How far do I want to push this metaphor? If I tried hard enough, could I cash in on the lucrative key ring sponsorship market?

At what point do you decide that something has given you all it ever will?

Okay, that’s way too wide a question. I’m not sure how you’d define that into a focused answer. So I’ll start rambling instead. We had two bands play short two song sets at work today. The New Pornographers and Cold War Kids. Both are bands that I used to listen to with some regularity. I had TNP’s Mass Romantic and Electric Version on repeat for months. Fun, poppy hits with excellent harmonies and toe tappin’ tunes. I listened to Twin Cinema and Challengers, but neither impacted me as much as their initial albums had. When Together failed to deliver, my enthusiasm for the band petered out (a phrase which I only just read may date back to the depletion of mineral refinery. The mORE you know, eh?). I haven’t as of yet listened to their 2014 release Brill Bruisers and it’s unlikely I’ll hear the follow up in two weeks. I got from this band what I wanted, which has served me well. No regrets, but neither am I mining their subsequent albums for new, fresh material. In my mind, they’re petered out.

Even if you weren’t, I was pretty impressed with how I turned that etymology around. Self love, people.

New Pornographers were a band I enjoyed. Cold War kids were a band I adored. I thrashed Robbers and Cowards. A distinct vocal sound combined with innovative production and refreshing songwriting. “Hospital Beds” (which has an excellent Florence and the Machine cover), “St John”, “We Used to Vacation”- fuck, I’ve gotta stop or I’d be quicker to say “the whole album”- hit me hard. I fell in love with all of these tracks and they found their way to every contemporary mix tape I made for years. Loyalty to Loyalty had a couple of neat songs too. The ones I liked worked into my constant rotation. “Mine is Yours” bombed hard for me. The sound, more stadium oriented, was no longer what I wanted from them. Much like The New Pornographers, it wasn’t for me, so I stopped cold (War Kids?). So it goes.

I could name a stream of bands who followed a similar pattern for me. The aforementioned Florence, my almost eponymous Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, TV on the Radio. I don’t know if this is more a comment on the effects of wider audience reception, fame and success, or that I have specific tastes. All I do know is that at some point, these bands have taken a fork in the road where I’ve refused to follow. The journey to that tangent was fantastic, but we’re clearly not meant to go down every road we see.

Seeing Cold War Kids in particular today, the band sounded great. Previewing new material off their forthcoming album, the experience of seeing them live (and shaking the lead singer’s hand. They awkwardly didn’t know what to do after the short set. He’d seen me kneeling on the ground during the performance, walked over and extended his hand) still had a stirring effect on me. While things may have changed, the seeds of that which had called to me were rooted fast. I don’t know how I feel about the new tracks, but I loved them in that context. Would I feel the same with the mixed versions? I’ve got no idea. Are there gems hidden in their past two albums I ignored? There may well be.

There are some messages in here about persistence, trust and faith. Like Cold War Kids’ past two albums, I haven’t decided if I’ve got the energy to search for them right now. Maybe though, just because I’ve pushed a door close, it doesn’t mean I need to lock it.

The knight time is the right time.

I guess the big question is, how was Medieval Times?

I almost wish it was terrible so I could’ve called it a knightmare, but that would’ve been a massive disservice to an absurdly fun and wholesome experience. My usual M.O. is to pump the gas on cynicism, but I figured with something like Medieval Times there was no point. I was actively looking to have a great time at nobody’s expense. I headed there with such an expectation of excitement that if it’d somehow literally rained on us in the venue, our parade would continue unabated.

Speaking of expectations, let’s lay out what I expected.

I thought there’d maybe be 50-100 people sort of thing. A couple of knights doing choreographed battles and there’d be some kind of goofy storyline. Maybe some flagons of ale, a couple of chicken wings/drumsticks and some dinky little merch. This probably would’ve been enough to leave me pretty stoked.

I vastly underestimated the scale.

My girlfriend and I had taken the chance to dress up. She had a flowing purple skirt and a corset/bustier type thing. I had some stage squire costume I’d bought from a theatre store (because why wouldn’t you need that lying around?). We walked into the entrance hall and were assigned a table/colour. Our knight was the blue knight and we received blue cardboard crowns. We took a photo with the falconer (!) and walked into a large hall. Holy sensory overload, Batman. People everywhere. Hundreds of them. There was a deis with a throne where some form of lord was making announcements and bringing up people for paid photo ops. There was a large bar in the centre of the room and several smaller alcohol kiosks spread throughout the room. Wall to wall merch, whether kid’s toys, cups and jugs, replica swords, those creepy fairy/dragon/crystal ball statues. There were horse stables and a holding area for the falcons. It was all bright, colourful and fancy lookin’. I’m sure there’s a minimum number of beers one has to drink before walking home with a huge replica Game of Thrones sword. We’d gotten a little buzz on beforehand, but it wasn’t the purchasing a 1.5m letter opener level of buzz. The VIP customers with lanyards around their necks got to be seated first and the rest of us peasants followed behind once we were invited.

The arena was like a casino. Tiered seating organised by bright fluorescent colourful lights. We were led to our section, right at the back, with a view straight toward the king’s throne. Once everyone was seated (they packed everyone in pretty damn efficiently), the show began. Some waffly preamble about the mystical link between horse and rider. The writing could’ve used some punch up, but there was a FUCKING HORSE DANCING. I’ll let it slide. They did a bunch of tricks (as waiters began serving tomato bisque and drinks) and left the arena. Then we were introduced to our champions: The knights.

One piece of advice I’d been given going in was to raise hell for our team and shit all over our opponents. There were two factions, with three colours in each. The Western team: Red, Black/White and Yellow, vs the Eastern team: Green, Yellow/Red and Blue. Children were everywhere, so I couldn’t be as abusive as I’d intended. In short, I needed to be creative with my insults. The blue knight had our undying love and affection and we whooped for him as loudly as possible. At one point I swear he tried to throw me a rose, but it landed in the row before me. We let the little girl who caught it think it was meant for her, but really I knew I was the prettiest lord in all the land.

The knights played a bunch of games in order to get more roses. Spearing hanging rings on their lances, trying not to drop staves hurled between riders, relay races. The better they did on their rounds, the more roses they had to throw to the crowd. At some stage a falcon flew all around the arena, it was awesome. Servers dropped off half a chicken, some corn, garlic bread and potatoes. We got to eat them all with our bare hands. Then came the duels. The choreography, though obviously staged, was great. Literal sparks flew when swords clashed. A variety of weapons surfaced, from swords and axes to halberds and flails. There was jousting and acrobatics, and we got to yell shit at people dressed in armour. What’s not to love?

Turns out our blue knight was kind of chumply, but we loved him all the same. The green knight (the one I’d hoped to be rallied behind) was a certifiable badass and emerged victorious, defeating the invading barbarian and everything. The plot was flimsy, but a shitton of fun to play along with. Little kids were having the time of their lives, swinging around coloured flags and flashing light up wands. The food was tasty and abundant. All the staff played into their roles, ren faire style. The rare moments not spent in utter bliss had me wishing I’d gotten a job at Medieval Times when I first came to the city. How cool would that be? I could’ve maybe been a squire, learning how to ride a horse, swinging weapons around, that kind of thing. Instead I taught children gymnastics. If I could turn back time…

Well, if I could turn back time, maybe I would’ve just gone back to actual medieval times. Failing that, shelling out $40 to watch other people do it was pretty damn sweet.

If they were cassava chips, I’d risk it.

Sometimes you have dreams that you swear are trying to tell you something. Other times you get weirded out by your brain trying to sell you something.

Without further ado, my dream from last night, punched up just a smidge:

 

The shot opens on two hands clasped together. They’re swinging, attached to two bodies walking side by side. The lighting is sunny, with upbeat pop music in the background. Humming vocals, etc. There’s a moving zoom as the shot widens to show a couple walking through a mall. A heap of rapid static shots:

  • The woman runs over to a sunglasses stand.
  • A few quick shots of her wearing different pairs, smiling, goofing around. She gives him a suggestive eyebrow.
  • He runs to her, grabs her by the waist and swings her around, both smiling and laughing.
  • He tries on a selection of goofy outrageously coloured suits. All get a shake of the head from her.
  • She tries on a frilly pink bathing suit (guy shakes no), a bright yellow suit (guy gives the “so-so” hand gesture), an alien mascot costume (big thumbs up from him)
  • He tries on the frilly pink bathing suit she’d tried previously (big smile and nod from her).
  • They’re zooming around the mall in ride on scooters (still dressed in their outfits) racing with some old folks all having a grand time.

The static shots stop and we have motion again. They’re dressed back in their “civvies”, laughing. They up to a small convenience store which has a “Cascade Chips” display out front. The woman points towards it emphatically. Camera zooms in. Vocals in the music cut out, just the beat remains. Cuts back to the guy who’s nodding enthusiastically. Big thumbs up all around. Vocals kick back in. We see her hand reach out to grab a packet. They walk in the store, arms around each other’s shoulders, a bag in each person’s hand. Cutaway to a security camera, red light blinking, zooming in.

They sit down at a table in the food court. It’s a nice food court, greenery and a water fountain in the backdrop, lit by a rooftop window. They’re smiling, the vocals in the track hit their zenith. We can hear the faint pitter-patter of a rotor blade in the background. The guy pops open a bag and reaches in to grab a chip. The Cascade logo is clearly visible. The pitter-patter intensifies. He tosses it in his mouth and crunches down gleefully.

At that exact moment we hear glass shatter and see black garbed SAS agents rappelling through the ceiling. Music instantly cuts. Heavy on the SFX. Glass cascades (intentional) down around them as the agents land on the ground around them. Brutally efficient. Guns pointed at the woman, an agent behind the guy grabs his head and slams it down onto the table. The bag flies out of his hand and lands on the table pointing away from him. The woman is hysterical, screaming at the top of her lungs (as you would if something unexpected and horrible like this happened). The agent holds the guy’s head down on the table firmly. The guy is repeatedly saying “it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault”, almost feverishly. The agent yanks the guy’s arm behind his back sharply. The guy screams out in pain and continues his previous statement. A close up of his face, tears streaming down. The woman behind him is loudly weeping.

The camera cuts to a mid shot of the agent from front on. Arm still holding down the guy. He speaks. “You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?” (guy still muttering in the background). Out of the corner of the shot we see a feminine hand reaching across the table towards the open bag. A hand holding a combat knife instantly appears from off camera and nails the hand into the table. We hear a brief blood curdling scream before there’s a quick cutaway to a static shot of the Cascade Chips logo. The pleasant upbeat pop from earlier plays in the background.

VO: “Cascade Chips. A taste so good, it should be illegal.”

It’s finding something else to like that’s the problem.

I feel at a loss. Which is to say that I’m lost. I don’t know what to do now. Specifically at this moment, not in a wider what does it all mean? sense. I’ve got a limp self-propulsion that at the very least will stop me from treading water for too long. Right now though, I’m just floating on my back, heading nowhere in particular. I feel unwell in a very literal manner of speaking. I’m congested with a sore throat and low level physical fatigue. I happened to be working from home today anyway (so I could go to an Ear Nose and Throat consultation), so at least I didn’t need to be in the office. That sort of backfired. If I hadn’t taken the day to work at home I could’ve just had a sick day instead. Oh well. I got all my work done, it was more relaxing than being in the office would’ve been. I could mope around at my own pace and get loose-headed on NeoCitran. I also spent a fair portion of my down time watching Please Like Me.

I watched the first episode and really enjoyed it. I found its fusion of heavy events and irreverence entirely captivating. There was drama, but they rarely leaned into it without good reason. Bad things happening didn’t stop the world from revolving, they dealt with things and moved on, or talked around them until their impact gradually lessened. Hell, the first episode starts with the lead character getting dumped because his girlfriend knows he’s gay, even if he won’t admit it (they stay good friends regardless). Then his mum tries to commit suicide by eating a packet of paracetamol and drinking half a bottle of baileys. It’s serious content, but admits to the underlying silliness. The more I watched, the more attached I grew towards this tight knit group of characters. Somehow avoiding being beaten down by the world, it wasn’t relentlessly upbeat by any means, but neither was it maudlin or cheesy in any way.

Maybe it appealed to my underdog complex, but the show managed to champion the losers and weirdos without skewing self-congratulatory. The central character, Josh, is gay and they don’t make a massive deal out of it. It’s just his sexual preference, it doesn’t define him as a character as much as his wit, propensity for cooking or habit of trying to disarm tension with humour and irreverence. There are ongoing realistic depictions of mental illness, serious marital issues and realistic struggles of twentysomething life. There are also a multitude of dumb conversations about giraffes. Characters come and go, but they’re nearly always given three dimensional representation. There are meaningful friendships galore. It’s funny, sweet and disarmingly engrossing. I can’t tell you the last time I watched two seasons of anything in under a month, let alone four seasons.

Now I’m lost because the show is over and I miss it. It ended well, but I know that I’m never gonna get to witness all new interactions with these characters I’ve grown to love. It feels like a loss and I don’t know what fills that void now. Please Like Me was unique and that’s a double-edged sword. There’s a reason it stands out from everything else, but if I want to recapture that feeling I’ll have to settle for shows that have a few close elements, but fail to deliver the total package. I didn’t watch it because it had excellent fleshed out representation of gay characters. I didn’t watch it because it was a slice of life comedy about intelligent twentysomethings. I didn’t watch it because of its willingness to depict issues in a frank manner. I watched it because it managed to be its own thing and that means it’s gonna be pretty bloody hard to find anything quite like it.

So I guess, I dunno. I guess maybe I’ll just have to write something I’d want to watch.

I’ll be honest, this blows.

Honest Ed’s has closed its doors to the public for the last time. Non-Torontonians would find it hard to understand why the locals are finding it difficult to let go of a run down cheap department store. Hell, by now I’d be considered a local and frankly I’m not entirely sure what I saw in the place. Honest Ed’s was a landmark, not least because of it’s garish, carnival-esque signage. Orange, yellow and white, festooned with an array of flickering light bulbs. Honest Ed’s mantra seemed to be cheap goods at prices to fit. By no means was this a dollar store style enterprise, Honest Ed’s was slightly higher in price and doubtfully higher in quality. It also seemed to be the kind of place that was a rite of passage. No doubt if you were moving out of home for the first time, you’d get your mop, kettle or meat tenderiser from Ed’s. Then the summation of this rite of passage occurred if you managed to find your way out of its labyrinthine corridors. The place was like something out of Greek Mythology, wherein the terror of being trapped was enough to turn your heart to stone. It was enormous and comprised of so many sections. Dinky tourist stuff, kitchen utensils and appliances, children’s toys, exercise equipment, tools and cosmetics. Untrendy clothing galore. Legend says that if you ventured far enough in, there was a hair “salon” hiding out somewhere. There’s nothing you could tell me about the place I wouldn’t believe. Especially if it involved a real life minotaur.

Ed’s didn’t play a large role in my life, but for all the sub-ten times I went, it was memorable. I picked up a handful of things; a vegetable steamer I use most evenings, a sewing kit with a now broken zipper that has become a total nightmare in my ‘assorted’ drawer. The needles have spilled out everywhere and magnetised. The amount of times I’ve pricked myself trying to grab a hammer or Allen key are innumerable. There was the one time my ex and I bought adult diapers from Ed’s, but that’s a whole entry in itself.

This weekend has become a celebratory funeral for the store. A festival of art and local culture winding through the expansive lot. Friday evening held a craft beer guided tour. There have been farmers markets and trade bazaars going on over the past couple of days. Last night was the much anticipated closing party, complete with a mass of DJs, lighting and decoration. I’m not sure how that went, it sold the fuck out and last minute tickets could scarcely be found. I’m not bitter. Much.

My girlfriend and I explored the art maze yesterday, which was stupendous fun. Ranging from the pretentious to the weird, funny and stunning, it was an awesome send-off. As huge as I always thought the complex was, having the back rooms and offices open really helped widen my eyes to its gargantuan presence. Two separate buildings, four floors each, none of which seemed to link in a coherent fashion. Having a critical mass of art around helped disguise the fact that you were really just wandering blindly until you emerged into sunlight. Graffiti was openly encouraged and a ton of the pieces were interactive (like the light harp, an instrument you placed by running your hands through beams of light. As nifty as it sounds). A few exhibits involved creepy dolls, some of which were animatronic. Music, dance, scripted performance (including a fun piece about the last standing employee, written by a friend of mine). An array of kitch, as well as heartfelt tribute., To top it all off, it was catered by Collective Arts Brewing.

Soon the space will all be torn down for condos and another weird bump in Toronto’s history will be beaten into conformity. The Annex is being annexed. So it goes. Anyway, I’m off to go steam some veggies.

Why do they keep making Oscars even though D2: The Mighty Ducks already exists?

In less than 24 hours, the movers and shakers of Hollywood’s cultural elite will come together to bestow the finest honours upon filmmakers and actors alike for their cinematic achievements over the past year. I ask you now, why? Why do we continue to celebrate the film industry’s output year after year, when the critically underrated 1994 masterpiece D2: The Mighty Ducks already exists?

The story of Team USA’s journey to the Junior Goodwill Games, D2, is a rich tapestry of overcoming adversity through the trials and tribulations of high level competitive sports. A film so emotionally compelling and well acted that Entertainment Weekly mentions it “now includes token members representing both sexes as well as major races, religions, and regions.” Wow!

Sure, Moonlight may have brought a tear to your eyes with its inspired use of Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger” in the diner scene, but For Your Consideration, could anything match the raw emotional catharsis of Emilio et al singing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” around a campfire? I didn’t think so. And with all the hubbub about the Academy Awards’ lack of diversity (anyone remember #OscarsSoWhite?) what could’ve been more diverse than bringing together team members from as far away as Minnesota and Illinois? Heartwarming!

The Oscars have always been a forum for celebrating the truest love stories in cinematic history. Really though, while the budding romance between Jack and Rose in 1997’s indie darling Titanic may have captured our hearts (and The Oscars’ eponymous golden statue), does it really hold a candle to Coach Gordon Bombay rediscovering his enduring love of the game? Or his fiery romance with the steadfastly Icelandic Marria? Or his fatherly affection for star player Charlie Conway? When you actually think about it, it’s a downright travesty that The Academy never brought itself to gild what is unquestionably the greatest love story of our time.

At the end of the day, The Academy Awards were created to shine a light on the films that inspire passion, to make us aspire to reach for the stars. Sure, William Wallace’s “Freedom” speech was enough to lead the Scots against the English in the face of almost certain death, but could it have helped them defeat the juggernauts of ice hockey; Team Iceland? Not on your life, son! Just think, if Coach Bombay had been there to teach them that “ducks fly together”, maybe things would’ve turned out differently. Maybe Brexit never would’ve happened. That’s not only the power to change lives, but to change history! If that kind of time travel capability isn’t Oscar worthy, then maybe I just don’t know what is.

Look, I’m not trying to be controversial here. All I’m saying is that if The Oscars really cared about celebrating the best that cinema has to offer, they would’ve seen the futility of subsequent ceremonies from the moment the knuckle puck graced the silver screen.

Luckily we didn’t break the mould. We did do midsection surgery with floss though.

Despite writing up a big post for Valentines Day, my girlfriend/valentine and I didn’t get to celebrate much on the day. That wouldn’t do. Never one to shy away from a good ol’ celebration, I still wanted to do have some fun, even a day removed. I thought about what we could get up to. The weather was typical February fare. Leaving the house merely to go to a restaurant didn’t seem that enticing. There were no places we’d been especially chomping at the bit to try. Leaving the house at all didn’t seem overly great. What kind of activity was possible at home then? It was a school night, so hookers and blow would’ve been sub-optimal. Creating memories had always been the best kind of celebration, but what if we could make memories that resulted in tacit reminders? Arts and crafts were always fun. How about a totem to remind us of spending time together? What about some type of sculpting or moulding? I had it. We could get a bunch of modelling clay and make one another. Then we’d have dinky little statues. Sure we’d be smote by God for creating false idols, but who needs heaven when you basically have your own action figures?

It was really fucking rad. I hadn’t used clay since I was ten or so and had to make an emperor penguin out of Fimo for school. I’d hardly been an inspired artist as a kid and the penguin was no exception. Its back was all warped and it had human eyes, but all things considered it more composed than Beast Jesus. My girlfriend picked up a stack of different colours and a heap of tan clay. We opened the packs, rolled it flat and started moulding. I had no idea where to begin, but her suggestion of the torso was a good call. I got to work on this lump, trying to figure out proportions. I thought of what my girlfriend looked like naked and tried to emulate her curves as best I could. It was remarkable how the clay shifted underneath my fingers. I’ve got warm hands and they smoothed over any blemishes easily. I concentrated on certain aspects, the gentle shape of her hips, those cute little bones that frame her belly button. It was pretty handy having her right next to me. The breasts were something I wanted to get right. Tired of how so many guys tend to create art with these unrealistic basketball boobs, I aimed to represent as best I could. Not too big, but as perfectly proportioned as her own. I wasn’t putting together some monument to cheesecake, but a sweet little totem of the woman I love. I can’t tell you how handy it was having her next to me. A simple “hey love, mind lifting your shirt? I want to make sure I get your tits the right size”. I got an excellent reference, plus the chance to sneak a peek. The perfect crime…

Proportions were tough, but I tried using my mind’s eye as much as possible. It was fascinating. How far did her arms reach when they were hanging at her side? To the edge of her bum? What about legs? What kind of musculature do legs have? Could I create definition between the thighs, knees and shins? Did I have the right texture to her belly? What about her back? Was there enough flesh there? How big was a head, exactly? Could I shape the cheeks? Nose? Leave space for eyes without getting all uncanny valley (“my lips aren’t a third the size of my head, darling”)? Feeling the clay shift between my fingers, I briefly wondered if this was how FSM felt when he sculpted us with his noodly appendage. I looked over. Her version of me was flatter, with Earthworm Jim legs. She’d done an excellent job of creating textures though. The pubic hair, little penis with its urethra. She’d done some rad facial features too, it was all kinds of neat. I couldn’t get her to free-stand, despite all my efforts. While I’d initially sculpted legs I was chuffed with, I’d bulked them up in order to try and establish some literal balance to the piece. I didn’t want it to fall flat on its carefully sculpted cheeks. Either set.

How do they look? Well her legs are chunky, there’s no getting around that. Proportion-wise I think I did a decent job. Her face doesn’t look nightmarish, even if I forgot to give her eyebrows. I’d put such effort in sculpting a representative nose, but it was flattened in the process. I’m bummed that I missed her armpit hair, ’cause that’s something she’s proud of IRL. I’m stoked with how her hair came out. I decided last minute to try texturing her long locks and while I did it hastily, it looks alright. Her version of me is a behemoth. I’m maybe two heads taller than she is, with neat little flat “mannaries” and nipples. All the facial features are choice and the hair came out superbly. My little peen looks great, if I do say so myself.

All in all it was a really fun night and a hell of a way to spend Valentines Day. Plus now if I’m ever feeling small, I can remember that she thinks of me as a giant.