Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dance like a European

The crowd looks like they read Wired, which makes sense. This is a digital conference of sorts, after all. Electronic fans from all over the world gather each May for Montreal's Mutek, enticed by the buzz about the city's little party that could. Started ten years ago in a country where eletronic music is almost always considered niche, the non-profit festival now hosts more than 50 performances in five days.

During the daylight, fans, promoters, DJs, and musicians meet up to discuss and debate genre, industry, and innovation. Night is for dancing. I show up during for the second evening of the festival, to what seems to be headquarters: a multi-room, multi-floor maze of old world theatre and teched out equpiment. I meet up with friends, and after a short, stuffy, sweaty dance session we retire to the second floor, a densly populated over-hanging balcony with an proper view and quiet bar.

Onstage there is rapping, keyboard, guitar, keytar, trumpet, drums, and a whole lot of laptop. It's a mesh up of dub step, techno, house, drum-and-bass, and all-over crossover. Imagery floats across screens that line the stage, strips of glowing lights blast ever-changing colours, and strobes mutate the movements of the crowd below, who are dancing like likeable maniacs. It's the full rock-show experience, except it's not a rock show.

A tiny black box of a room is hidden in the top corner of the club, and when the main stage finishes we head inside for another odd-hour of lcd-lit dancing. But eventually yellow light fills the room, a signal to take to the streets. Outside first we see friends, then we make friends, and then we make plans.

We're led to a second-floor loft space, a rental for the festival. There, party promoters from Chicago, Toronto, and Montreal rant about maintaining the underground, and the negative viral effect of Steve Aoki. A handful of electronic junkies from Manhattan and the U.K. discuss their favourite shows of the festival, and reminisce about past parties, festivals, and sets.

I get lost in conversation until I notice light start to poke through the tactfully shut blinds, and I realize I need to excuse myself and head towards the sky blue sky. Outside the city is eerily quiet, pretty. The sun breaks red, then pink, then orange, poking through bridge beams, and casting shadows through a vacant theme park.

Now alone, I slip in earbuds, spot a marker in the distance, and walk towards bed. When I finally arrive an old acquaintance has beat me to the pull-out. No bother, I stay wired to my ipod, slip on sweatpants, and drift to sleep, music still playing.

Don't think twice, it's alright

Elvis is alive, and selling appliances. Tucked around the corner from my friend's apartment is the coolest place to pick up a clean-machine, ice box, or love seat, decked out in an everything-Elvis theme. Squares of red lights line the storefront windows and statues and paintings of the king call in the curious.

An arbitrary appliance store, perhaps, but the kitsch-charm alone is worth the visit. The Big Boss Man is jovial and camera-shy, but seems to offer Beyond The Bend bargains--washers start at just $200.

And the theme is Catchin On Fast. Just up the block another Elvis sign hangs over a similar store. Like little-Graceland in the heart of Montreal, the strip invites you to Shake Rattle and Roll from one store to the next, hopefully finding out who's real and who's an impersonator.

Update: Turns out our owner-extraordinaire isn't so camera shy when it comes to video recordings. Click here to see the Indian-esque commercial for Ameublement Elvis.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Balcony beauty

The only city I visit in Toronto's vicinity is Montreal. Thus, I consider my favourite fake-French friends as good as neighbours. And Jen, one half of The Neighbours Next Door is a neighbour, a friend, and that all too often used word: fashionista.

As soon as I enter the city borders of Montreal, I can't help but feel a bit inadequate. Everyone is polished, but looks effortless, simple and scruffy, all at once. Jen's afternoon outfit, which she was earnestly reluctant to let me photograph, is just that: simple and cute.


Three-button black and cream top, H&M
Magnifying glass pendant, Marc Jacobs and vintage ring
Make her your neighbour, too
Bus ticket through rural Ontario to urban Montreal

The second I sit down on the bus, my eyes close. Sleep has been hiding all week, now I've found it on the road. Somewhere between point a and b is a truck stop where I buy cheetos, mountain dew, and sugary lime-green candy strips. The essentials. A stomach-ache sleep brings me to my destination, 3:45 a.m.

Disoriented, I look for anything I recognize. A strip club I know! Success. The writing on the storefronts turns from French to Mandarin. Trouble. A cross-dressing bar tender stands in front of a closed sportsbar. I am lost, too. Then I spot a dead-lit red and white sign, the logo for Hennes & Mauritz. H&M, the great landmark of the Swedishized world of fast-fashion. I know exactly where I am.

I turn right, and find the long street that leads to my friend's apartment. The walk is about an hour. No bother, it's 5:00 a.m., I have time to kill. The walk is crisp; I forget the sun doesn't rise when its raining. Finally, I reach the park, nearly 6:00 a.m. As I sit down and pull a book out of the front pocket of my bag, the lights in the park ceremonisouly turn off: a sign it's finally day.

Right when the bicycles, coffee cups and strollers start to come out, I get a saving text. Alex can't sleep, is up, and buzzes me into his building. As the sun warms the morning grey sky, we both fall asleep.

My morning saviour
I bring rain to the city, every time
Sinking hope on a rainy day
Sit and be bright
On a loaner bicycle I make my way to Metropolis, and buy ticket for tonight's show

*I know I said brb just a few hours ago, but I can't quite un-wire, yet

Friday, May 29, 2009

Montreal. Enough said?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Let's play spot the superstar.

Starring in a teen soap is simultaneously a launching pad and a dead end. Shannon Doherty got her own WB drama, Jared Leto gave us Requiem for a Dream, and Katie Holmes had a demon baby with America's most famous Scientologist. But Blossom hasn't been heard from, Brian Austin Green is doing uncredited extra work, and Sarah Michelle Gellar hasn't been relevant since celebs had three names. 

Then there is the next generation. While Famous and Canadian rarely end up in the same sentence, Degrassi: the next generation is an international hit on the N. While few fans bat an eye at cast members on Toronto's streets, the show's American success has catapulted a couple of its stars into post-secondary fame. 

Shanae Grimes skipped town, transferred to  West Beverly, and can now be seen carrying  cartons of cigarettes out of convenience stores on gossip blogs next to headlines like  "Shanae Grimes is an anorexic bitch!" Isn't Hollywood fun? Adamo Ruggiero moved from CTV to YTV, and now hosts a pint-sized American-Idol type show called the Next Star. He also  came out of the closet on E-Talk Daily, was a  Fab coverboy and has become a viable gay icon  online

But no celeb has made it until they're on  Page Six. And the first of the gang to make that tabloid splash is one Aubrey Drake. Now simply  "Drake", Aubrey is a budding musician who hangs with the likes of Kanye and is poised to become American's favourite Black-Jewish rapper. But lately it's his kissing lips, not his spitting lips, that are getting press. Drake has been spotted in an apparent heavy make-out session with a post-Chris Brown Rhianna. Drake has publicly played the "just friends" card, but let's face it: it's more fun to believe what's on Page Six than what's on a press release. 

Until the next episode, 

*nb: Yes, Shanae Grimes was probably on Page Six first, but not in a Rhianna item, and that's what truly matters
A true blue girl

Brittney Townson is a graphic designer, a fashion and culture blogger, and the former front-woman of a hyper stylized (new) new wave act. To me, she's a friend. The force behind Shirk, Townson has been blogging a series of Q&A sessions with her own style icons. This week, we both get to play interviewer and interviewee. First, Brit posted my response to her questions. Today, I'm posting her words.

They are as follows.

If you were a brand, which would you be?

Hm, can Value Village count as one? I guess not, eh? I'M GONNA BREAK THE RULES. I am a cornucopia of fashion styles from all eras and fads all rolled into one. You name it, I've shopped there. I even look for shoes and other accessories in those nasty old chinese dollar stores. I swear there's something cool everywhere as long as you dig deep!

Which would you rather give up, cigarettes or accessories?

Oh dear god. Please don't make me choose. Well, truth be told I actually don't wear that many accessories; I'm a very simple dresser. No earrings, you'll rarely see me wear a necklace, and I'm definitely not a bracelet girl. But I do love my rings. Well, at least accessories won't kill me.

You're interning at Vice, what's that like? Are you ever scared you'll wind up on the DON'T pages?

Vice is great, the people I'm working under are all very nice, funny and pleasant. The building I work in is a great atmosphere as well. Sure, isn't everyone afraid of being a DON'T? But I know that aI think I good when I leave the house, and I don't really give a fuck about anyone else's opinion after that.

Speaking of Vices, what is yours?

Many. Obviously smoking and drinking are two. Making fun of my multicultural friends is another. I kid, it's all in good fun! Becky's brown! But seriously: Mariah Carey. Sex and the City. Staying up until the sun comes up. Gold jewelry. Sale racks. Late night drives. Physical lovin'. Etc.
You also work part-time at American Apparel, has Dov Charney made a pass at you yet? Also, AA is all about basics, what's your favourite basic? And more importantly, can I use your discount?

I haven't had the PLEASURE of meeting Dov in person, but we hear a lot about him. I guess that would be a funny story to share if it happened. Yet, also terrifying. Basics are incredibly important, because like I said, I'm a very simplistic person. It's all about black pencil skirts, because they make any outfit look good. Black tights. Black shoes. And then white tank tops and t's. Everyone needs a good leather jacket, a good blazer, and a great purse that matches their shoes and coat. And a great hair cut; the hair makes the bod that makes the look. Oh, and English pea coats are a must for everyone.

Discount, check.

I've always thought of your look (and personality) as tough-but-sweet. How do you manage this dual look-life?

Haha, that's such a perfect way of putting it! I've never been much of a girly girl; it's something that I've only really discovered in the last three or four years. I used to be this jeans and chucks wearing girl with boyish haircuts. But mixing that with frills, lace, pastels, heels and blush; oh my god, heaven.

By trade, you're a graphic designer. How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?

I've always been an artist; a painter, illustrator, yet always fascinated with fancy fashion magazines and their typography, page layouts, etc. So I basically thought, what's the only sensical way to make money by being an artist these days? Graphic design. My "style", if you could call it that, is simple, bright, and fun. Big, bold typography and cleanliness. See? Simplicity is the way to go.

Celebrity or street style, pick your poison.

Street. Celebrities don't choose their outfits when they hit the red carpet; they have some Hollywood fashion-school graduate do it for them. These kids in Europe and Japan and all over roll out of bed and put together eye-explosions of outfits and go about daily life. It's incredible.

We both blog about our own lives on occasion, but is there anything you won't write about?

Anything too personal. For example, I was dumped by my boyfriend of three and half years today! But you won't see me blogging about that. I doubt some girl checking out my latest vintage purchase gives a flying fuck.

Wow, is it ok that I’m blogging this? You heard it here first: Brittney Townson, a single lady, roaming the web. Moving forward...

Spending so much time on the internet, we often forget fashion exists more in the moment than the photo. Do you have a favourite ensemble that you've worn out to an event this year?

Good question. As usual, I wear way too much black. But I triiieeddd my best a few weeks ago; I wore my black harem pants, hot pink Steve Madden pumps, a mint tube top and my jean jacket. I was happy.

Which season suits your style the best? Are you a spring/summer kind of girl, or more fall/winter?

As I mentioned, I love pea coats. Especially ones with big collars. Everyone looks FEIRCE in those. And leather boots. But I love summer because I can wear my flats and summer dresses again. I guess I like a little bit of every season's style musts. But obviously living in Canada, I'll stick with summer. It's not long enough to even enjoy, yet we spend all of this time prepping for it!

If you were to let me look through your wardrobe and borrow one item, what do you think I would want?

I love your jeans. I love your jackets, and I love your bow ties. Can I borrow all of those?

Whoops, I meant from your wardrobe. And yes, of course. We’ll do a trade.

Design work, last summer
Cigarettes and fur
Sunglasses, scarves, and girl who mostly wears accessories that start with "s"
New hair, every time
The last look
Red, white and blue soda

Change is coming to Canada, too. Well, at least according to Pepsi.  A white box with a big branded sticker on top arrived at the office yesterday. Inside were three cans of Pepsi, one new logo. The new emblem: a circle of red white and blue, with the central white "S" turned into a sort-of smile. It's new, it's fresh, it's clean, it's ... a lot like  something we've already seen, or so the blogosphere has been quick to say. 

Even  CNN called out the brand when it released what critics call an Obama-esque logo in the states in early '09. Nearly six months later, and well past 100 days of Obama-office, when I got someone from Pepsi on the phone, I still had to ask. The answer is, as follows:

Cheryl Radisa, vice-president of consumer marketing for PespiCo Canada said any similarities are entirely unintentional. “A lot of the fundamentals of that campaign were parallel to Pepsi’s messaging, but that was by coincidence, not design."

A basic denial, which could easily be true. Campaigns are conceived months in advance of their release, but a quick look through the new marketing materials shows a lot coming up Obama. Inside the box on a glossy piece of blue paper, outlined with thin red and white lines, reads a message from Pepsi: 

There's a movement afoot, and it starts with the joy of Pepsi. 

New Look. New Logo. New Everything. 
Join the Movement. Join It Forward.

Carefully crafted text, if I've read it right. The words taste sweet as they sink in, just like soda. But its hard to deny that this campaign is reminiscent of another one. The new look and new logo were contrived to appeal to the youth of America, who for a few months were Hope hagglers. Will the feel-good, change is coming, approach work? Probably. After all, this isn't generation x, it's  Generation Next

*My full campaign story, without all the speculation, can be read  here

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dear valued SUBWAY® restaurants customer,

Thank you for playing SCRABBLE® at SUBWAY® restaurants. Our records show that you were eligible to win a $5 SUBWAY® Cash Card, but incorrectly answered the mathematical skill-testing question (STQ).

When we initially administered the skill-testing question we used the words "divided by" in the middle of the equation which we believe may have confused some contestants. We have since changed how the STQ is displayed on the SCRABBLE® at SUBWAY® restaurants Promotion website, and would like to offer you the opportunity to answer the question as it is now displayed. If you answer correctly, you are eligible to win a $5 SUBWAY® Cash Card.

In order to answer the STQ, please click on the following link:

Skill Testing Question Page

You have until midnight on June 9th, 2009 to answer the STQ. If you answer correctly, you will receive instructions on how to claim your prize.

SUBWAY® restaurants

*I am so bad at math that even Subway pities me.

Update: Just received a new e-mail from Subway: Congratulations Russ! You’re a winner of a $5 SUBWAY® Cash Card! You correctly answered the skill-testing question in the SCRABBLE® at SUBWAY® restaurants Instant Win Game! Way to go! 

Except, I didn't. I didn't even make an attempt. Either someone did this for me, or Subway really pities me. Regardless, score! I should always crowd-source my problems.

We are the sculpture
Click here for my new post on, Doors Open Toronto end-cap coverage of the rooftop at 401 Richmond, where you should all convene on sunny afternoons, read books, and discuss the benefits of the four-day work week.

*Feel free to drop what YOU would do with an extra day off into the comments. Hate-mangling also encouraged.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A persona, and some Americana

The graduates are in. Meet Emily O'Brien, recent Goldsmith grad. Yep, Goldsmith. Screw the economy kids, do what you really love. A recent OCAD grad, O'brien specializes in building tiny pieces of Americana. For her thesis project O'Brien constructed recreations of scenes of American life, and plotted the miniatures out on a giant map of the U.S.A.

If I could squeeze into the America in O'brien's head and pancake tour across it, all of my Kerouac fantasies would come to fruition. Luckily, I have O'brien, a Rochester native, to lead me through the well journaled journey. Placed poignently on a blue-green map of the land are tiny pit-stops; the most miniature scenes of American life jewellery can hang on.

Oh yeah, there's jewelerry, too. Hanging on and hidden in the work is another art: the accessory. Earings, necklaces, and pendants top off the mapped mini-architecture. It's functional art and fashion, anchored in America.

But before O'brien got art-school-cool, there were the elementary years. Back then, O'brien was the only female member of the school Star Wars club. No, she wasn't Princess Laya, if that's what you're thinking. Some male member snagged that role, leaving her with Chewbacca (a position she filled proudly).

Now O'brien's a goldsmith, and a jewelery grad. The last we heard from the Laya-kid, a twister had passed through town and he was never seen again. Americans, you've gotta love them.

*When I said "Monday Morning" in yesterday's post, I meant Monday evening, when this was written. The London Stock Exchange went on a break, and so did I.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Swine Flu in Madrid

Oops, I mean "Anti-bullfighting demonstrators lay in fake blood at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas earlier today in Madrid. An estimated of 300 demonstrators protested for the abolition of bullfighting."

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images [Gawker]

Sunday observation: swine flu jokes are either too soon, or outdated. I'm at a loss to comedic timing.

Last weekend microblog before regular Monday morning content, I promise*
The bee's knees

Met this friend on Vanessa's art-tour of the city, yesterday. Now Sunday, and I'm tuckered out.

Read the whole story here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Out urban exploring, thanks to Doors Open. Full article and blog post, to come.

Enjoy your Saturday.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Boys wanna be her, girls wanna be her

Peaches rarely lets a crowd down. Her followers (mostly lesbians and indie-kid left-overs) always know what to expect. And at the Phenoix last night, she delivered. The incessant gender bending costume changes, the light up vagina, the gyrating hips. Everything.

Backed by Iggy Pop and Kim Gordon look-alikes, Peaches gave her brand of power-quick performance and pretty-meets-pain that has turned her into a readily remixed festival circuit hit. She played with lasers, stormed the second floor balcony, and swan dove off the stage into the sweaty, eager crowd. The usual.

The crowd shook their dicks, shook their tits, screamed along the lyrics. We danced with stupid smiles on our faces. More, more, more, until it was over. By then our legs were soar, our stomaches ached, and we felt the need for an after-sex style cigarette.

That feeling, that, is the Teaches of Peaches.

Carlsberger, part II

A few weeks ago I posted an entry about a party I hosted as part of a beer blogging initiative for Carlsberg, which is also the lead-in to a feature I'm writing for Marketing. The whole story will be posted next month, but right now Carlsberg is asking that I post a link to this survey.

The survey takes about two minutes, and for each person who takes it $2 will be donated to Shelternet, a web-based women and children's crisis support centre, which helps women's shelters with their finances. It's a nice PR promo for a beer-consumer insight. Fill it out, if you like.

Update: Free poker-sets from Carlsberg here.