Category Archives: Writing

Frank & Oak knows what it is doing

This week, I will redirect you to a post I wrote for the Jeune Chambre de Commerce de Montréal about online menswear brand Frank & Oak. They’ve been getting some serious press of late, and for good reason. To find out more, read the post!

– Girl Friday

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Upcoming projects, navel-gazing and cocooning

I have spent a good chunk of time this week doing things as opposed to writing about things. A lot of this is in preparation of upcoming work. I have recently started blogging for the Jeune Chambre de Commerce de Montréal – I published my first post last week about women and careers.

I’m also doing some work this month for Marianopolis’ alumni mag, so I had the opportunity to hear Stephen Bronfman speak at the CEGEP on Thursday. That issue will only be out in November or December, so I guess that’s some delayed gratification for you right there.

Speaking of delayed gratification, I was pleased to take part in the recording of the first Red Couch Chats podcast on Wednesday. The idea for the podcast comes from three communications students at Concordia. For those who don’t hang out on the Loyola campus, the basement of the CJ building is a regular haunt for j-schoolers and coms students. It’s furnished with 10 red couches or so, varying from the loner-favourite one-seaters to wider two-pillow sofas. These three coms students spent so much time hanging out on the couches talking about life, they eventually decided they should record their conversations.

You could say the first episode’s overarching theme is death, but we talk about everything from what we would do if we knew our cause and time of death, to the death penalty, the meaning of YOLO, the criminal justice system and immortality. The producers want to have a few episodes in store before starting to release them, so in the meantime I encourage you to like the Facebook page to stay abreast of Red Couch news. I can say, with little exaggeration, that the hour spent in the recording studios on Wednesday night resulted in some of the most interesting conversation I have engaged in a long while.

In between my goings-about for school, writing work, and other activities, I have slowly been building my winter cocoon up for myself. This is especially true right now, on a stormy Friday night where I am literally snuggled into my bed with David’s Tea Peppermint Amour, laptop, books and magazines. (On the cover of Vanity Fair, Daniel Craig gazes seductively at me from his spot on my nightstand.)

(Side note: this kind of weather creates exactly the sort of mood that makes me want to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a stellar novel from Susanna Clarke about magic in 19th century England. Even though it doesn’t fall in the steampunk genre, it does have a similar feel to it. It’s also on my list of all-time classics from my personal library. I highly recommend it and will be pleased to lend the paperback to anyone who is interested in reading)

Over the past seven months, I have been progressively putting a new routine for myself into place that is a lot less fast-paced than in last year. I have found it is easy to burn out when overburdened with engagements. It is hard to take time to enjoy with friends, or in one’s own company, when one is a zombie.

He’s a terrible conversationalist. Photo credit abovethelaw.com

And so my ratio of time spent going out (in a bars-n-clubs kinda a way, not a Jackie-is-a-recluse kind of way) versus time spent at home, with my family, working or immersed in reading is deeply skewed towards the latter. That trend will probably persist in the near future;. I am more likely to be in a hot chocolate and warm fire kind of mood when the weather outside is frightful.

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I’m on the lookout of breaking news/general news/feature photos/portrait photo ideas in the next two weeks, so if you have any friends who are visually interesting (or do visually interesting work) or know of any events coming up, give me a head’s up.

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This is an incredible story: an Indian boy gets lost and separated from his family after falling asleep on a train, only to find them years later using Google Earth : A Home at the End of Google Earth | David Kushner | Vanity Fair

I have the feeling that all you comic-savvy folks already know of Stuart McMillen’s existence. I recently discovered his comic strip about the War on Drugs. Not only is it a highly intelligent analysis of American drug policy, but the fact that it is not a wall-of-text article actually means that people might read it instead of being turned off the topic right away.

– Girl Friday

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The Purse Exercise

As an unrepentant carrier of large (not over-size, rather just-the-right-size) bags, I have over the years been questioned and gently teased (sometimes with a hint of exasperation), as to what items are so important that I had to squirrel them away in the portable black hole I lug along on my shoulder.

Since I once described my purse to Noah as a microcosm of the person who owns it (he has been using the appellation ever since), today I will list for you the contents of the purse I used today. I see this as a variation of the burning house exercise, where you list what you would take from your house were it set on fire. The burning house exercise is meant as a indicate of the type of individual you are; I am of the opinion that a purse can tell you the same thing about a woman, in more succinct terms.

For the record, we’re talking about a navy blue fabric shoulder bag, it is around 1.5″ by 0.5″ by 1″ (a foot and a half by half a foot at its base, and around a foot tall). The bottom and straps are a right brown colour and have a crocodile-like pattern on them.

It is one of maybe six or seven bags that I own, and the youngest of my collection.

I plucked it off a wall brimming with purses, bags, clutches and knapsacks in the Topshop of Oxford St., London, England in July. (The store, and the street, were even more packed with people than the wall with bags).

Upon leaving the house this morning, the bag contained the following items:

  • Wallet of the black, Fullum & Holt variety, won in a raffle at  Girls’ Action Foundation event last year. If you want to delve further into my identity, beyond the purse, try the wallet;
  • Notebook, brown moleskin cover, with creamy thick pages to write on. My dad gave me a stack of them for Christmas, since they are delectable to write on;
  • Orange folder with velcro closure and back pocket, 8 1/2 x 11. In it, I shove all the papers that some profs still insist on handing out. If I don’t, I manage to promptly lose them;
  • A dog-eared and crinkled copy of this week’s Economist. The headline: Everything to play for. Below it, a grip’n’grin shot of Obama and Romney (grip’n’grin being a term I learnt in today’s photojournalism class, meaning the traditional politician’s shake-your-hand-and-smile photo op);
  • A fist-sized metal tea container, half empty, with a sticker that at one point indicated its contents were Breakfast Tea from Fortnum & Mason. The sticker has been worn down from its coming into contact with the bottom of my purse for a number of months;
  • Clothing: a black pyjama shirt, a grey, knee-length, stretchy skirt, a pair of underwear, sheer pantyhose with a run in them;
  • A white Bic notepad, line, with four words written on it;
  • Degree “Expert Protection” anti-perspirant. This is honestly the first time I have read the label in full. The English half reads: 24h Motion Sense | Motion Activated Freshness | Cotton Fresh | Anti-perspirant;
  • A pen I borrowed from the Corinthia hotel in London and have not had the occasion to return;
  • A stick of Tide To Go;
  • A Burberry glasses case containing my old glasses (the new ones are on my nose);
  • Another pen, this time from the “Fondation TD des amis de L’Environnement”;
  • A pack of Excel peppermint gum which until six seconds ago had one stick of gum left in it;
  • A pack of Advil Cold and Sinus. The six daytime pills have all been used. The three nighttime pills remain;
  • A piece of paper divided into nine smaller squares, used to play alphabet-bingo in last Saturday’s German class at the Goethe Institut;
  • In one inside pocket, a Personnelle pink lip gloss and another pen;
  • In a pocket on the other side of the purse, a metal fork, Maybelline Great Lash mascara, L’Oreal True Match correcter, Maybelline black liquid eyeliner;
  • Finally, a copy of Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, its cover a little less yellow from its time spent in the bag.

This is a day where I packed light.  What do the contents of my bag say about me? (Apart that I have pen kleptomania.)

– Girl Friday

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On mindfulness (and, tangentially, on my deep appreciation of Christopher Walken)

Reader, I am too absorbed in my mindfulness CD right now to write a blog post for your pleasure.

Of course, I’ve been doing my nails as I am listening so I am pretty sure that I am missing the point.

This is a CD authored by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the University of Massachusetts’ Stress Reduction Clinic. He has a soothing voice, with faint undertones of Christopher Walken. To get an idea of what the CD sounds like, imagine if Walken was your father and reading you a bedtime story.

Puts me right to sleep.

Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “What comes out of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally and as if your mind depended on it – nothing else than awareness.” It’s official, I did miss the point, although my nails do look fabulous in an earthy, Thanskgiving-esque brown.

It’s a great exercise for me to slow down – actually, to stop – and be aware. It doesn’t come easily. For me, the problem is not that the world moves too quickly for me, but rather that I move too quickly for myself. That can generate a lot of anxiety and generally unpleasantness of being.

Even with the description and definition of mindfulness that makes up the first part of the CD, Kabat-Zinn integrates meditation concepts and neuroscience in such an interesting way that it makes me want to take notes. (The point: it has been missed.)

I have yet to work my way through the CD contents in their entity, but I am already reminded of the book “My Stroke of Insight” by Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor (another neuroscientist!). In the book, she recounts the shift in perception she experienced as a result of a left brain haemorrhage at age 37 – in fact, I believe she even mentions how she now practices mindfulness.

I leave you with this (non-rhetorical) question, courtesy of the Stress Reduction Clinic: Can you question who you are and be comfortable with not knowing?

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The experiences recounted in the two reads of the week would in and of themselves make anyone want to pick up mindfulness (if only as a coping mechanism).

Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly American Airlines |  Matthew Iglesias | Slate

A Trans-Atlantic Trip Turns Kafkaesque | Gary Shteyngart | New York Times

– Girl Friday

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Dark side!? Nahhh

Sooo I’m feeling really lazy this week and didn’t do any writing. So I dig up old writing for you guys. WARNING!! It is very dark and disturbing. At least that’s how I feel. I do hope you enjoy it though. It’s a different kind of writing than I’ve posted previously. Anyways, enjoy it and hope your weeks start off well! Noah P.S. I didn’t reread it to edit it..soo forgive any mistakes please 🙂

Blood oozes from the limp body. The carcass is stuck to the wall by a sword. The crimson flow slowly makes its way out of the body. Then it flows onto the wall and proceeds to trickle in droplets down to the tile floor. The body sags over the sword. The head overshooting it; the hilt hits the body’s throat. A small sharp blade pops out from the hilt creating a gash in the throat. More blood spills from the body. This time from the throat in ruby red gushes for the first few seconds. Following into a slow trickle and then disappearing to nothing. The significant loss of blood before-hand lead to the stemmed blood flow. The arms are hanging lifeless after this event with a missing finger. Down the hall some ways away is a frame where a mirror once stood. It has been removed from its place and is nowhere to be found. Outside of the building is a park of sorts. A tree stands in the middle of the lawn. Cement pathway surrounding it and branching off to the left and right.

Barely visible by moonlight is a figure crouched near the tree. He hums to himself in a very sadistic, low, yet happy tone. He rocks to and fro in a fast steady motion. He uses the balls of his feet as a steady anchor, never leaving the ground. Black hair hangs down over his face. Large crazy blue eyes staring intently at the ring on the bloody finger he holds. The blood is now dry and the figure lets out a small screech as he turns the finger over and over again in his hands. Smile slowly growing over his face. He slowly moves his pointer finger up and down the finger. He uses extraordinary caution as to not dislodge the ring. He quickly draws back his finger. It got pricked by a tiny portion of protruding bone. His large crazy eyes never change as he stares at the tip of his appendage. His head moves to the left and right in a circular motion. The creepy smile reappears as though it had never disappeared. As he stops rocking back and forth blood begins to slowly drip down his injured digit.

After examining his bloody finger for sometime he pulls his gaze from it to the moon above him; as though the moon was calling his name. Without warning the figure shoves his finger in his mouth and sucks on it with a twinkle in his eye, as he stares up at the moon. After a fair amount of sucking he pulls it out of his mouth with a loud pop, resuming the rocking motion. Afterwards he turns his crazy gaze back to his pricked finger. He twists his injured finger around in a circle and realizes that it isn’t bleeding anymore. A sad look comes across his face. Only for a moment as it changes to an expression of ecstatic glee. This takes on the form of a crazed smile. He moves the broken, twisted finger close to his mouth and starts to slowly lick the blood off the tip of it. His look changes to one of curiosity as he shoves the object of interest into his mouth, back end sticking out of his mouth. Once this is done he begins to move his tongue across the parts of the member inside his mouth. After having cleaned it of blood he carefully removes it from his mouth. Preceding to licks his lips in a circle. He stares at the ring on the finger and pulls it off. Then licks the inside of the ring incase it’d be bloody. He effortlessly slips the ring onto his finger, sliding easily on the already slick surface.

He now centers his attention on the mangled finger, inspecting it incoherent thoughts. After a few minutes of silence he reaches a hand to the back of his belt. Procuring an exact-o knife which possesses a freshly sharpened blade. He approaches the finger as one would to peel an apple, skin first to expose the flesh. He removes the skin from the top portion of the finger. He lets the skin fall off, without interest and chews the exposed flesh to the bone. Removing it once he finished sucking on it with a pop. He then carefully puts back the exact-o knife. He stands up, looks down at the finger and stops to think. He then puts it in one of his pant pockets for later consumption. Looking for the skin which he cut off earlier he crouches down and scans the ground. As he finds it he picks it up and stands up with it directly in front of his face. Without a second of thought he lashes out with his tongue and brings in the piece of skin to his mouth. As he chews on the salty outer portion of a man’s saliva drenched finger he turns around and walks away. Smile on his face and a feeling of satisfaction in his belly.

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Where the box ends and innovation begins

This week’s post has me ruminating about creativity and how it can result from constraint.

It seems that to think outside of the box, you need to know where exactly the box is first.

There have been plenty of articles written on this topic.That last one is actually a HuffPo blog post by Scott Barry Kaufman which explains why people tend to be limited when presented with a blank slate. He writes:

“Paradoxically, when people are given free reign to solve a problem, they tend to be wholly uncreative, focusing on what’s worked best in the past. This is due to the fundamental nature of human cognition: to imagine the future we generate what we already know from the past.”

Whereas if limits are imposed, you seek ways to overcome them.

The sonnet is one of the most exacting forms of poetry – 14 lines of ten syllables each and written in iambic pentameter – and yet has resulted in some of the most beautiful, tender words ever written.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

To prove my point, here’s Alan Rickman reciting Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130.

Nothing like gratuitous Alan Rickman to make my Friday night.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has persevered artistically – it could be argued his artistic life has thrived – while living with consistent attempts to repress and undermine his actions on the part of the state.

In the trailer for Never Sorry, you see a screen shot of the computer where he tweets: ” I am an artist who is always looking for what is possible.”

My photojournalism professor is the one who got be thinking about this, when he said  (in as many words) that, when on assignment, it is when a photojournalist is having a hard time finding an interesting way to shoot something that you get creative.

It is when you are challenged that you produce your finest work.

Of course, this leads me to ask why there is so little visible innovation in the news industry. Why are we not using these new limits to push ourselves?

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Here are my reads of the week:

THE THROWAWAYS  : Police enlist young offenders as confidential informants. But the work is high-risk, largely unregulated, and sometimes fatal. | Sarah Stillman | The New Yorker

Kevin O’Leary: He’s not a billionaire, he just plays one on TV | Bruce Livesey and Tim Kiladze | Report On Business Magazine

And some vintage journalistic goodness, courtesy of the year 1963:

Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor  | Jimmy Breslin | New York Herald Tribune

– Girl Friday

P.S.: I found a typo in The Economist this week.

It was horrible.

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Stress and Videogames!

Stress, we’ve all experienced this multi-headed demon of a feeling. It can come and go; but most of the time I feel like it rears its ugly self more frequently than I would like. Stress in videogames is something I have always hated! I’m a competitive person by nature. When I want to do something I give it my all, none of this half-ass bullshit! This being the case I often found myself not enjoying the game I was playing.

Solving the issue was fairly simple in WoW (World of Warcraft). Stop PvPing (Person vs Person) and focus on the PvE (Person vs Environment) aspect of the game. Less competition and less stress, allowed me to really further my enjoyment of the game. Starcraft II came out and I barely played any games. Maybe 100-150 1v1’s and around 300 team games. I found the team games less stressful on me and so played more of them as a result. Even with my current game of choice LoL (League of Legends) I was nervous and stressed to play those main carry roles. I would always want to play support. If we ended up losing it was almost never because of me and it kept my stress low. When the ability to play games against computers came out I moved exclusively to this game mode.

It is important to note that I was always lying to myself about why I was playing against computers or why I wouldn’t want to play more Starcraft II. I would always say I’m practicing a certain champion or strategy and I’m not ready to move on against real people yet. It was really all about stress but I wouldn’t let myself realize this for reasons I believe were, a lack of strength to admit it and pride.

Eventually I came to the realization that it was stress that was stopping me from wanting to play these games. Once I realized this I decided to alter my gaming view to try and make it more fun and easier to game. In Starcraft II I stopped playing my main race of Zerg and instead moved to random full time. In doing this I released a lot of the stress on myself and laddered quite a bit (compared to my previous self) before moving on to LoL. LoL took quite a bit of time for me to adjust. I now only play normals and am working on playing some ranked.

All of this to say once I figured out that it was stress holding me back it was quite simple to change it. I urge other stress gamers to do just a little bit of thinking and I’m sure you’ll be able to overcome your barriers!

If you want to try LoL here’s a link. Add my summoner name THC Tullidd http://signup.leagueoflegends.com/?ref=4d76db61d0385149882011

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