enjoying the foliage

Archive for May 2008

I have an unusually deep fondness for basil. So, rather than buy the stuff imported all the way from the Dominican Republic at Food Basics for my summer cooking, I decided to grow my own. I bought four small plants from the farmers’ market yesterday and then impulsively bought a fifth on the way home from the natural-foods store. We’ll see how they do.

This is Sadie. Her friends are Bertrand, Sol, Cleo, and Beryl.

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I got back yesterday night after four fabulous days in Chicago. I stayed with my cousin, who lives downtown in the heart of the West Loop. I can’t upload my pictures yet, but here are some thoughts:

  • Downtown Chicago has awesome street furniture. I know street furniture is a topic of contention in Toronto, and I think the city could learn something from Chicago. The city’s street furniture is streamlined and pretty much free of those ugly ads that are plastered all over Toronto’s huge garbage cans. Of course, I suppose that everything on the street has to be designed to live up to the architecture. In general, everything is really elegant and doesn’t have that trying too hard feeling that Toronto has. The subway entrance shelters are especially pretty. I don’t have pictures and I don’t want to steal, so check out this article in Spacing.
  • The people of Chicago are disturbingly polite. I’ve never met so many nice, nice, NICE people. It wasn’t something I expected in a big city and I was completely overwhelmed by how lovely everyone was in all of the restaurants and stores we went to. Jeez, people of Chicago. Way to make Torontonians look really bad.
  • The food was fabulous. My cousin is especially skilled at picking really excellent restaurants, and she is lucky enough to live in an area that is practically bulging with them. My favorite was Lou Mitchell’s, where we went for breakfast on Sunday morning. I love breakfast, and Lou Mitchell’s was probably the best place to enjoy it. It has a vintage-y diner feel and has been around forever. As soon as you come in, an adorable little old lady gives you a donut hole to munch on as you wait for a table. On the way to your table, they give you a little box of milk duds and you can snack on them while you pick from their huge breakfast menu. I ordered a spinach omelet, which came with actual hash browns (not the nasty McD’s kind) and toast. At the end of the meal they give you a tiny cup of soft serve ice cream. It was delicious and decadent and I thought maybe I could die right there.
  • The multilevel streets in the Loop area are amazing and give the feeling of being in an awesome video game. Downtown Chicago has a handful of double-decked and triple-decked streets. They are surprisingly unchaotic and make for a really visually interesting streetscape. The pedestrian bridges are also all individually lovely in their own right. My favorite was the Madison Avenue biscule bridge:

Chicago feels elegant and sophisticated, but strangely open and welcoming, in a way I haven’t experienced in any city in Canada. I love Canada, but it has a lot of catching up to do. I was disappointed that I didn’t have time to visit the Field Museum and the Art Institute (which is home to American Gothic!), but overall it was a really good trip and has given me another possible city to move to during/after grad school.

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If you knew me in high school, you knew that John Cameron Mitchell rocked my world and you probably saw me at Artsfest in grade 11 – Salvation Army fur coat, blonde Tina Turner wig, neon-orange fishnets – singing Wicked Little Town and its reprise with Tracy and Jade. I’ve outgrown Hedwig and the Angry Inch a bit since then, but I think I’ve found a replacement in JCM’s new film – Shortbus.

If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably because of Sook-Yin Lee and the real sex she has in the film. So let me just say it: there’s a glorious amount of sex on celluloid here. It’s not clever camera angles and lighting and heavy breathing; it’s real people  having real sex with one another, and it’s great. You’ll have to trust me when I say that it’s not pornographic. There is so much sex (and of all kinds too), so many happy naked limbs flailing around, and yet it’s fabulous because it really is just about more than a bunch of people fucking. Somehow, JCM manages to efface all of the dirt and shame that weighs down just about every other depiction of sex in the history of North American cinema and to make sex a joyous and transcendent affair. Really, Shortbus just makes me incredibly happy.

Watch this when you need to be reminded of the fact that there is love in the world or when you have someone you love beside you.

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Hello all. This is my first post since nearly the creation of the blog. For someone who has kept online journals for almost ten years now I have never been fantastic at consistency – writing is something I do few and far between. The grip of exams and moving is long past, and now I’m going to try to post a little more regularly.

Coming up with topics or links that fit within the stream of this blog will I think be more of a challenge than it initially seemed – academia and online geekdom is just as fascinating to me as feminism, prostitutes, and America’s Next Top Model, and I wouldn’t want to marginalize the already diminished level of testosterone present on the blog, or make it too racy by linking to pictures of porn with typical LOLCat phrases superimposed (“mai lovin – u can has it” etc.)- I’m this close, I swear!

However, this particular blog I have been a long-time fan of, although the author post seldomly (give him a break! The combination of two paws and hooman-sized keyboards makes it a challenge!) it’s honest writing from a unique perspective and I can’t deny loving the nature of the source.

  About Me: iam a cat

As you all know, I’m stuck in my wicked little town this summer because I have an internship with a major collaborative research initiative (MCRI) being run out of Queen’s called the Ethnicity and Democratic Governance project. Although I don’t do anything particularly original or academic, I got a really good sense of the kinds of things that other people are doing for the project this weekend when about fifty of us converged on the Four Points by Sheraton in downtown Kingston for two days for a workshop/conference called Assessing Territorial Pluralism. Comparative politics, constitution building, and empirical studies are really way beyond the scope of my interests, so I definitely got some exposure to things I’d never really thought about or heard of until yesterday or the day before. I just thought I’d share some of the things I learned that came out of the conference:

  • philosophy students tend to grimace especially when academics are accused of being so far removed from the real world, but then there are individuals like Richard Simeon and Marie-Joelle Zahar who were in Iraq in 2005 to advise the Iraqis in the drafting of their constitution
  • everyone is busy talking about Tibet, but Chinese ethnographers have officially identified 55 different ethnic minorities living within Chinese borders, and strangely enough, there are articles in the Chinese constitution that recognise the existence and rights of these nationalities. For the present, of course, all real power lies with the CCP, but these constitutional guarantees might come in handy in the future
  • Belgium is an incredibly divided nation-state that may in fact be in its death throes. Civil society, politics, and just about everything else are divided along language lines, i.e. as a politician, you’d probably speak both French and Flemish, but you’d have to decide whether you’d run as a candidate for the Francophone green party or the Flemish green party. There just isn’t any dialogue going on between the Francophone and Flemish populations anymore. [The chocolate of both societies, however, is still fabulous – I can attest to this personally.]

Because I’m stuck in my wicked little town for the summer and know all of five people, I’ve begun a curriculum of cultural enrichment for myself. I rented DVDs from Classic Video down the street for the first time last night and started off with Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express.

I think I’ll report back here from time to time with my cultural adventures, but I’ve grown out of the days where I had obnoxious opinions about everything and was just a general loudmouth in her own little corner of the internet, so no full on reviews this time. It’ll suffice to say that Chungking is hilarious, disorienting, beautiful, and made me laugh out loud quite frequently and gesticulate widely to no one at times. It was also nice to know that as far as girls vying for the attention of some cute boy go, I’m not that crazy. I haven’t bought goldfish and broken into anyone’s apartment yet. I don’t talk to my bar of soap and project my sorrows on to it either. Maybe this film isn’t the best way to measure my sanity, but it’s great nonetheless.

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Dispatch 1: Watching Keeping the Faith on Citytv late at night with complete disregard of the time or the mediocrity of the movie.

Have I ever told you about my feelings about Edward Norton?

So, I’m kind of in love with Edward Norton. I am watching Keeping the Faith right now, completely infatuated. It is likely that I will talk someone into watching The Incredible Hulk with me this summer in theatres, despite the fact that I find a large green ogre man a pretty useless superhero, just to soak myself in the Norton.

How is your summer going?

EDIT – Check out this GOOD Mag video about Friends of the High Line, starring none other than our favourite Fight Club alumnus. The High Line is an unused rail structure that runs through New York. It was saved from demolition in 2001 and is currently being transformed into a public park. I am so enamoured by projects that offer an overlap between urban and “green” spaces. It makes my little geeky heart swell and gives me some hope for the future.