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!

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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.

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.

update + wtf (zombie boy)?

I’VE BEEN MIA AND FOR THAT I AM SORRY!

The real reason I haven’t been blogging since the new year is because when I moved into my new place, I decided not to get home Internet service because: a) I have a 1GB data plan on my smartphone that covers my immediate e-mail/social networking needs b) I knew that I was moving out in less than 12 months, and didn’t want to pay cancellation fees c) I have unlimited WIFI service on campus.

So, that just translated into me not always having access to WordPress when inspiration struck.  I know they have an iPhone app, but it has mediocre ratings, and I don’t like cluttering up my phone with mediocre apps.

Also, I’ve been incredibly busy with finishing up my thesis, so….that’s happening.  Let’s not get into it right now (read: STRESS!!)

But the real reason I’ve decided to pause my thesis-ing and update my blog is because I was browsing one of my favourite sites, SmartCanucks, and came across this entry.  I had never heard of Rick Genest, a.k.a. Zombie Boy, before, but it intrigued me because he’s from Montreal and I love seeing a unique, local homie receive recognition for just being himself.

But then, I looked at the entry title again and it bothered me so much. “Zombie Boy: Art or Just Plain Creepy?” (emphasis added)?!  Not only is it rude to suggest that someone’s body art is creepy, but to even ask if he is one or the other is just SO small-minded and essentializing.  It’s like asking “Homosexuals: Flamboyant Queens or Just Plain Godforsaken Humans?”  OK – that’s an extreme example. But what I’m trying to illustrate is that you can’t pinpoint an aspect of a human’s identity as just being ONE thing out of TWO choices, and we all know that homosexuality is not “either/or” of any of the stereotypes that abound about living a homosexual lifestyle – humans have a multitude of traits (whether it be regarding personality, physical, cultural, etc.) that cannot be reduced to extreme ends of a spectrum.

No doubt that Genest has taken on “Zombie Boy” as a large part of his identity, and to reductively suggest that his body art/identity is artistic or “just plain creepy” just seems so wrong to me, and it spawns such negative or flaccid responses.   Responses such as: “Icky!” or “He probably did it to get noticed.” or “What will he do when he has children?” or “He’s going to regret it when he’s older.” or “What does his mom think of this?”

WHAT THE FUCK?!  Does anybody see the problem of assumption in these responses, and the lack of self-awareness and self-indictment?

  1. First of all, “icky” is just an immature response, lacking any veritable clarity of thought to back it up and make a valid opinion.
  2. Don’t we ALL do things to get noticed? We put on makeup, get our hair styled, put on nice outfits, wear perfume, paint our nails, wash our cars, blog, change our phone ring tones, etc.  The list doesn’t end.  So who in the world has the right to accuse someone of doing something to get noticed, as if it’s “WRONG”?
  3. Why are we assuming that he doesn’t have children?  Also, why are we assuming that he plans on having children?  Why are we assuming that he is fertile and not sterile?  Why are we assuming that children are frightened by nature?  Fear (of difference) is taught, remember?
  4. It’s so rude to think that people who commit to getting tattooed are not cognizant of the fact that tattoos, for the most part (and especially at this extent and grandiose-ness), ARE PERMANENT.  Of COURSE it’s going to be there when we are lucky enough to grow old.  When people commit to a partner, do they know how their partner is going to look when they get old and wrinkly, and assume that they’re going to regret their commitment because they just don’t look “good” anymore (again, extreme example, but just trying to illustrate!)? On another level of analyzing that comment: do people’s love and passion for art and desire for self-expression really die off when they age?  Why even commit to full body art if it’s not a true passion?
  5. Finally, what does it matter to us what Genest’s mother thinks of his art? Again: does he know/have a relationship with his mother? Is his mother alive?  The user’s comment/question assumes (via implication) that his mother disapproves.  What kind of mother abandons their love for their child just because of an image decision?

So in response to the post, I submitted this comment:

The question that’s being asked by the blogger is all wrong.

I think it’s incredibly diminutive to consider one’s self-expression as “just plain creepy” (said in a fairly derogatory manner); even to ask it is questionable as it immediately attaches a label. It’s fair to consider a horror film that is intended to evoke fear and the heebie-jeebies as creepy, and perhaps Zombie Boy’s intention is to disarm and surprise people (his Facebook page does not have any detailed info or an “about” page, so I can’t say for sure), but to say he is one or the other is so essentializing.

I understand the desire to evoke discussion and debate. It’s an important way to spark public discourse. However, it shouldn’t be initiated in such a manner that is so black and white, especially when considering the matter of human expression.

Despite it being there for a couple of hours and many others’ comments (similar to the ones I sampled above) being approved after I had submitted mine, my comment is still “awaiting moderation.”

Not surprised.

UPDATE: My comment is no longer awaiting moderation.  It has been duly moderated and deemed unsuitable for the site – it has been deleted.

For more info on Rick Genest/Zombie Boy, check out his Facebook page.  Also, check him out in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” video or keep an eye out for the recent Thierry Mugler ad campaign starring Genest.

watermarking

This may seem like such a silly question to ask, but should I be watermarking my images? I’ve noticed recently that many of my visitors click on my photos, and that makes me wonder whether anyone has been using them for whatever purpose.

I’m not offended by people using my photos, I think I should just be able to claim them as my images…?

I never thought that my blog would yield any sort of high traffic, so I guess that’s why I never even thought about it previously.

i wanna know…

Well actually, Cougar Boots (not me) wants to know what you think about their products, especially after reading my post about their rainboots.

If you fill out THIS SURVEY a $2 donation to the Red Cross will be made!  Even if you didn’t have much of an opinion of the boots, at least fill out the survey and consider it your good deed of the morning (I say “morning” because 1 good deed/day is a little paltry, no?)

It will literally take you 60 seconds to fill it out.  The Red Cross could use your help, especially with the cholera outbreak in Haiti and the continuing struggles of hundreds of communities around the world.

Thanks everyone!