Nuit Blanche: Installment the First

It looks like I’m just going to have to get used to the fact that every once in a while my laptop will need a vacation from my apparently toxic presence.

A few weeks ago I was sure it was dead – not just “oh here we go with it’s quarterly crash, better set aside a few hours this weekend to reformat it”, but full on “holy crap, reformat isn’t even an option on the startup menu anymore – and is that the blue screen of death? OH CRAP EVEN THE BLUE SCREEN CANT LOAD!!!NOOOOO!!!STOP MAKING THAT NOISE!!!” sort of dead. So off it went to my geekiest friend for her professional opinion. It seemed a lost cause, a victim of my apparent EMP genetics as well as succumbing to hard usage – too many long,  motherboard-fryingly hot hours of webcamming and multitasking is more than this little thing was built for. The verdict? “It just sort of works when it wants to now.”

Well apparently it wants to now, having taken a few weeks off. But rest assured I will never buy a new laptop again – a year max is apparently all I can squeeze out of these things. So for now I’ll web when I can, avoid leaving it on overnight, and await the next inevitable tantrum. If I disappear again, you’ll know this machine has suffered a swift, Office Space-esque death at the hands of whatever blunt instrument is most handy.

Anyways! Here’s what I’ve been meaning to talk about all this time, but instead may as well have been hanging out in a soggy, webless cardboard box.

Nuit Blanche! Yes, it (was) that time of year again when Toronto busts out with its free, all-night, contemporary art ‘thing’. Birthed in either Paris, St. Petersburg or Berlin (apparently there’s still somewhat of a bitchfest over its origins), it has spread to the worlds cultural centres as a means of artistic expression, both individually and en masse, themed social gathering, and urban identification. In layman’s terms: look how cool we are.

Last year was an unplanned, last minute tagging along to a series of fantastic albeit sometimes inexplicable installments, with poor caffeination/sleep logistics resulting in an early night. Anytime prior to midnight is a poor showing for an event lasting until sunrise, and frankly I was annoyed at myself for lack of planning.

This year was different! I went on my own, plotted ahead and mapped my course, determined to catch everything from the Inuit film festival at the Habourfront Centre to the peep show tent in the Casa Loma stables. Unfortunately the whole shebang is now so popular that many of the exhibits had lineups over an hour long. And so, I was forced to whittle in the moment, having to quickly choose between secret waterfall gardens and giant bouncy wedding cakes, post-apocalyptic tribal installments and giant pools of vodka. In the end some choices were good, some choices were blah, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves with a look at what I saw and a list of what I missed.

Here’s the first dose, just steps away from my door and through the annex, on my way to the subway through the core. Filled with museums, institutions, and galleries, my own back yard made for an interesting start.

First up! ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ at St. Thomas Anglican Church featured an interesting co-display of religious environment and song, set to the background of Galilean artifact, intended to draw visitors into the dynamic between science and soul. Or something like that.

Next we had ‘Where Have You Been In These Shoes?’, a collaboration with Diaspora Dialogues at the Bata Shoe Museum. Basically you got to walk in, have pictures taken of your shoes, tell random passerby a story about where you’ve been in them, and have on the spot poetry created by dialogue artists to share your experiences with the crowd. The display grew as the night progressed and more participants added their shoes and stories to the collection.

‘Music Inside Out’ was a ton of fun. Crowds wandered through the ornate entrance to the Royal Conservatory of Music, down the lush gardens to the newly added Telus Centre for Performing Arts, contrasting the old world look of the original building with the modern glass structure lit up in neon for Nuit Blanche.

There were a number of installations here, but my favourite was the haunted piano. It was nothing highly advertised, no signs pointed the way, just an unobtrusive volunteer who would tug at your sleeve as  you passed an elevator, inviting you to go on up – by yourself of course – to take a look. The elevator doors opened to an empty rotunda, a dark ballroom at the end of the hall with eerie music floating quietly, and you had to walk alone through the room to see the keys operating themselves in a disjointed, arythmic song.

Next up was the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum. The ROM recently underwent a somewhat controversial addition of a crawling, crystalline structure to the more traditional architecture of the main building. Many think it an eyesore, but I happen to like it.

The lineup, however, was not so enjoyable. At least the surroundings outside and on the way in were entertaining.

The installment here was a display of photos from the years of Vanity Fair 1913 – 2008, opened to the public with waived admission for the nights event. It was nice, but not worth the hour long lineup – I had more fun outside than inside! I didn’t personally take any pictures of the photos themselves because it seemed discouraged, but here’s a look from others’ points of view.

image from blogto.com

image from styleblog.ca

Since I spent so much time here, I decided to skip the ‘Overture to Parallel Nippon’ at the Japan Foundation across the street. Apparently it was some sort of architecture fest mixed with sound and visual, and it seemed like quite a party from across the street. But as for me, I headed down into the subway at this point, at the renovated Museum station, southbound for the downtown core.

Next up – City Hall, Yonge Street, the Financial District, and the busiest hours of the night!

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Back to School, America

You may have heard news of this little speech dealio that occurred yesterday afternoon. Oh you know, nothing major. Just the president of America having a little sit-down with the youth of the nation. A little pep talk, as it were. Do your best and all that jazz. Probably not the first President to ever do so.
However, he may be the first to be greeted with parents pulling their kids out of school for wanton fear that he’d warp their mushy little brains with his left wing agenda.  Really folks, do you so distrust your own parenting that you honestly think that a fifteen minute exposure to someone who’s views you disagree with will destroy their little morals forever and undo years of tireless value-instilling?
Here, take a quick gander. If you want, you can see the whole 15 minute shebang here, but for a brief taste that really speaks volumes about his “agenda”, here’s a brief segment.
I don’t get it guys. I really don’t understand what the problem is. I’m not even talking about this particular speech here. This goes beyond that, to the atmosphere of absolute media hysteria that I feel trembling up from our southern border. This is what you’re worried about?! And this is something that Josh and I have discussed at great length, another clear indication of the difference in our cultures. Why do you panic at the thought of understanding another point of view?
For example, let’s get away from politics for a second, and talk about another frequent point of difference and disagreement. Yeah, let’s do it, let’s talk religion.
Do you know where I learned about Buddhism and Islam? Theism, Antitheism, Agnosticism? In my Roman Catholic high school. Yeah, yeah, I wore the kilt. And they taught us not just the Bible, but provided access to other teachings as well. We learned not just Creation – although it was the obvious favourite – but Evolution. We learned other theories, teachings, and schools of thought. The Quran, the Torah and Talmud, the Bhagavad-Gita. The belief in nothing at all, or perhaps just a ‘maybe’, and even the basis for the belief of some that religion is outright harmful. We learned that you can take the Bible literally but that it’s not going to add up to real life (because, hello! Science!!!) And we learned that you can take moral truths from the scripture instead of basing your perception of reality on every single word. We were never taught that dinosaur bones are the work of the devil.
Let’s talk other issues. I was also taught not just about abstinence, but safe sex, abortion, adoption, sexual health, marriage, and all the sexual orientations under the rainbow. I saw brutal pro-life videos and articulated pro-choice seminars, and had open, frank discussion about the morality involved in either options. Understanding, rather than condemnation, was the name of the game. The girl who was brave enough to come to school while pregnant wore her belly as a badge that she hadn’t succumbed to guilt and fear, and was greeted with support, not shame. The same was true for the girl who decided for another option – publicly, the school had it’s opinion, but in the halls there was comfort, not mudslinging.
Let’s talk politics again. We learned not just about how our country works, but how others work. We learned the basis behind democracy, theocracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy. Communism, socialism, facsism, nationalism. If we see a system as inherently good or evil, why? Nobody gets in charge ranting about the terrible things they’re going to do in a few years, so what happens? What did communism hope to accomplish? How did it fail and why? Was Hitler batshit insane from the get-go or did something go horrifically awry? How do global politics come home? What aspects of our own system have the potential for abuse and misuse?
In other words, we learned to think critically about our opinions and others, and it makes me furious that there are those who don’t just allow parroting, but encourage it. Mindless repetition. Yes, I went to a religious school, and the leanings were definitely towards the morality our parents evidently wanted us to learn. But we weren’t sheltered from the rest of the world for fear that it would negate all their teachings.  We were encouraged to learn, to form opinions based on information and analytical thought, not repetitive propaganda. How can you have faith in what you believe, be it politics, religion or otherwise, if you can’t withstand criticism? And how can you criticize others if you don’t know where they’re coming from? How do you cover the ears of your children and then expect them to learn?
This is why I don’t understand the fear, hysteria and sheltering. Not just pulling your kids out of school because they might hear a ‘controversial democrat’, but beyond that. How do you forbid evolution in schools? How do you burn books? How do you take the rules of your particular interpretation of one of so many belief systems and try to rule others with it? How do you think you’re right, just because you’ve insisted so for so long without turning that criticism inwards to see if you really measure up? How do you think any single one of you has all the answers, so much so that you give yourself the permission to rise above other human beings and condemn them? How do you fear other points of view so much?
Ladies and gentlemen, I just don’t get it.

Inappropriate Uses for Mayonnaise

So this may come as a complete and utter surprise to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of being graced with my presence during a micro-conniption, but sometimes things get under my skin a little more than perhaps they ought to.

Today’s culprit is mayonnaise.

At first I was pissed at Hellmann’s mayo, with it’s innocuous claims of support for the ‘real food movement’ and it’s warm-toned commercials featuring healthy looking, natural hair coloured people lavishing their appreciation for such a fine, locally grown product with more sincerity and emotion than anyone should feel towards a condiment.  I couldn’t find the Canadian version on youtube, but the UK version isn’t much better.

Imagine our version as less preppie and more organic-cotton-hip, undeniably aimed at the urban, young adult, go-green culture. I watch it and go ‘woooooaaaah Toronto’ (or maybe Vancouver, they seem pretty hip and earthy too.) I don’t mind this culture – I’ve got a solid food planted in it. I just hate being pandered to, and this is how Hellmann’s pissed me right the hell off.

Hey social and/or environmental activists, we're your brand!

In fact, when a saw a second commercial regarding mayo that pissed me off a little bit extra, I was confounded for hours trying to find it on youtube before I realized it wasn’t even Hellmann’s. I’d been blinded with disdain for them because I consider ‘buy local, eat real food’ to consist of shopping at farmers markets when available, not choosing one massive corporation over another. I am all about growing your own food or supporting Canadian farming – but not paying six levels of middle-men advert execs in the process. Anyways, with all this fist-shaking, I hadn’t even noticed an even more irritating culprit.

Miracle Whip.

Have you seen this ad?

 

Yeah. For reals, yo.

To get the full effect, you can watch the whole commercial here. I know, I know, it’s a pain sometimes to click links and follow them. But this one wasn’t on youtube either, and I can’t embed it in wordpress. I’m just glad I found it, so just click on it, por favor. It’s a thirty second commercial, and you’ll probably get the gyst of it about halfway through.

So! Continuing on then.

Dear Various Mayonnaise Producers:

You make a condiment. It goes nicely on my sandwich, in potato salad or in devilled eggs.  And these are all lovely, appropriate and often delicious uses for your product. However, that’s pretty much the extent of it.

Mayonnaise, the average person would agree, should not be used as a thick, fattening conduit for the voice of a generation. And on that note, what exact voice do you think we have? That we’re so principled about “keeping it real” that we’re going to get up in arms if you have the nerve to suggest we change the ingredients of whatever we’re bringing to a picnik? “Don’t eat the egg salad Janine brought, she buys her food from THE MAN!”

I don’t care how organic or special or real or hardcore you think your shit is. It’s MAYO!!! Nobody dips their fist in it and then walks around with their sticky digits held high up in the air crying “Death to Capitalism!” It just doesn’t happen.

Hellmann’s – I’m not a total hippie, seeing as I too have my fair share of over processed crap sitting on the shelves. But in my ongoing efforts to avoid being a hypocrite, I’ve gone through your website in an attempt to find out where you do in fact get your ingredients. Your eggs are ‘free range’, a term thrown around all too casually and often paired up with lush imagery of green grass, clear skies and sunlight.

We're totally on your side

By the way, this is considered 'free range'

Oh, and I’ll be damn sure to ask my local farmers the next time I’m out buying berries if they happen to have any calcium disodium EDTA. Yeah, that’s nice and local.

Also Hellmann’s, you’re owned by Unilever. Just like Dove, Axe, Knorr, and every other major brand trying to sell itself as something special in their ongoing effort to make a buck. Look, if you’re out to make money, just say so. If you’re of the opinion that birds are put on this earth to be cooped up and fed to us, then fine. Just don’t lie to my face about it.

And you, Miracle Whip. It seems you’re trying evoke the mental words of ‘punk’ or ‘rebel’ or dare you say ‘anarchy’. You with your smarmy faux attitude and slightly rakish young lady – can’t be hardcore with long hair, can you? Are you trying to be hip? Are your lined up little jars going to start sporting skinny jeans if this latest campaign to thwart your do-good competitors falls short? I say again to you – MAYONNAISE!!! You want to be Gen-Y? Here’s Gen-Y: we’ve grown up with the internet and enough information to understand how marketing is driven – well enough to see through your crafted appeal to our embittered habit of spending money on things that say we’re too cool to spend money on things. You’re the salad dressing version of buying an anarchist t-shirt at the mall.

So I’m eschewing mayo. Too much damn aggravation. Do you want to know how you can tell if something is real? If you can’t stack it on the shelf for an eerily long amount of time. And how to tell if something is unique, special, and ‘not toned down’? Make it your damn self, that’s how.

Oil and eggs, people. Throw in some mustard and get a blender!

Weird Advertising Tags

Do you ever hear an ad once in a while that makes you stop and go “wait, what?” I do. All the time. I am fascinated with advertising in that it’s really no more than a brilliant, manipulative – almost brainwashing, really – tactic to push our dollars around the world. There are days when I think I should have gone into advertising, but then there are days when I’m pretty sure I could be an expert sculptor.

I love good advertisements and will go out of my way to reward good advertising. Shit, I’ve got buy some type of kitchen cleaner. And you can’t test them out like you can with makeup (like the back of my hand looks anything like my face, thanks). Might as well try the one that made you think “Ha! That is awesome!”

But in my constant quest for good ads, I seem to hear a lot of those usually underbudgeted weird ads with the weird slogan, or tag, or whatever you call that last little punchline. Like that jeweller by the Buffalo airport, where a diamond won’t cost you “an arm and a leg” (mannequin limbs jostled merrily towards the camera) Really? Limbs? That’s your…that’s your selling point, eh? Okay, just checking. You sure? You’re sticking with it? Alright then.

“Garaga – a choice you’ll never regret.” Garaga does garage doors, did you guess? It’s not really weird so much as…well it’s sort of like starting your resume with “I ain’t never been to jail.” (And yes, I’ve seen that resume, on Craigslist.) Yeah, sure, they’ll probably want to know your history at some point, but is that really what you want to focus on here? You won’t regret us, honest! Now just…just give us your wallet.

There’s a dentist’s office that advertises on the subway. Apparently they specialize in kids, and I can see how you would want to emphasize that. A mother wants to know, when choosing a doctor for little Johnny’s diseased molars, if the waiting room will have fun fuzzy toys or an ominous, massive fish tank that her kids will get yelled at for tapping. But their slogan was “We like kids and they love us.” Totally great and innocent until my brain comes along and starts wondering “Why the difference, the specific choice of love vs. like? Do you not enjoy the children as much as they appreciate you? Are you being swamped with little tots that you really think are just kind of – meh – okay?” And you’ve got to be careful when talking about your affection for children, what with pedophiles lurking around every corner. Or at least pedophile jokes. No, not the dentist for me.

This last one wasn’t so much of a punchline as a general idea. It was for one of those men’s de-grayifier “we swear you’re not just dying your hair” dealios. This slightly older gentleman is sitting in a well-appointed living room for a charming afternoon of reading or whatever. And these two somewhat adorable girls appear with great purpose and say “Dad, it’s time! You’ll make a really good catch for someone!” And they wave a box of de-grayifier at him.

What.

The.

Fuck.

Are you serious? Wow, what a market. Widowers CLEARLY in need of a babysitter – how the hell did those girls get a hold of that shit without his knowledge? Did they leave the house unattended at get it from the store? Did they swipe it from the shelves while he was buying their Barbie Bubblegum toothpaste? Klepto bastards! And hi, um, maybe it’s a little weird that your eight year old is suddenly super interested in your extra-curricular activities.

And finally, a commercial that while lacking in bizarre tags, certainly lends itself an air of “you can’t be serious.”

Terrific. Terrrrrrific.