Saturday, June 27, 2009

Watch what you wear

A nearly naked Victoria Beckham isn't exactly a sight for sore eyes. But that didn't stop locals from taking offense when Raffi Nernekian wore a t-shirt that pictures the celebrity in nothing but a pair of pumps to a Dubai bakery.

Though the Marc Jacobs charity tee (above) reveals nothing racier than skin covering skin, a man confronted Nernekian about the tee, apparently upset with its graphic, sexualized nature. Nernekian, a Lebanese native, reportedly left the bakery to change out of the offending shirt, but upon return police were waiting.

The 28-year-old, who works as a commercial eastern ambassador for Marc Jacobs and other luxury brands, was charged with offending public decency. He has been tossed in the slammer for a month and will be deported upon release.

If an incriminating tee is cause enough for jail time in Dubai, I'll avoid a visit--last time I wore the Posh grey tee I didn't even bother pulling on pants.

Good luck, Raffi.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This one's for the lost children, wishing them well and wishing them home

The king is dead.

His followers took to the streets, tears streaming down their cheeks. They lit candles and lay cloth posters on public cement, the words of '80s pop hits softly escaping their lips. Michael Jackson is no more.

The tabloids are sick with excitement. Fresh blood will be printed on tomorrow's glossy pages. First Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcet, now this. Goodbye Jon and Kate, hello funeral fashion.

The pack in Dundas Square have seen better days. They've been thrown off course, wandering behind a lost prophet. In the middle of the cross-legged circle, two homage hats sit atop dark curls. Across their chests, the words "Michael Jackson" are cracking off vintage concert tee shirts. Those shows have long past.

One girl clutches a photograph of Jackson atop a car, surrounded by a sea of cameras, umbrella in hand. She's rocking back and forth, staring into the ground. A woman crying into a cell phone raises her eyes towards the sky and wipes the eyeliner tears from her cheeks. "I'm just so emotional..." she trails off.

Most are here for the spectacle. One admits her friends faked being fans to get on the evening news. Others take pictures, stare, and wonder aloud how this this is possibly the solution to death of a pop star. The true believers don't care. They followed Jackson through glory, despair, and madness; and they will follow him through death.

Long live the king.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Have no fear, bathtub beer is here

With each tick of the clock's hand, the guests were reminded of their thirst. In exchange for the flash of an ID and a timely arrival, each had been promised an evening of free beer. But the beer never came.

On the last Friday in May, blogger, music journalist, and former Winnipeg-wonder Alex Chinien had planned a party. It was to be one of 40 taking place in Toronto and Montreal, as part of a marketing initiative for the recently re-branded Danish brew Carlsberg. Having successfully thrown my own beer-blogging party just a few weeks earlier, as "research" for a feature article, I was ready for another night of free Carlsberg and excessive debauchery.

Unfortunately, only the latter happened. At first, we thought the delivery must be running late. But as Alex started pacing past his sober friends and re-reading the pre-party e-mails, we both began to worry. Eventually I got a company rep on the phone, who apologized profusely and explained there had been an unfortunate mix up in dates, on their end.

Did we want the beer tomorrow? Yes! No! Wait a minute... we were still sober yet our heads hurt with mind-altering confusion. There seemed to be only one solution. He had promised beer and he would deliver. I hung up the phone and with only ten minutes till closing, we raced to the closest corner store.

There we picked up enough brown-bottled beer for our small army of guests. Our choice? Labatt Blue. Not classy nor cool, but a cornerstone of the times: with its lower stick price Blue became the quickest way to get a room drunk.

When we returned bearing gifts all was quickly forgiven and forgotten. The bathtub was filled with ice, and our hearts were filled with that warm, happy, boozey feeling. The music was turned up and the first hour of sober sitting seemed the distant past.

And though we'd planned to wake with angry blog posts in our fingertips, the eventual rise came in the afternoon and I felt too tired to express any anger. After all, Carlsberg had offered to pay for the Blue, and re-schedule Alex's Danish delivery. Four weeks later, the Carslberg finally came.

A picture of a green pyramid of empties surfaced this week on the Montreal music blog the Heart Attack Club, proof that part two of the party was equally entertaining. And if nothing else, the entire ordeal produced what is possibly the cutest wall post I've ever seen:

To his girlfriend, Jen of the Neighbours Next Door the salty-sweet lyrics of late capitalism: "being compromised by beer companies is not nearly as fun as being compromised by you."

Too cute.

Photos from the no-show night below. If you're wondering why we get to drink free beer and you don't, click here. (Or send an e-mail, maybe drinks are on the house)

icy blue
Wish these two were my neighbours next door
I got a big Bud, too.
What do you call four Winnipegers in Montreal?
Balcony babes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Like a homo-oreo

Each time I announced my Friday night plans I received the same stare. "Black lesbians? They have they're own parties?" people said to me. Of course, I said. This is Toronto, everyone has their own party.

And the party was good, booty dancing, fake orgasms, and all. Read about here, as part of NewsFix's Pride coverage.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The boys about town

Last night on my way out I ran into the guys from Freshly Educated, who have started a bi-weekly men's street style blog in Toronto.

What did I tell them my daily style inspiration? Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis Spring/Summer 1992, of course. But to be frank, it was really she who had actually bought the sweater, which I unceremoniously raided. Style is all about your friends, period.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just a backyard bash

Sliding open my apartment door, I step onto my balcony and am instantly surrounded by light and noise. It's long past sundown, but my fingers glow an eery blue, basking in the fluorescent light bouncing from building to building. Advertisements don't adhere to any set of hours, this glow is omnipresent. 

The noise is usually traffic, tourists, Toronto. Tonight, it's more than that. A text message floats into my inbox, announcing the headlining band is hitting the stage. Applause thunders in confirmation. I slip back inside, out the door, into the elevator, past the concierge, and swiftly exit. 

The noise is half a city block away, and as I move closer it sounds less garbled and more like music. Finally as I turn the corner, the band is in my sight: the Black Lips have taken the stage. It's Thursday June 19 and the second night of the annual music festival North By North East. This year, the festival has set up a free stage in Dundas Square. The space is an admittedly terrible piece of public  to host a show in: Jack Astor's, Guess, and the Hard Rock Cafe each add an extra brand of patio pop to the mesh of noise in the air. But it's what I call my backyard, so it's hard to turn down this caliber of free show. 

Melissa Auf Der Maur, who recently announced she's putting out another album with Courtney Love as Hole, has already played. So have Burning Brides, Xavier Cafeine, and local indie pop darlings Spiral Beach. The square will host Wintersleep and the Cliks tomorrow, Japanther Saturday. The Cool Kids will close the free stage on Sunday night. 

The Black Lips play refreshingly average dance rock for about an hour. At the front of the stage, nifty yet nerdy seeing glasses are everywhere, a trend only beaten in numbers by the male moustache. The women are going crazy. Faux-lesbians are kissing and petting between the bassist and the lead, security is chasing a go-go band-aid straight off stage. When the guard finally grabs her, she jabs her feet up and swings them around the guard, turning her defeat into a crowd pleasing high kick. 

The escapades are entertaining, but less than could be expected. If one's to believe what the band tells their record label affiliates at Vice, they recently got chased out of India by the boys in blue, and/or the Tamils, for a slew of reported reasons, like getting naked and making out with one another, which apparently doesn't go over so swell with eastern authorities. 

None of that happens tonight. The back of the crowd is bored, the pedestrians are irritated, the security is annoyed. The band says goodnight, girls still jumping over the barricades and rushing towards the stage. I escape around the corner. The walk home is short. 
Toronto's next top blogger?

Making her move from writer to written about, Miss Sarah Nicole Prickett made the ridiculously named "Hip Listers" section of this year's Best Dressed list, courtesy of the Toronto Star.

Labeled our very own "girl about everywhere" by Josh Errett in a recent NOW editorial, the something-slash-blogger is apparently internet famous, which had previously seemed all but impossible for a Toronto-based blogger.

For the record, Julia Alison isn't jealous, nor is she returning our calls. But a hat-tipping post is still in order, so here you are, SNP: a nod to my very favourite Rye-High drop out.

Congratulations. I'll see you in the comments sections.

*Also on the list, as a "Merchant Queen", and likely the only 40-plus fashionista to hit the pages of Marketing, the Bay's new big boss Bonnie Brooks, whose chat with my publisher I recently transcribed

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our love knows no provincial borders

Meet Monique. Better known, to me, as big sis.

She's an over-worked over-achieving physiotherapist who is making double my dollars and paying half my rent back in Winnipeg. She's also been recently spotted climbing into a McDonald's drive-thru window, long after last call, to announce that yes, she wants fries with that. Careers and beers, some families demand it all.

Next weekend she'll be flying into town, but until then we're relying on mac-cams and internet waves to see each others faces. When I should be sleeping but am spazzing out and missing home, she's up too, ready to Skype, and tell me all about her latest shenanigans.

Thus, for another eight days I'll have to rely on my favourite internet-age mantra: the family that skypes together stays together.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I want to die on my birthday, so my life remains an even number

Twelve days late, my birthday festivities finally begin. A birthday brunch, aided by an incoming flight from Kelowna, and the arrival of someone I’d be tempted to call a “college friend”, if I didn’t still have eight months of school to attend to come autumn.

I ate waffles and felt warm as we caught up in the Saturday morning air, and we eventually departed feeling full and ready for an afternoon nap. The evening brought plans that had to be broken in favour of staying in. A surprise performance, an evening of dancing, and a coming home party all went the wayside as I happily settled for a couch and old ‘90s MTV cartoons.

Sunday brought the last birthday wish, as I was led deep into the west end, and arrived at to a red-and-white sign reading words I’d written in reference: Sunday, Bloody Sunday. And that it was, as we drank beer, ate pizza on makeshift cardboard plates, and stared at a wall covered in more of my words, the very best gift I could get.

Each birthday since Manitoba’s legal-binding 18th has grown consistently smaller at a rapid rate. From a rented room in a now closed restaurant in Osborne Village and a party of 50-something for dinner that night, the party dwindled down to just nine the next year. Entering the double digits I doubled up and cashed in on the plus-ones of another Gemini. Then this year, at last legal everywhere, only four others basked in my party-of-five.

But all other numbers aside, with a late birthday officially ended, I still have twenty-one reasons (or more) to celebrate. And that, is more than I could wish for.

What's written on the wall will eventually spill on the floor
The colours mixed into a beer bottle brown
The art is on the wall, we are on the wall
My life, page 62 in the catalogue
A case of the Februarys
Smiles and schoolhouses, sky blue sky
Casing the space
Pizza, beer and whole lot of Sunday
Eventually the words were covered in paint, then torn down till next year
Thick paint waiting to be squished by my fingers
Outside we pushed pennies on train tracks
Mixed media me: a self portrait of how me as a cartoon could look
Wednesdays are the new Friday

On a sleepy Monday afternoon with too much work to do and not nearly enough hours banked in bed during the passing weekend, there is nothing more satisfying than flipping through photos from the recent past.

I'm instantly nostalgic for Wednesday, when I was ambitious enough to adventure out the house for her birthday celebrations at (W)Amber. On the Hamptons-white wood patio tucked in a Yorkville back alley, we drank over-priced drinks and hoped Thursday wouldn't come.

It came. And so did Friday, then Saturday, then Sunday. And though I promised myself I'd start crossing out the to do's on my list, I spent most of the weekend watching re-runs, wearing sweatpants and hiding out.

By the weekend-end I was finally feeling more adventurous, which left me with a Monday morning headache, a sign that I again need rest. So until the weekend, or at earliest Wednesday, my cell phone is lost, my head is muddled and I am permanently ready for bed.

Have the Best Week Ever.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The hideaway

The first drop of rain hits the ground just before sunset. The sky’s overcast clouds are incessant; no one notices the light die. Smog covers the city. Suddenly it’s dark, though it feels like mid afternoon. Advertisements glow on pedestrian faces.

Several hundred people are standing in the centre of the madness. All are dripping wet. The sea of umbrellas is eclectic. Flex fleece hoods stick to the edges of young, pretty faces. Owen Pallett stands in front of his followers, bone dry. Eight musicians surround him, safe under the outdoor stage roof. Drums, guitar, saxophone, flute, keyboard, bass, trumpet, and violin fill the air of Dundas Square, courtesy of Pallett and the boys and girls in Toronto indie rock outfit Do Make Say Think. It’s 9:30 on a Thursday night and the temporarily formed collective is providing the soundtrack to the silent German cult classic, Tales of the Uncanny.

This is horror in its best setting: evening rain. Apocalyptic ads run above director Richard Oswald’s creepy black and white cuts. And ever so slightly beneath the music is the sound of another song, some disposable top 40-rock tune, playing at the Hard Rock CafĂ© on the corner. If God has any sense of irony, this is how the world will end.

Tonight’s show is a joint effort between Luminato and NXNE, but nothing exciting happens for another two hours. After the show, a small portion of the crowd’s indie insiders and Pallett’s personal friends walk thirty steps north of the square to the Imperial Pub. An all but forgotten dive bar, The Imperial has a back room performance space so small it would be hard pressed to host a Bar Mitzvah. This isn’t the type of place featured in the glossy Luminato brochure, and tonight’s event hasn’t been heavily promoted, to say the least.

The regulars look bewildered and confused by the grimy plaid clad twenty-somethings crowding the bar. The bartenders are racing around the room trying to keep up. By 11:30 it takes ten minutes to even order a drink. The backroom is at full capacity and a small crowd is lingering by the entrance, hoping to get in.

Finally, Pallett appears. He hugs the woman working at the door, then does his round of hellos. This is obviously a friends and family sort-of event. A quiet Brett Canning slips through the door and heads to the bar for a beer. When Pallett is finally introduced to the hungry crowd, it’s by his full name, not his famous moniker, Final Fantasy.

His hair is pushed back with an awkward ease and a black Van Halen shirt hugs his thin frame. He sits down at a white piano. Tonight, there will be no violin. For just thirty minutes, Pallett turns the Imperial into a piano bar. He mixes covers with Final Fantasy favourites, and takes requests from the audience.

The crowd shouts for Pokerface, Tori Amos, Girlfriend in a coma, and acoustic Spinal Tap. “Tori Amos?!” Pallett laughs. “I’ve never played that on piano,” he says, before admitting he can go over the entire catalogue in his head. “I was a teenage fag in the ninties,” he says. Justified, completely.

The set is short and the crowd is transfixed the entire time. Finally he announces his final song, saying “Oh man, I’ve never played this song like this,” before striking the opening notes to This Lamb Sells Condos, causing smiles to crack as the crowd beings to bob heads in unison with the familiar chords. Just a few blocks south of Church and Wellesley, the gentrification anthem rings all too true.

Like a safety blanket covering the crowd, a piano poem fills the tiny room:

There's a merchant in our midst and with a barrel fist
He's coloured every surface, he's slapped up a portrait
And yes, it is his own! He's gonna take your home!
Have you seen our visitor? Look! Over the treetops!
Newly conjured erections are making him a killing
And Richmond St. is illing, so the graduates are willing
To buy in to the pillage, now there is no hope for the village

And for just one minute, before walking back through the door into always-lit Luminato headquarters of Dundas Square, Toronto feels like the city he wants it to be, again.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Artsy adventures

Standing in the park, the boxes shout stories at us. On the street corner, similar noises prevail. At first we wonder what is happening, then the statement fills in the blanks. Context, as we know, is everything.

The junk looks like the piles I'd left on the red rug in that dark room in my parent's basement. Everything is covered in memories. Each moment is captured in wood, in plastic, in glass. People are recorded on digital film. They play on loop, trapped in the boxes.

Smoke rises from the second street corner sculpture. Colours fill the interior first, then smoke. The images sound like they're about to commit suicide. Onlookers scratch their heads. The streetcar clears out part of the crowd.

Later we wander inside the gallery, through the gift shop and onto the work that is new to him and an old friend to me. To cap the night we take a tour, that is not really a tour. Conceptual art is like that, or so we're told.

Click here for the full story, on Newsfix this morning.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

*Photo: Getty Images [The Cut]

When it was announced that February's Fall/Winter fashion week in New York would be co-sponsored by McDonald's, a few well-shaped industry eyebrows were raised. The brand saw it as the perfect place to debut a new "collection" of their own: a new line of "higher-end" coffee-based beverages. But would Anna Wintour be caught dead with a cold hand wrapped around a cup decorated with a golden arch? Doubtful, or so we thought.

The sponsorship persisted, and well over 13,000 espressos and coffees were served to America's most fashionable high society types during the week. It seemed like the final nail in the coffin of luxury, a solidification of the new frugality we'd been hearing so much about. It seemed even the most fashionable have been forced into budget cuts by the over-looming recession. 

The sponsorship was to be for a single season, but according to Crain's, the McDonald's marketing team was pleased by the push they'd made into the world of fashion, and is considering continuing the partnership with IMG, who puts on fashion week. 

With vacation collections running down boardwalks on beaches overseas, and Men's week in Paris getting closer with every announced closure, we thought we'd heard the last of McFashion. Then it was announced that the company is making another move into the world of fashion, this time in Canada. 

While the heavyweights are busy showing collections in showrooms, rolling out spring diffusion lines, and laying low with hopes they can ride out the recession, up in Canada, it's a long time until the next Toronto Fashion Week. With this in mind, McDonald's decided to throw a show of its own. 

On June 23 the company will host a luncheon in Dundas Square, complete with a fashion show and a taste test of its new "line" of specialty salads. The brand enlisted a slew of Canadian fashion-types to act as brand ambassadors and spit out style advice to the customers lured into the square by the promise of free greens with dressing on the side. Project Runway castaway Lucian Matis, as well as CityLine style consultant Lisa Rogers and Kavi Kavi design trio Monika, Dipika, and Ravika Gupta will be showcasing their work for the McCrowd, as well as looks they pulled together with the less affluent McDonald's customer in mind. 

Whether this will work to draw in stroller-salad moms and their happy-meal-McChildren is yet to be proven. But then again, no one thought the fashion week sponsorship would be a hit, and McDonalds is taking a cut out of Starbucks upmarked coffee market share. So yes, I will take fries with my fashion.

*Full story in Marketing Magazine's Daily AM for today, June 11

Mr. Matis 
Photo by Arline Malakian. Courtesy of Lucian Matis. [Torontoist]
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Photos: Fashion Television via StyleHog
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Photo: McDonald's via Babble
If Heidi Klum is in, call me the Hamburgler