Archive for August, 2014

Bliss Point

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Michael Moss wrote an excellent book on the fast food industry called “Salt Sugar Fat:  How The Food Giants Hooked Us”.  It explains the science behind the industry’s quest to find the “Bliss Point” – the perfect, addictive balance of sugar salt and fat.  The researchers have spent decades as well as millions of dollars to find this ratio.  I spent one afternoon and about fifty bucks blowing it right out of the water.

My friend Kim and I spent a few hours at the Canadian National Exhibition.  We got in free courtesy of my good friend and insider, Jennifer and together we made our way directly to the Food Building, ignoring the rides, ignoring the music, ignoring the vendors booths and stopping only for a brief foray into the Arts & Crafts building.  To buy fudge.

We had a very specific mission:  to explore the new and amazing concoctions that the Fair had to offer.  I consider it a get out of jail free pass for a single day to eat all the things I would normally scorn.  It did not disappoint.  From a turkey dinner waffle (the waffle is made out of stuffing!!!) to a cheekily named CroBar (croissant with chocolate bar squares baked in to it) we enjoyed gustatory experimentation from all parts of the globe.

Undropped waffleCroBar

Kimchi fries, Clam Chowder fries, Choco Chicken, peanut butter siracha bites.  All down the gullet in a delicious dance of hyper caloric revelry.

Some poor soul dropped their waffle.  We noted how truly unpleasant dropped food looks.

Dropped Waffle

Then I uploaded all of the photos I took of the things we actually DID eat and realized that the undropped versions were not overwhelmingly photogenic either.

Kimchi FriesChowdah FriesChoco Chicken

I must remember to give any food stylist I meet a hearty handshake.  The one little item that did give a figurative smile to the camera was the marshmallow nutella bao, which we think looks like a muppet.  Goodness knows it isn’t food.

Muppet Bao

“This is everything that is wrong with America!” I proclaimed as I tucked the last bit of shining alabaster  sugar and bleached flour delight down my throat.

I have relearned to love the Ex in the last few years after a prolonged shunning.  It helps to have a friend on the inside, who not only gets me in free but susses out the best fudge purveyors and lets you in on the concert schedule and secret gems the Fair has to offer.  There is a remarkably good sense of fun here.  People bring their kids and their parents, hormonal teens try to pick each other up over the din of the carneys and you can buy a floor mop or a sari or a whirlpool tub within ten feet of each other.  Kim and I were seduced by a particularly enticing massage unit that heated up.  I had to be torn from the back one – Kim nearly became the Borg with the face version


Truly, there is something for everyone.

And everyone seems to include some of the less bright bulbs in the chandelier.  As we were leaving I noticed the following warning signs on the sundae stand.

Sundae Warning

It saddens me slightly that the populace needs to be warned not to jam a wooden stake down their throats but it should be noted that this second sign appeared in front of an actual pile of peanuts:

Peanut warning

Yes kids.  These peanuts may contain peanuts.

It was an excellent afternoon, spent with great company in a very upbeat atmosphere.  I am home now to beach myself and to vaguely ponder what my triglyceride levels might be.  Perhaps they will have levelled off by next year when I can only imagine what the Bacon Nation people will have thought up for our dining pleasure


Kiss Off

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

So, this happened.

Which I suppose warrants a bit of an explanation.

I have worked in and lived a life in music for, well, my whole life and for that I am eternally grateful.  When I was young my very identity was inextricably linked to the music I listened to (not uncommon, I think for any young person).  I liked some things, I loathed others and there was generally very little neutral ground.  I would not be caught dead listening to the stuff I threw in the “loathed” file.  I once tried to overthrow a Genesis listening party with repeated plays of the extended single of the Clash’s “Magnificent Seven”.  (The coup failed).

Flash forward many years and you will find me far more tolerant of different music genres, and with a willingness to not only accept but embrace the spectacles that music can offer.  I also find myself nourishing a love for the sounds that made an impression on me as a very young lass.  Which brings us to Kiss.

Kiss played on a double bill with Def Leppard the other day and my pal Kim was game for the going.  Kim is a very adventurous sort with a fabulous sense of play and an enduring love for Gene Simmons.  She has dressed up as the legendary bass player several times for Hallowe’en and co-opted her father to play the role of Paul Stanley for one concert attendance.  She threw the same challenge down for me and for the first time in my shy retiring life I picked it up. We bought the tickets, bought the white face and got down to business.

Kiss hit big when I was in grade school.  I will never forget one Hallowe’en in grade six when my class mate Brian arrived in full Gene Simmons makeup, with white Y front underwear pulled over his brown corduroys in place of a cod piece.  This is an image that has burned itself in to my psyche that I am delighted and revel in.  I myself was never truly a fan but they certainly occupy a place in the jukebox of my brain.  Attending a concert in full face was something I never would have considered even a few years ago.  Kim and I were greeted with much amusement and admiration, and were photographed many times.  The concert was exactly what I expected it to be, including confetti cannons, spark-shooting guitars, blood spitting, hydraulics and the works, all married to a schtick that hasn’t changed one whit since 1978.  I had a blast.

I shot the above picture off to a few people, most of whom were vastly amused.  This behaviour is extremely atypical of me.  I hate being photographed and generally try to avoid bringing much attention to myself and I must confess I was a little proud about stepping so far out of my comfort zone.  This happy feeling got doused suddenly when one of the photo recipients took it upon themselves to release a vitriolic tirade on the legitimacy of Kiss as a band, their overall contribution to the decline of the music business and the dismissal of myself (and my generation) who presumably are incapable of distinguishing between true art and artifice.  Aggressive and unapologetically judgemental, it actually knocked the fun right out of the experience and made me unable to write a post about what had been a truly joyous experience until that moment.

I have gotten my sea legs back, the experience has born an investigation in to a deeper topic. Is it an aberration of the individual that makes someone have to deflate the euphoria of others?  Or is it the new media, which makes saying hurtful things as simple as the click of a mouse and and allows uninvited opining while protecting the aggressor from really understanding what effect their words are having, or at least from the immediate reaction that they might ordinarily suffer if they were communicating face to face?  Louis CK has a brilliant bit on this concept that he explained on Conan.  His is primarily focussed on kids, but I think the idea that email and texting suspends the development of empathy is a very valid one

I will try to grow a thicker skin and I will continue on with my adventures.  I wil have some fun, I will explore new things and I will share them with the people who care and can hold their thistle tongues.  Plus I have discovered a new delight in dressing up for the carnival – god only knows what will happen when my Cirque Du Soleil tickets show up!


Don’t get too attached

Monday, August 11th, 2014

You don’t get to choose who you are marooned with.  Nor, unless you are intimate with the entire passenger manifest, who survives the plane crash in the Andes.


I took a Wilderness Survival class this weekend – an addendum to the foraging class I attended in the spring.  Both were hosted by a very capable gentleman called David Arama who has worked as a consultant to all the Canadian “Survivor Man” type reality shows (of which I have watched precisely zero, but I assume he is qualified).  The class was about fifty people strong ranging in age from early twenties to about fifty, most of whom appeared to have little experience with the great outdoors.  More power to them for taking this class but judging on footwear alone I don’t think too many of them would survive an afternoon without air conditioning.  I am not quite sure why one would equate “wilderness survival class” with “flip flops”, or what motivated the gent I saw to wear Pumas with absolutely no treads which would have been no less effective had the bottoms been greased with bacon fat.

The class incorporated some edible plants recovery as well as a segment on fire starting.  David pulled out a variety of items one might find in one’s personal or first aid kit that are flammable and easy tinder for a fire.  Vaseline, hand sanitizer, steel wool, duct tape, cotton balls and feminine hygiene products all fit the bill.


David Arama makes fire

As this was a disaster preparedness course, some of the information was as simple as a warning to bring a butane lighter or proper waterproof matches which would certainly speed the process but we were given flints to start the flames going.

I have to admit, I have am curiously amused by people that have no facility in nature.  I spent many years in my youth on canoe trips (a couple over 30 days where food was flown in to us) so the basics of creating food, warmth and shelter are ingrained in my very being.  It was simply inconceivable not to know how to start a fire – we would have suffered badly if we didn’t.  I love watching people go “car camping”.  I once visited such a site and watched a couple friends pop up their tent, plop in their queen sized, hair dryer inflated mattress inside complete with their duvet and sheets from home.  It looked like the Ramada.

Willard was with me on this adventure.  He grew up in the country and besides having learned how to drive anything with an engine (sometimes rather aggressively) by the time he was six he also spent his summers building forts and tree houses, so the chapter on creating shelter was particularly amusing for him.  We we shown a couple of examples of styles of shelter (lean-to, teepee & A frame were among the options) then split in to groups and sent off to build our own.  “This is perfect!” cried one of the team, upon spying an immensely tall, massive trunked maple on the edge of a fairly steep incline.   Perfect for what? I wondered.  It transpired that she thought that the tree would be a perfect anchor for the shelter.  I pointed out that the splay of the trunk and the root system would take up an enormous amount of real estate and render much of the floor space unusable, but she would not be deterred.  Will and I gathered branches, musing all the while to stay clear of the decision making as realistically it wasn’t like we had to sleep there.  A giraffe, it has been said, is a horse designed by committee and I didn’t need to build a giraffe that day.  We did spend some time discussing which of our team mates we would eat first when they all inevitably perished.   The rest of the team bustled around and assembled what could best be described as a tree cozy of sticks for the huge maple.  David Arama wandered by and declared the design a “TeePee/detritus mash up” and pointed out that the tallest tree in the forest like the one we had selected would also be the most susceptible to lightning strike.  Maybe at least then they could get a fire started.


Worst shelter ever

The class was actually rather fun and I learned some things I didn’t know.  Trust your instincts, don’t take chances and be prepared. And shoes, while they may not make the man, may determine the meal.

Don't get too attached

Why Are you here?

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

“Why are you here?”

That was the first question out of Don Beck’s mouth.

“I don’t believe you are just here for a visit.  You must be CIA.  Or a hooker.  Or a CIA hooker.”

Shit.  My cover as a feckless audio producer with an affinity for California has clearly been blown and my true identity as an undercover spy/call girl to the stars has been revealed.

Don’s is an excellent question, and one he has every reason to ask.  I blow in to town about every two months, demand to be fed, harass his son (in a good natured way, mind you) and gossip salaciously with his wife.  Then I pick up, wipe the gravy from my chin spilled from whatever high end restaurant he has squired the family to on my behest and vanish back to the North lands.

It is an excellent question and one that I ask myself every time I am strapped in to my economy seat pushing back for what is generally a minimum 8 hour travel day for a 56 hour visit.  A one to seven margin is not  good  in terms of vacation parcelling.  But I do it.  Because I love California?  I like it well enough, but there are other places on the map.  For the weather?  In July it is about the same or hotter in Toronto than Los Angeles.  Because I am a closet masochist?  Possible.  I will unpack that thought in therapy.  Because that’s where the Feds have sent me to seduce secrets out of high ranking studio executives?  Certainly, but I am sworn not to discuss matters of national security.

Really there are a number of answers.  I have a couple of very good friends who I lost for a while and found again, and I don’t want to lose them again (Hello, Anny and Jessica!). I find the aforementioned Mr Beck vastly entertaining, and it is unusual to meet someone whose command of the international swearing dictionary is greater than my own.   I have a godson to whom I have promised to give ongoing spiritual and maternal guidance  (though all evidence would point to such things being completely missing from my dubious acumen of skills).  He is person I quite like.  He’s shaping up to be a hella musician, and I am going to need someone to sponge off of in my twilight years.  I feel comfortable and familiar in LA and like there is a chapter of my life that I can’t quite finish.  I also get to swing from steak and chocolate lava cake on one day to whole grain macro dining in a single 24 hour span, courtesy of the awesome spectrum of company  I keep there.  It is dietary schizophrenia at its finest.   There is also this magnificent balcony at the apartment I often rent, and fresh lemon and loquat trees in abundance around it.

So at great personal expense and the opportunity to jet lag myself twice in the course of a single week, I go.

As an aside to Don, I DID notice him casually mentioning that he knew where to find the best sushi in LA, and I am going back for a seminar in September.  He doesn’t know it but we have a date.  I leave you with his parting words.

“See you soon.  It’s been nice feeding you”.