Sunday, June 27, 2010

We're Not Gonna Take It

I don't normally post on the weekend, but I wanted to take the time to enter a submission into the Seventeen Magazine Project "Hey Mainstream Media" movement. You can read about the movement here and I strongly encourage you to do so. We are all affected by the unrealistic ideals that the media perpetuates on a daily basis, even if we're not aware of it (and even if we're not impressionable teens anymore). Some changes need to be made to the images and languages used and an approach that is more inclusive of different races, sizes, shapes, sexual orientations, physicality and personality needs to be used. Not to mention that it should not be assumed that we're all mindless morons who need to be spoon-fed dumbed-down information (sure, there are lots of those out there, but most of us are fairly intelligent, free-thinking persons; in fact, projects like this are proof of that). We can handle the truth (we are the truth). We are all different and unique and that should be celebrated and acknowledged in a positive way.

Please read up on this and spread the word - the only way to make change is by joining together and questioning; saying "we're not going to take it anymore".

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Curious Tuesday: Un-birthday's, star signs and cities

Yet another outing of Gala Darling's Curious Tuesday series. Wasn't planning on posting today, but thought the questions were so interesting I had to explore them!

1. If it was your birthday tomorrow, what would be on your wishlist? I would really love a vespa...they are just so darn cute! (Though I don't actually have my license or the money to pay for gas and insurance, a girl can dream right?). A puppy (though this is also not realistic - not enough time or money to care for one; will have to settle for cute YouTube vids of other people's dogs for now). A new pair of glasses (mine are great, but I'd love to have a second pair in case something happens to these - really if that happens, I couldn't move from the couch. I'm that blind. For reals). A tent (I've had camping on the brain lately but realized I have next to no gear). Symphony Nova Scotia season tickets.

2. Do you look after your nails? Do you paint them? If so, do you have a colour that you keep returning to again & again? I HAVE to wear nail polish or my nails break and peel. Also, I bite them to death, stupid me! It's funny, when I was younger I used to bite them right down and they'd be sore all the time, then one day I just stopped..until 2 or 3 years ago and I started doing it again. I know there must be something psychological to that but don't have the brain energy to figure that one out. Right now I switch between a pale pink nail colour and a dark purple (depends on my mood-can't remember the brands, though Sally Hansen is a fav of mine). Generally I'm not a fan of big, fancy, loud nails.

3. What star sign are you, & do you think it is accurate? I'm a Sagittarius (bday: Dec 11th) and I SO fit the description for them it's scary. I'm actually really into astrology and have some books on it at home. I like to visit psychics and read my horoscope and stuff. I was born pretty much in the middle of the date range for my sign, and it seems in those cases your personality fits more closely to your horoscope (though I could just be full of malarky here, it's happened before). Here's a choice reading: Inquisitive and energetic, the Sagittarius is the traveler of the Zodiac. Their philosophical, broad-minded approach to life motivates them to wander far and wide in the search for the meaning of life. Extroverted, optimistic, and enthusiastic, it can be almost impossible to keep the Sagittarius down. They love change. In fact, change is essential for this sign to feel their best. (yup, pretty much me in a nutshell!)

4. What is something you have recently learned to appreciate? Being patient - this is something I'm working on lately as a kind of life philosophy. I realized that I tend to rush and try to make things happen (now!) and it's not good for my mental or physical health. Not to mention that if you push things (in my experience) they tend to move the other way. Life happens as it happens and not how you plan it. So, I've just been focusing on enjoying the present, looking days and weeks ahead instead of months and years, and learning to move and think more slowly. It's going well so far. I've also learned to appreciate my own company - living alone and being single, though I complain about it at times, is great for me right now. I also appreciate my friends more and more because I've had many of them move away in the past year or two and have realized good ones are hard to find! (but I firmly believe when it comes to friends it's about quality and NOT quantity).

5. What is your favourite city in the world, & why? London England is awesome - I've been lucky enough to visit 3 separate times, once for about a month 3 years ago, and I've liked it more and more each time. There's just so much energy, so much history and always lots going on. British culture is similar to Canadian too, so it feels familiar, and it's slightly quirky and makes me laugh. I would love to live there longer than a month someday.

What are YOU curious about this Tuesday??

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fashion, put it all on me

One thing I haven't discussed much on this blog is fashion - which is funny, because fashion is something I really enjoy and, well, this is a blog where I discuss things I enjoy (generally speaking)! I really love putting outfits together and have a lot of fun with clothes, I devour fashion magazines every month and follow several fashion blogs, any fashion-related tv show or movie I will also devour in most cases.

Something you might not have known about me!

Now, I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which isn't exactly a fashion capital of the world (um, hello, yoga clothes are only to be worn in yoga class! Or at home lounging on the couch!) and I even contemplated a career in the fashion industry (fashion pr or journalism perhaps) for a little while. However, I actually felt I was held back by living somewhere where there wasn't much of a scene. Our fashion scene is still relatively "underground" but it's grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years thanks to some awesome locals.

We now have a bi-annual Atlantic Fashion Week ("Atlantic" referring to the Atlantic region of Canada, aka the Atlantic provinces, which includes NS, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland - for the uninitiated), several local fashion bloggers and journalists bringing attention to the talent we have here in our region, and of course the local talent themselves.

Though most of the rest of the country is completely ignorant to it, we have a huge pool of amazingly creative people at this end of the country. It can be a tough slog for an artist living in our region, since the big cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver tend to steal the spotlight 99% of the time, however, they are starting to take notice and we are starting to step up and demand we be heard, and it's great to finally see this recognition being paid where it's (over)due.

I actually attended a fashion show on Saturday night, which prompted me to write this post. It was put on by a local boutique Pretty Things, specializing in retro, 50's style fashions, and also served as a fundraiser for Adsum House, which is a local women's/children's shelter here. It was full of sass, humour, style, and highlighted gorgeous models at every size, from 6 to 26 - with all of it doused in a healthy helping of pink and glitter. It was a lot of fun, and that experience (along with a quick "boo" in what I feel is one of our best local stores on Sunday afternoon) prompted this post. I was reminded of what a great scene we have here, and felt compelled to highlight it. Here are just a few of the great designers working out of Halifax nowadays:

I'm personally eyeing this little green number for my next party ensemble (New Year's?). I believe she actually participated in the last Toronto Fashion Week, which is pretty big deal in these parts.

His clothes aren't just fashion pieces - they are art; it's clear he's about the art and creativity behind the fashion rather than just clothing people.

This lady has been in the biz for a LONG time, and her clothes are so versatile, they can be dressed up or down however you like and worn for any occasion.

She's a rising star on the scene, having won a Project-Runway-style competition held here last Fall. I actually interviewed her a few months back for a local fashion magazine that was just starting up and she's lovely - she's going places too! Check out the amazing outfits above inspired by exotic birds!

KM makes all of her clothing by cutting up and re-imagining existing shirts and pants. Her shirts are really fun and edgy, with a bit of a retro sensibility to them.

There are many more local designers than the ones I've mentioned above, but these are just a few highlights. Even though I didn't pursue a career in fashion, it's still a hobby that I very much enjoy, and these amazing locals make it that much more fun for me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Killing Me Softly

One of the major news stories in Canada today is that of Muhammad Parvez and Waqas Parvez pleading guilty to second-degree murder, and being sentenced to 25 years in prison. 16 year old Aqsa Parvez was Muhammad's daughter and Waqas' sister.

On December 10th, 2007 in Mississauga, Ontario Aqsa's father and brother murdered her in a so-called "honour killing" - a punishment for the "shame" that Aqsa brought upon her family by resisting their strict Muslim religious rules. One of the main "shameful offenses" that Aqsa committed was insisting on wearing Western clothing, rather than the traditional hijab head covering.

When Aqsa's mother asked her husband why he did it, he answered: "My community will say you have not been able to control your daughter. This is my insult. She is making me naked.” Possibly even more surprising than this, Islamic leaders that spoke to the media after the tragedy almost implied that Aqsa invited her fate, discussing that Muslim's who stray from their path must "pay for it", and stating that "parents fail and bring shame upon themselves if a child chooses to abandon holy writings and not wear the hijab". Young Muslim men even lashed out through the Internet, calling Aqsa a "slut" on Facebook, and implying in emails that she was pushing drugs or pregnant.

This story on its own is heartbreaking enough*, but the really sad thing is that this is just one of many of these types of crimes that have occurred in Canada in recent years. All it takes to get a sense of the prevalence of these crimes is a google search for "honour killings in Canada", which turns out about 46,900 results. Brother gets life for gunning down his 20-year-old sister and her fiance in Ottawa, a 14-year-old rape victim is strangled to death by her brother and father, three teenage sisters and their aunt are found in their car submerged in the Rideau Canal in Montreal, a mother stabs her 19-year-old daughter in the head and face, and the list goes on and on.

These stories are so tragic, not only because of the loss of young and as yet unfulfilled lives, but because these killings are justified by such ridiculous reasons. Now, I'm a very open-minded person and I'm very accepting of other cultures and religions, so this is by no means a diatribe against Islam or religious traditions in general, nor a rant about the superiority of Western society. We certainly don't do everything right, and I think there is a lot that (mostly) secular Westerners can learn from the traditions and beliefs of other countries and people.

However, one thing that I feel we Westerners do better is cultivate societies based upon free-will, free-speech and freedom of choice. To kill a member of one's own family because they wish to choose their clothing, boyfriends, and hobbies is simply barbaric and isn't tolerated, at least according to our laws.

One of the great things about Canada as a multi-cultural nation is that there aren't a lot of rules and regulations governing our civil liberties - for the most part, we can go where we please, when we please, wear what we please, say what we please, and spend time with whomever we please (within reason of course). Even if you are expected to follow certain societal rules when you come here to live, you are still free to continue practicing your religion and other cultural traditions, as long as it doesn't harm or disrupt anyone else's life in a negative way.

However, it's a completely different animal when your cultural and religious traditions DO bring harm and suffering to those around you. In Canada, women are not possessions of men. We are not expected to obey our fathers, brothers and uncles, nor are we punished for making choices that the men in our lives don't agree with (again, there are always exceptions to the rule, but this is a generalization).

And what is so wrong with the children of these families wanting to dress like their friends, and participate in the activities that their friends do? What is so wrong about wanting to wear jeans and t-shirts, have free-flowing hair, go to movies and dances, and have boyfriends? Is that not what their parents wanted for them when they came here anyway? Did they not come with the hope that their children could have healthy, free lives and access to the opportunities that they never had? It shouldn't be a crime to love life and live it to the fullest.

As Ausma Khan, editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl magazine says: "So many girls are trying to live a faith-based life within a larger secular society. They are trying to fit in with friends and stay true to Islamic values. It can be a struggle." No wonder they rebel - teenagers who have much less pressure on them have lashed out in much more destructive ways.

Luckily there are many in the Muslim world who condemn honour killings and similarly strict behaviour. Tarek Fatah, the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, has been a very vocal critic of the restrictive aspects of Islam. He was quoted in a Globe and Mail article (from which the quote from Ausma Khan above also comes) addressing these cultural issues, stating: "I put the blame straight at the feet of people who have made young Muslim girls feel that they are sinners if they don't cover their heads. How many more Muslim girls have to die before the liberal intelligentsia wakes up and the feminists wake up and say the hijab is a symbol of oppression?"

Unfortunately, it seems the answer to his last question is "many more", at least as long as acts like this continue to be excused and swept under the rug. We all have the obligation to speak out about this issue - Muslim or not.

This is religiously-sanctioned domestic abuse, and nothing else.

*I normally really try to not get too political with my posts, but I just couldn't ignore this; it really got my back up

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tattoo You

For the past month or two, I've been quite busy (as I'm sure I've blabbed about before on this blog) for various reasons, so I was very much looking forward to this past week as I didn't have to be anywhere or do anything! What an idea! I actually got out to a couple of movies, got some chores done, and got to catch up with some friends, which was great. This past weekend I got to sleep in and lounge around for half the day, and it was lovely.

However, this break was short-lived, as after this Thursday there will again be a monopoly on my free time as that's when daily rehearsals start for the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. For the uninitiated (which is probably, oh, EVERYONE that reads this blog - all 2 of you, hah), this is a military variety show of sorts that takes place every summer here in my fair city of Halifax, Nova Scotia and brings together various acts from countries around the world - including military bands and performers (gymnasts, etc) from countries such as Germany, UK, US, Belgium, Estonia, France, and the Netherlands (in past years we've also had acts from Korea, Oman and Trinidad/Tobago). The show runs from July 1st to July 8th and has been going strong since 1979, when the Queen Mum herself opened the first one.

Believe it or not, it's the world's largest annual indoor show! There are usually approx. 2,000 people involved in putting it together each year, most of the organizers being very prestigious Canadian/Nova Scotian military personnel with extensive musical backgrounds as conductors, arrangers, etc.

I'm only one very tiny, insignificant "cog" in the Tattoo machine (I'm not sure if cog is a word, but Rachel used it (skip to 19:13), so I'm going to go with "yes" just because it's a neat word and Rachel is awesome). I'm an Alto in the Adult Choir. But it's still an amazing experience being a part of such a huge show. Not only is the music often moving (not to mention a challenge), it is so amazing to see it come together each year. So much time and effort goes into putting it on and people have no idea - I used to go to the show when I was a kid and never really appreciated it until I went behind the scenes. I now have so much respect for the organizers, and all of the groups that come from far and wide (often through vigarous fundraising) just to perform here with us. As a choir, we have to learn and sing (by heart) all of our music, including National anthems for each visiting country (and in their native language, thank you very much) so to say it's a major exercise for my brain is the understatement of the century! But what other opportunity are you going to have to do something like that?!

It's an awesome way to meet interesting people, be a part of tourism and culture here in Nova Scotia, and learn and sing beautiful music. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy, so we will be paying tribute to our men and women of the seas with all of our music, which is kind of exciting. The Queen will even be visiting Halifax at that time - though only for the Naval celebrations, and not the Tattoo (unfortunately - that's a story for a whole other blog entry - I could rant all day about that one but I'll spare you - you could always Google "Nova Scotia International Tattoo + Queen" or something).

It's a huge time commitment (as I mentioned, after June 17th, I'll be at the Metro Centre pretty much every evening and every weekend afternoon rehearsing, not to mention performing 9 nights in a row before/after working a full day), and each year I wonder "why the eff do I put myself through this?!" as I usually end up in this sleep-deprived state of zoned-outness (yes, I made up another word - I enjoy doing that) by the time July 4th comes around. But in a wierd way, it's also like a kind of vacation from "real life"- you are in this little fun, crazy Tattoo "bubble" for a few weeks where you are home so little that you really don't have to worry about silly, dry things like housekeeping and banking because you simply have no time. All you need to worry about is singing, joking around with friends, going out for drinks and food on breaks or after the show/rehearsal, and watching the Paris Police gymnasts rehearse in their (very tight unitards). Ahhh.....

Uhhhhh.....what? Where was I?

Anyway, if you're going to be in Halifax July 1st to July 8th, please come out and see us! I guarantee you you won't be disappointed (though don't pay any attention to that short, brown-haired girl with the glasses in the front row on the stage...she doesn't know what the hell is going on).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop #3: 30 Things I Vow To Do This Summer

Mama's Losin' ItAnother outing of the Writer's Workshop! I love these prompts but just haven't had the time to get to any the past little while. This one caught my eye as, funnily enough, I started to make a list of things I want to do this summer the other day! I just hate how the summer goes by so quickly and I never seem to get out to all the great events and happenings that go on, and that makes me really disappointed, so I thought writing them down might make them more likely to come true. Considering I'm List Queen lately (see my 30 B4 30), I should be able to draft this one in a snap!

So, without further ado, here is my list of...(drumroll please)
1. Attend one local event each weekend
2. Go camping at least once
3. Eat or have drinks on a patio whenever possible
4. Sign up for a fitness class (perhaps Zumba or kickboxing?) or take a different one each week
5. Take an art class to activate my creativity
6. Take at least one road trip
7. Go Tidal Bore rafting
8. Go whale watching
9. Visit the Art Gallery
10. Go for a walk and/or workout 3x per week
11. Visit the Museum of Natural History (alot of these items are related to "playing tourist" in my own city because it's something I don't feel I do enough. But I don't want to group them into one point because I need to expand this list to 30! So bear with me; however, it IS my list so basically you can deal with it)
12. Hike Duncan's Cove
13. Try Thai food
14. Take some yoga classes
15. Try the Peanut Butter burger at Darrell's
16. Visit the Farmer's Market at least once per month
17. Go berry-picking
18. Go to the beach...ALOT
19. De-clutter my apartment (and actually stick to some sort of cleaning schedule)
20. Write in my journal at least once per week
21. Schedule a weekly Skype call with my bff in Alberta
22. Have a yard sale and/or bbq
23. Go see a movie every Tuesday/every 2nd Tues (only $5.99!)
24. Watch every episode of True Blood (it starts this weekend - ah!!)
25. Complete some kind of creative project each week (a painting, craft, etc)
26. Practice piano (wow, I'm slacking in this dept)
27. Visit the Cabot Trail
28. Start sending writing submissions into publications (ideas: apply for 3rd season of Stratejoy, Saltscapes or
29. Take a writing course online
30. Just enjoy it!

Cheers to Summer!

*update from the start of this post - ok, I was NOT able to come up with 30 things in a snap as I predicted. Actually it was quite hard, and I don't anticipate sticking to half of these (the summer is only so long), but there are a few I certainly plan to execute! It was a fun exercise to get the brain moving, if nothing else. So, I guess I'm not so much "vowing" to do these things, as "hoping and trying" to do at least some. Close enough, right?*

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Modern Love (get me to the church on time)

With the wedding of my best friend taking up the better part of my psyche and time this past month or so (particularly this past weekend), I've been thinking a lot about my own wedding (well, if I have one) and what I would want it to be like.

How I'm picturing my big day (if I ever happen to become engaged), is a trip away (Carribean? Italy?), and outdoor ceremony in a scenic area (by a lake, on a beach) with a few select people (close family and friends), and us two. If we wish to involve our family further, and involve more people, I would see us having a party upon our return - nothing too fancy, just a get-together with food, drinks and good music - to give those that couldn't share the big day with us a chance to share in the event.

Watching my best friend and her fiance grapple with the politics of planning and involving everyone in their extended families in their day, while still trying to keep it about them and a celebration of their union, cured me of ever wanting to go through a similar experience.

I'm not saying it's not a good idea to involve family at all, I'm just saying it's not fun when family members get TOO involved (unless you want them to). It just makes things so much more complicated and the real point of the matter gets lost - it becomes about everyone else's needs and wants and not about celebrating the couples' love and union. You have to create seating charts that require an PhD in Mathematics to decipher because Uncle Herald can't be at the same table as Aunt Phyllis since they hate each other, you have to provide a meal for every Tom, Dick and Harry you ever met in University and their significant others, you have to hear your mother/mother-in-law's opinions about the "right" way of doing things every time you turn around, and blah blah blah...

I'm also not saying you shouldn't have a big wedding - a marriage should be a celebration -  but I for one am shocked at the amounts of money that some people shell out just for such a celebration. It's ridiculous, and I don't see the point in starting off your marriage poor and in debt just to have a big fancy, fairytale event. Of course, even going away to get married and having a party could be expensive, but it would make it much easier to keep costs down as there wouldn't be as many small costs randomly adding up (chances are a lot of things would be inclusive, also the big luxury would be the trip; the rest of the wedding could be very simple). And I figure if I'm going to spend $7,000, I might as well have an adventure or a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus, with a destination ceremony, you have the honeymoon built in without any extra planning and packing! Not to mention that if you keep it simple and only include a few select people, you're not asking your friends and family to shell out hundreds of dollars for your special day, which can sometimes put people in an awkward position.

Also, I'm not going to lie - I would love to have a day just for "me", where I'm the centre of attention and I can wear a beautiful dress and accessories, and have an excuse to have a big party and catch up with old friends and family. I can certainly see the appeal. But at the same time, I absolutely dread having such a huge occasion centred around me - after all it's about you as a couple, not you as a bride - and having the weight of expectation on my shoulders. And I don't want to be put in a place where I have even a slight chance to become a "bridezilla" and make everyone around me miserable just to get married. Besides, you can be the centre of attention, look beautiful and have a big party without spending a lot or pulling every last strand of hair out of your head.

Of course, I'm not even sure I'm the "marrying kind" as they say, or that I even believe in marriage. Well, it's not that I DON'T believe in it; I just feel on some level that it's overrated and not really something that is necessary in today's world. I guess seeing a horrid divorce unfold in front of your young eyes would do that to you. Aside from that though, I feel on some level that, even though we have come a long way in terms of feminism and women's rights, girls still place a huge amount of importance on getting married and having a fancy wedding, and I don't understand it. It kind of dumbfounds me. To their favour though, there's no question that society still places this pressure onto people my age, and people in general, to be in relationships and define them according to tradition. Plus, I'm single and haven't found that person I love enough to want to spend the rest of my life with, so perhaps when that happens I'll change my mind (I doubt it though).

PLEASE NOTE: All of this is JUST MY PERSONAL OPINION and by no means am I judging what anyone else chooses to with their life or for their wedding - everyone has a different idea of what is fun and important, what is worth spending money on, who should be involved, etc. I'm just sharing my point of view, as this is an issue I find very interesting and that has been on my mind lately, and I happen to have strong opinions about. I just don't necessarily agree with some of the pressures that have been built up around these events. Also, none of these comments are reflective of my friend's wedding - their ceremony and reception were lovely and tasteful and personal, and I know for a fact that they budgeted everywhere they possibly could (more proof that you don't need to lay down the annual GDP of a small country to have a great wedding).

Ultimately, what I feel is that the wedding isn't the important thing - the marriage is, and that's what you want to put the time and money into. The wedding lasts a day, but your marriage (ideally) lasts much longer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Meet Your Match

As a follow up to my rather angry blog post of Monday, in which I rant about OkCupid's online matching system, I felt I should share this more light-hearted yet related tidbit:

I'm a huge animal lover, and I follow animal issues online and try to support them in my community, so I already knew that June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month (as designated by the ASPCA). But I only learned about their Meet Your Match program today. Here is their description of what this program is all about:

You could be gazing at the animal of your dreams, but you just can’t tell what she’s thinking behind that furry face. What if you knew a little something about her personality and habits before you moved in together? The ASPCA’s Meet Your Match program wouldn’t let you go home without knowing who’s in that carrier or on that leash. MYM is the only method in existence today that evaluates an animal’s behavior and interests and matches them to an adopter’s preferences so that you take home a pet you can really click with.

How cute! And what a smart idea, on another note. Basically, each animal is tested on various behavioural elements, then placed in one of 9 colour-coded categories referred to as "Canine-ality" or "Feline-ality", and adopters are also given a colour based on personality and lifestyle. Then adopters and animals are matched up according to their corresponding colours!

This may seem silly on the one hand, but I feel it's a great idea - not only for the pet-owner, but also for the pet. This process could ensure that owners not only end up with pets suited to them, but pets end up with owners who are more likely to appreciate their personality and unique traits. Perhaps on some level this could help alleviate the issue of mean pet owners adopting innocent animals only to abuse them (though this would only really happen in a perfect world, ultimately). And another neat thing is that you don't need to stick with only your colour-coded match pets - it's simply a guideline.

Could this little beauty be your perfect match?

You never know! Anyway, I just thought it was lovely to see some positive matching practices going on out there for a change. If only they could develop a system like this for humans! Though if I can be totally honest, I'd take a cat over a man any day (in fact, I have one right now, and she's the best companion and roommate anyone could ask for!)