Monthly Archives: June 2017

Intangible Aches

I am not broken
You cannot see lines
Cracks
Fractures
But I feel it
The pain that runs along my pathways
Coursing behind my vision
Ebbing down my neck
Filling the spaces
Between the top of my head and my toes.
You cannot feel a scar
The bruises have faded
But every time I lift my head from my pillow
I am forced to relive that single impact
And face what will hurt most today.
It’s the invisible force without a face
It lurks
In the shadows
I can feel it pulse through every vein
Nerve
Fibre
Slowly collecting pieces of me for itself.
I am not wonder woman
Though sometimes I like to think I am
And some days it’s me holding the golden lasso around its neck
But some days it turns the noose on me instead
You cannot see lines
Cracks
Fractures
Only the pain in the shadows
With a rope in its hands.

– when injuries become intangible

 

Canadian Animation: Will it Ever Catch Up?

Oh, Canada. The land of maple syrup, beavers, and low-quality animated works, apparently.

 

As a Canadian, it truly pains me to insult my favourite form of entertainment that originates from my very own country. However, Canada isn’t exactly known for being at the frontier of acclaimed animated works. Some examples of these low-rated series include:

  • Johnny Test 
  • Angela Anaconda
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes
  • George of the Jungle
  • Rocket Monkeys

 

Many American production companies are approaching Canada to animate various television series (mainly because of its depleting dollar value, which is a selling point to US-based producers). So despite having created less than favorable works, Canada has actually had its hand on the actual animation of some acclaimed titles that are currently on air:

  • Rick and Morty
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

 

But in terms of Canadian content creation, there aren’t many companies that dabble in the actual conception process—which is a real shame. However, in American entertainment companies taking advantage of the relatively low Canadian dollar, Canada is at least able to participate in a portion of the creation process. This is important as it showcases the country’s talent pool of animators, which can, and has, open(ed) many doors of opportunities in the production of animated works originating in Canada.

 

One company that had shown some potential at one point is Fresh TV, also known as the Toronto-based studio responsible for the creation of the long-lived Total Drama series. This was essentially a drama-filled parody of a Survivor-like reality series. This show ran for 5 seasons in total (6 if you count The Ridonculous Race) and reached immense popularity in the United States (on a Canadian-based scale at least). However, it seems like Fresh TV is moving away from animated works with the conclusion of Total Drama and lack of success from the cartoons that followed.

 

This leads us to an important question: Why exactly is Canada lagging behind? Its creative sector is overflowing with talent, and both Vancouver and Toronto are becoming new global hubs of entertainment; so why exactly is its content rarely, if ever, at the frontier of mainstream media?

Well, Canada doesn’t exactly place a large amount of funding into its entertainment industry. The reason being, it is approached as part of the cultural industries rather than seen as an economic force. The reason Hollywood is able to gain so much funding is because the state is aware that the film and television industries rake in billions of dollars per year. Canada, on the other hand, tends to play its cards very safe, so doesn’t fight for greater funding for its entertainment industry since it’s essentially a risky arena. Culture is surely a pretty thought, but it doesn’t make for much convincing on the governmental level to invest billions of dollars annually into the sector.

 

Additionally, importing American works is a lot less financially risky compared to creating original content. For the purpose of maintaining Canada’s cultural integrity, there is a quota in place in that a percentage of content displayed through Canadian broadcasters during primetime hours needs to be Canadian-produced; but because American works are typically high-budget, its difficult for Canadian series to compete in quality. As such, broadcasters have been fighting for a lower percentage quota skewed in favor of Canadian content, as they argue that it results in the loss of viewership. So far, this percentage has opened up a door of opportunities for Canadian content creators, but when not backed by appropriate funding, it’s difficult to deliver high-quality works. This is why many Canadian cartoons either have low-quality animation, low-quality writing, or a mix of both.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, Canada has its name on a small handful of popular works in the past:

  • Class of the Titans
  • 6teen
  • Arthur
  • Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy

It’s not the most impressive list, but hey, at least it’s something.

 

There are a handful of known cartoons that have been created through a joint effort involving Canada. Canadian studios are also known to collaborate with American and French companies (e.g. Totally Spies was created through a French/Canadian collaboration). So at least Canada is inserting itself into mainstream content by partnering with other companies, and vice versa.

 

All in all, it’s difficult to assess the future of Canadian cartoons on mainstream networks; however, it appears that the industry is growing ever so slowly. Canadian studios that have accepted outsourced animation jobs are starting to become aware of their internal talent pool, and seem to be dabbling in content creation themselves. The amount of Canadian-created content is also likely to increase when the dollar reaches its previous heights—studios will likely see a downturn of work and will have to find other ways to save their bottom line, including producing and distributing their own animated works.

Here’s hoping that Canada will eventually catch up.

 

 


A/N: Keep in mind that I am a Communication major, so my degree is all about media studies. The question of, “why is Canadian entertainment lagging?” applies to movies, television, film, books, etc. and is brought up quite often by many of my professors. This blog post touches on their collective response to the question. I’m no expert, but in assuming that my professors know what they’re talking about, this is my best guess as to why Canada is rarely seen in mainstream media outlets.

“Did you miss me?”

“Did you miss me?”

Of course I miss you.
I miss you all the time. When you’re not around you’re all I think about and I do everything possible to push thoughts of you down, think about something else or replace you.
But there you are anyways.

And when you are around, it’s almost worse. You’re right there but you’re so far away. I can’t touch you or feel you when every atom in my body wants to know what it feels like.
I can’t breathe.
Ever since you came back I’ve had a pain in my chest from every word I’ve kept in my lungs, all the words I wish I could say to you. I want to fight you so hard for making me feel this way but all I can seem to think about it what it might feel like to kiss you again.

And then the cycle repeats it self. The butterflies that come with the the unrelenting thoughts are caged just as quickly and my breath hitches, unable to let itself in and out of my lungs without effort anymore.

I’m stuck, stifled. I can’t be with you or without you and I don’t have a choice in either.

You’re not mine to think about.

I’m stuck, in a cycle that begins with gears turning and ends with me throwing a wrench in the system only for it to get dislodged over and over again.

Do I miss you?

Constantly.

  1. And I can’t breathe anymore because of it.

Forged In Peaceful Differentiation: The History and Evolution of Folk Music Culture in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century

Music has the capacity to change the way we see the world. At its core, it has arguably more universal ability to evoke emotion than any other art form available. Many find refuge through music. Many find excitement, solace and inspiration for their own daily lives through the complex melodies hitting their eardrums – a notion that has been around for centuries and spans across most, if not all worldwide civilizations. The genre of folk has stood the test of time throughout history, with many different cultures creating unique definitions of the word through their own interpretations of musical communication. In the twentieth century however, folk music began to gain momentum towards becoming a cornerstone of the rapidly expanding music spectrum in Western culture.

Through the act of strumming a guitar and crooning a simple combination of melodies and lyrics, an unfathomable number of new genres were born. The emotional connectivity and intimacy of the performances appealed to a demographic of individuals seeking a sense of relatability and authenticity within their choices of music and with such technological innovations such as the record player becoming more widespread, these songs were able to reach listeners on a scale much larger than ever before. Before the infiltration of mass marketing, political opposition and genre fragmentation there was the humble practice of presenting one’s emotions through song – the core of this practice becoming the pinnacle of authenticity that would constantly be pursued by many of the subsequent folk artists to come. Rodnitzky (1999) states that when the great Pete Seeger was asked to define folk as a genre, he replied saying,

“If folks sing them, they’re folk songs.”(p.105).

The notion of storytelling through song has long been one favoured by the traditional definition of folk music across a spectrum of cultures and continues to be a factor imperative in securing a proper place amongst the ranks of iconic folk songs.

The revitalization of folk music in Western culture came at a time where individuals belonging to a society that emphasized conformity and compliance spurred on a phase of creative revolutions that gave way to some of the most profound musical movements in history. The notion of using music to appeal to the masses, project a message of opposition and seek a greater sense of authenticity is something the world of folk has been able to boast more prominently above the rest.

The following pages will dive the folk revival period of the twentieth century and into the modern music built out of the genre spanning from the early 1940’s into present day.

In this paper I will explore the evolution of folk music as it relates to certain ideologies of authenticity and comments on mainstream music culture. Furthermore, I will argue that folk music, even through evolving digital advancements and changing consumption patterns, exists as a commentary and opposition to the generic elements of mainstream music culture.

 ~

Folk Revival

The early part of the twentieth century’s entertainment landscape created an emphasis on big band, orchestral and spectacularly theatrical genres of sound to maintain the spotlight when it came to the musical tendencies of the masses. The era of post-WWII paved the way for a new stripped-down version of music to become more readily available, a banner marking the beginning of a series of sociocultural movements signifying the rejection of conformity among a society that swayed towards tradition.

Cohen et al. (2014) describe the beginning of this revival, discussing how folk music played a role in the 1950’s cultural shift, with many wrongly characterizing this era as “the bland leading the bland.” They go on to discuss how folk, along with other variations of rock and roll such as rockabilly, doo-wop, country and rhythm and blues were all large parts of the ubiquitous counterculture beginning to emerge following the Second World War and eventually gaining more traction towards the explosion of musical counterculture during the Cold War era (p.3).

With artists such as Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly paving the way for the acoustic guitar and lyrics pairing to gain prominence, the folk scene was quickly beginning to develop a growing community of followers and churning out a repertoire of songs with such a depth, that they continue to be covered and redone today. Lead Belly’s versions of ‘Goodnight Irene’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’ embody what folk purists might describe as core examples of authentic music and have remained incredibly iconic to both listeners and fellow folk icons – with both songs being covered by bands such as The Weavers and The Animals, respectively.

circa 1935: Promotional portrait of American blues musician Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter (1889 – 1949) playing a 12-string guitar and singing. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Guthrie with guitar labeled “This machine kills fascists” (1943) (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

Additionally, Cohen et al. (2014) provide an example towards the first conceptions of the protest song coming to fruition, through the medium of folk music, around the latter part of the 1940’s. They state, “In late 1945, (Pete) Seeger, fresh out of the military, formed ‘People’s Songs’ with a group of left-wing musicians, such as Woody Guthrie, which promoted a musical agenda supporting labour unions, civil rights, economic justice and world peace.” (p.15).

This type of organization towards the concept of peaceful protest through music would only be a small taste of what was to come in terms of the genre becoming a beacon of oppositional power. The fifties established a standard of what folk music was supposed to bring to the table in terms of formal structure, but allowed for the genre to constantly revamp itself, eventually into a vessel for change and social revolution.

As the ball kept rolling and the folk community began to realize the influx of popularity that came with instilling a sense of authenticity within the listener, there was an expectation of what the medium was to bring to the table in terms of artistry.

The classic string instrument, microphone, voice and lyrics cocktail was something of an established tradition within folk music culture as it drifted into the 1960’s. However, the historically telling aspect of folk culture is that it is constantly challenging the norm. The paradoxical effect of a culture pushing the envelope of change while upholding a preconceived notion that the music should stay ‘pure to it’s roots’ was exactly what it took to create such a controversy over Bob Dylan’s iconic performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Music festival.

At this point in time, halfway into the sixties and seeing music as an absolute force to be reckoned with when it came to lighting the flame of oppositional social activism, it boasts somewhat ironic to see just how shaken up the folk community could become at the slightest modification of musical ‘norms’.

When Dylan took the stage in 1965, the crowd turned to chaos when he cast his typical acoustic troubadour persona aside and began to play ‘Maggie’s Farm’ with an electric guitar a full band accompanying him. The audience, accustomed to seeing Dylan with no more than a microphone, harmonica and an acoustic guitar strapped to his chest, were thrown into what Wald (2015) describes as a “maelstrom of conflicting impressions.” He discusses the night further by referencing a New York Times piece stating that Dylan was “roundly booed by folk-song purists, who considered this innovation the worst sort of heresy.” Additionally, Wald claims that in several accounts of the story, “Pete Seeger, the gentle giant of the folk scene, tried to cut the sound cables with an axe. Some people were dancing, some were crying, many were dismayed and angry, many were cheering, many were overwhelmed by the ferocious shock of the music or astounded by the negative reactions (Par. 2).

Dylan goes electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival
(Photo retrieved from www.thenewportbuzz.com)

This type of commotion alone highlights just how much American folk artists had begun to etch themselves into the timeline of music history. Moreover, it brings to light the paradoxical effects that came with an audience so devoted to a genre built on change and revitalisation, but refusing to accept any modifications towards the standards of music set out by a handful of iconic artists at the time.

Hillstrom and Hillstrom-Collier (2010) cite music critic Robert Palmer, stating, “What Dylan in 1965 managed to do was blast himself free from the intellectual complacency of the folk scene while daring the rock fans to listen [to the lyrics]” (p.28)

The musical landscape was shifting so rapidly and so dynamically that the notion of inspiring change through such a powerful force became the forefront of youth culture in the 1960’s. With folk artists gaining popularity in the times leading up to the sixties, once the presidential epochs of Lyndon Johnson/Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War took hold, they quickly became a beacon to a demographic of frustrated and unsettled masses, seeking a way to provoke change and oppose the powers of government.

~

Protest Through Song

Youth culture during the 1960’s had become a force unlike anything society in modern Western culture had seen prior. The small post-war grace period was over, industrialization and the pressure to a build a life upon a direction of compliancy was no longer something the up-and-coming generation was willing to tolerate.

The children of the baby-boomers were either on the cusp of, or had reached adulthood and most prominently, the United States government’s escalation of the movement to fight communism in Vietnam had provided a massive catalyst for the launch of music as a way to counter violence and oppression.

Candaele (2012) describes this phenomenon, stating that “youth ‘counterculture’ carved out new spaces for experimentation and alternative views about what constituted a good society, while a New Left made up of civil rights and anti-war activists developed as the war in Vietnam dragged out and became increasingly bloody, confounding, and ultimately unpopular (Par. 6).

Folk music had gained such a vast audience through the sheer amount of emotion evoked during such a tumultuous time, that the community had begun to stray away from creating music to counter the generic aspects of pop culture and towards creating anthems leading the masses into a frenzy of social, political and cultural change.

Poster for the April 17th, 1965 March On Washington
(Photo retrieved from: www.michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu)

Protests, marches and picketing were on the rise all across college campuses, and eventually branching out into the general American public. The youth of America had began to shift their focus onto voicing their opposition towards the acts of what they interpreted as senseless violence, particularly hitting closer to home due to the implementation of a conscription process for the men belonging to this generation of opposers.

Carr-Wilcoxson (2010) discusses one particular showing of protest at the Washington Monument on April 17th 1965, when over twenty thousand civilians arrived to show their solidarity against the war effort, most notably including folk icons such as Judy Collins, Joan Baez and Phil Ochs. The singing of era anthems such as “We Shall Overcome” and diplomatic attempts at anti-bombing negotiations marked this event as one of many sizeable organizations for peace throughout the years that would follow (p.28-29).

Moreover, songs such as “Blowin’ In the Wind” and Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” directly address the prevalent issue of conflict in succinct and authentic terms, allowing for listeners and fellow artists alike to latch onto the words and drive their cause further through the inspiration that was being handed to them:

Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing

-Bob Dylan, 1964

 

Dylan’s poetic patterns of song writing allowed for not only previously established fans of folk music to identify with the call to change in songs like this one, but also created a sense of emotional authenticity and relatability that was easily taken on to define a generation of peaceful – yet forceful – anti-war involvement.

As Hillstrom and Hillstrom-Collier (2012) explain, “these songs did not just react to events, they actually inspired new actions and levels of participation in the anti-war and civil rights movement.” (p.23)

Taking the protest song movement even a step further, was the song “For What It’s Worth” By Buffalo Springfield:

 

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

-Buffalo Springfield, 1966

 

Highlighted by Carr-Wilcoxson (2010), these lyrics followed by the refrain that sings “I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down,” not only provide a commentary on the goings on of protest culture, but boast the need of awareness into the issues.

The lyrics emphasize a need for goal-oriented opposition, not merely allowing for each side to stand against each other, wave their picket signs and expect change to simply come as it may (p. 59).

Additionally, the discussion regarding mass gatherings of youth counterculture through music would be a falling short if not to examine the 1969 phenomenon that was Woodstock. The iconic three-day music and arts festival held on a dairy farm in the town of Bethel, New York, brought to the stage some of the most iconic rock and folk artists of that time, singing their songs of social change and defining the era of non-conformity through loud music, free love, mind-altering drugs and togetherness.

“The ‘counterculture’ emphasis on ‘doing your own thing’ and rejecting the ‘uptight’ morality of older generations was in full swing at Woodstock (Hillstrom, Hillstrom-Collier, 2010, p.74). With folk acts like Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performing alongside rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Santana, the festival was the ultimate gathering of some of the iconic talent that defined a generation of change.

Jimmy Hendrix performs for thousands at Woodstock 1969
(Photo retrieved from woodstock.com)

The sixties and early seventies brought some of the most massive and influential social revolutions of the twentieth century. The groundbreaking method of using song as one of the most forceful catalysts for activism was not a new concept, however it grew to a level unseen before this time. An era of non-conformity matched with a level of political unrest and distrust from one of the biggest demographics of that time created a new use for folk music – to speak the truth of the people, provide a non-violent vehicle for political opposition and to contribute to the revitalisation of youth counterculture as a whole.

~

Modern-day Folk and Musical Subcultures

Almost fifty years after the golden age of folk, the mainstream concept of music has shifted substantially. Gone are the days of young Dylan and Baez inspiring thousands to rise up against the oppressive institutions and gone are the days where only a small handful of artists, boasting an even smaller repertoire of folk-inspired genres, ruled the popular music scene. A sense of authenticity and intimacy no longer seems to be valued in today’s popular music scene, with factors such as mass commercialization, digitization and genre fragmentation contributing to their downfall.

However, as it always has, folk music has learned to adapt with its circumstances and take on a new set of standards and values. Although the mass influence of protest music and folk singers gaining legions of fans may no longer be the norm, folk music and the demographics that consume it have figured out ways to maintain the sense of authentic emotional connectivity with the songs, lyrics and artists that create them.

Musical subcultures have been around since musicians had desire for uniqueness and listeners had ability to demand choice. McGwin (2013) discusses musical subcultures in a sense that they are “acting as a solution to a problem or contradiction in the dominant culture, and served as a way for its members to resist through ritual and style” (p.1). Although this notion of counterculture is not nearly new, the difference between the sixties and today is that folk music is no longer striving to resist political power, but is instead striving to counter the generic, mass consumer culture attached to much of today’s pop music.

Over the last half-century, the shift in digital technology has been astounding. The patterns of rapid introduction and replacement of old technologies has been a massive contributor to the changing landscape of music production, with the main form of music playing technology becoming almost obsolete every ten to fifteen years. From records to tapes, from tapes to CDs and from CDs to file sharing and digitally downloaded content, the music industry and genres within it have had to fight to adapt in order to remain relevant.

In today’s media market, music is no longer something that remains tangible in the same ways it was back in the days of obtaining albums by simply walking down to the local record shop. We can be selective about the content we want, we can select songs individually to add to our repertoire and we can access all of this for free via the many copyright evading loopholes that file sharing provides.

This, in addition to the ever-growing emphasis on consumer culture, had contributed to the mass commercialization of popular artists. Meier (2006) notes that within this social climate of consumer culture, many mainstream artists have taken on co-marketing strategies for themselves and they products they align themselves with.

The use of mediums such as television to advertise products, all the while promoting the faces and music of mainstream performers as a brand for the product, provide a marketing cycle financially beneficial for both the artist and the big corporations (p. 55). This type of cross promotion has become wildly prevalent in modern music, creating a culture built upon emphasizing capitalist promotion of products over emotional connectivity and authentic content.

Furthermore, content is being created and churned out so frequently that musicians now have to fight to stay relevant. In a culture that upholds the process of constantly searching for the next best thing, it can be next to impossible to maintain an attentive and devoted group of followers when the content is generic and easily replicated like many pop songs are.

This is where subcultures come in. Over the decades, subcultures have existed in opposition to something – whether that’s to a system of power, a set of constructed values or even another genre of music.

As aforementioned, the subculture of folk music no longer relies on political resistance as the forefront of their audience appeal. By upholding similar standards of authenticity however, they have managed to maintain a sort of refuge from the tendencies of disconnect that can come with generic, mass produced mainstream music.

Although the digitization of music culture has created widespread fragmentation within the genre itself, the folk community has managed to take this in stride by widening the boundaries of what can be defined within it.

Modern-day troubadour Gregory Alan Isakov bringing a mix of haunting melodies and meaningful lyrics reminiscent of the legends of the past
(Photo by: Blue Caleel, retrieved from: gregoryalanisakov.com)

 

Additionally, with much more of the population straying towards pop music and consumer-directed content, folk music has learned to adapt to smaller fan bases by maintaining the sense of intimacy through performing. Smaller venues, crowds and followings may have come with the effects genre fragmentation, but if a community devoted to avoiding the mainstream wants to stay true to its core values in a digital consumer world, this is sometimes means sacrificing the mass followings that once defined a prior generation of folk artists.

~

In conclusion, the last century has brought about a massive shift into what can be defined as folk music. Through the diffusion of genres, the rise of musicians at the forefront of political movements and the digitization of the music industry itself, folk has managed to adapt and remain malleable to the ever-changing landscape of musical expectations.

It has inspired the creative processes of thousands, thrived as a beacon of hope during tumultuous periods of history and provided a cornerstone of counter-culture within a world so devoted to exploiting music for its consumer properties.

Although it is not to say that the folk community had not resisted the processes of revitalisation in the past, as devotees occasionally have had the propensities to cause a commotion over breaking a set of standards set out by a small handful of musical pioneers. What has remained true however, is the sense of peaceful opposition the twentieth and twenty-first century folk music has maintained over the course of its lifetime.

Whether it is a differentiation from societal norms, conformist culture, political oppression or mainstream consumer habits, folk music has upheld its values of fighting closed-mindedness and resisting power. A sense of authenticity within both the musician and the listener comes from the place of intimate emotional connectivity that folk music thrives upon and is not something that cannot be branded, mass produced or diminished by anyone who chooses to oppose it.

 ~

Bibliography

Candaele, K. (2012). The Sixties and Protest Music. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.gilderlehrman.org

Cohen, R. D., & Donaldson, R. C. (2014). Roots of the revival: American and British folk music in the 1950s. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

Hillstrom, K., & Hillstrom, L. C. (2013). Woodstock. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.

McGwin, Katharine, “Music Subcultures Online: The Indie Folk Scene and How Facebook Influences Participation” (2013). Open Access Master’s Theses. Paper 44. http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/theses/44

Meier, L. (2006). In Concert: The Coordination of Popular Music, Youth Practices, and Lifestyle Marketing (Master’s thesis). Simon Fraser University.

Rodnitzky, J. L. (1999). The sixties between the microgrooves: Using folk and protest music to understand American history, 1963–1973. Popular Music and Society,23(4), 105-122.

Wald, E. (2014, July 24). The Night Bob Dylan Went Electric. Time Magazine.

Pedestrian At Best (An Unexpected Weekend)

May Long weekend series or days I wasn’t expecting to be extraordinary, but gave me some memories I won’t soon forget and relationships with people I find myself loving unconditionally after such a short period of time. I’ve been lucky enough to really feel like a kid again a few times over the last month, laughing so hard I feel like my lungs are on fire. This weekend may have been the spark that reignited that fire.

Stacy had been on the fence about coming down to Calgary for a bit but last minute decided to book a day off work, pack her friends Aksel and Alex into a van and drive into town for Elliot’s birthday. We kicked off the weekend driving over to surprise Elliot and through a mutual affinity for making Stacy the butt of the joke, an instantaneous friendship formed. In typical Noelle “I’m really not gonna drink too much tonight” style, I was a bit hesitant when I was thrown into a game of slap cup and ended up getting stuck with the very first janky king’s cup in the middle of the table. When Alex offered to share it with me, at that moment I had never been so relieved about the gesture. Stone cold sober is not the ideal state to throw back a king’s cup and from there I was certain I was surrounded by some seriously quality humans.

Two bottles of wine on Elliot’s balcony, multiple scenarios of “show me your new tattoo! Wanna see mine?”, one bathroom floor nap and endless conversations I don’t remember later, Stacy and I capped off the night by taking a ride home with an Uber driver that yelled at me for getting his own directions wrong. Fully not caring and falling asleep in the back seat, I somehow made my way back to my bed and was awoken to a motherfucker of a hangover and Stacy telling me all about how she forgot to pack pants.

The next day was brilliantly sunny and began with Phil and Sebastian’s coffee on the riverside patio of Charbar, as Stacy, Aksel, Alex, Elliot and I decided a tour of the city was in order.

And by ‘tour’ I mean a trip to several of Calgary’s patios for hangover food and Caesars.

Charbar gave us coffee, National gave us tatertots, and Alforno’s gave us delirious conversational slip-ups and the unfortunate coincidence of me stumbling upon my recently divorced cousin’s tinder date. Trying to remain unnoticed while hearing Aksel ask for an order of “bologna” in lieu of a Bellini or telling everyone I was taking a class called ‘Backpacking for Basics’ (The basics of backpacking) was unachievable.

Photo: @alrightstace

I was dying from my blisters due to my Chucks not being able to support what I assume was 300,000 steps, so we cruised back to my house and spent the subsequent hours lolling around on the hill until the sun dipped down. It felt so good to be able to laugh hard like that again. I had realized that due to all the stress that came with moving and school, I couldn’t remember the last time I had one full day of laughter with humans that made it possible for me feel so at home within a matter of minutes.

bb Stace in the trunk

Also we saw like, seven wiener dogs running right for us from the base of the hill which is a really great way to end a day in anyone’s books, I think.

We capped off the night by drinking another few bottles of wine around the bonfire in my backyard and drifting in to the type of ideologically charged conversations communications students tend to have after drinks. It made me smile so big when after a heavy conversation capped off with most of us discussing in about how we had all written some sort of paper on a related topic, Aksel (the only non-comms student in the vicinity) had stated that he genuinely wants to read the things we all write. His interest in the lives and thoughts of my friends really resonated with me – I was so lucky to be able to get to know a group of such authentically genuine humans.

Diane (left) Richard (right) really killing the matching outfits

When we decided to wander across the street to take in the view under the cover of darkness, I nearly rolled down the hill laughing when I had pointed out that outfitted with the pashmina from my couch and one massively oversized wineglass, Alex bared a stunning resemblance to Diane Keaton. If the King’s Cup hadn’t already cemented our friendship this moment did; we decided that in a romantic comedy about our lives I would probably be played by Richard Gere.

The next day we decided to take to the mountains and climb up a trail in the Bow Valley. After rolling up the trailhead blasting Courtney Barnett’s “Pedestrian at Best” (weekend trend) we started a trail that felt like a 90 degree angle for a good two and half hours. None of us had really entertained the thought of snow since it was approx. 27 Celsius at the base but low and behold, our trek up the mountain started to be tinged with white and allowed for many, many falls.

Poor Aksel was in a knee brace and shoes with the tread of alpine skis and he probably fell the most out of us all, but trooped through nonetheless. I was already sporting a solid patch of ice burn on my butt as most of us were wearing shorts when we fell into the thigh-deep postholes. Also not really taking into account the fact that snow is reflective of the sun, the post hike sunburns were real. After arriving to the first lake, which was completely frozen, we made the decision to push on up a ridge we had no business tackling as one misstep in the now waist deep snow would have likely been the end of us.

Aksel sans knee brace, or anything else really

When we got down to the part of the trail I think I can speak for all of us when I say we were all feeling aged. Complaining about our knee and hip joints worse than a bunch of eighty-year olds, we were more than ready for the sweet release of bare feet that came with the parking lot. We cruised windows down, to the light of a perfect sunset, back to Elliot’s condo in Canmore where some of the group had a few shrooms waiting, although the only thought on my mind was how quickly I would be getting food in my belly.

Canmore on a Sunday night was so peacefully quiet, but holy hell trying to find any food whatsoever was a challenge my little hypoglycemic body was not up for. Worth noting that I walked into a bar and when I asked if they do take-out for the burger I was salivating over, their response was

“Normally we would probably do something like that for you but our weekend menu is generally meant to be plated so really the whole experience wouldn’t be what we intend and therefore we probably cant accommodate takeout.”

Listen up, I don’t see any Michelin stars on your door and I’m so hungry I’m about to eat you if I don’t get some real food here. FIGURE IT OUT. 

I managed to order a pizza to the condo so that I didn’t have to risk having a 12-hour long stomachache that the Chinese food at the house would have surely given me and we came home to Rita, Stacy and Elliot shrooming on the couch. Watching Stacy get super emotional about how attractive all her friends are while Elliot just sat smiling at space while I downed my probably fourth or fifth bottle of wine in three days proved to be the welcome finale to an unexpected weekend.

Sitting on the roof under the stars or falling asleep cuddling with the crew, I felt so lucky to have a weekend that gave me instant friendships like these ones.

What I expected to be a mellow weekend in the city turned out to be the example of what I wanted the rest of my summer to look like.

I really like these people.

Is Japanese Anime Misogynistic?

Anime has changed the way that many people watch American animation. After being introduced to US cable in 1997 through the beloved Toonami segment, viewers began to expect more from animation in general. They began to crave continuity, overarching plots, and character development. And as the 2010s approached, they began to truly see the impact that the complexity of anime has had on American works.

 

Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Voltron: Legendary Defender, Steven Universe, the list goes on.

 

The new decade has brought about young creators who grew up watching anime and who genuinely believe that American animation could tell deep and intriguing stories.

 

Anime is treated as such an inspiration because it conquers American storytelling and visual quality on many fronts; however, as great as its storytelling typically is, anime tends to greatly lack one specific element:

Progressive female characters.

 

Anime, like most forms of entertainment on the small screen, thrives on countless tropes; however, aside from these there are very specific female portrayals that are displayed throughout many of Japan’s animated works. Two specific qualities that are more often than not woven into countless female characters are: 1) submissiveness and 2) boy-craziness. Neither of which are positive nor progressive.

 

Female characters are often portrayed as the weak alternative to their male counterparts. Many are defined by their romantic feelings towards a male character who consequently end up bringing out the best in theses females:

  • Sawako Kuronuma of Kimi ni Todoke
  • Lisa Mishima of Zankyou no Terror
  • Rinko Yamato of Ore Monogatari!!
  • Satomi Murano of Parasyte

 

To add insult to injury, the submissive female anime character often puts up with plenty of verbal and sexual assault that is too often played off as the norm:

  • Misa Amane of Death Note
  • Misaki Ayuzawa of Kaichou wa Maid-sama!
  • Megumi Noda of Nodame Cantabile
  • Nanami Momozono of Kamisama Hajimemashita
  • Shizuku Mizutani of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

 

And to make matters worse, many female characters eventually develop romantic feelings towards their harassers. This doesn’t only make certain anime titles difficult to watch at times, but also spreads the idea that this treatment towards females is justified and even rewarded.

 

Not only is female submissiveness prominent in anime characters, but incorporating a boy-crazed personality into their characterization is also common. Before I continue, allow me to clarify that having romantic feelings towards another character is definitely not a negative feature. It’s a perfectly normal occurrence that the vast majority of us can relate to. The issue truly lies in the presentation of this trait; it is promoted as a redeeming female quality.

These female characters are defined by how they feel towards males. Many will throw away everything just to be in the same vicinity as a specific guy. And when these characters’ entire personalities become tied to how they feel towards someone else, they frequently end up subjecting themselves to male prowess, becoming nothing but an extension of their crush. Female characters that have a boy-obsessed outlook are typically emotionally and socially underdeveloped, but presented as being well-rounded individuals—as if having extremely powerful romantic feelings towards a male is more than enough to compensate for a lack of personality.

 

This is a huge issue as girls should be taught to build themselves up internally rather than relying on external stimuli, whether it be another person, or something else entirely.

The boy-crazed characteristic isn’t only inherent in Japanese animation, but as mentioned in a previous article, is also more than prominent in American works. The only difference is that female characterization in cartoons seems to be improving at a much quicker rate than that of anime, despite many anime having more complex storytelling elements.

 

 

Although Japanese animation is saturated with less than favourable female portrayals, there are also many notable personalities out there who have built themselves up without the help of a male counterpart, and who are recognized by who they are and what they have accomplished instead of who they are romantically attached to:

 

  • Hiyori Iki of Noragami
  • Revy (Rebecca) Lee of Black Lagoon
  • Kyoko Mogami of Skip Beat
  • Akane Tsunemori of Psycho Pass
  • Celty Sturluson of Durarara!!
  • Yuu Kashima of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

 

 

And since misogyny isn’t exactly a positive note to end off on, I will leave you with this question: Who are the most trope-defying anime females on your list, and what is it about their phenomenal characterization that allows them onto your list?

 


Keep in mind, I am not Japanese nor have I ever visited the country. I only have a vague idea of what Japanese customs are, but cannot even begin to comprehend Japan’s social norms. However, I don’t believe that this should be used as an excuse by North American viewers to ignore these issues. Anime is becoming widely accessible on a global front. With Crunchyroll, Netflix, and other (questionably legal) streaming platforms distributing anime, viewers can access these works instantaneously, and because many of us are viewing anime, as with all of the media that we consume, it’s important to be actively critical of these works regardless of where they originate. With this said, as a Canadian I am approaching this topic from a Western perspective, as should you (though please feel free to disagree).

Off the Grid Waffle Bar

I’ve never been big on waffles but after trying Off the Grid Waffles in East Vancouver….oh boy has that changed! Decidant…moist… & oh so chocolaty *mmm mmm mmm* They offer an array of options: from a savory pizza waffle ($8) to a sweet Strawberry Nutella waffle ($7) (which you can also get in waffle cups! $6) […]