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.

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 Wick Snuffed Out

One of London’s oldest bars, The Wick, was secretly smashed with a wrecking ball on Sunday. The whole situation is extremely sketchy. The demolition started just before a meeting planned to discuss the building’s future as a protected heritage site. It was so rushed that utilities weren’t even shut off, and there was still beer inside. It was left half-destroyed, with debris falling to the unprotected street below.

I’ve only been to the Wick a few times, but I’ve always had a great time there. It catered to a different crowd than the Richmond Row university types (e.g., not many places would feature Dennis Humble). I am sad to see The Wick die just as I was getting to know it.

I have no problem with the owner of the building tearing it down if that’s what they need/want to do. But it didn’t have to be done so sketchily. They could have at least waited until its status as a historical building was decided upon; if it was really just a useless old building, as many maintain, then fine, tear it down a few days later.

But dude, look at this:

I’m not sure when this map of London is from, but there’s the Wick with its own stables, nestled among mills and carriage factories. I don’t know if that sort of history is worth taxpayer dollars to preserve, but it does make its eradication all the more tragic.

People say the place was an eyesore. What? I took this picture yesterday, after someone painted “save me” on the side, but it just looks like any other old building in London.

Of course, now the backside isn’t looking so hot.

I’m sure the owner has their own reasons for tearing it down. I do find it troubling that many Londoners support the move, though. Perhaps it is some implicit bias against the non-clean-cut image that the Wick and its patrons project. But screw that. I’d rather see 50 more places like the Wick than another bar pretending it’s in a bigger city, or some squeaky clean clothing store that tries really hard to be cool, or whatever.

Oh well. All this sketchiness does make for an interesting story.

Halifax

My last major stop on my trip was Halifax, where I presented research at the Canadian Psychological Association convention. The poster was about my research on the relationship between geomagnetic activity and creativity. Basically I found that when the earth’s magnetic field is disturbed by funky stuff going down on the sun, people are more creative. So, you know, pretty out-there stuff. Surprisingly, nobody really challenged it and most found it quite interesting. One person asked me if this means that there is something to magnetic bracelets, and I said no, those are a scam and they are stupid. I think maybe she was wearing one so that was insulting, but dude, they’re a scam.

Halifax is a beautiful city. I’d love to live there someday (though maybe I’d regret it come winter). Here are some pictures:

Apparently Halifax has the most pubs per capita in North America, and was populated only because residents were promised free booze for a year. My kind of place.

The Keith’s brewery is there, obviously.

Alexander Keith, who was a mayor of Halifax in addition to brewing average-tasting beer, is buried in this graveyard:

We saw Anonymous protesting Scientology. One sign said “honk if you oppose Scientology”, but I was on a tour bus at the time, so I just sorta made a honking motion in the air. Because seriously, screw Scientology.

Peggy’s cove, a tiny fishing/tourism village just outside Halifax, is gorgeous. Look:

This girl was chasing two ducks and some giant mutant duck-goose-thing in a prom dress. She was laughing as she tortured the poor birds, while other nicely dressed people took pictures. It was all very surreal.

Anyway, Halifax was probably my favourite part of the trip, because I did lots of fun things and ate lots of delicious foods and met lots of awesome people. You should go.

British Columbia

My family and I went to BC for my grandma’s 80th birthday celebrations. My grandma is as sassy as she ever was, and it was awesome seeing that she has so many friends that she hangs out with. I hope that I can still be that social when I’m older, because it seems that for a lot of people, being old can be lonely.

She lives in a gated community where people give dirty looks to anyone they don’t recognize. I suppose that’s the price you pay for making it slightly more difficult for criminals and hooligans to wander into the neighbourhood.

This is supposed to look like eyeballs.

We were in White Rock, a small place pretty close to Vancouver. However, when you’re driving around there, you never really know what city you’re in. One minute all the signs say White Rock, the next you see Surrey City Hall, then the Burnaby shopping centre goes by, etc. There’s no place where one city ends and the next begins. I guess there are areas like that here (i.e., the GTA), but I’m used to seeing at least a few cows between one town and the next.

See, not cows.

BC rained most of the time we were there. So typical of you, BC. Many of the shops along the main strip in White Rock were closed, with signs explaining “closed on Sundays and rainy weekdays”. I wish I could stop working every time it rained.

There was one nice day though, on which we went to Crescent Beach.

It was wonderful to just walk around, enjoying the weather and taking a few pictures. There were crabs under most rocks.

And lots of sea shells around. If you picked up a handful of shells and stayed still for a few minutes, many of them would come alive; hermit crabs would emerge from them and scuttle around.

I took this picture of the beach and a cloud, which I think is quite beautiful and artistic:

But reality is uglier than fakery, so I photoshopped it:

You can use it as your computer wallpaper if you pay me $5.00, and/or promise to back me up if I am ever involved in gang warfare.

This is a Betty Boop limo / hearse looking thing for a wedding that was happening on the beach. The driver explained that he rents it out “to weird people.”

The trip had many other highlights, such as learning what bum fluff and fairy liquid are, and many good times with family and alcohol. But I will save some stories for boring my real life friends with a narrated slide show.

Montreal

Montreal was the first stop on my cross-country tour. We went to see Geoff get ordained, so I got to experience the actual religious versions of all the Quebec swearing. Before, I didn’t know that the “‘ostie” tacked on the end of every sentence when a person from Quebec gets emotional was referring to little flour wafers, but Geoff had a little tub of hosties and they taste pretty good. Crisse, chalice tabarnac ‘ostie!!!

In general, it was interesting to see the issues with language that are prevalent in Quebec. Here, language is something that requires no thought; it’s a safe assumption that everyone speaks and approves of English. There, every greeting requires a guess as to whether one should say “hello”, “bonjour”, “hellobonjour”, or “bonjourhello”. Sure, everyone will probably understand any of them, but the language one starts with will colour the first impression given off, and there is always uncertainty over whether the other person will understand. I often felt a bit bad starting with English, but I don’t know if starting with mangled French would be any better (P.S. Education system: you failed me. Thanks for nothing. Sarcramant!)

The city has its own feel to it, with the unique houses with the stairs on the outside and the “mountain” always giving a sense of direction. The subway system is great. It felt almost like a teleportation system; get in the subway station, wait a while, and pop up in a completely different part of the city.

We went to two different bars that made their own beer – one was Brutopia and I forget the other one. Both were delicious and I wish they shipped their beer outside of the bar. Like to my house. Montreal is also famous for its bagels, and those did not disappoint.

Montreal is an awesome city, and I’m looking forward to going back. There is so much to see there that I didn’t, like the people who beat each other up with fake weapons while wearing duct tape every Sunday, and I didn’t stop by to see my entire family that lives there. Next time.

We Got a New Camera

So this is a photo-blog now.

The camera is a Canon Powershot SD750 and it’s very nice. It can recognize human faces and focus on them, just like The Terminator. It has not, however, killed anybody or time traveled. Yet.

I don’t like people much, though, so I only take pictures of dogs.

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Cuuuute!

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Cuuuuuuute!

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SUPER CUTE!

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AHHH!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!