Algonquin Trip 2009

“I hope something terrible happens that changes our perspective on life forever.”

That’s the tongue in cheek text message I sent to Geoff, the organizer of the canoe trip, the day before we set off. It quickly became apparent that the universe failed to pick up on the sarcasm.

We set out in pouring rain and it hardly stopped during hours of canoeing to a camp site on Tom Thomson Lake in Algonquin Park (about here). The rain soaked through sleeping bags, it created a lake inside our tent, and worst of all, it messed with a medical device that one of us sorta needs to not die. That sent two of our group desperately canoeing away for help before dark fell, while the other two of us stayed to guard the camp and await rescue.

There are some perspective-changing things that go through your mind while lying awake on a cold, wet ground, unsure if your friends are okay and how you’ll get out of the middle of nowhere. Stuff like “I’ll never take for granted how comforting it is just to have telephones around”; “how could I have ever complained about stuff like doing laundry, when I should be happy just to have dry clothes”; “I should just tell people how much I care about them, because life is short.” You know, the usual stuff everyone knows but often doesn’t really feel.

All of us got home safe, a bit earlier than expected but the short time we spent there was an exciting adventure that I’ll never forget. And the thing is, now that I’m back home, maybe I do appreciate being able to crap without a horse-fly biting a chunk of flesh out of my ass, but that stinky damp camp laundry is still sitting there unclean. Which perhaps highlights a defining human trait: adaptability. We can think and do what we need to in order to survive even the most dire circumstances with our physical and mental health intact. But once we’re back in cushy modern life, we go back to taking it for granted and striving for more abstract – and often shallow – goals than mere survival.

Still, I like to think that I’ll appreciate life in civilization just a little bit more than I used to, sweat the small stuff less, and care about what matters more.


Children of the Corn

There’s a commercial for bottled water on TV right now that shows kids frolicking in a swimming pool, and a voiceover goes something like: “your children don’t swim in high fructose corn syrup.”

The conclusion you’re supposed to draw, I guess, is that your kids shouldn’t eat foods with high fructose corn syrup, and should instead drink this particular brand of bottled water.

Here are some other things your children do not swim in:

  • Vegetables
  • Toothpaste
  • Looking both ways when crossing the road
  • Politeness

Yet, in my humble opinion, these should be included in every child’s life.

It’s such a dumb argument that I feel stupider just writing about it. But I’m sure there are millions of people out there who will see the ad and say, “oh golly, that there ad is right huh? My kids don’t swim in corn syrup! And I heard on them there news program that corn syrup is doggone toxic! Honey, can you go down to the store and get some bottl- DAMMIT BRANDON GET OFF THE FUCKING SHED!

Of course, the truth is that high fructose corn syrup is just like any other sugar and is only being used as a villainous contrast to sell a product you get for free out of taps in every modern home. Sorta the opposite of calling something “green.”

In conclusion, when I have kids, I will dunk them in high fructose corn syrup.

Joel Plaskett at Aeolian Hall, July 16th

Joel Plaskett played last week at Aeolian Hall. It was a fantastic show; the dude is ridiculously talented. For the majority of the concert, he played completely solo, just him singing and one of three different guitars.

Aeolian Hall is tiny, so everyone at the sold-out show got good seats. It felt very intimate, with Plaskett telling the stories behind his songs to the rapt audience. When people shouted out requests, he was happy to drop whatever plans he had to accommodate them. This sort of audience interaction, along with some improvisation and alternate versions of his songs, elevated the show way above a live rendition of his albums.

For me, music is all about emotion, and Plaskett really gives the impression that he is feeling what he’s singing.

He was joined by Peter Elkas for several portions of the show. I gotta admit, I’d never heard of him before last night (though he seemed vaguely familiar), but he was a great compliment to Plaskett’s music and humour.

The dudes even stayed around after the show to sign stuff and chat with fans. I shook Joel’s hand! OMG! But anyway, I highly recommend seeing Joel Plaskett live if given the chance. Best show I’ve seen in a long time.

Oh and I managed to win two tickets to another show at the Hall in August, because I am very skilled at winning random draws. Who wants to be my date?

The Emotion of WTF

WTF should be an emotion. There isn’t yet a single word for the sense of seeing something that totally boggles the mind; it’s related to confusion, but not the same thing. Confusion is aversive, while WTF leads to LOLs and a state of blissful unawareness of what’s going on. It’s more like confusion feeding into a jolt of happy surprise.

The Dadaists and surrealists didn’t quite have a name for it either, but they certainly understood WTF. While they wrapped their work up in a philosophical movement and reaction to existing art, it would never have caught on if people didn’t have an inborn love for the non-sequitur.

Many artists get their inspiration from dreams, and dreams illustrate that we all have nightly encounters with WTF. When left to their own devices, our brains rejoice in the random. We’re built to like it, and I suspect this serves an evolutionary purpose. Love for the outlandishly mysterious is part of the same drive that allowed early humans to figure out why the clashing rocks and the sparks and the fire always went together. It’s the same stuff that fuels science today.

We must celebrate the random. Bathe ourselves in nonsense. WTF.

Some more pictures from the internet’s leading source of WTF, Picture is Unrelated: