i interviewed these guys (and why i love going to shows)

I’ve had some pretty good luck with interviewing bands I like.

Many music/entertainment journalists have to beg, borrow, steal and bribe their editors for that good “get” (don’t quote me on that – it’s just the perception I have of this industry).

But I haven’t.

How? Why?

First, it helps to work for an independent publication that is wholly dependent on unpaid* contributions from their writers to fill their mag. It’s hard for the higher-ups to say “No” to you. Not to say I take advantage of my editors-in-chief. I’m just saying that they’re more open minded about what you pitch.

Second, I go to a lot of shows.

Well, not a LOT – just, enough. I live in downtown Toronto, with the means to get around town, and I have a fairly flexible schedule. I have friends in the music industry and friends who enjoy going to shows with me (although I’m more than game to go to a show on my own), so I’m never lacking in reason or company.

How does this tie into my ability to get bands to talk to me?

I tend to go to shows of smaller bands, unsigned or signed, and I think there is some kind of mutual appreciation between the journalist and the artist in this case: the journalist knows the artist appreciates the chance to publicly talk about their music, and the artist knows that the journalist appreciates the chance to practise their craft and publish an article.

So usually, I’ll go to a show to see one band, and end up really liking a supporting act. I ask them if they have a publicist or manager present, and that’s where I get the ball rolling.

And although I’ve only done this a handful of times, I can genuinely say I’ve never had anyone turn me down.

My latest interview was with this charming band from Ireland, Nightbox. I saw them at Canadian Music Week and they blew me away. They’re a mix of Canadian, Irish and American boys who have had some pretty wild success for an unsigned band without a full-length album. They’ve toured with Lights several times, remixed a couple of her songs, performed at the Reading Music Fest, was a cast of Much Music’s “Discovered,” and had their EP produced by Seb Grainger from Death From Above 1979 and Al-P of MSTRKRFT, which was distributed by Last Gang Records.

For now, I’m grateful that I don’t have to bow to the wishes of a paying employer and still get to write about what I want to. But of course, I could just forego the whole steady-paycheck thing and live my life out as a freelancer. Who knows?

Til then, I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing.

*Press+1 recently started paying their writers for articles/reviews on Canadian cinema, thanks to a government grant!

butternut squash chili

My super healthy and vegetarian friend has a fancy blog called Eating For the Rest of Us. I tease him for sounding elitist, but he’s really not like that at all!

One recipe that I love is his Spring Chili. I made a non-vegetarian version of it for my family over the holidays, and I love making a big batch of it and packing it for lunch throughout the week. I usually use it to top some plain white quinoa and that makes for a super filling lunch!

I adjust the recipe every time I make it because it’s so adaptable to whatever is in my fridge. The other week, I replaced the yams with some butternut squash. Amazing.

Image

A friend requested I posted the recipe (with a simple “reciplease!”), so here it is. I kind of just copied + pasted Eric’s recipe and changed some stuff. Don’t slap me with a plagiarism suit, Eric!

butternut squash chili

1 large onion chopped
1  Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cups broth (chicken/veggie/whatever)
1/2 medium butternut squash, cubed into 3/4-1 inch pieces
1 can (796 ml) of diced tomatoes You can use canned whole tomatoes and just smash them in the pot, too!
1 can (540 ml) of black beans, drained & rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 splash of red wine (optional)

Method
1. Add the onion in a medium to large saucepan heated to medium-high. Stir often until soft and translucent. Feel free to use some vegetable or canola oil in this step. I usually don’t and it turns out fine.

2. Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Make sure the spices coat the onions well and aren’t clumpy.

3. Add the broth, bay leaves and butternut squash. Stir well to combine. Bring it all to a gentle boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the squash is almost tender. You can check the tenderness of the squash with a fork.

4. Add the tomatoes and beans. This is when you throw in that optional splash of wine. Bring it all to a simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is heated through and slightly thickened.

5. Serve with a neutral tasting starch.

This is a slightly sweet tasting chili, so when I’m in the mood for something spicier, I add a bit of Sriracha or Sambal Oelek. And of course, you can chop up whatever herbs you have in your fridge to sprinkle on top. I had some cilantro, and I thought it might taste weird with the chili, but it tasted surprisingly nice! I’d recommend some flat leaf parsley, though, since cilantro is such a polarizing herb.

it’s that time of year again…

…The time of the year to revive your favourite pair of fall/winter boots, or for those with a little saved up this year, go out and buy a new pair!

As they did last year, Cougar teamed up with 50 bloggers to try out some of their new styles.  Last year, I reviewed a pair of red rain boots that I didn’t really love.  I never did update my post about those boots, but Cougar was nice enough to send me a different pair – Regal rain boots (which are still for sale this year!)

Cougar Rain Boots in Regal (stock photo)

I’ve been wearing them a LOT – rain boots are a HEAVEN SEND for city dwellers.  They were especially useful during those crazy spring slush/hail/rain storms in Montreal, but I’ve worn them around in Toronto as well.  The only downside to them were that they were incredibly heavyMy pace was considerably slower in those boots, and after about 5 minutes, my ankles and lower shins would hurt from having to support the weight of the heavy rubber soles.

So when Cougar contacted me again this year, I was skeptical – one pair of heavy boots is enough for me – but intrigued by their new styles.  Cougar prides themselves on creating boots that keep your feet dry and warm, but don’t compromise on style.

Portico Brown (stock photo)

This year I opted for the Portico boots in brown. [Random tidbit: Portico refers to "a structure consisting of a roof supported by columns at regular intervals, typically attached as a porch to a building."]

They seemed like a good combo between the warmth I need during the fall and the protection I need in the winter.  They’re suitable in the rain, but not strictly rain boots.

When they arrived, I was pleasantly surprised! The construction of the boots was impressive (unlike the red boots from last year!) and I liked that despite having a similar rubber sole to the Regal rain boots, the Portico boots were much lighter weight and less of a burden on my wimpy ankles.

The outer material of the Portico model are suede for the upper body and “montana” leather (I have no clue that means) for the foot.  The stock image from the company site makes it seem like the leather foot is a much lighter shade than the suede, but in real life, that’s not the case.  They are comparable in shade – it’s simply the texture difference between suede and leather that reflects light differently, so the leather foot area may seem lighter.

1) Nearly indiscernably shade difference between the boot’s upper body and the boot’s foot. 2) Note the perfect alignment of the boot tongue – because it’s stitched in!

But the materials aren’t the only things that reassure me that these are quality made boots.  If you can see, the boots are laced up, which means that in slushy or snowy weather, moisture and precipitation can easily seep into the boot.  HOWEVER — the boot tongue is actually stitched into place in order to keep your feet dry!

However, my sister (who always complains about how her muscular legs can never squeeze into boots) did mention that because of the stitched in tongue, she wasn’t able to loosen the laces enough to allow for her leg + jeans fit comfortably into the boot.  [On the other hand, she did mention that she thought she "looked cute in them." (her observations, not mine!)]

I have the opposite problem: boots are sometimes too loose around my calves, but the laces on the Portico model do help tighten the boots up.  [NOTE: The laces are more aesthetic than functional -  a zipper that runs from the ankle all the way to the top is the primary way to take the boots on/off.]

The only real problem I encountered with the boots are that the stiff suede material is not very forgiving when it becomes bent (i.e. at the ankle).

A pain in the (foot's) neck.

The creases created around the ankle by the simple act of walking cut into my feet, even through my socks, and I have a scab on each ankle from the abrasions.  I know that this is a common problem when breaking in new shoes, but I’ve never had this problem with my other leather boots – this was definitely a case of the stiff material not being pliable enough.

Another issue of note, is that these may keep your feet warm, but they have a tendency to overheat, almost to the point of discomfort.  I recommend carrying a pair of flats in your handbag if you are going to be in a heated building all day.

Verdict: I am definitely going to be reaching for these boots often this season.  Their neutral colour, functionality, comfort, and style make them a practical choice.  The Portico model retails for around $250 CAD and can be purchased at retailers across Canada.

why ‘bill cunningham new york’ moved me

There’s something about fashion that has always fascinated me, and yet, I never could put my finger on it.  There’s the glamour, celebrity, couture, craftmanship, and fantasy – all things that drew me to fashion.

Bill Cunningham knows what makes him excited about fashion: the clothes.

There’s a scene in the film where Bill is outside of a fashion show in Paris, waiting to get in.  He’s patiently holding out his press pass to the “guardians” of the show (surely, a producer of some sort), and he is not getting the time of day from her.  Suddenly, a figure emerges out of the frame, at once ushering in Bill and reprimanding this producer saying, “Please, he’s the most important person in the world.”

The most important person in the world doesn’t believe he’s all that important.  He lives an incredibly modest life and has no flair for the extravagant. “I like very simple, down-to-earth, very basic things,” he explains.  In New York, his only mode of transportation is his Schwinn, he repairs his ponchos with duct tape, and wears a blue street cleaner’s smock whenever he’s shooting.  He admonishes wasteful behaviour and refuses to be owned by anyone. “Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty, freedom – that’s the most expensive.”

It’s this jarring juxtaposition between such a humble and modest man and the subject(s) that he photographs.  One may wonder why he is so in love with fashion when his ethics seem to go against everything fashion stands for.

There’s a beautiful moment in the film when Bill is accepting the title of an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters from the National Order of the Legion of Honour of France (which he seems quite skeptical of).  In the last moment of his speech, his voice breaks as he explains, “It’s as true today as it ever was: He who seeks beauty will find it.”

Bill clearly finds beauty in individuality, evidenced by some of his favourite subjects to photograph: Anna Piaggi, Patrick McDonald, Iris Apfel…  But what I find so incredibly endearing and lovely, and of course – beautiful about Bill is himself.

He talks about how hard it is to be “honest and straight in New York,” but that he’s always trying to be so.  He won’t even accept a glass of water at high-profile events, because he wants to maintain his integrity and the integrity of the Times.  For him, objectivity is too important to be schmoozing with the socialites who all want their photographs taken by him (he scoffs at the photographers flocking to capture Catherine Deneuve – she wasn’t even wearing anything interesting!) He loves the $4 coffee and breakfast sandwich combo (“The cheaper the better!” he exclaims) and refuses to publish anything that would put anybody in a negative light.

He’s enigmatic without trying – he’s just not like the rest of us, so he just seems hard to understand.  But the strange thing is that he’s so simple, and that’s why we don’t get him.

After revealing that he attends church every Sunday, the filmmakers ask him, “Is religion an important component of your life?” Bill looks down, clearly holding back tears. When he finally does look up, he says, “I think it’s a good guidance in your life. Yeah, it’s something I need and… Whatever it is, everyone… you do whatever you do the best you can to work things out.  I find it very important, for whatever reason, I don’t know!” My heart is breaking at this moment, because as such as simple man, he seems to have such a heavy heart. I want to know what kinds of regrets he has.  Suddenly he breaks into a laugh and says, “As a kid, I went to church and all I did was look at women’s hats!”  For a moment, there’s a sense of relief, but he drops his voice again. “Later, when you mature – for different reasons.”

Whatever these reasons may be, I’m in love with this man who cups his hands around his ears to hear better and fearlessly navigates New York’s streets without a helmet.  He’s the antithesis of the often contrived fashion world but he never judges it.  He’s incredibly giving yet doesn’t seek much acknowledgment.

The President of the French Federation of Couture, talking about Bill getting the honour of being an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters, puts it best, “Very deeply, I think, he doesn’t believe he deserves it.  That’s why he deserves it, even more.”

what i’ve learned so far

I recently sent an email to a colleague of mine who was wondering why I seemed MIA.  I found myself responding, “Sorry! New city, new school, new program, new apartment = crazy few weeks!”

And it’s true. It has been a crazy few weeks.  As I settle into my new life, I am adjusting, growing, and learning, A LOT.  About my re-adopted city. My (God-given) abilities. My tolerances. My faith. My passions.  And in reflection, I’m in awe of how much one can grow in such a short amount of time.  I am constantly evolving, and for that, I am grateful.

Some things I’ve learned:

1) I am stronger than I thought I was.

This is a purely physical “stronger” that I refer to. After the first time going back to the gym since mid-July, I was downtrodden at how poorly I fared.  However, my body quickly adapted (like, by the second visit, I was way more capable) and I am getting stronger every day.  My goal is to be able to complete 10 full-body push-ups on the Bosu ball by the end of September (but I’m thinking I may have to extend my deadline!)

2) I cannot handle arrogance & stupidity.

I don’t say this in that I look down on people who I think make silly decisions (i.e. I don’t mean “stupid” as in level of academic excellence).  This is me admitting that I am weak in character, so I know that in order to keep out nasty thoughts and ugly feelings within me, I have to stay away from people who frustrate me with their arrogance and poor choices.  I learned this as soon as I put 2 & 2 together as to why a certain set of new people I was meeting (and I am meeting a loooot of new people!), I was immediately turned off by them – they were so arrogant.  Perhaps “arrogance” & “stupidity” go hand in hand, because most times, arrogant people think they are just being confident.  No – confident people know that humility gains more favour in the long run (because, THEY’RE SMART!)

3) I have a passion for helping those who are marginalized.

As soon as I moved back to Toronto, I knew that I would have to get involved in some sort of organization to help relieve the suffering and pain of homelessness, elderly abuse, victimized women, racialized groups, etc.  This is because these problems are very pronounced in Toronto (more so than in Montreal). I have looked into groups and I am ready to be proactive.

4) I think I just may choose broadcasting as a professional stream.

I really don’t have much to add to that. I’m investigating.

5) I’m in for an incredibly tough year.

Academically, spiritually, financially, and socially, it’s going to be tough. I can only be grateful for the challenge ahead of me, though.  Who knows?  Maybe by the new year I’ll have grown even more.

I can’t wait.

things

I have a lot on my mind these days.  These are those things.

1. I’m completing my MA Film Studies very soon.  This means handing in my thesis.  I need a lot of prayer and discipline for this.  Right now, I should be working, but I’m blogging because I have so much on my mind.

2. I’m leaving my beloved Montreal in about 2 weeks.  It’s like a break-up and I’m heartbroken.

3. Leaving the city means packing up & moving.  I have so much stress about this.  Getting rid of furniture, packing up my shit, poly-filling up the holes I made in my apartment, etc.  I’m moving into a new condo in downtown Toronto with my sister (thanks, generous & loving parents!) so it’s not like “moving home”, you know?  It’s essentially like moving into an apartment with a roommate.  I have been roommate-less for almost 5 years.  This brings me a lot of anxiety.

4. I’m starting a brand new program at a brand new school in about 3 weeks.  I feel really unprepared.  I also feel like I’m going to be the student with the shittiest potential, and the old lady coming in who already has an MA.  Why do I have such little faith in my God-given ability?

5. I’m starting to notice, in myself, that I am terrible at management: time & money. I need a lot of help in this regard. Life coach, anyone?

6. Should I get a therapist? Just someone to talk to.

7. I really want to start exercising again (it’s been 1+ month since I’ve worked out), but I’m scared to start running since my experience with shin splints.  The Running Room doesn’t carry shoes that fit my tiny feet, so no help there. Boo.  I know that exercising and running aren’t necessarily related, but in my mind, that’s the only way I know how to get cardio (fuck spinning).

8. I’ve been researching churches in Toronto that I’d like to check out.  So far, I’m interested in Grace Toronto, Rock Community Church, and Free Church (their website is down).  My parents would like me to try their Korean megachurch, but I’m not super driven to go there.  I need guidance.

9. In the same vein, I am freaked out of my mind about how to tell my previous home church in Toronto that I will not be returning.  So many people expect me back.  I’m scared that they think I am abandoning them.  I can’t go back there, knowing that my spiritual fulfillment is low there, despite the amazing community I have built and the serving obligations/opportunities.  My parents showed me through their courage in leaving that church, that one’s relationship with God is more important than our earthly relationships.  How do I tell them?  I’ve never done this before.

10. I miss blogging.