Saturday, June 11, 2011

with love, from peter pan

My brilliant and lovely friend Courtney wrote a very interesting blog post about the state of the dating scene for a bunch of mid to late twenty somethings. She wrote a beautiful and inspiring call to action for women to take control of their feelings and stop men from determining a woman's confidence or happiness. The post is nothing but wonderful and I truly believe that many can benefit from her empowering words. Sadly, I'm raising my hand and joining the "broken dreams club." Why? I blame Charlie Brown.

On the one hand, the future looks gloomy. From climate catastrophes to economic recession and from civil rights violations to banana extinction, life doesn't seem always seem all that beautiful.

On the other hand, we've been raised to believe that we can have anything in this world that we want, that we should dream big and reach for the stars. And of course, on my side of the world, comparatively speaking, this is entirely true and I would be ignorant to ignore the possibilities surrounding me. But believing in both a hopeful and a gloomy future can turn optimists into masochists. If the future is so bright and perfect, why not feel a little pain now? And on the flip side, if there is no perfect future, then why act responsible (to myself or others) now?

Those girls who are being hurt by boys? They're my friends. Those boys who are hurting girls? They're also my friends. My girlfriends are silly and my boyfriends are jerks, and I love them both anyway. We're all in this together. Some of us want to commit and some of us don't but we're all mixing together which leads to whole bunch of turbulence.

And for those in the non-commitment camp, is it possible that we are making the conscious decision to not grow up? Some of our parents worked their whole lives to lose everything to the recession. Many people are losing their jobs because entire industries are disappearing. The divorce rate seems to keep rising. Maybe it's just too scary to put time and energy into anything we might lose. It's less scary to have nothing. To be accountable to no one but ourselves. So while I'm not suggesting we disregard people's feelings, and I absolutely agree with Courtney that if we know what we want we shouldn't settle for less, I do sympathize for those jerks breaking hearts and those girls who aren't demanding more. Is it a stretch to say that sometimes it's just easier to feel sad?

Earlier I blamed Charlie Brown for this outlook. But really, I want to thank him. He is described as the epitome of the "great American un-success story" with a "permanent case of bad luck." He makes sucking at life as a well-off white kid cool. But the beauty of Charlie Brown is that despite everything he goes through, he still remains a romantic. And although I gave up on the American Dream and forgot about Happily Ever After, I have a lot of other things in my life that make me continue to believe in love, starting with friendships and family. We're human. We're bound to hurt other people, act selfish, cheat and lie. But as long as we're still capable of experiencing love as an emotion, we're not so bad. And heartbreak is a good sign that we're still feeling.

(And for the record, I'm a huge sap)

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Having gone to school for science was both a blessing and a curse. In a way, the scientific method and the quest for an absolute truth can be as comforting as a strong religious belief. It's a way in which to view the world. It's believing in something. Science, God. Isn't it the same? The scientific method is to an extent as unreliable as what they call 'blind faith.' Even when all variables and factors have been manipulated or controlled it is still extremely difficult to conclude with utmost certainty that something is so. We've gone for years believing one thing, and then a new method reveals that we were wrong all along. How we look at things and measure things and even how we think about the results we want to achieve can affect what we claim something to be. Although we strive to be impartial, we are not. And neither are our methods.

Now, this is not to say that I don't think science is useful. Of course science can tell us things, and a lot of the time, they are probably 'true.' But what I'm trying to get across is that our world is divided (and maybe has always been divided) into two camps: the believers and the seekers. Those that believe in religion, and those that seek 'truth' in science.

In a world where so many of our problems are said to stem from the apparent disconnect between modernity and religiosity, and blood is poured for the sake of 'rationalism' against 'radicalism' I have come to realize that I identify with neither one of these camps. Although my own scientific upbringing makes it challenging for me to believe certain aspects of faith, the other half of my university education in the arts and my own imagination has made me come to a point where I truly believe there is not necessarily an absolute truth, but rather truth is a combination of perception and 'reality'.

Time is one of these amazing things where the idealist and the realist can duke it out endlessly. One way of viewing time is viewing it as a fundamental universal structure based on the sun and the stars and all those physical things (what's up Newton!), and the other view, suggested by Kant (among others) is that time is a form of our experience. For the idealist, there is no experience independent of the mind. I was raised as a realist. Raised to believe that I can't beat time. Time is money. Time flies. Basically, time will keep going, I will keep aging, things will keep changing and I can't do much about it. And to an extent, I agree. I've experienced how time has mended a broken heart, how time has taken a life, I've gotten marks docked off papers for not handing them in 'in time'. As much as I want it not to be, time is a reality and time makes me get up at the same time every morning to go to work, because I can't be late. Our whole world is structured around time. Time pretty much kicks ass around here. But then again...maybe I can manipulate time. When I'm doing something enjoyable, time does not control me. I don't think about it, I don't care about it and I don't worry about it. But when I'm bored or in pain or stressed, time is the only thing on my mind. When will this day end? When will I feel better? And time has control over me. 60 minutes can feel like a lifetime, or can simply feel like a space where a feeling is experienced, where quantity is irrelevant. It is a where, not a when. It's like being with someone who you connect with. If you're really connecting you can talk or be together for hours on end, and it might not be until the sun rises that you realize how much time has gone by. Or listening to a great vinyl. Sometimes it's unbelievable that it's already time to change the side.

We can manipulate time by doing things that make it irrelevant. And my understanding of time explains how I see the world, and how I see this great divide between the believers and the seekers. I can see both sides. Time reminds me of this. Whenever my habit to use reason makes me question how some people live their lives , I try to remind myself how easily our minds can create realities, and these realities affect every decision we make. Wars are fought based on opposing truths. And if people are willing to die for things they believe in, can we tell them that their beliefs aren't true? This kind of talk can lead me towards the discussion of morality, which is a subject I talk about a little but even though I don't really know where I stand in terms of what is moral or not. My instinct tells me there is right and wrong, but I'm not sure if this is implicit in humanity or something that society has instilled in me. Are we inherently evil? Nonetheless, I believe that religions and belief systems all have one thing in common: belief that they are 'right', and this belief becomes reality.

There are no battles of ultimate right and wrong, but rather battles between worlds with different sets of rights and wrongs. This is why we will always have war, intellectual or physical. If there was an ultimate truth, humanity should have unanimously arrived at it already and we would all believe the same things. But we haven't, and we never will.

*Check out how one person is trying to manipulate time: *

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


For any of those close to me, you know my tendency to be completely enthralled with an album without having any desire to listen to anything else for a while.

There have been many albums that have stayed with me in such a way, and for those of you who have experienced a similar thing will maybe understand how the albums become soundtracks to a certain chapter in your life. I can listen to an album and be taken back to that time in my life. And somehow that album, the lyrics, the sound, it all perfectly complements my life at that time. The world's best music supervisor couldn't have placed it better.

Is this because music effects the way that I behave, or do I subconsciously choose what music I need in my life?

When Is This It? by The Strokes was released I, like the album, was rambunctious, gritty, but at the same time still fresh. I was bouncing through high school parties to the beat of "The Modern Age" and groggily reflecting growing up, boys, and the general malaise that accompanies being an awkward teenager to "Is This It" after a night of keg-stands and beer bongs. I was your regular teenager, doing all the things teenagers have been doing for years, but yet I, and we, the Generation Y, or whatever the new age term is for us kids, were also different than our parents, just like how The Strokes were beginning a different chapter of rock music. They call us the Peter Pan generation, hopelessly trying to delay adulthood. And indie rock, although it had started twenty years before, took a turn when Is This It? was released. The rock and roll lifestyle became our anthem. Next, bands like Tokyo Police Club (who cite The Strokes as an influence) began playing shows here in Toronto and their shows created a kind of scene, the kind of scene that makes you always think about the night before.."last nite".

This is not to say that I only listened to this genre of music. Or that I only ever partied. Of course I listened to many other albums with a completely different vibe in this same period of my life. But other albums make me think about moving away from home, missing my family, breakups, loneliness, academia. My point is how albums can highlight aspects of your past. Almost like a snapshot of every moment that matches the feel of an album.

I've been reflecting a lot about 2010 as of late. It's the last month of the year so I suppose that's normal. Also because I am in the midst of preparing my Best of 2010 list. There have been some amazing albums this year but one album that will make me remember this year will most certainly be the Mimicking Birds LP.

If you haven't listened, you must. It's painstakingly beautiful. Simple, reflective, calm, and intimate. It's been a year of change for me. I've graduated university, thinking about where I'm going, who I am, all that sappy stuff. And this album has been there for me because it can be anything you want it to be. You can listen to it and feel content and calm and it can be wonderful background music, but if you focus on it and listen closely it's also incredibly complicated. And I think that's what this year has been for me. Feeling content at times, and completely absorbed in thought at other times, in such a way that I feel like my brain is an endless ball of thread entangled in knots and coils. This year has gone by so incredibly fast at times, like I'm standing on a subway platform watching the train woosh by me, yet I feel like it's been quite the journey to get here.

But, like this album, I can't deny that 2010 has been beautiful. Sometimes dark, sometimes light, but always real.

"I'm one in six billion no way I'm at fault
I swear it's not me I'm too small
And growing all the time
Can't reach yea such a sweet lie
Hard knowing whatcha gonna be like" - Mimicking Birds

Thursday, November 11, 2010

people are strang(ers)


"the search for an ideal mate is in reality a quest for alienated facets of the self. we shape an image of our unrealized self and then project it onto another person"

Why is it that we often find ourselves surprised by other peoples' behaviours? After 'knowing' someone for years, whether knowing them in a romantic or a platonic way, they do something that sparks one of the following common phrases: "that is so unlike him/her", "how out of character".

It appears as though we are constantly trying to reach consistency in our lives. Consistent money flow, consistent creativity, consistent spontaneity, consistent relationships, etc. And I think we also seek consistency in others.

Instead of loving a person for everything they are, good and bad, people tend to love only for the good. And worse, you tend to love yourself only for the good and despise yourself when you're not exactly who you want to be.

These particular lyrics in a song by Fleet Foxes always speak to me, " I'm turning myself to a demon / I don't know what I have done / I'm turning myself to a demon." It's true that at times I find that I am very capable of turning into a monster, demonizing others, or demonizing myself. I tend to write a lot about morality, and I find that perhaps it's possible for us to try too hard to be perfect human beings. We should perhaps not be so hard on ourselves when we haven't become exactly who we want to become. And we will probably never become our ideal selves.

Abraham Maslow came up with this theory called the "hierarchy of needs." Essentially, we as humans have certain needs that need to be fulfilled. And the very highest need that we strive for is what he calls self-actualization, or what I like to call the Hollywood Ending. If there was a movie playing of your life, and the assumption is that it will end happily ever after, at the end, you've reached self-actualization - all your dreams have come true, you have found 'the one', your career is where you want it, you are at the peak of your creativity, you hold no prejudices, don't hold back, and are completely content with yourself and the world. And there's an epic soundtrack to boot.

I think Maslow's definitely onto something...I think people do strive for this. But does it exist? And does striving for self-actualization only cause disappointment? What about resentment?

We start to resent others for what they have and we don't. They have a better career. They have a steady relationship. They are more creative. We hold people in such high regard, and then when they disappoint us, when lovers and friends disappoint us, we believe it's their fault. Because we believe in perfection, we set ourselves up for disappointment?

When someone you respect does something bad, it's considered "out of character" But is it? Or is it part of their character? Perhaps it's more realistic to assume that "it", this demon-like behaviour, is part of all of us. That there are probably very few people who claim to feel self-actualized. We are all trying to get there, and that we should begin to see people and ourselves for who they and we are. Flawed. After all, Eve ate the apple, and Adam was dumb enough (or just human enough) to follow suit. Our entire existence in terms of mythology is based upon imperfection and attempting to overcome imperfection. And about one third of us looks up to a guy who was able to walk on water. Talk about high standards.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't strive to be better people, because if we didn't have a vision for something better we wouldn't have hope, and we wouldn't have hope, well, to be frank, we'd be fucked.

I guess the bottom line is, let's believe in ourselves and our friends, but let's also keep our cool if either of us or both of us screw us over.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Album

The universe will expand forever (if you don't believe me read here).

One of my professors once said that humans have always struggled with the notion that we are finite creates in an infinite universe. Not only is the universe infinite now, but it is infinitely expanding. Mind. Blowing.

In an earlier blog post, "When current pulls you under" I explored the overwhelming feelings that accompany growing up in this information overloaded day and age. As someone who likes to drink life in as passionately and anxiously as a child opening up presents on Christmas, and as someone who should never be taken to all you can eat buffets (because I will feel the need to try absolutely everything), I am especially prone to this anxiety of not getting to all the music in the world before I eventually bite the dust. What great musical treat am I missing out on right now?

Music in relation to my lifetime is essentially as infinite as the universe is in relationship to humankind. If I live for another 60 years I have approximately another 525 948 hours to live. Now - I'm really only awake for 350 000 of those years, and with a 40 hour per week job I only have 115 000 hours of my life left. Assuming an album is about an hour long, I basically can only listen to about 115 000 albums, but that means that I can't repeat a single album, which is next to impossible if I happen to love it. Which already means that I couldn't even listen to all of the albums in the world's largest record collection. Devastating!

When confronted with this reality, I can do one of 2 things: 1. Go absolutely nuts trying to get to as much as I possibly can or 2. Cherish what life brings my way.

With that said, although my lust for life makes me anxiety prone, I do know how to stay faithful to those records (or Nutella) that I love and re-love over and over. I'll go with option 2.

So, for those of you who desperately sit on twitter to hear the latest, newest, hottest track, you can calm down: you will never get to everything anyway.

Enter, THE ALBUM. The beautiful coming together of songs, in harmony or in juxtaposition. The building, climaxing, and falling. The appetizer, main and dessert of a perfect meal in comparison to the mishmash of an all you can eat buffet. The glutton inside me loves the all you can eat buffet, but the connoisseur in me loves a good meal.

Without listing my favourite albums of all time, I will share with you three albums that I have devoted hours of my life to this year.

The Antlers - Hospice
  • Beautiful and sad at the same time, a portrait of love post mortem that pulls deep at your heartstrings, even if you've never experienced pain like the narrator describes.
Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue
  • This album changed the way I listen to music. Listening to it is like discovering the fossils of a dinosaur that we didn't know existed. The creation of a lost soul, and musical hero.
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
* Even though this has just been recently released, I have listened to it over and over, and anticipate that many more hours will be pleasantly wasted to this.
  • Almost a subversion of nostalgia; looking back on our childhood reminds us we've become part of the grind, all of our dreams aren't reality.

Friday, June 25, 2010

on killing

I recently visited the Srebenica genocide memorial in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I have no desire to rehash what I felt when I was there, nor do I want to describe the details of massacre. Both are gruesome.

Now that I'm back in Toronto, where G20 protests are considered violent, and a small earthquake that leaves no damage is considered excitement, most of the horror that I felt while I was in Bosnia has been buried underneath the guise of the common twenty-something emotional facade. The negative emotions that I've been taught to feel in this society are stress, sadness, and dissatisfaction. I suppose you could say that everything is relative. We can justify our emotions by comparing our experiences with what is considered normal in our society. We can justify using the words 'starving' or 'exhausted' after a long (?) and tiring 9 hour shift at work, because well - to us lucky ones, we really do feel starving or exhausted. But are emotions actually relative? Or is this logic another way of us Westerners to help us carry on with our existence as happily as possible, because attempting to understand the horror that other people on this planet face every day is simply too disrupting for our lives?

MIA released a video for her new song "Born Free", which can be watched on her website. The video was banned and discussed ad nauseam. Once you watch the video, if you haven't seen it yet, you may decide that it is unnecessarily violent, or that its metaphorical nature makes it too vague, and therefore not relevant to us. Because after all, why would any society, especially a society that looks so much like ours round up people with red hair and murder them? That makes no sense. But perhaps it's this insistence on sense that gets us in trouble sometimes. We try to use logic to understand killing. We use race and culture or religion to understand evil.

Yes, undeniably these things play significant roles in atrocities. But looking past these man-made definitions is much more frightening. Because then we see that underneath all of these apparent divides we are all human. And we are all capable of killing one another.

And this is why I think the "Born Free" video is indeed worth discussing. To me, the video illuminates the irrationality behind killing. The pointlessness of killing someone else just because their hair colour is different. The monsters that we can become. And to me, attempting to understand wars or murders or genocides based on race or religion seems to me an attempt to avoid facing what is essentially human or, human perverted by society - whichever explanation you prefer.

At Srebenica I kept asking myself, "how?" How is it possible for humans to do these things to one another? I cannot, and will not ever comprehend this, but I think sometimes it's important for us to at least try to understand it on a level that makes us uncomfortable.

Perhaps if we keep looking at wars and genocides in other countries as wars between others, rather than wars with one another we will continue to overlook a component of humanity that we all possess, whether it is natural or not. I am not sure whether I would agree that killing is an innate human flaw, with society playing no role in this act, yet I do question our continual attempt to understand killing in societal terms.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Expo 86

Get excited for June 29.

Sample songs here.