You’re Invited! Beer and Butter Tarts Launch Party!

party11

If I haven’t been around the old blog much lately, it’s because I’ve been working on other stuff – most notably, the first issue of Beer and Butter Tarts, a Canadian literary food journal, which features work by writers and artists from right across Canada.

If you’re in the Toronto-area, please check out the details below and come on by. Otherwise, copies are available by mail-order from Stained Pages Press.

We’re having a party to celebrate the launch of our first issue!

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014, 7pm
The Rhino Restaurant & Bar (skylight room)
1249 Queen Street West
free admission

Tasty nibbles, fab beer, plus selected readings from the first issue by contributors Dorianne Emmerton, David Huebert and others.

Copies of Issue #1 will be available for purchase.

Please join us!

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Lucky Dip – January 2, 2014

Yes, I’m trying this again. Shut up and enjoy the links.

octopus

I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get this for Christmas, but I’m sure it was just an oversight. Hubby’s probably just saving up for it. Or trying to figure out where, at 4ft across, we’d put it. This one-of-a-kind piece by Mason Creations is sold, but there’s always next year.

vincentprice

If you didn’t already think Vincent Price was awesome, here’s another reason – he wrote a book about his dog! Illustrated by Hirshfield, of course.Via Dangerous Minds.

yearbook Olde Tyme high school yearbooks, just as boring as current ones, except for all that hair! Via Twisted Sifter

smashscale

Ditch that whole idea of standing on your bathroom scale and feeling bad about yourself this new year. Instead – get all “Office Space” on that tyrannical appliance and savour the freedom behind the idea that numbers are meaningless. Via The Militant Baker

martinet

Steampunk? We’ve got your steampunk right here, Buddy. The beautiful nature sculptures of Edouard Martinet, made from spare parts.  Via Dangerous Minds

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How Justin Trudeau Inadvertently Convinced Me to Not Buy a Pink Tool Set

tools

“She’s not much into dolls yet, but she’s been asking for a tool set.”

My brother and I are discussing what to buy my 2-year-old niece for Christmas. Up until this point, we’ve showered her with pink clothes and toys; and made her quite a stylish little thing in the process (it’s no secret that I live vicariously through her awesome wardrobe, sending her care packages of clothes each month, mostly selected because I want an adult version of the thing). But as she approaches her 3rd birthday, she’s developing a personality with likes and dislikes of her own. And I’m happy, nay, overjoyed to buy her a tool set.

The item in question is super-cool, made from recycled plastic with each tool labelled with what it is (pliers, wrench) right down to the screwdrivers which specify a Phillips and flat head. The box is pink, with the tools in shades of pink, mauve and green. But as I peruse the Amazon website, I discover the “blue” version of the same set. Same contents, same price, but the colours are darker (blue, red, bright green).

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Join Me at Toronto Indie Arts Market

September web

So by now, most regular readers/followers know that I’ve spent the past few months putting together a series of mixed media markets, the first of which takes place this Saturday, September 14th, at the Gladstone Hotel.

We did a trial run back in the Spring and we’re hoping that we can create a regular place for small-scale artisans, in a variety of mediums, to sell their work to the public.

Besides running the thing, I will also be selling my book Kitchen Party. In fact, it will be available at the door, and if you buy a copy for $15, you’ll get in for free. (And don’t worry, I’ll still donate $2 of that total to our partner charity, the Annex Cat Rescue.)

We’ll have over 50 great vendors selling everything from fine art to comics, clothing to housewares, so please come out and show your support for local artisans.

As an added incentive, admission is free before 11am, and the first 100 paying customers will receive a 2-for-1 pass for our October market.

So please come out and join us. It’s supposed to be a lovely day – cool but sunny -  perfect for a stroll along Queen Street West. Hope to see you there.

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, September 10th

la-scala

This giant piece of artwork is made up of thousands of potted flowers and plants arranged on an massive staircase in Sicily. Photo by Andrea Annaloro, via [Twisted Sifter]

I’ve posted this to Twitter already, but it’s worthy of many repeats. WalMart workers in North Carolina stage an in-store flash mob. Fantastic. [Dangerous Minds]

That RuPaul, always coming up with some creative and fun idea to express himself. Like an internet series called RuPaul Drives where he drives around with various famous people, in this case, Henry Rollins. [Rocker]

New York Times food critics share their horror stories, and disguises. [Work Fails and Job LOLs]

And finally, two different takes on the world in miniature; the first a guy who makes dollhouse scale models of New York City; the second, miniature clay artworks on the outside of Altoid tins. [Messy Ness Chic] [Twister Sifter]

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Lucky Dip – August 29th, 2013

I can’t help it, I continue to be enthralled by Quentin Crisp.

Think about this the next time you chow down on calamari – the octopus (and other cephalopods) may have brains in its tentacles. (Border Collies of the sea, people, smarter than you realize!) [Scientific American]

“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.” The amazing Zen Pencils channels Bill Watterson.

ferris-wheel-long-exposure-6

Long exposure shots of ferris wheels. This one by Thomas Hawke, more on Twister Sifter. (Torontonians, there’s a shot of the CNE wheel in there too!)

It’s funny because it’s true – why is it that tourists love fudge so very much? [Gawker]

Three cheers for the tasty (and healthy) gin and tonic. Huzzah! [Slate]

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Lucky Dip – Monday, August 27, 2013

abandoned-house-in-finland-overtaken-by-animals-kai-fagerstrom-7

This brings new meaning to the phrase “Animal House.” Photograph by Kai Fagerström [Twister Sifter]

The above house is in Finland, but it could play stand-in in the movie version of Al Jourgensen’s war with raccoons. [Slicing Up Eyeballs]

There was a time where I’d be all ranty about bloggers taking freebies, screeching about “ethics” and “selling your soul” and such. Now I just sigh sadly and move on to the next news story. (But I will emit an evil chortle if it comes out that this guy living on free stuff does actually run out of toilet paper.) [Toronto Star]

The ocean is awesome. [Discover Magazine]

Because who doesn’t need a cardboard cut-out of David Hasselhoff? [Gawker]

3D printers are crazy cool, but sometimes, things go awry. [Flickr]

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Lucky Dip – August 19th, 2013

picturenecklace

Picture of the day – many pictures. I have no idea where this comes from (I found in on a Tumblr, uncredited) but damn, I want one.

I admit it, while I am adamantly child-free, I am a sucker for a well-dressed little kid, and have been known to contribute stylin’ outfits to my wee niece’s wardrobe.(But what does it mean when toddlers dress like adults and grown men go about in shorts and sweat socks and ball hats?) Also -  what’s with the aviator glasses? Are those back in for adults, too? Ick. [Buzzfeed]

Speaking of kids – not all of them are special snowflakes, and it might be a good thing to let them know that. [The Atlantic]

Bands you should know more about, but probably don’t – Shonen Knife. Really, you need to listen to some Shonen Knife, right now, I know you do. [Dangerous Minds]

Listen up hipsters – the hot new food trend is… roadkill. So get on out there with your fixed-gear bicycle and run yourself down some squirrel or pigeon. [Gawker]

The recent interest in Vivian Maier has provoked stories of other street photographers to emerge. Like these great shots by Bob Mazzer of people on the London tube during the 70s and 80s. [Telegraph]

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Lucky Dip – Thursday, August 15th

rose-made-of-galaxies

I’m not much for Star Trek and all that stuff, but when space gets its galaxies together to make roses, that’s something pretty awesome. [Twisted Sifter]

Y’all know that the thing about carrots improving your eyesight was a lie to trick the Nazis, right? [Gizmodo]

Turns out it’s maybe not such a great idea to bury 6000 bodies under the huge stone floor of an abbey because those bodies eventually decompose and shift and such. So workers are disinterring piles of bones to rebuild the floor before the whole thing collapses. Of course, instead of reburying those bones, it would be even cooler to just decorate the place with them. [BBC News]

olinguito

The discovery of a new mammal is a rare and wondrous thing, and it really doesn’t hurt if the little bugger is adorable. Meet the Olinguito. [Huffington Post]

Speaking of cool animals, when visiting a zoo, expect to get what you pay for. If the admission is cheap and the “lion” looks remarkably like a dog, then it probably is. Never mind that you can probably buy a real lion for much cheaper than the average Tibetan Mastiff. [Gawker]

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Lucky Dip – August 14, 2013

kanako

Messy Nessy interviews Parisian artist Kanako. [Messy Nessy Chic]

I love, love, love this essay aimed at young oddballs, and wish someone had written it 30 years ago, when I was one. [NPR]

Speaking of awesome things I wish were around when I was a kid – Makies, the world’s first 3D printed dolls, are now for sale. And they’re named after famous scientists/computer programmers (including Hopper, for Grace Hopper who was the “creator” of the term computer bug after finding a moth in a mainframe.) [BoingBoing]

Free Rebekah! The raccoon made famous for dancing with a “hillbilly” has been seized by authorities! [Gawker]

40 totally cool world maps, Plus one even cooler map made with a spirograph. [Twisted Sifter] [BoingBoing]

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Lucky Dip – Back Again

feelinglucky

Wait, what? Yeah. Only different from the old Lucky Dip column. Instead of links to food stories, I’m going to be doing a daily collection of stuff I think is cool, from articles and blog posts to images and videos. I don’t know why or how long it will last, but I want a more permanent record of the things that I’ve come across and liked than just retweeting stuff on Twitter, never to be able to find it again. (Okay, so it’s really like a Tumblr without joining Tumblr.)

It may not happen every day. At times, it may not happen every week. And I’m getting back to writing stuff for me, as opposed to keeping an audience happy, so this will be a collection of stuff that I dig and if readers enjoy it too, well that’s great and if not, tough cookies.

Or tough candy.

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The 2-Song Rule (aka. Turn Your Goddamned Phone Off and Watch the Show!)

savages_notice

In 1991, I stood in the middle of the Guvernment nightclub, house lights blazing, the crowd so silent you could hear a pin drop, as Blixa Bargeld, lead singer of the German Industrial band Einturzende Neubauten screamed at an audience member for filming the performance. Back then, pre-Internet and pre-Smartphones, bands had a genuine fear of people filming and bootlegging their shows for profit.

The guy in question was technically filming the show “for profit”; he was John Dubiel, a local videographer and curator of the infamous Industrial Video Show, a monthly event that showed, well, industrial videos, from official band videos, to old Irving Klaw S&M footage, to blazing robot wars, to the concert footage that Dubiel would film himself as he travelled around North America to attend concerts.

In some cases, he was performing a public service, filming and showing bands that wouldn’t or couldn’t come to Canada. I once travelled with Dubiel to Detroit to see Foetus, an artist who refused to come to Canada because of Customs issues. Other than the few of us from Toronto, hunkered in the balcony of St. Andrew’s Hall in downtown Detroit, keeping Dubiel out of view of security, Toronto Foetus fans would have to make due with the footage Dubiel shot that night. It would be their only chance, in that era anyway, to see Foetus “live”.

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Abercrombie & Fitch, Marketing to Fatties and the Death of “Cool”

cool_joe“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.”

Do you see anything wrong with that statement? I mean besides the obvious douchbaggery behind it? Mike Jeffries of Abercrombie & Fitch only wants young, attractive (thin), “cool” people to wear the clothes his company sells.

But are all popular, pretty people “cool”?

When I was a young teenager, which is presumably the target market for stores like Abercrombie, the “cool” kids were the ones who hung out off campus so they could smoke. The girls looked like Joan Jett, and jean shorts were only considered appropriate if you were washing the car.

The popular kids, the sporty ones, hell, the RICH ones, with a tennis court and a pool in the front yard and a 30 ft yacht moored in the back, they looked like the models in the Abercrombie ads. Very, very few of them were “cool”. They were pretty, had nice clothes, nice cars and were assured nice university educations, but their lives were too easy and too pretty for them to be cool. They were popular – they ran the student council, they were on all the sports teams, other kids aspired to be like them. But did they have that edge, that spark, that thing about them that drew people to them (as opposed to perfect teeth and shiny hair)? Nah.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

reader

Remember those essays? The first day back to school, the teacher was still setting up the year’s curriculum, ordering books, etc., and so you’d get handed a piece of loose leaf and a fresh new pencil and directed to start off the school year with the child’s worst enemy – the familiar essay.

We lived in the poor part of town. Nobody I knew came back on that first day of school with stories about Disneyland, or Europe. Camping maybe, but it was never one of those fancy camps where you learned French or how to play the oboe. It would have been a week at Grandpa’s fishing lodge (shack) getting eaten alive by black flies and leeches.

The rest of us spent the days at home, or at a grandparent’s or babysitter’s house if our parents worked. There would be trips to the lake (aka. a mile long forced march in the hot sun), or the beach (for this you definitely hoped for a drive, otherwise it was a 2-mile forced march in the hot sun, up a huge, steep hill to get home), but usually it was a “make your own fun” kind of summer where you spent the days in the woods, at the playground, in a wading pool in the backyard, or lolling around watching “stories” with Grandma in the cool of the living room with the blinds down.

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Perfum(ing) 2

perfume gas mask

If you watched CBC’s The National last night you might have caught my 15 seconds of fame as I was interviewed for a piece about perfume and perfume allergies.

Unfortunately due to a miscommunication on the specific topic and my own failure to research the correct issue, very little of what I said in the interview was used, and what did get used was out of context.

When the producer originally contacted me, I was told the piece was about a new law in the European Union that would force perfume companies to list the ingredients on the labels. In fact, the piece was about a move by the EU to ban certain (natural) ingredients that have been in perfume for decades and are thought to be the cause of an increased number of allergic reactions to perfume products.

So when Aaron Saltzman asked me if I though the ban was a good idea, and I near-shouted “Absolutely!”, I was wrong.

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Book Review – Overdressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

overdressedOverdressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
Elizabeth L. Cline
Portfolio Hardcover, June 2012, 256 pages

On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself sitting in a restaurant measuring the cost of my meal against the cost of the clothes on my back. This entree costs as much as my shirt. This tiny dessert, more than my scarf. A multi-course tasting menu can ring in at more than a pair of really well-made boots.

Like most people I’m inclined to blame this disparity on the high price of food. But I am wrong to do so, for the problem is not that quality, well-prepared restaurant food is to expensive, it’s that the clothing that we typically buy in chain stores across the Western world is far too cheap.

As Elizabeth Cline points out in her engaging and delightfully well-written book Overdressed, we like cheap clothes. A lot. Most of us have more clothing than we can ever reasonably wear, and manufacturers feed into our desire for more by creating clothing as cheaply as possible. Who cares if a shirt falls apart after two washes when it only cost $10 to begin with?

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Let Them Eat Cake – On Women and Their Relationships with Food and Body Image

cake

Dear women of the Western world, please have some cake. That’s right, get up right now, and go get yourself something frosted and gooey and decorated to within an inch of its life. I implore you to treat yourself, just because it’s a crappy, cold, grey Monday.

However, if you go have cake, there are rules. First, no hiding the cake. No sneaking it back to your desk, or hiding in a closet while you devour it. Eat that baby out in the open, and to hell with what anyone else thinks! Second, you must eat the cake and then forget about it. No making yourself feel guilty, no calculating how many extra crunches you need to do to work it off. Third, no remorse, after the fact, when a skinny girl walks past you on the street, and you start thinking about how much closer you’d be to that “ideal” figure if only you’d not eaten that stupid delicious bit of pastry and frosting.

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My New Year’s Non-Resolution – I Resolve to Never Run

January 2nd – the first day of 2013. (We don’t count January 1st, just to accommodate everyone with a killer hangover.) A brand-spanking new calendar, a good time to make a fresh start of things.

I have a weird relationship with new year’s resolutions. While I have done them in the past – quit smoking one year, became vegetarian another – part of me also really dislikes the idea that the entire Western world will get up today intent on fixing what is wrong with ourselves. It’s a nice marker, offering ease of calculation, in the same way that a small business might choose the calendar year as their business year, just to make things easier at tax time. But other than that, it’s essentially meaningless. Only the whims of the Gregorian calendar determine the “new year”. Logically, it would make more sense to tie the new year to the Solstice on December 21st.

In any case, we all get a little crazy for a few weeks in January, trying to become better people.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with self-improvement. Setting goals for the coming year, planning to cut out the bad habits and create new ones. But the motivation has to be meaningful, and it has to be personal. And ultimately, whether it’s the addition of a new habit or the subtraction of a bad one, it has to be something that makes you feel good about yourself.

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Sol-Cris-Nukka-Za

Well, the world didn’t end (in your face, Mayans!), and the sun is set to return. You can’t really beat that for good luck, can you?

Here’s to a great 2013. I’d say to a less-wacky 2013, but as my little friend makes very clear, less wacky = way less interesting.

Wishing you and yours a very joyous Solstice, and a Happy Crimbo.

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Alternative Christmas Viewing

Does the “bumbumbum” of Bing Crosby send shivers of fear down your spine? Do you secretly hope that when the little girl pulls Santa’s beard that it will come off and expose him as a fake? Maybe you even hope that Ralphie really will shoot his eye out with that BB gun. You, my friend, have Christmas movie fatigue. What hides under the guise of tradition mostly means getting stuck watching the same five movies every single holiday season, year after year after year. Apparently some people find comfort in this, but few movies are good enough to warrant such reverence – or repeated viewings. So here are a few truly alternative alternatives, most of which can be ordered from Amazon, or found online for download if you’re into that sort of thing.

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