Monday, August 30, 2010

Curatorial Hotties (Men's Edition)

When most people think of curators (if they think of us at all, which I highly doubt), they imagine an individual who is kind of pale, wears a lot of black, and places their hair in a chignon to accentuate their severe angled glasses. We are fortunate not to have the wacko artist stigma, but as our reward we are often viewed as bitchy, uptight, and pretentious. I'm going to be honest, we are probably all of these things. But most of us are also painfully socially awkward and we drink too much to compensate. Despite this, I am certain there are some serious curatorial dreamboats lurking about. Some potential contenders:

Here we have the current curatorial wonder boy, Jens Hoffman. I bet that sweater is cashmere.

Not your typical choice for a hottie, but you can tell that Cuauhtemoc Medina means business with that finger pointing.

Next up, representing my hometown, is the Director of Plugin ICA, Anthony Kiendl. Adorable!

In the adorable camp is also Hou Hanru. This look says, "Get on the back of my motorbike, we're going to Istanbul."

Hans Ulrich Obrist. Can you go wrong with a person known by 3 names? I don't think so.

Sizzlin'! Can we get an extinguisher, I think Klaus Biesenbach is on fire!

Now, my personal favourite, Okwui Enwezor, artistic director of Documenta 11 and all-around dreamboat. I have met this man. He really is this fancy.

Stay tuned for the ladies' edition of this new segment!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

In honour of life-changing foods

Last February I went to San Francisco and ate a pizza at Pizzeria Delfina that could not be described as anything short of life-changing. With a piping hot thin crust, sweet tomato sauce with a splash of cream, fresh chopped basil, and shavings of parmigiano reggiano, this pizza was the epitome of simple and spectacular. It was so amazing, I completely forgot to take a photo of it. Or the cold and delicious beer that accompanied this meal. Or the small and lovely restaurant we ate it in. I completely forgot that we were sweltering in the pizza oven heat during a random, 20 minute increase in temperature that occasionally occurs in San Francisco.

Life-changing foods are not always related to travel, but that is often the case for myself. My trip to Italy produced a number of these occasions - the giant peach on top of Mount Vesuvius, the plate of spaghetti with mussels in a tiny, family-run bistro on the water with plastic chairs and checkered table cloths, (another) pizza, this time a margherita in Napoli, and, what was perhaps the most memorable, my last meal in Italy. At the end of my month-long journey I went back to the first restaurant I ate at when I arrived in Rome. My appetite had become quite voracious at that point. In one sitting I quickly disposed of a large bowl of minestrone, a plate of greens drenched in olive oil (it should be noted this was not "salad" by any means), a simple and wonderful plate of spaghetti all'arrabbiata, and a tiramisu. It. was. awesome.

This may lead you to believe that life-changing foods are everywhere, but there is something distinct and wonderful that separates them from just a great meal. They do not have to be fancy, nor do they have to be consumed in faraway places. They can be comforting and restorative, perhaps even familiar. But they are foods that force you to pause

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It's Coming!!

I'm getting very excited about AUTUMN: that great, great reward for having survived through the smells, the sweating, and the skin rashes of the oft-celebrated season called summer. It is finally, nearly over. Mere days away from September, I've already noticed the subtle changes: the slowly waning daylight hours, and a slightly cool, fresh feeling in the air. Perhaps it is a sign that I spent too many years in school, but as September approaches, I begin to make plans and feel ambitious again. My mind, dulled by the August sun, smog, and heat, reawakens.

Things to look forward to (in no particular order):

1. WOOL. Wool sweaters, coats, gloves, skirts, tights! And especially scarves. Scarves for everyone!

2. Red wine.

3. Hot chocolate / Hot apple cider.

4. Pumpkins, carved or baked.

5. Hearty, meaty soups.

6. Staying in and watching movies.

7. Celine and Burberry Fall 2010-inspired wardrobe improvements.

8. Bike rides.

9. Falling leaves.

10. Two turkey-themed holidays in three months.

Goodbye summer!!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In defense of 20 somethings (again)

Okay. Enough already. I love you, New York Times, but you are killing me with articles like this, this, and this.

I'm going to put it out there. I am 27. I turned 27 last month and for the past 5 years I have had to endure an onslaught of overdramatic articles about the dire state of my generation. Some haven't been awful, but many are borderline attacks under the guise of cultural research. We are listless wanderers who don't know how to work hard and we can't find $50,000 jobs after completing our undergraduate degrees because we are lazy, unambitious sacks of garbage. I am terrible with my finances and I want to start a band and pretend that the "real world" doesn't exist because I am obsessed with finding my bliss. I am spoiled and directionless, buried in debt. My only option is to move to Williamsburg or move back home with my parents, where they will continue to coddle me with their bland suburban frittatas while I whine about my band and my finances. There is no way I could be a person with a Master's Degree who works 6 days a week at 2 jobs and gets underpaid at both.

This of course has nothing to do with the state of our economy. Or perhaps the fact that certain baby boomers refuse to retire. Or the growing number of graduates at post-secondary institutions. Or! Oh, or! That businesses are exploiting free labour by hiring graduates desperate for experience! Or, I don't know, the province that you live in just cut the industry that you work in by 92%, or that age discrimination is a legitimate reason to pay you less. Also, the world is like, totally ending.

I know, I know. My generation does suck in many ways. We've got a lot of useless jerks hanging around, working as laboratory specimens or being full-time server/bartenders at 3-star restaurants. But can you stop talking about us like we're all lazy sacks of garbage? I don't get paid enough to deal with this. Also? I already have an Asian mom to make me feel bad about my successes. I don't need this.

I love you Ira Glass

How much is too much to spend on a haircut? 
I don't know, but my barber Severin told me the other day that he thinks all the barbers in New York should have a competition for the best barber in the city because he'd like to know his ranking. I may be making this up, but I think he told me he's tried to trash-talk other barbers, hoping that might get the ball rolling. The only reason I think I'm making that up is because now that I type these words I can't imagine that he could've said that without me asking what barber trash-talk would consist of, and I know if he had told me, I'd remember it for the rest of my life.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

HIPPIES. There, I said it.

Upon moving to the west coast I anticipated I would encounter more hippie activity in my day-to-day life. When I setup my phone and cable the customer service representative gave me the option of a digital or paper bill. I said perhaps a paper bill to start (I was, and still am, very particular about receiving and paying my bills. I like to thoroughly read over what fees I have accrued. This is perhaps my Asian distrust and paranoia of companies creeping in again). My response was met with immediate judgement from the customer service rep: "Really? Don't you want to save paper?"

Hippies, I am sure much to their dismay, function like the middle class. The definitions of a hippie are varied and extend from the artistic bohemian, to the rastafarian, to the granola head, to just a person that recycles. In many ways we are all a part of or have participated in a form of hippiedom, especially with the growing trendiness of being concerned with the environment. Hippies drive hybrids. Elementary schools are chock full of young, peanut-free hippies raised by gluten-free moms and dads. Hippies stay in touch by using toxic, cancer-inducing cell phones that are partially made of plants. Hippiedom can be made into your own, and we are hedonists who have found a way to make hippiedom into another capitalist dream.

There are many positive aspects of this rise of hippie culture. We have made a fine mess of this earth and it's about time we start actively doing something about it. Organic and sustainable foods and fair and healthy practices for raising animals is also something we can all get on board with. Recycling, reusing, and composting is not new but is certainly becoming more widespread (vintage clothing and upcycling fall under this category as well). Utensils made of corn? Sounds crazy but I can get behind it. Though there is some resistance to this, the increase in alternate forms of transportation is also a plus. Bicycles make you feel like a kid again and riding the train means you can drink more. Sounds alright to me. 

While there are numerous characteristics of hippie culture I am supportive of, there are many things I have yet to make amends with, nor do I feel I should. Firstly, there is the issue of camping. As much as I absolutely loathe camping (I am a germaphobe who can't swim, has sensitive skin, and hasn't purchased a running shoe in over 5 years. Need I say more?), I can still understand the desire to do so. The amazing wilderness, the seclusion, the fulfillment of a need to "get away from it all," are all adequate reasons to pack your car full of dehydrated snacks and overpriced gor-tex. I am not one to judge you for the complete absurdity of trying to live like a refugee in an attempt to get back to a nature you were never a part of. Good for you hippie, those trees are something amazing. Wait, I guess that was judgemental.

This mention of gore-tex and judgement leads me to the discussion of hippie capitalism. I do not appreciate being criticized for being materialistic and superficial by some long hair who is willing to embrace his capitalistic side under the guise of practicality. The exorbitant prices of hippie attire are astounding, and the acquisition of hippie "necessities" are parallel, if not in excess of, my own desire for new dresses. We are not much different, you (hippie) and I (me). Except I have no need for convertible pants and you, for some reason, think that your Parisian adventure is a good time to break out the hiking boots and zippered shorts with multiple pockets (excellent targets for pickpocketers). I'm sorry hippie capitalists, but you are just as equally implicated in our economic downturn.

The antagonistic hippie also makes an appearance as the agitated cyclist, aka the belligerent guest at a party in Strathcona. You can recognize this individual by the amount of couscous and mesclun greens on their plate while they rant about both the lack of bike paths in the city and the overabundance of non-serious bikers on the current paths. They have been sideswiped by a car once, and like the child of an emotionally abusive father, spend the rest of their time furiously competing for its attention by challenging its existence. What happened to the affectionate hippie, bursting with love and inclusiveness? Riding a bicycle in this city is downright frightening when you combine aggressive drivers with angry, spandex-wearing, work-less-party-going cyclists. I am always shocked by the amount of entitlement and rage that emanates from these bike people. Is it not good enough that I ride my bike or walk to work, rather than drive an SUV? Is it not good enough that I wear a helmet? WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME HIPPIE?

The agitated cyclist leads us to the controlling and obsessive hippie that cannot show up on time. They are unbelievably obsessive about a particular aspect of hippiedom - whether it is cycling, eating healthy, or their annoyance for large corporations. But they love to take it easy, enjoy a cup of coffee, and spend an entire day wasting someone else's time. This is truly a fascinating faction of hippie, as their uptight nature does not translate to being punctual, making a schedule, or even sticking to an original plan of any sort. Who knew you could be simultaneously obsessive and non-committal?

This brings me to food and the hippie. As mentioned previously, the prevalence of more organic foods and products in our stores is a positive result of the rise of the hippie. Although I am a proponent of organic, I am not swayed by its invincibility - yes, it's probably better for you. Yes, it tastes better. But the standards of "organic" differ depending on the country you are in and organic in China does not mean organic here, and having organic foods shipped across the world produces a great carbon footprint. This is not a deterrent to eating organic foods, but a realistic outlook, one that is sometimes dismissed by militant food hippies. I love food. I do all kinds of domestic, borderline hippie food activities, like grow tomatoes on my balcony and make homemade granola. But I do NOT believe in cleanses and I think your colonics (or its dirty non-spa worthy name, enemas) are stupid. You can judge me for all sorts of life choices, but do not demonize food and make me feel guilty about eating. Bingeing on unhealthy sugary foods and then feeling immense guilt at your lack of self-control is not a reason to only drink wheat juice for 10 days. It is also not a reason to have someone shove a tool up your butt to rid your body of toxins. The extreme nature of these processes are disturbing. What happened to having a balanced diet that incorporates a diversity of foods? The militant food hippie also takes pride in strange activities such as eating quinoa at every meal. Unless you are Peruvian, get your quinoa entitlement out of my face! When did caring about the environment and your body mean you could no longer eat things that tasted good? Things that made you blissfully content? Things that brought people together? When, hippie, did you stop wanting to be happy?

Unhappy hippies can sometimes also be referred to as hipsters. This can be summed up with: "This food sucks, this town sucks, this bike is awesome, my clothes are awesome, I am awesome, you suck." That's all I need to say on that.

The shining beacon of hippiedom, I feel, is still the old hippie. Not the dirty old hippie, just the old free-lovin' variety. The kind that wears a lot of yellow, has gray hair, and enjoys a naked swim at the lake. They throw fantastic parties that are low on the general hippie pretentiousness (but high on the baby boomer kind), are in long-term unmarried and open relationships, and have wonderful collections of antique furniture, records, and art. They smoke a few doobies and used to do acid, but now are upstanding citizens with decent jobs to support their Danish Teak and African ceramics habit. The one major downside to this hippie is their obsession with May 1968, and the subsequent and continual letdown of every "revolution" after. This old hippie can be a bit hit or miss - sometimes they are just draft dodgers that got weird. Despite this, out of all the hippies, this might still be the best. Old school and all that.

Obviously, this list could continue on for numerous posts. I have not even touched upon the political zealot or protest hippie, the reformed corporate hippie, or even celebrity or hybrid hippies. The list goes on. We all have a bit of hippie in us I suppose, some more than others. But that's the thing about hippiedom. Some of us just learn how to not let it run our lives. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Um im Zauberkreis der Nacht

At age 84, Richard Strauss composed Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs). A leading figure of German Romanticism, Strauss's Vier Letzte Lieder, with lyrics taken from the poetry of Hermann Hesse and Joseph von Eichendorff, expresses a peaceful acceptance of death. Strauss's own death was imminent - he passed away before the premiere of this, his final composition.

Vier Letzte Lieder has been performed and recorded on innumerable occasions since its premiere in 1950, by sopranos as diverse as Renée Fleming, Jessye Norman, and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. I was lucky enough to attend a live performance of Vier Letzte Lieder in 2007, performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. But there is, for me, one seminal recording which far surpasses all of these: the 1973 version by famed conductor Herbert von Karajan and soprano Gundula Janowitz, with the Berlin Philharmonic. Particularly in her transcendental rendition of the third lied, "Beim Schlafengehen," the amazing Janowitz achieves something the other sopranos cannot: a perfect vocal expression of life slipping away.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Style Icons: Karen Elson

Oh, Karen Elson. I want to hate you for your ginger waves and your pearlescent skin, your rock star husband who is actually in a credible rock band, your vintage aesthetic and wispy 70s frocks, your numerous Vogue covers and for being the face of Chanel, and your beautiful and ghostly folk album. But I cannot. You are just that perfect.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Plea to Ringo

Dearest Ringo,

Please don't die. Because if you do, then McCartney wins. I We can't have that. I want to tell you all the ways that Paul is a total nutball, but you already know. He appears invincible - even when accusations surface of his attempts to toss his wife's prosthetic leg into a fire, people are blindly on his side. They don't know what we know, Ringo. I understand your concerns that he's got two years on you, but I believe you can ride this one out. Case in point:

Keep on, keepin' on, Ringo.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Style Icons: Kate Bush

Is it just me, or is there a palpable Kate Bush renaissance happening right now? If you need to be reminded of her gypsy-chic, fluffy-haired awesomeness:

Also, Kate and Peter, rotating and embracing in front of a ring of fire:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Billy Corgan: When Popularity Makes you Weird

During the nineties it was difficult to avoid the popularity of the Smashing Pumpkins. The opening bars of 1979 formed a continuous ear worm in our brains, its nostalgic refrain pulsating into the core of jaded youth. Indie darlings such as Pavement rejected the Pumpkins for their mainstream tendencies, faulting them for succumbing to commercial success (this was also at a time when indie really meant something, and it pains me to say those words like an old codgy record store owner with too many faded black t-shirts). Billy was not a particularly attractive fellow. He was bald, had goth leanings, and wore a long black uniform that veered towards the shamanistic or the masochistic. He was the face of a certain kind of 90s alternative, one in direct opposition with the growth of bubblegum pop. The Pumpkins would break up shortly after their venture into a darker electronic sound, following the return of Jimmy Chamberlin and the departure of D'arcy.

Then Billy got weird.

I cannot even talk about Zwan. It was too weird and depressing. Let's move on.

These days Billy is seen cavorting with all kinds of blonde ladies, stirring up rumours of romantic entanglements with the likes of, dare I say it, Jessica Simpson. Here he is with Jessica, obviously walking a few steps behind her like a total creep-o. Maybe he is envious of her long blonde locks?

Here is he is with LeAnn Rimes, Jackie Johnson, and Tila Tequila:

Billy was always a bit strange but romping around with the bisexual-but-not-bisexual-and-totally-not-lesbian,-okay? Tila Tequila is puzzling. Oh Billy, where did it all go wrong? More importantly, who is Jackie Johnson??

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Winona + Harry = Magic

I can sense that Winona will be the subject of many posts here, so let's start with something simple: goth teenager Lydia Deetz, having been saved from an unhappy marriage to Beetlejuice,

celebrates her freedom by dancing to Harry Belafonte's "Jump in the Line." Classic.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Style Icons: Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable

Was there anyone cooler than Denise Huxtable, circa 1985-87?

To be clear, some questionable stylistic choices occurred during Denise's awkward early teen and college years. Exhibit A: braces and brooches,

Exhibit B: dreadlocks,

Exhibit C: looking like Slash (note, here the blame rests not with Denise, but with Lisa Bonet herself)

But for those key episodes in between, Denise really had pitch-perfect avant garde style:
I don't even know what is going on here with the silk kimono/jacket/shirt with unnecessary suspender-ties, but I like it!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

An Irrational Fear of Condiments

There is very little room for condiments in my edible world. Up until my early twenties I ate most of my foods unadorned or with one non-offensive condiment. If I had the unfortunate luck to eat at a Subway, I would always get a sandwich with "a little bit of lettuce, salt and pepper" and nothing else. The vast array of room temperature condiments and add-ons were completely unappealing to my palate. Only a few years ago did I begin to eat hot dogs with a little bit of ketchup (keep your filthy relish away from me), and my ketchup usage is limited to french fries and occasionally on a hamburger. That red goop has no place on my breakfast table.

To this day I still find the liberal use of condiments grotesque. This is not to say that I dislike flavourful food - I love complex flavour combinations and textures, and the foods that I enjoy the most I would hardly consider plain or lacking in interest. This is a very specific aversion to mixing natural flavours with synthetic peculiarities. I am repulsed by the excess, the disgusting need to overpower a taste as opposed to complement it. I do not like it when condiments blend together and turn into a viscous discoloured substance that tastes like something and nothing all at once.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. I am not opposed to the use of condiments, as long as it is in moderation. Soy sauce, sriracha, and dijon mustard are all wonderful. Teriyaki is delicious, as are the classics, salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. But bottled salad dressing, you better stay out of my face. That goes for you too, Paul.

It's okay!