Guest Post: Postcards from Canada.

As you may already know, my bestie April has jetted off indefinitely to Canada.

In this new monthly post, I will be collating the best (and worst!) of April’s adventures from her travel blog, Explorational: An Aussie’s Adventures Abroad, for your vicarious pleasures.

Here, she details her feelings about her first overseas flight, trekking around Los Angeles and its theme parks, and arriving in Canada:

Parting is Such a Sweet Sorrow (26/04/11).

The whole airport thing went surprisingly well. All that worry for nothing! My mum and step-dad, as well as three very special friends, came to wish me “bon voyage” and help me navigate check-in, money transfer, and, most importantly, attempted to calm my nerves.

We had a lovely, sophisticated breakfast at good old McDonalds, checked in my luggage, got me some US and Canadian dollars, and then said our goodbyes at the rather non-ominous doors.

The goodbyes were the hardest part. My mum had already worried herself sick and I don’t know how she was after I left but she was crying, and making me tear up, as I was leaving.

My friends were very encouraging, rather than teary, but Scarlett didn’t want to let me go from our hug! I like hugs, but goodbyes have always been awkward for me. I don’t often feel like it’s going to be the last time I am going to see someone. Perhaps I can liken it to feeling it to be more of a “see you later”…

Going through all the departing procedures was reasonably breezy but waiting something like 2 hours for the flight to board was painful. I got fed a substantial amount on the flight. I had a yummy vegetable curry for our big meal (Mum would be proud!), and then a frittata which had mushrooms not mentioned on the menu.

Everything being free was great. I watched a series of movies including: Despicable Me, Due Date, Tangled, Gulliver’s Travels, The Social Network, It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Love & Other Drugs (bar the last 15 minutes – shattered!).

Not long after I unsuccessfully tried to sleep on the plane, while listening to an excellent playlist, we touched down in LA. The girl next to me decided it was a good time to vomit in a sick bag, making me feel kind of queasy.

I then headed through the initial customs checkpoint, grabbed my bag (which conveniently came round the conveyor belt as I walked up), and waited in line for baggage check. After looking at my passport, the overly burly customs officer waved me straight through. No one even asked me about the food I declared. So my Vegemite and Cadbury crème eggs made it in just fine!

The Happiest Place on Earth! (29/04/11)

My second day in Anaheim was planned as a California Adventure Park day but after waiting 45 minutes for the shuttle, I decided to follow a family for the walk to Downtown Disney, a place I didn’t even know existed.

Hooked from the first glance, at the Pin Traders store, where I subsequently spent $50 on badges, I decided shopping would constitute the day’s events.

I then visited the Lego store where I got a Ron Weasley Lego man keychain.

My next thought was food but I got distracted by Build-A-Bear (and the lack of appealing food options). I went into the store with one intention and left with exactly what I wanted—a chocolate brown-coloured Downtown Disney 2011 exclusive bear in green scrubs named Turkleton! He is absolutely adorable. Build-A-Bear also gave me some great ideas for presents so my plan is to return to Disneyland for one day in February before I head home.

I also discovered D Store and Mr. Potato Head versions of Chewbacca and C3PO. Very merrily purchased!

Upon entering the ultimate Disney store and making one last purchase, a stuffed Cheshire cat (to go with the Alice & Mad Hatter I’d got the day before), I asked for the nearest post office and set off to send my bulky loot home to mum. $80 later, my $200-ish worth of purchases were homeward bound, making me happier not to have to lug them around.

Next stop was California Adventure Park, and it definitely had some good stuff going for it. Not the lines I encountered or the confusion about how to get around thanks to the construction of the new Tron “experience”, though.

So I headed for Paradise Pier. I decided a fifteen minute wait for the California Screamin’ was acceptable as I had my chocolate soft serve to keep me occupied. (FYI: It was scrumptious!)

I seem to have developed quite a knack for consuming unstable foods right before discovering, and boarding, vomit-inducing rides. Thanks to my iron stomach, and the lack of “heart in throat” sensation (as my cousin Lizzie would call it), I kept everything internal. For a roller coaster, it wasn’t even as much fun as the good old Pirate Ship at the Rye Carnival!

I also went on the Mickey Mouse themed Ferris Wheel (opting for the non-swinging section as the wait was 25 minutes less), where I met two other Aussie travellers. We chatted about our impressions of the US and our plans for the rest of our trips.

The Silly Symphony swings were next on the agenda, followed by my favourite ride of the day, the Grizzly River Run. I met a couple of 20-something American boys in line who ended up with me on the ride. We had a good group in our “raft” and I spent the whole time in stitches. Was so much fun even if I ended up completely water logged (pun intended!).

At this point it was getting dark and I was a bit over the rides. So I ventured into yet another store where I found the build your own Mr. Potato Head section that my friend Eddie had told me about, which actually made me want to visit Disneyland. (In case you didn’t realise yet, I collect Mr Potato Heads!)

It, sadly, wasn’t as impressive as I was expecting from Eddie’s description. I had the option of a Pirates of the Caribbean, Tinkerbell or Mickey Mouse potato. After grabbing my box and stuffing my potato’s insides with little pieces, like eyes, noses and tongues, I realised the box, which must be closed upon purchase, was only really designed for one full ensemble. Determined to beat the system, I applied my practical application of Tetris skills and maneuvered all the pieces I wanted and shoved the lid closed. It was quite a process, as I had to decide what I really wanted and then make it all fit just right. I eliminated the pirate pieces as I already have two pirate themed potatoes at home and then worked with the Tinkerbell and Mickey pieces. Upon realising that Tinkerbell’s hair took up a ridiculous amount of space I knew I had my work cut out for me. But everything successfully fit in the end so I took my one of a kind Mr. Potato Head to the counter and handed over my $19.95, plus tax.

I consider Disneyland: defeated.

GTL: A Venice Beach Story (01/05/11).

I realised I hadn’t eaten all day and after nearly passing out and/or vomiting on the 733 Santa Monica via Venice bus, so I hit up UrbanSpoon (which has been my saviour!) and had all but decided on Mao’s Kitchen until I saw Bondi BBQ. As the website claimed it to be Aussie inspired, I wanted to try it for myself. It was just across from my hostel but was boarded up (never a good sign) so I headed for Mao’s Kitchen instead where I chowed down on my favourite: beef with black bean sauce (mum would be proud!), and it was pretty damn good.

My second day I made the effort to walk the 45 minutes along the boulevard to the Santa Monica Pier. I’m not quite sure what the appeal of it is; same goes for the whole of Venice Beach. It’s not my kind of place. I only decided to stay here because it was closer to the airport than downtown Los Angeles or where I’d previously been in Hollywood. The whole place had an unsettling feeling about it.

But if tanning and/or pumping iron, street vendors and beggars are your thing, then maybe you should visit. [Early Bird note: Maybe the next season of Jersey Shore should be filmed here?] I somewhat regret not staying downtown but I will be back in August and will still have somewhere fun to explore.

First Impressions: An Open Letter to Canada (01/05/11).

On my last night in Venice Beach, my lovely German roommate, Marco, informed me he had received a text that Osama Bin Laden was dead.

All it said was: “Osama Bin Laden has been killed.”

So we did some internet research and watched a video confirming the news.

Barack Obama was to do a speech to confirm it.

I really didn’t think at all about how this news would impact on me until the next day, when I was waiting in line for security scanning at LAX for my flight to Toronto and overheard someone exclaiming, “Why did I have to fly this day, of all days?!” It dawned on me that today was, in fact, a day to be concerned about travelling in the United States.

Security leaving the US was a lot harder than entering, much to my surprise. Shoes and jackets had to be removed and as I jumped in the shortest line I realised I was about to be body scanned! Thinking it a bad idea and contemplating a shift to a simple metal scanner in another line, I read a sign that said if you refuse to be scanned you will be frisked. Deciding someone seeing me naked for a few seconds was far less invasive than someone frisking me for about a minute, I stayed in line and experienced my first body scan.

Having arrived at the airport 4 hours before my flight, I ended up with about three hours to kill, so I tried to write some stuff for my blog and just waste the time away, while enjoying a Starbucks breakfast.

My flight was rather boring and uncomfortable. American Airlines, despite the higher price they charge, doesn’t seem to offer much more than what I would imagine a budget airline here in North America would have. I felt cramped and overcharged. ($25 for one piece of checked luggage on top of a $300 fair—seriously?!) Nothing like my fabulous V Australia experience to LA.

Arriving in Toronto was a rather subdued affair. I had my working holiday visa processed, sadly only for one year, and was lucky to once again pick up my luggage the baggage carousel just as it came round the corner.

Then came the real security check. Having not been questioned on it arriving in the US, I was a little thrown when the Canadian Customs officer asked me if I had bought any food into Canada. I declared my Vegemite and half-eaten bag of Cadbury crème eggs and he let me straight through. I guess neither have been deemed threats to Canada so I was free to enjoy them at times when I missed home.

Again, with no plan, I headed out of the airport, found a shuttle and made a beeline for my new home, the Global Village Backpackers, in downtown Toronto.

 My lodgings are nothing flash; just the bare essentials. But the staff are nice and it provides the bed I need at night for a reasonable price. I’m set to stay here two weeks but I can always extend it if the accommodation search doesn’t go quite as well as I am hoping.

From my first few days here, Toronto feels a bit like Melbourne. There’re trams, which they call streetcars, and it’s rained a lot, just like home! Not sure yet if I like it here but it is going to be my home until August whether I do or not. So bring on the Canadian friendliness and the swooning over my intriguing accent.

—April Bonnick.

[Explorational] Homepage.

[UrbanSpoon] Homepage.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] United States of Ameri-Canada.

Magazines: Famous Review, February 14, 2011.

Don’t let the gaunt and surgery-ravaged bodies of cover girls Lindsay Lohan, Heidi Montag and Audrina Patridge fool you; this is one issue of Famous worth picking up.

Famous always puts a cute spin on the week’s hottest celeb stories, with appearances by Lohan (on pages 6–7 and 13, for stealing a necklace and regretting getting cosmetic surgery too young, respectively); Kim and Kourtney Kardashian (p. 8–9), who are—unbelievably—fighting over Scott Disick; the Twilight stars and their salary wars (p. 16–17); Rihanna, who might be coming out of the closet after revelations by Hollywood socialite Tajah, who claims she had a lesbian affair with the singer (p. 20–21); and Lauren Conrad, who is taking the New York City fashion world by storm (p. 24–25).

Speaking of fashion, it is a key element in this week’s issue, with several stellar items I would like to see in my wardrobe in the very near future.

I’ll be reserving some shoe space for Jeffrey Campbell’s red suede booties on page 47, while By Johnny’s cut-out dress (p. 50) is perfect for an upcoming masquerade cocktail party I’ve been invited to. Accessorised with some chunky gold jewellery à la Nicole Richie (with Khloe Kardashian at an L.A. Lakers game on page 40) and a mask to match, it should make for a versatile piece.

Elsewhere, Lady Gaga gets trashed (p. 28–29); Zac Efron dates five girls at one time (p. 30–31);  the stars strike a pose on the red carpet of the Screen Actors Guild Awards (p. 36–37); Kate Moss gets thrifty at a market stall (p. 38); Reese Witherspoon shops for bridal magazines in preparation for her upcoming nuptials (p. 39); and Gossip Girl gets curly (p. 45).

Famous is always good value (at $3.95, it’s the cheapest glossy on the block), and this issue is no exception. I love it for its smart captions and coverlines, great composition of celeb shots, and its knack for getting the balance right between left-of-centre reporting and “Britney-goes-to-Starbucks” frivolity.

 

 

 

[The New York Times] Nice-Guy Bloggers Needn’t Finish Last.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Poor Little Rich Girl: Lindsay Lohan in Who.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Poor Little Rich Girl: Who Cover Girl Heidi Montag.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Hills Have (Dead) Eyes.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Plastic Backlash.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Kim Kardashian Backlash.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

The perils of pants-less ladies.

Does Gossip Girl care about women in politics?

Bryce Corbett in defence of Nicole Kidman:

“… it seems to me that Nicole Kidman is engaged in what must be a most dissatisfying unrequited love affair with her homeland. She flies to Australia to pimp her country on Oprah. She makes a film with Baz Luhrmann which (whatever you may have thought of the final product) was a massive shot in the arm for the local film industry and a two-hour love-song to her country of birth. She fronts up to G’Day USA every year to flog the myriad wonders of Down Under. And following the Victorian bushfires, she donated half-a-million dollars of her own money to the Red Cross relief fund. What a cow.”

“Sexual Assault & the Super Bowl.”

Anna Chong, a designer from the London College of Fashion, has re-imagined Lady Gaga’s most popular get-ups into Barbie-sized outfits. But she’s not the first to do it

“Why is Captain America Ruling Our Screens & Not Wonder Woman?”

Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes as modern-day hipster fashion icon.

The New York Times profiles “nice-guy blogger” Jared Eng on his “cheery, quotidian, Britney-goes-to-Starbucks” blog, JustJared.com.

Also at The New York Times, The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield is un-relatable.

Jacob Lambert on “The Paper-Reader’s Dilemma”:

“No longer are books being pitted against pixels; pointing out that paper isn’t reflective either seems very 2007.  The war is now between tablets, as if the book never existed at all.”

Yet more dispelling of the Nicole Kidman vitriol, this time in a vintage (2008) article on Girl with a Satchel.

In the same vein of “17 Arguments Against Gay Marriage & Why They’re Bollocks” and “10 Things You Need to Understand About Asylum Seekers”, comes John Birmingham’s defence of Sandra Reynolds, via MamaMia.

I’d been searching for this article for awhile to reference in a few Lady Gaga musings, and finally came across it again last week and re-read it in the bath. Bliss. A fine example of quality journalism.

Reblogged from Fuck Yeah, Gender Studies, Rachel Hills runs a post on the question of “Who Sexualises Children?”:

“God, it doesn’t even make sense—HOW can a child be sex vixen? When I look at a child, I see a child. Regardless of costume. Dressed like Mary Poppins or dressed like Britney Spears, a kid is a kid! If you see something sexual, the problem is with you.”

I haven’t been shy about my hatred of Charlie Sheen (I know hate is a strong word, but honestly, he is a despicable human being), especially when he gets a free pass because he happens to be the star of TV’s most successful show, while Lindsay Lohan’s career is in ruins. Jezebel reiterates this:

“In recent years no stars (with the possible exception of the oddly lovable Celebrity Rehab cast members) have had their problems with addiction more publicized than Charlie and Lindsay. However, the way these stars are treated by the media and the public is vastly different, mainly due to the double standard for female celebrities.

“The scorn for Lindsay is particularly strange because compared to Charlie, she’s only hurting herself. Let’s review some of Lindsay’s biggest tabloid scandals: Two DUI arrests, four stays in rehab, missing numerous court hearings, going to jail for failing a drug test, battling bulimia, battling her father, and breaking up with her girlfriend. As for Charlie, he’s been in and out of rehab for years, he “accidentally” shot fiancee Kelly Preston in the arm, he was named as a frequent visitor to brothels owned by Heidi Fleiss, he’s dated numerous porn stars, he ODed on cocaine, allegedly shoved Denise Richards and verbally abused her during their marriage, and was arrested for domestic violence against Brooke Mueller, but avoided jail time due to a plea deal. Lindsay has never been married and has no children. Charlie has been married three times and has five kids, four of whom are under the age of 10.”

The Anatomy of a Douchebag.

The other day, I was talking to my friend about a mutual acquaintance of ours, and how he is somewhat of a “douchebag”. He’s not malicious in any way (which might make him an “asshole”, “prick” or, depending on the severity of said maliciousness, something more severe, beginning with an “f” orGod forbid!a “c”), but some of the things he says and does can only be described as “douchey”.

Urban Dictionary ensures that douchebag (“Someone who has surpassed the levels of jerk and asshole, however has not yet reached fucker or motherfucker”) is “not to be confused with a ‘douche’”, “… an individual who has shown themself [sic] to be very brainless in one way or another.” So perhaps just plain old “douche” is the word I’m searching for here, but I still maintain that a douchebag is just a misguided knob who does things seemingly to look “cool” and gain others’ approval.

But you’ve seen the douchebag in popular culture; you know what I’m talking about.

He’s not the equivalent of Jesse James, who cheated on Sandra Bullock with tattooed fetish model Michelle “Bombshell” McGee, is an alleged Nazi sympathiser and ran dog fights out of his West Coast Choppers studio. He’s not in the same ball park as Charlie Sheen, who gets away with hiring prostitutes, supposedly engaging in child porn, and is a raging drug addict and wife beater. And he’s certainly nothing like Joel Monaghan, the disturbed and idiotic Canberra Raiders player who was in the news last week for engaging in a sex act with await for itdog! Tiger Woods, who is a massive dickhead for cheating on his gorgeous wife with the multitude of women, would probably be the closest thing to a douchebag out of the men I’ve listed above, for the simple fact that his acts hurt no one but himself. Sure, there was some very public pain and suffering from his wife, Elin Nordegren, and some of his floozies who thought they meant more to him than they actually did, but there was no drug use, animal cruelty, bigotry and/or violence against women.

But from my research (FYI, who would’ve thought there were so many websites dedicated to the phenomenon?!), I’ve found that the douchebag is most comfortable in their natural habitat; reality television.

I’ve always maintained that Spencer Pratt and Jon Gosselin are the douchebags du jour, pulling publicity stunts with on-again/off-again wife Heidi Montag and ordering Starbucks in Ed Hardy garb, respectively. More recently, the cast of Jersey Shore have been known to exemplify the douchebag attitude, with the women of the show inspiring me to coin my own personal term for the female equivalent of a douchbag: a douchebaggette.

Speaking of Ed Hardy; the fashion label favoured by Gosselin and the Shore cast (Pratt seems to have moved away from the brand and towards a more derelict, hippie look, in keeping with he and Heidi’s crystal-healing-meets-bankruptcy lifestyle. But Pratt surpasses the physical attributes of the douchebag; he is inherently and eternally a douchebag. Heidi, however, still gets her douchbaggette on in the label.) is a key ingredient in the anatomy of a douchebag. Other external ingredients might include, but are not limited to; men who think their ridiculous hair, which they’ve spent more time on than I spend on my own locks, looks good (Pauly D, I’m looking at you), with a special mention to rat’s tails; men who wear copious amounts of jewellery or blinged-out clothing; men who wear headbands; and men who insist on getting the perfect pose for their Facebook profile pic. Feel free to submit your own physical douchebag attributes in the comments!

In essence, though, I think the douchebag is an insecure bloke (bogans are not exempt from douchebaggy-ness; in fact, in Australia, I’d say bogans make up a significant portion of the douchebag population), who strives for the acceptance of others in the way he projects himself and the things he says and does. Again, the douchebag poses minimal threat to non-douchebaggy majorities (or is that minorities? The douchebag seems to be sweeping the nation in record numbers)… except when they blind you by flicking their rat’s tail in your eye and/or from the glare of their rhinestone covered Ed Hardy tee whilst photobombing you!

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Why Are Famous Men Forgiven For Their Wrongdoings While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Beauty & the Bestiality.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Poor Little Rich Girl: Who Cover Girl Heidi Montag.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] (Sex) Ed Hardy.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Extreme Makeover: Jersey Girls.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Things Bogans Like.

[Urban Dictionary] Douchebag.

[Urban Dictionary] Douche.

[Google] “Douchebag” Search Results.