If that wasn’t enough there’s a rain room. A RAIN ROOM.

What an unmitigated joy to have a day off. My girlfriend and I decided to do a couple of errandy things before heading to the AGO’s exhibit on Guillermo del Toro, “At Home with Monsters”. It was amazing. Styled after his country house/workspace, it showcased models, props, art and inspiration to his expansive work. I went in expecting Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim. I hadn’t realised how far beyond that his cinematography ran.

The neat thing about hosting this kind of exhibit at an art gallery was how impeccably staged it was. There was so much goddamn material that instead of little placards, much of the time pieces just had little numbers next to them. Small racks on the wall held lists with all the information of their creators, etc. It was a neat way to leave as much space as possible for the work to speak for itself. There was a great cluster of early Disney work. Concepts sketches and the like. I had no idea Disney so commonly used a combination of chalk and pastels to such stellar effect. The pieces from Sleeping Beauty were particularly impressive.

Of course, a big part of del Toro’s appeal is his beautifully macabre monster designs. The big ones were all present. From Hellboy 2‘s Angel of Death, to Pan’s Labyrinth‘s Pale Man and Pan himself. All rendered in stunning realism. It mentioned how one of del Toro’s design inspiratioons is to shift placement of the eyes. By doing this, he says, it immediately creates a sense of foreboding that tracks back to childhood. Eyes are so often how we learn to connect to others. We read expression and intent from them. Once they’re moved, it subverts our expectations and leaves us unsettled. So take the Pale Man with his palm embedded eyes or the Angel of Death’s eyes lining its wings (apparently inspired by biblical designs). Their sockets aren’t so much barren as absent. The skin is either flat or replaced by a flat plate of bone. Oh, bone. Bone was another thing I noticed in the same vein. As humans we innately expect our skeletons to be on the inside. If they’re not, something’s gone wrong big time. In many of del Toro’s designs you might see a spine pressed right to the skin or even protruding. Or forearms so skinny that the bone pokes through. Once again it’s subverting our assumptions to create unease.

I thought the figure of Pan was especially rad. I saw the movie 11 years ago, so I didn’t have a strong imprint of what it looked like in my brain. It has this sublime asymmetry and fusion of both plant and animal. Its flesh alternates between soft skin and firm bark. Long red tresses flow from its head, but where natural body hair would be it often sprouts moss instead. One of its feet is composed of jagged wood, while the other is a large hoof. It once again hosts an exposed spine, but of intertwining vines. It’s hella cool.

The exhibit also spanned his love of pop culture, Gothic literature and horror films. It was awesome to see someone who, from a young age, continually ran after their passions. Guillermo seems to hold this ardent desire to bring to life the world he found through fiction. It was cool to see, for instance, that he’d been trying to bring Hellboy to the screen for years. Blade 2 was a job taken in order to inch closer towards it. By doing a studio film (still with his own flair, by the looks of it. I’ve never seen it), his agent assured him that studios would be more likely to open their pockets for his passion projects. As the years have attested, it worked.

I know this sounds like a massive ad, but if you’re in Toronto please check the exhibit out. My girlfriend hadn’t seen much of his stuff and loved it as much as I did. There’s so much to take in. We spent about two and a half hours there, but could’ve easily done a lot more if we weren’t already pretty exhausted. If you’re a fan of his work or just want to see dark and pretty things, it runs for aaaages. You’ve got no good excuse not to give it AGO.

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MMR is still probably a better political system than FPP.

I’m in the waiting room, but I’m waiting to leave. I had a quick appointment to renew my meds and ended up taking the chance to check out other stuff.

At some point (likely during Tough Mudder) I banged my toe. A small pool of dried blood accumulated under it. I told my doctor there had been no residual pain, but asked if it was worth checking out anyway. She said sure, so I pulled off my shoe and sock. I’d pulled out the wrong foot. “I did tell you there was no pain.” I remarked. She told me that it most likely would be benign and work its way out eventually. Sometimes though, there could be an unchecked melanoma under the toe. “If that happens” I asked “would they call it a ‘mela-toe-ma’?” She shook her head. “Bummer.” I replied. “The medical field needs snappier naming conventions. I guess they peaked at ‘Hepatyrex’.” (hepatitis and typhoid). She agreed, then pushed a stethoscope into my nostril.

She asked me about my immunisation history, since most of their records had come from my own verbal accounts. I don’t really know much about shipping medical histories. She mentioned that MMR vaccines were making the rounds again. She suggested that because of my age I’d likely had one booster shot, but they suggested two. I thought back to having mumps at age eight or nine. I don’t remember a ton of pain. I do recall my face bloating up chipmunk style. Really though, my prevailing memories are of renting a Sega Mega Drive with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Mortal Kombat 2. Those were the days. I also remember having being conscripted into some “Blue Beat” dance at school. I’d learned the song and choreography in order to perform it with a small group of kids at some stage show. Then I contracted the mumps and got to skip it. So oddly enough, most of my memories of having the mumps are pretty fond ones.

We were lucky to have a stack of leftovers after thanksgiving. We’ve been gorging for the past few days and our supplies still show no real signs of diminishing. It’s gotten to the point where we’ve started running out of plastic containers to house them. Because of my cavalier attitude and reckless disregard for freezer space, I decided to capitalise on all those great gooey veges, fats and juices we gathered from underneath our roasting turkey and make soup. It’s not like I’ve never made soup before, but normally it involves chucking in a decent amount of powdered stock, even when I’m using chicken frames. Not so this time. All the flavours coalesced into a fragrant and potent stock. Ace!

I figured it’d be a shame to enjoy this amazing soup alone, and since my girlfriend was away at work I invited over My Favourite Ex for a catch up and slurp down. Wait, that sounded unintentionally lewd. I was only trying to be cute about drinking soup. Also the Ex thing isn’t a contentious subject with my girlfriend. It was years ago and we’ve been hanging out periodically since. Like all great Toronto friendships though, periodically means not often enough. Months had passed, so over some soup, a dense egg bread and a bottle of red we filled each other in on what we’d been up to. Somehow it was the first time she’d been to my place since we dated (about four years back) and marveled at the lack of Love Dream Believe imagery on our walls (my flatmate four years back had a ‘particular’ aesthetic. We talked about work, family stuff, holidays and food. Always food with us.

And now? I’m in weekend mode. I’ve taken care of all my work week responsibilities. I got my meds, prepped food and finished up with the necessary odds and ends. Tonight I pick my Big Sis up from the airport and enjoy my day off work hanging out with her and my girlfriend.

As an added bonus, I won’t even get rubella.

Success or phalanx?

I have exactly nothing to talk about today. So let’s see how this plays out.

My left thumb is sore, because I’m a dumbass who doesn’t know how to properly wrap his hands before boxing. You’d think this’d make typing insufferable, but I don’t type using a structured Mavis Beacon style touch typing approach. So while my left thumb rests right by the spacebar, it never really sets print on the keyboard. “Sets print”? I wasn’t sure either. My thumb’s hardly gonna set foot, but I’m not entirely sure what that part of my thumb is called. The pad perhaps? What does Google say? Obviously I was indicating the second phalanx (duh. it’s not like we’re talking about metacarpals like some AMATEUR FUCKING MORONS AMIRITE?), but the fleshy part rather than the nail. “Print” will have to do for now. Anyway, it’s sore. Not prohibitively so, but just enough to justify complaining. Since this is my space and I can do what I want, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.

Waah, my thumb hurts. I wish it felt pain free as per the norm, but it doesn’t.

Done.

Clearly you’re all here for these breaking stories. Hope you’re getting all you wanted. Frankly, I’m not sure why most if any of you are reading this. It’s been some time since anything interesting went on around these parts. I apologise for my lack of compelling life changes. I guess going to Portland was fun. Remember when I metaphorically took you on a trip with me? That was exciting. People were smiling in the streets. I drank a lot of beer. I had coffee in a reclaimed bus. Marijuana was legal to purchase. It was like being in another world. Maybe my life is feeling worn in right now because I’m not trying many new things. Perhaps I need more hobbies, or some kind of way of sampling novel experiences on a regular basis. Anything can get boring if it becomes overly repetitive. That’s how relationships find slumps. Perhaps I need to spice up my relationship with myself.

What could I do?

I could force myself to go somewhere new every week. It could be a new bar or restaurant. It could be exploring a new neighbourhood just to look at things. Or perhaps jog in a new environment (though to be honest, when I’m jogging I’m paying more attention to the music in my ears than my surroundings). Maybe I need to find books to read that challenge me in some way. Frankly, I barely read at all any more, so simply adhering to flipping pages in my leisure time would be challenge enough. What if I went to a library and got a book out on some new skill, then worked on that skill? I don’t know if I’ve made something out of wood since I was sub ten years old. What if I messed around with audio editing again? I’m a mic away from recording things. They’re easy enough to find.

I guess the unspoken truth here is that there are infinite things I could do to work out of this rut. The difference is whether or not I do them. I’m so used to reacting to change, having it forced upon me and adapting. Enacting change from within requires discipline, motivation and the endurance to carry on past obstacles. Where does that come from? What drives me and how can I harness that in order to regain momentum? It makes sense that the hardest time to see the road ahead is when you’re down a hole. At the same time, it’s the most crucial juncture in which to launch yourself back to that path. If I’m struggling at harnessing that will, is it time yet to ask for help?

It’s a pity my thumb is sore, I could’ve used it to hitchhike somewhere new.

Or not. Swallowing sadness feels like a valid survival strategy.

Maaayun, it was so nice having a long weekend to not be at work. Now I’ve gotta wait until the next one rolls around to once again get that level of fulfilment. I’ve got a whole three days time to bide and it’s gonna be a hard slog. My Big Sis (in law) will be in town on Friday and I’m taking the day off work so I can spend more than an hour in her presence. If she’s coming all the way from New Zealand, it seems worth loosing one vacation day from my holster. I mean, when do I ever take vacation anyway (he says having just returned from Portland a mere few weeks ago)? This Friday I do. Will, I mean. Anyway, October’s a big month full of things more exciting to go on about than my ever-mounting disillusionment about having achieved naught as I propel onwards towards irrelevance with each passing day. That’s not totally fair. At worst my rotting corpse will make for top notch worm food!

October! It’s grand! With the changing of the leaves comes a host of fun activities. Funtivities for short. Funtives for even shorter. I don’t know how you roll. This week involves Friday the 13th, which means I’m gonna catch up with my aforementioned Big Sis. That’s some excitement. In terms of local Toronto events there’s always Drunken Cinema’s Friday the 13th event. The last one I went to was bonkers. Absurd game rules that seem to openly encourage the pursuit of alcohol poisoning. I’ve always wondered what’s so sinister about Fridays? Why don’t we celebrate Saturday the 14th with the same cursed dread? It’s the weekEND, right? Endings are sinister. Or Thursday the 12th? You still have another day left in the workweek. Wouldn’t that feel like death for those who live for weekends? Why does Friday have such shitty PR? There’s just one restaurant chain that’s stoked about Fridays? One undead dude in a hockey mask has ruined them for the rest of us? On that note, does Jason even play hockey? What gives?

The following week is time to get fancy. Hush Hush Toronto is a library fundraiser that’s both hoity and toity. Last year I even bought a suit for it. This year I’ll most likely just re-wear the suit. I don’t bleed money or anything. I don’t know what the tagline “One night. No boundaries” means. It sounds sinister. Should I be packing a hockey mask in case things go down? Preparation in the event of a fight erupting over the last hors d’oeuvre? The theme is apparently “the beautiful landscapes we call home”. If anyone asks, my blue suit is specifically sky themed. I can pretend to have some modicum of class and that my life isn’t crumbling around me with every waking breath. I didn’t study acting in high school for nothing. Unless my inevitable career trajectory shoots towards becoming a super villain. In that case, my monologuing skills are on point.

Then in the final week of October, we have Halloween! The greatest holiday all year! A time when everyone looks as ghoulish on the outside as my life prospects are! I’m at least a little unsure why each of these sentences is ending in an exclamation mark! Can I escape the loop by asking a question? It seems so…

No, I still don’t know how I’m gonna dress for Halloween. Perhaps as the evocation of my constant dread? I’m sure that will make everything feel better!

On an unrelated note, maybe it’s time to go back to therapy.

Let’s get some gin and Jewice up in this bitch!

I just realised that we have guests arriving for Thanksgiving in 50 minutes. I’m currently in my underwear. I have my 30 minutes of writing to do, plus I need a shower. This is gonna be tighter than that time I tried to remove my polyprops after exercising in them. Serious graft vs host kind of stuff. I thought they were gonna melt back into milk bottles.

The turkey is in the oven! It’s been cooking away for a bunch of hours now. Turkey is my nemesis. This’ll be the third thanksgiving we’ve hosted and I’m crossing my fingers that this is the year we get it right. For two years we tried slow cooking it. It was decent, but not amazing. Last year we did our first oven turkey but it was pretty dry. DISSAPOINTED, as Kevin Sorbo might say. This year I’m taking a mixed approach. I’m pulling aspects of a bunch of different recipes in the hopes that it’ll all come together well. Conventional wisdom tells me that sticking with one method and following it to the letter is probably the smartest idea. Who am I to follow convention? We tried a dry brine, which was basically covering it in a combination of rock salt and baking powder. Here’s hoping it retains all the moisture. After 4.5 days in the fridge, the deepest cavities were still a little frosty. I pulled all the gizzards out, which felt like a daring dance with frostbite. I salted the interior then crammed it full of chopped onion, celery and garlic cloves. I zested a lemon (after years of lusting after a proper lemon zester, I finally got one in New Zealand earlier this year. Fuck all that microplane noise) and shoved it in the gap.

Next up, I got a stew going. Every turkey prep photo I saw from friends had the bird resting on a bed of chopped veggies. I followed suit, chopping carrots, celery and onions to make a nice little meal mattress. I covered it in chicken stock, assuming that the resulting medley would maybe resemble chicken soup at the end? Or at least give some flavour to the eventual gravy. I mixed crushed garlic with the residual lemon zest, pepper and olive oil, then got the gobblemonster all slicked up. Getting right underneath the skin and all around. This was gonna be some fragrantly pleasant poultry. I’m periodically basting it (around every 45 minutes or so) in the hopes that this year we’ll finally get that delicious moist turkey meat we’ve always dreamed of. At the last check (with 45 minutes of cooking left to go) the skin was golden brown. Internal temperature of the breast and outer thigh measured 165°, while the inner thigh was closer to 145°. Things are on track. As advised by the main recipe I’m following, since the breast is getting cooked quicker than everything else, I’ve loosely covered it in tin foil to disperse the heat. Are we on track for maximum moistness? God only knows.

It’s gonna be a more cosy affair than previous years. While in the past we’ve had unruly numbers, this year we’re down to a svelte ten people. My hope is that there’s still room to move in the kitchen. That we’ll be close enough to be able to hear one another talk over the din of dinner. That we won’t end up with a ridiculous overwhelming cacophony. That maybe we’ll create a space where people feel open to sharing intimate conversation. If the point of the evening is to bring together those who don’t have family around, what better than spreading warmth in bellies and hearts?

Plus it’s the best excuse for our traditional Manischewitz appreciation. Because what’s a celebration of rampant and brutal colonialism without a little bit of cultural appropriation?

I bet I know what Shania Twain would say.

First concert review in ages. It shows. This whole thing felt stilted and rough. Guess those muscles haven’t been used in some time. As always, when it goes up on the mothership I’ll post a link here.

Toronto is an amazing city. Its crowds however, are notoriously tentative. Massey Hall is an amazing venue. The comfortable seating and tiered views however, are awfully enabling for Toronto’s already tentative crowds. Future Islands are an amazing band.

No qualifier required.

It took to the end of the first song for the crowd to surge to their feet. No stuffiness or recalcitrance, just pure unabated enthusiasm. From the floor to the balconies rose a sea of people overwhelmed by Future Islands’ raw passion and blistering performance. Why? Because they encourage no less than awe.

This may all sound sycophantic, but if you’d seen lead singer Samuel Herring lunging across the stage it would make perfect sense. As in the band’s now iconic Letterman performance, their energetic live presence was phenomenal. Herring covered the entirety of the stage, whether through Hotline Bling style contortions, the Cossack Dance or sliding across the floor like he was diving for home base. His interpretive movements were backed by the strength of his impressive vocals. His unique voice oscillated between expansive notes and animalistic growls, receding to an almost whisper during quieter tracks. The rest of the band was more reserved, but crafted a full encompassing synthpop sound.

For the audience, seeing Herring’s unhinged performance seemed to unlock something within them. People were dancing, flailing limbs wildly. They were singing along, cheering and clapping. Frankly, with the crowd on their feet for the entirety of the performance, every song garnered a standing ovation. It was unbelievable, people still hollering and cheering well after the track had ended. The band’s most famed song, “Seasons (Waiting on You)” had the crowd clapping for several minutes.

Massey Hall, as always, justified why it’s considered one of Toronto’s most atmospheric venues. The warm acoustics were backed by gorgeous lighting effects. There were bouncing coloured balls of light and Moonlight style soft blues, pinks and purples. At times lights rained down like confetti or blanketed the stage in warm orange blossoms. Herring thanked the audience and acknowledged the venue, saying they’d performed in Toronto many times, but always with the goal of making it to Massey Hall. There was no question in the crowd’s mind. Future Islands had made it.

Before you ask, I would happily board a literal gravy train. I’ve dreamed of little else in my life.

WELL THAT WEEK IS OVER.

In a week I’ll get to write some silly Barenaked Ladies “One Week” cover. For now I’m focusing on moving forwards. Slowly though. My body has become wracked with pain post boxing. I woke up last night with a tightness in my core. It’s been tricky to straighten up my body. I guess that’s what I deserve for skipping abs over the past few years. Eight or so ab exercises in a row will do that to you. All these muscles in my back have activated. You know when you find old coins and stuff between couch cushions? I don’t, because I use debit cards like a goddamn human being, but a lifetime diet of TV has taught me that this is an issue some people face. Well my back is like that. I’d forgotten that holding up gloves and jabbing use certain muscles that’re rarely worked otherwise. My groin is super tight (did I mistake the class for dick-in-a-boxing?) and my calves too for good measure. It was silly of me to go back to the gym last night, but I’d just joined back up and needed to work off steam. I’d forgotten about the day after the day after pains. Well, I’m paying for it now.

It’s Friday night and to be honest, I’m big on the stay in plan. Unfortunately for me, I live a privileged life and sometimes opportunities get thrown at me. What I want to do is stay in and watch the Magic the Gathering World Championship stream. What I’m going to do instead is go out and watch Future Islands perform at Massey Hall. Yeah, it’s a band I’ve been looking to see since 2011. Yeah, Massey Hall is my favourite venue in the city. Plus it’s a seated gig, so any qualms I have over a stiff body fall flat. Still, I’m lazy both physically and intellectually today. But people would pay for this kind of experience and I’d be a dick to pass it up. Story is, I applied to review this gig last month at four in the morning while quite drunk. After not getting an email confirmation of my gigs for this month, I checked in with my editor. He said if I didn’t get an email, I didn’t have any gigs this month. Fine with me. After such an intense succession of JFL42 gigs last week, I’m quite alright staying in for a while. Then today I got a confirmation email on this gig and handily (or maybe not, in this case) didn’t have any alternate plans. It’s hard to argue with free (well, writing a review is a pretty small cost). I’m sure Future Islands will be amazing. We all saw that Letterman performance, right?

The rest of this weekend is fancy free fun. I’m gonna play some Magic the Gathering tomorrow, maybe head along to a Cthulhu/undersea themed rave tomorrow night. Sunday we’re going to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. Then on Monday, we’re hosting our own Orphan’s Thanksgiving with friends who don’t have family close. I’ll take any excuse to gorge myself on gravy. Why not two days in a row?

Cause it’s been…