Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Probably Have Fish Pee In My Hair But At Least I Didn't Get Eaten

            If I had to summarize the ocean I would probably say it is a giant wet death trap filled with zillions of gross things that want to poison and/or eat you.  If I had to summarize Australia the description would be exactly the same but minus the word “wet”.  Oceans and rainforests look pretty in pictures, but lurking just beneath the surface there are an infinity of ugly slimy things with too many legs and too many eyes and too many teeth.
            When I moved to Australia my friend told me I was insane because I was going to get eaten for sure.  In fact, she no longer calls me by name, but rather as “Shark Host” because she is convinced that the instant I got to Australia I was swallowed whole and now I update my facebook statuses from within the shark.  This is not true.  Sharks don’t really swallow people whole and then update their facebook pages.  It’s a common misconception.
            The point is, for many years now I have desperately wanted to go to Australia.  I could handle all the spiders and snakes and sharks and jellyfish, I just really really wanted to go to Australia and swim in the Great Barrier Reef.  So every single year for my birthday and when Santa asked what I wanted for Christmas, I would always just submit a piece of paper containing simply the word “Australia”.
            Last year I finally got my wish.  I got a Working Holiday Visa, packed my bags, and set off for the Land Down Under.  That was over 11 months ago and I can’t believe how fast it’s gone by.  So, in my final hours in the international departures terminal of this glorious country, I would like to propose a toast. To Australia!


           The day I arrived I hauled my sleepless body off the plane and immediately over to Circular Quay to see the iconic landmarks known as the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. That was the day I developed a freakish love affair with the Opera House, rivalled only by my feelings for Quentin Tarantino.  There could probably be a reality show about it.  In addition to its aesthetic magnificence (the Opera House, not Q)  there is an incredible history of perseverance and controversy and it stands as a testament to the power of the human mind.  It is a building that, quite simply, is not supposed to exist. 
 It began as an international architecture competition virtually limitless in its scope.  The winning concept by Danish designer Jorn Utzon was initially disqualified and discarded in the first round of the competition.  However, it was later retrieved and selected despite a complete absence of any real logistical plans.  In other words, it looked really cool on paper, but nobody had any idea how it was actually going to materialize.
The construction was a revolutionary process that exceeded both financial and time predictions by A LOT!  (Give or take 15 times the original cost estimate.)  There was widespread scepticism and contempt, a new government that was highly critical of the project, and ultimately the resignation of Jorn Utzon.  He never returned to Australia and therefore never actually saw the completed project for which he was awarded the Pritzker Prize.
I lived in Sydney for about eight months, and every time I was in a bad mood all I had to do was walk down to Circular Quay and look at the Sydney Opera House, and then nothing else mattered because that building reminded me that I was in Australia.  That made me happy as a giant clam.  Like the giant clams you find in the Great Barrier Reef. 


Jumping off a boat into the middle of a shark infested ocean is, admittedly, a little intimidating.  You kind of feel like the biggest sucker ever for empowering Australia’s tourism industry for a) convincing you to do it, and b) convincing you to pay for it.  But then you muster up the courage to dive in and suddenly a whole new universe is revealed.
Viewing the Reef through the eyes of National Geographic is amazing, but nothing compares to the first moment you stick your head under the water and it feels like you’re on a different planet.  A planet that tastes like salt.  You are like a spectator looking down, and all the colourful fish and turtles and barracudas swim around like you’re not even there.  When you stick your head up you remember that you’re back in the middle of the ocean, and it’s kind of like you’re going between two totally separate worlds.  I found Nemo and swam until my arms ached, and it was without a doubt one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

Moral of the story: The ocean is undeniably disgusting and contains a crazy amount of creatures that have clearly provided the inspiration for Will Smith’s cinematic opponents.  And so what if Australian wildlife is just a bunch of merchants of death?!  It’s also spectacularly beautiful.  (Not so much the spiders though.)  Exploration opens our eyes and makes us stronger by pushing us to do things we wouldn’t normally do and be close to bugs that are big enough to have their own solar systems.
I am extremely lucky to have travelled all over the world and seen things most people never get to.  I may have missed out on a platypus sighting, but I did get to see wild kangaroos and wallabies and giant sea turtles, in addition to the most spectacular scenery in the world.  There are so many amazing things I got to do in Australia, and even more that I didn’t.  Bottom line is I love this country, and I love all the people I met along the way who helped make this year so fantastic.  And here's a giant spider eating a butterfly!

 "Don't forget me I kill people too!" -Crocodile

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Incredible League Of Incredibly Practical Superheroes

            I went to see the Avengers, even though I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about superheroes.  I mean, unless you happen to be in New York City when an evil demi-God from another realm decides to launch a total annihilation campaign against humanity, they’re not really that useful.  And that almost never happens.           
In theory superheroes could be pretty helpful in preventing disasters, but I think they should try to address more practical problems.  So here are a few spandex wielding protagonists that I wouldn’t mind intervening in my life on occasion.

Captain Patience

            In the bleak apocalyptic social landscape of unreciprocated facebook messages, Captain Patience stays strong and never panics.  Even in the 25th hour when she knows they’re online because they just commented on someone else’s status 14 seconds ago and therefore the only possible conclusion for their unresponsiveness is that they’re fucking with her and have some sinister investment in her misery, she just stays calm and does not crack. 
            It is no great mystery that waiting SUCKS.  It sends you into a downward spiral of insanity that convinces you that the only cure for waiting is to do something mind-numbingly stupid, the consequences of which make you realize that there are many many things way worse than waiting.  So on that darkest day where the evil insecurity demon tries to invoke his wrath, Captain Patience swoops down just in time to fight him off before the dark lord forces you to hit ‘send’ on the passionately worded follow up message that goes something along the lines of “wow, your level of idiocy is unfathomable I’m amazed you’re even able to dress yourself”.  Another crisis that could have been averted with the help of Captain Patience.
Willimina Power 

            Willimina Power is resistant to every strain of cupcake, and serves as the first and only line of defense against the horrible Retail Therapy Goblin.  In the morning she always chooses the treadmill over the snooze button, and after cooking her own nutritious dinner instead of just microwaving a box of food-flavoured preservatives, she washes the dishes instead of selling her soul to the dish gnomes to bail her out again.  Everybody knows dish gnomes are a bunch of lazy slackers and if you wait for them to do anything your cookware will breed its own ecosystem in the sink.  Of course some of us learn that the hard way.

The Incredible Emotional Stability Hulk 

            The Incredible Emotional Stability Hulk has never once cried because she ran out of parmesan cheese, and when she learns that the boy she likes doesn’t share her views on refugee policy it doesn’t even phase her.  She doesn’t refer to minor inconveniences as “a total disaster”, and instead of flying off the handle when missing an episode of Glee she simply contemplates that great ancient proverb ‘She who knows Rachel’s response to Finn’s proposal is no more wise than she who does not’.  Then she morphs into something like a Buddhist monk and meditates to the height of enlightenment and floats away. 
            She still cries at the end of that Futurama episode with the dog, but that’s only because you have to be born without a soul to make it through that episode without feeling like your still beating heart has just been torn out of your chest cavity and thrown into a vat of acid.  Same applies to Dancer In the Dark starring Bjork.  Otherwise she responds to all of life’s obstacles with her famous catch phrase “No worries, that’s cool!”           

Reality Chick

            Unlike many superheroes, Reality Chick doesn’t live in some far off galaxy or top secret lair.  She walks among normal people and is totally grounded in the real world.  She gets that imaginations can be useful, but you can’t actually live in them because the atmospheric temperature of LaLa Land is not suitable for permanent human habitation.  She vacations there from time to time, but her earthly responsibilities remain her top priority when the real world needs her.  She still dreams when there’s time though.

Moral of the story: Superheroes shouldn’t leave their environment in worse disrepair than Team America.  Problems can be solved without destroying any UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and I mean that both literally and metaphorically.  (Think about that for a second.)  Minor catastrophes can breed bigger catastrophes which can be easily prevented by not acting like a dumbass every single time something pisses you off.  When faced with the need to relax and refrain from eating the entire cheesecake it’s easy to turn into Jared Leto’s mother in Requiem For A Dream, complete with Cha-Cha dancing refrigerators, speed addictions, and frantic appeals to the media to let her have her 15 minutes.  (Seriously, WHY COULDN’T THEY JUST TELL HER WHEN SHE’S GOING TO BE ON THE FUCKING TELEVISION???!!!)  It is these moments of weakness when we make disasters happen, but the Incredible League of Incredibly Practical Superheroes is just the team to keep people out of trouble and out of electro-shock therapy.  And by ‘people’ I mostly mean me.

*Note: I kept all the superheroes well stacked as is the convention. Sorry I can't draw and I'm even worse at drawing with MS Paint. I made someone verify that at least one of them kind of looked more or less like a superhero though.

Friday, May 4, 2012

First Rule Of Dancing...

Two things I love more than anything in the entire world (besides beagles) are dancing and violent movies.  If Quentin Tarantino directed The Nutcracker and I got to be a machine gun wielding Sugar Plum Fairy with awesome dialogue and a yellow leather tutu I would instantly die because I would know that life could never get any better.

I LOVE dancing, and the only time I ever truly felt comfortable growing up was when I was on stage.  I shied away from attention in my day to day life, but when I was dancing I was starved for it.  I wanted to live forever and learn how to fly, and when my toes bled right through my point shoes I just salted and disinfected the wounds and then did it all again the next day.  I danced on dislocated knees and fractured feet and I loved a good battle scar.  The searing pain and stench of peroxide and rubbing alcohol on open wounds only made me stronger as a person.  Dancing was like Fight Club for girls, but with less anarchy and more swans.  It tested your limits and then pushed you past them, and when you wanted to scream in mental and physical anguish you just repressed the pain until the time when you could finally lie in the dressing room with your feet stuck up on the wall letting all the blood rush out of your torn up toes.  It was magical!
Dancing is deceptive because, even though it’s just as demanding as any sport, you can’t grunt like tennis players, make weird faces like runners, scratch your balls like baseball players, or hit people in the head with sticks like hockey players.  Dancers have to look graceful and make it appear like it’s the easiest thing in the universe despite our feet and shins simultaneously being ground into pulp.  Even in death we must be in perfectly turned out fifth position with toes beautifully pointed.  The problem is it makes everyone think it’s super easy so they spin around waving their arms like assholes in mockery. If you happen to be one of those jerkfaces who thinks that dancing is easy maybe you should try putting YOUR FACE in a pointshoe!  (Dear Quentin Tarantino, please feel free to use that idea in any of your future films.)
Thanks to my unfortunate exploding calf muscle I don’t really get to do much dancing anymore (except for how I’m always rocking out to Rihanna’s “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” or doing the entire “All the Single Ladies” dance in the laundromat to the music that plays in my head at all times).  I miss the life of extended highcuts and grand jetees, and would do damn near anything to fouettee like it’s 1999. 

Moral of the story: This article is dedicated to all the dancers who know that a good dance wound brings with it the same sense of enlightenment as if Brad Pitt poured a bunch of pure lye on your hand and then made you watch it burn your through your own flesh.  And while I’m sorry to all my tendons and joints that now like to spontaneously suckerpunch me as punishment for pissing them off for twenty years, the fact is I would never trade my Cowal medals or spotlit moments on the mainstage of the National Arts Centre no matter how likely it is that I’ll need a hip replacement before the age of 35.  It was totally worth it!  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's a Lesbian?

            When I was younger I watched an episode of Degrassi and thought I was a lesbian.  I think that was more a testament to my mother not knowing how to adequately explain what a lesbian was to her pre-pubescent daughter.  
“Umm...  Girls who like girls” she said. 
“I like girls” I replied.  I was not fully aware of the sexual and/or romantic implications hidden in this ambiguous definition.
            In fact, I had known since the age of six that I was most definitely not a lesbian because, while all my playmates were convinced boys had cooties, I was getting ostracized for knowing that Ian Phillips was totally cute.  I didn’t know what to do with that information when I was six, and it didn’t really matter anyway because he was convinced that, since I was a girl, there was absolutely no doubt that I had cooties too.  Cooties is a real romantic deal breaker when you’re six.  But still, I had been tricked by Degrassi into false lesbianism because I didn’t grasp the difference between ‘liking’ and ‘like liking’. 
            What I gathered from the show was that it was pretty damn complicated being a lesbian, and I was a little confused about why girls liking girls even mattered that much.  Who better to resolve that confusion than Canada’s finest selection of after school television writers and child actors?   

            Several years later I was teaching Highland dancing at a community centre downtown.  One of my young mischievous students around the same age I was for the Degrassi incident was busily checking out some of the posters in the studio instead of doing what she was supposed to.  As I was about to tell her to go do some dancing, she turned to me and said “What’s gay lesbian and bee-sexual?”
            I should probably mention the fact that at that time I was studying Criminology with a concentration in Law, and one of my Law electives was a seminar on GLBTQ Charter of Rights issues.  So literally a few weeks prior to this event we had spent our entire three hour opening lecture defining these exact terms.  If ever there was a Highland dance teacher equipped to tell an eight year old what a “bee-sexual” was, that Highland dance teacher was me!  Instead, my response was “DO YOUR SWORD DANCE!!!”

Moral of the story: No matter how many Law classes you take or episodes of Degrassi you watch, explaining sexuality to children really fucking sucks.  But the explanations we get when we’re young stay with us through life, so I’m sure glad the definition I got was as simple as girls liking girls, rather than something along the lines of “it’s an abomination of God and they’ll burn in hell for an eternity”.  One thing that is certain is that kids are really curious.  Possibly even bee-curious.  But if they’re in a Highland Dance class they probably should just do their Sword.