, Starcrash, flanked by Hasselhoff music videos, a bizarre audience trivia game, clips from Baywatch and the bizarre X-Files clone Baywatch Nights. Starcrash? Holy shit. Gratuitous “special effects” that boiled down to obvious scale model starships and lava lamp projections, a central female character whose personality devolved to gratuitous cheesecake, the baffling appearence of legit Canadian actor Christopher Plummer, a C3PO analogue with a southern accent and innumerable inexplicable plotlines and logical fallacies. Why was the robot even a robotic character at all? Did he really mean “robot chivalry” when he rose to Stella’s defence claiming “robot chauvinism”? If that certain character was immortal and owned fantastic powers (including chronological foresight), then why did he say he couldn’t go on with them when they tried to carry his injured frame? If he couldn’t die, was he just bored with their company? If he knew the entire future, why did he let himself get captured in the first place? Where did Stella keep getting random outfits from between scenes? For what reason was the enemy ship shaped like a giant hand?  I could literally go on for hours (longer than the film’s run time) about all the little things that made me shout “what the fuck?” I won’t though, because you should just watch it for yourself.

Seeing Baywatch was a trip in itself. Abysmal writing and storylines that were questionable at best. A dog being possessed by the spirit of a deceased lifeguard (this was original Baywatch, not the X-Files lite sequel), that same lifeguard going on a cancer fear filled rampage around the beach, forcing people to apply sunscreen. How did this show run for 11 years? Are boobs that entertaining to watch? I guess they have their charms, but 11 seasons?

If you’re living in Toronto you’d be foolish not to come out and check the events. Usually the last Sunday of the month at Clinton’s on Bloor st. Next month will most likely be Hard Ticket to Hawaii, a movie that involves one of the deadliest, most ridiculous frisbee death scenes, plus a snake getting blown up by a rocket launcher. What’s not to love?

Yeah, personal freedoms are one thing, but babies probably shouldn’t procreate.

Holy shit. How many people are in that fucking Expendables 3 poster? Did they just take the entire cast of the movie and put them on the poster? I swear I could just start typing names and that’d probably be my daily half hour of writing. Let’s try that. Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren and Kelsey Grammer… This is the point where I stop recognising names. It follows with Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan, Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Drtiz, Robert Davi, then Mel Gibson (for some wholesome anti-Semitic family values), Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m right, this is totally just the film’s cast. Some of those blokes are just stunt men or extras, but there was such a fun family dynamic on set that they wanted to be inclusive. Imagine the catering on that set. All those large muscular blokes and the sheer quantities of food they’d eat. So much protein, would the craft services table just have a rotisseried elephant? If it could be measured, how much testosterone would be exuded on a daily basis? I’ve never seen an Expendables film, but it seems the most gratuitous parade of action stars, cheese and senseless explosions. How is that not something I’d devour gleefully on rye?

I feel like there are a ton of films I never get around to seeing. There was a crop of recent blockbusters that made me think yeah, I could go to the cinema for a day and just absorb but somehow I rarely have the endurance to sit through a movie. Godzilla, Neighbours, X-Men Days of Future Past, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (never saw the first one, but this one apparently rocked), Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street, Snowpiercer (wait, did this just become another entry in which I list things?). The commonality I’m guessing is that they mostly seem to be big, dumb action movies. As I so rarely watch movies, I usually want to see something that challenges me a little. Concurrently there’s some kind of cathartic release which follows watching things explode on a large screen while you’re enveloped in a comfy womb of surround sound. I like watching decent fight choreography. The Raid: Redemption was almost revelatory in its superb depiction of martial artistry. Fight choreography, when done well, transcends meaningless violence and becomes like a dance. Of course sometimes it’s also just nice pairing excessive bloodshed and humour. See Punisher: War Zone for a great example. No, seriously, see Punisher: War Zone. Patton Oswalt does a great job of explaining why.

I mean, it’s escapism, right? Being thrown into exceptional situations that would never occur in our daily tedium. Yeah, the whole premise of Lucy is fucking ridiculous non-science, but do I want to watch Scarlett Johansson become a total badass and tear people limb from limb Akira style for 90 minutes? Sure do. If the same kind of idea is good enough for Limitless, it’s good enough for me. This is an argument that should be thrown back in my face every time I raise stink over some insipid romantic comedy staring photogenic people raising hell over a simple misunderstanding that could be resolved in one sentence so they could just fuck and produce gorgeous fucking babies (but not babies who fuck, that’s not right. Babies can’t consent, even to each other. Would babies having sex be the ultimate in disturbing, or kind of adorable? I don’t think they have the proper equipment. Either way it’s not something I want to see. A Serbian Film was bad enough and that was off camera). Maybe I use expletives too liberally. So I think the take away from this is that we should all just be able to enjoy the things we love free from judgement, provided they’re not harming anyone else. Also you could probably just pirate The Expendables 3, I don’t think it’ll affect those stars’ bottom lines.

I do like The Stone Roses – I Wanna be Adored. Am I the problem?

I’m in a pretty good place right now. Having two of your closest friends in arm’s reach does that to a person. It’s phenomenal being able to weave simultaneously between nostalgia trips and making new memories. I’ve been spending almost every moment possible with these guys and it’s gonna leave an understandable mate shaped hole in my heart when they’re gone. Still, despite this, I hypothesise that I’m enough of an asshole to find things to get shitty about. This is more about me than anyone else. I think.

So. Coming back on the subway there’s a girl sitting across from me. She’s done up, “had her face did” and all that. Hair looks nice, she seems ready for a fun, flirty night of meeting people. Good for her, I admire her candour. It probably took a while, some intense effort and patience to get the style she was going for. I doubt I spent half the time on my last gig review that she did on her face. Still, I’m in her court. She’s looking good, she knows it and rightfully loves herself. Then she pulls out the phone. I see her extend and retract her arm as if telescopically, searching for the perfect upwards diagonal angle. She’s in selfie mode. Pouts a little, pulls back, tests different expressions. She starts taking photos, reviewing them then trying again.

With each new attempt I grow equal parts discouraged and perturbed at the general state of things. I’m not a big fan of the selfie, but this continual retreading in search of the perfect shot? Why is this something that’s important to you? You look good and you can tell. By that virtue you’re already gonna be treated to the pedestal of admiration society places beautiful people atop. You will get better service, people will pay you attention, laugh at jokes that aren’t funny. You might even get a few drinks out of it. If you’re looking for companionship, you will likely find it without much trouble. Are those not rewards? How important is it that you gain the extra validation from people close to you who feel obliged to play along like sycophants in your ploy to be loved and admired?

Why is this a concern? I don’t know you, I don’t. You could be the most wonderful, giving human on the face of the planet. You could nurse puppies back to health using only your own tears. You could knit sweaters for cockroach survivors of past nuclear explosions. Are those not things that you should define yourself through? Could you not use the time on this subway to further yourself in some way? To learn a new fact, read something that expands your consciousness or meaningfully emphasises your social value? Create something that could help your fellow living beings or make a move towards self-actualisation? Instead of focusing on your physical angles and how they could incite obligatory compliments, why not examine something from an alternate angle? Question or analyse an institution that you feel deserves to be challenged? Instead of gazing into your reflection, reflect on whatever this compulsion for ephemeral congratulations says about the way you navigate your days. What need is not being met by the steps you’re taking? Are you filling a void left by your past and that person who hurt you?

Or does the blame rest on society for making you feel like you constantly need to justify your desires to the ideals of others? For disseminating the notion that to be considered worthy we need to focus on what we look like instead of what we are like? Is my problem even with you? Or a wider cultural epidemic that tells us that our identity is defined by the judgements of others in defiance of self love for who we are?

I think my initial hypothesis was correct. I am just an asshole.

Fortunately my alarm goes off in 4.5 hours, so we’re safe.

I swear one of these days I’ll get a robust 8 hour sleep. Then I’ll awaken like Godzilla and wreak havoc upon all mankind with the overdose of energy I’ll be exerting. Like Danny Zuko, my chills will multiply at an alarming rate. I’ll exude such a magnetic personality that I’ll develop my own gravitational pull and spontaneous dance numbers will occur in my wake. Total strangers will fall instantly in love, procreate and produce fresh, messy, crying infants as I step by them. Those babies will age and wither in seconds, leaving all with only a questionable memory of what had just transpired. Nature will reclaim its rightful dominion over this floating space rock. Weeds will entwine columns, our cement structures will crumble as the wilderness stakes its claim upon modern society. The nexus of my being will invert the flow of time around me. Ancient beasts will rise again, bones covered in rapidly developing sinew and flesh. Their primeval roars inspiring terror in a world who has forgotten what it really was to fear.

All metal in my radius will expand uncontrollably. Cars will warp and contort, veering off the road, unprepared for their new Cronenbergian form. Streetcars will ascend to the heavens bourne on twisted rails, only to come crashing down like vengeant angels. Rapists will fall to ground in anguish as they implode with guilt at their actions. Remorse like a bullet, leaving them with pain as if gutshot. People will know what it is to face death. They’ll welcome it with open arms only to pull back from the brink once they reach the enlightenment that comes with total release. Screams will rise to a keening fever pitch until sound itself becomes static. Only in the absence of noise will we really hear for the first time.

Humanity will ascend to a unified consciousness. Worries sailing adrift on a sea of calmness. Meaningless conflicts will cease in the looming face of an overwhelming sense of insignificance. True compassion will arise as we collectively realise that everyone is scared sometimes, everyone feels like a fraud. Everyone just wants to be held and loved and told that this all happened for a reason, that life had some deeper purpose. That the right to “be” at all, to know what it is to feel, is a gift from the divinity within ourselves. To live for the values of another is to forsake the chance we’ve been given to find our own. That we all have the potential to be whoever we choose to. That we can create our own worlds of experience merely by affecting change around us, exuding an aura that draws in those who truly can hold us, love us and help us find our reason. Then the world will blossom around us and we’ll see what it is to live an actualised existence, to steer ourselves to the outcome we desire.

Then I’ll be tired and realise what an offensively positive twat I am when I actually get a decent rest. That’ll never happen again.