Monday, April 17, 2017

Sing Us a Song 


Someone ran Trump through Google's Deep Dream, then I ran it through Barbara Kruger

They say every war movie, is an anti-war movie. Can the same be said of a playlist? Is every political playlist, an anti-political playlist? Okay, that sounded better in my head. What isn’t obvious is when the “current political climate” (also known as the End of Days) makes you see songs you’re familiar with in a new light, with new meaning - or even to finally make sense of a meaning or tone you never realized. This was intended as an ode to spring but spring arrived with very little fanfare this year. Here in Toronto we’ve had unusually warm days only to be followed by wet snow and blizzard warnings that became rainstorms. The end of winter and beginning of spring has also marked the first months of a new American enterprise (it seems perverse to call the current president’s cadre of cohorts an administration) and that has left me seeing everything through that lens.



This playlist reflects both a political sensitivity and at times respite from worldly affairs. Basically, I let the stream of Spotify flow over me like a tepid shower and when something piqued my interest I bookmarked it into this list, and as is my wont, stopped at sixteen.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Don't Lose Your Nerve 

After reading a brief article extolling the practice of reducing stress and increasing productivity by scheduling some quiet time, it occurred to me that I might benefit from some scheduled quiet time. I’m one of the millions of sad people who tend to eat their take-out lunch at their desks. Usually I click through a few videos or simply keep working. Lately, since the time change (end of daylight savings? Beginning of daylight savings?) I’ve found myself caught off guard by looking at my watch to find I’ve been in the office until the ugly hour of 7-7:30PM. Doing what? Endlessly chipping away at the rock that Sisyphus is pushing, presumably. Why? The excessive tricky daylight cunningly convinced me it wasn’t that late, but still… what’s the point? The sadness of my realization cannot be fathomed. I’m still here, no longer being paid, filling up the bucket of unearned labour for my employer because I do not have anywhere else to be.
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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Keep Breathing 


Enter Bangalore's stream of unconscious traffic.


Upon arriving home from India after an epic 30 hour trip, I took a little nap. What felt like only a few hours later, I found myself standing in a new office space, unpacking a crate, looking for a power bar. That’s when someone asked me, "What was your impression of Bangalore?"

I meant it when I said Bangalore was like the 16th century smashing up against the 21st century. Imagine for a moment, London in the late 1500s. It’s good place to start because Tudor England around Shakespeare’s time has been pretty well represented in a lot of plays, movies and novels. We can kind of picture it in our minds. You can imagine London as a teeming city of around maybe 500,000 souls crammed into congested blocks of low rise buildings. Think of it, people lived or had shops on the bridges back then. Most people are dirt poor (picture really horrible teeth). There’s no sanitation so everyone throws swill buckets into open gutters. Beasts of burden and livestock are everywhere, and so is their waste. Homes or more accurately, hovels are heated by open fires, everything is cooked or boiled over wood or charcoal fires so the air is ripe with smoke, sewage and probably the rank odour of the nearby river and every one of the Queen’s subjects. Yet a wealthy aristocracy moves throughout the city. They've created a bubble of carriages, fine clothing, and perfumes to isolate themselves from the clatter and chaos of everyone else.
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Monday, February 27, 2017

Before All Hell Breaks Loose 

Carnivale - Panjim, Goa
The chaos of Carnival is only a memory to me now.

In a few hours I will embark on one of the most arduous journeys of my life. The fact that approximately 30 hours of transport in taxis, planes, and trains can be referred to as “the most arduous journey of my life” tells you just what an incredibly overindulgent and mollycoddled life I’ve led thus far. I would never be called a refugee, escapee or even a “boat person” (with apologies to those referred to as such). In the past, as a student, I took a hockey bag full of all my belongings (how quaintly Canadian) and hitched a ride with friends by car from Ottawa to Toronto, flew economy (as I still do) from Toronto to Halifax, took an unusually long train ride from Halifax to North Sydney, where I then took a cab ride to the ferry terminal, took the overnighter boat to Port aux Basques, then a bus to Deer Lake and days later, I took an $80 flight from Deer Lake to St. John’s. The longest uninterrupted section of that trip took 24 hours. I recall the sensation that my clothing felt starched and stiff and fused to my skin.

This trip to India has already surpassed that; traveling from Toronto to Bangalore was about 30 hours yet the six hour layover in Frankfurt included a shower, a full buffet breakfast and a two hour nap in an over-stuffed leather recliner. That Germanic break came with vitamin-E infused moisturizer, lattes and little cakes which made the entire trip much more tolerable. That will not happen this time. Additionally I’m leaving from Goa to Bangalore (in +30 C heat) before I even begin. Taxis and hanging-around-abandoned-terminal-time will add some eight hours before the wheels on my flight to Toronto even begin to roll. I expect the entirety of the trip to be about 28 hours, non-stop, if everything goes as planned.
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pack and Get Dressed 

I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. Not as well travelled as I’d like to be, but certainly open to it. Clearly I am wrong. I am a withering petal on a dying plant. I can be sheepish and susceptible to suggestions when overwhelmed or hugely skeptical, obstinate and cynical if pressured to make a decision. Every time I see an article titled “How to Have a Better Flight”, I eagerly hope to find a new insight or some helpful “travel hack”. Instead I read it and think, “Well, that was obvious.” A recent New York Times article offered, “Be polite to flight staff.” Well, I’m not going to anger the fop who controls all the food and doors in a flying metal pod am I? I want to know how to sleep on an overnight flight or better yet, how to avoid an overnight flight. I have learned however why sometimes I feel immediately hungover when I drink alcohol aboard an aircraft (apparently, a loss of pressure in the cabin can make you susceptible to a mild altitude sickness and alcohol might worsen that). On this trip to India, I discovered some airports have day passes to lounges with showers, buffets and, more importantly, comfy chairs or loungers. After an overnight flight to Frankfurt with a six hour layover before continuing to India, I took full advantage of a Luftansa Lounge. Once I found the lounge, I immediately showered, shaved, took my meds and brushed my teeth. I then had a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, fruit salad and a croissant. I had to try at least 3 seats before I found a quiet, darker corner where I dozed off for a couple of hours of sleep. Given that I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight, and knew I wouldn’t sleep on the next leg, it turned out to be the only sleep I got over 30 hours of travel. I won’t have this luxury on the way back and will go from one 8 hour flight to the next.
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