Guest Post: Postcards from Canada.

Open Doors (28/05/11–29/05/11).

For one weekend a year, here in town, over 150 buildings are opened up to the public for them to have a little look-see for the annual Doors Open Toronto. A lot of these places are not normally accessible to us mere mortals pedestrians. In order to be a part of this event the buildings must have been built before 1940 and you can look at any or all of them (if you have the time!) for free. [Early Bird note: Sounds a bit like Melbourne’s Open House.)

While this may not be something that everyone gets excited about, I am in awe of old buildings and enjoy perusing the architecture and sticky-beaking inside. I set out on my own on Saturday and my first stop was the Old City Hall building: by far my favourite building in Toronto from the outside, so I was very excited to take a look inside.

The building was designed by Edward James Lennox who also designed Casa Loma, another notable Toronto landmark, and about 70 other buildings around town.

These days Old City Hall is used as the provincial court house. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside but I did get to look at the amazing foyer, complete with murals, and an example of one of the court rooms. It even had the upstairs viewing area, reminding me of the court room used in the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird.

After that I was bound for a firehouse at the top of town, station 311, about an hours walk from where I was. Well, what was probably meant to be an hour turned into two, and a very sore body. I kept passing intersection after intersection, hoping the next street I would get to would be the one I was looking for. Eventually I found it and went in for a look around. It was rather dull in comparison to what my expectations were.

With no one there with me to take a photo of me behind the truck’s wheel or at least hanging out the window I was a little let down.

Since most of my Saturday was filled with walking I didn’t have much time and/or energy to go to any of the other buildings on offer,  but luckily there were some to look at on the walk back down the hill, homeward bound.

I had made plans on Sunday to go explore The Beaches with James but I decided to squeeze in a little excursion beforehand to the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre and the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto, time permitting.

When I got to the theatre there was a line down the block and I thought about just bailing. But seeing it as my only chance to look around inside, for free, I decided to just join the back of the queue and hope that I wasn’t too far down the line and would actually make it inside. Turns out they had a really good system in place. We all filed into the lower level, the Elgin Theatre, and all took seats. An older gentleman welcomed us and proceeded to give us a lovely rundown of the history of the theatre, being the only double-decker theatre (that’s one theatre positioned directly above another theatre), and some information about the kinds of things it had been used for.

After that we headed upstairs to the Winter Garden Theatre for yet some more history and an in depth description of the theatre’s construction.

Some interesting things that I learnt were that the ceiling over the seating in the Winter Garden theatre is decorated with approximately 80% real leaves that have been through a process to preserve them in a life-like state and that the ceiling of the Elgin theatre is actually floating, suspended from the floor of the above floor.

After the informative talk and a good look around the theatres we were invited to hang around to look at some memorabilia and perhaps purchase some wares, with all of the proceeds going to keep the theatre running. I got myself a badge for my collection and picked up the book, as well, as a memento because it was full of wonderful photos and ran through the history of the building. When making my purchase, the lady who served informed me that me that the man who had compiled the book was standing right behind me! I got him to sign my copy and thanked him for his informative speech and shuffled out.

I looked at my phone and realised I actually had enough time to squeeze in a trip up to the Arts & Letters Club.

I headed further up Yonge St (which for those of you playing at home is the longest street in the world and the same street I had spent what felt like all day schlepping up the day before!) and easily found the quaint building at 14 Elm St. I snapped a photo of the historic society sign out the front and was informed on the way in that there was no photography allowed inside. It was, of course, to protect the artworks but I really just wanted to take photos of the building. 

Having spent a little too much time exploring, I raced to meet James for our trip to The Beaches. He decided that, since we were in the neighbourhood, he’d like to take a quick look inside Old City Hall, too. So, in one weekend I got to explore it twice!

After another sticky beak we jumped on a streetcar out east. Thanks to James’ choice to sit near the front, we got semi-harassed by some crazy homeless guy who made inappropriate comments and felt up my leg. Eek!

When we jumped off the streetcar I saw another fire station, this one also open as part of Doors Open Toronto. James agreed to come take a peek with me and was very please to find an old style Pepsi vending machine where the cans were only 50 cents. Bargain!

This station, 227, was much like the one I’d already seen but I did get to enjoy a nice mini-tour with one of the fireman who filled me in on some history and the amount of call-outs they get a year. Pretty crazy!

With that, we made our way to explore The Beaches. Our journey started at the Kew Gardens where we looked at the Alex Christie gazebo and a few war monuments. We met a sweet little squirrel that a lady was trying to feed a mint. He took it, tried storing it in his mouth, then spat it out and decided to bury it. All of which I got photos of. Absolutely adorable!

Making Progress (30/05/11–04/06/11).

My fifth week in Toronto got a little bit quieter. With Sol gone (that’s right, he went off to camp. Did I not mention that?!), and the others having moved into their sublet, I was on my own again in the hostel. 

Luckily, I had my second job interview to distract me.

Again I was left with nothing to wear so I had purchased another H&M dress. This one was a pale pink, rather modest, and somewhat fitting for a job interview.

This time my interview was with the assistant manager of the store and covered some of the same questions, just a little more specific. Being a business running inside a hospital I fielded some questions on my experience with similar environments/experiences and felt like I answered them quite well. I got to know a little bit more about the job itself and the people I’d be working with.

Again, it was over pretty quickly but I felt fairly confident in my efforts. And who can complain about getting through to a second interview for the only job you actually applied for?! I just had to wait a few days to know whether or not I had the job. Fingers crossed!

Having not much else to do and only really seeing the others at night, I was quite delighted to be asked by the bar manager to pick up where Sol had left off in painting the tables for the hostel’s patio bar. So my week consisted of my touching up painting over the old flags that were on each table so they were all shiny and new again. This time they also had lacquer so I sealed them as well. It took me a few full days and a few hours here and there to get it all done to my liking. My work actually got me four free nights in the hostel, much to my surprise. Works out to be the same as being paid minimum wage here. Handy!

On the Thursday, when waiting for Sarah, as we were going to have lunch together, I got a call from the bookstore to tell me that I had been successful and that they wanted me to start work the following Monday! I was so excited to now have something to fill my days with. I shared the news with Sarah straight away. We also met up with the boys, Thomas and Declan, who congratulated me on my news.

Thanks to my new job I had to go pick myself up some new clothes to fit in with the dress code. After scouring H&M and other cheapish stores, I ended up at Sears where I found discounted black pants that fit me perfectly and a respectable collared black top to team with my black shoes. I also treated myself to a new warm jacket, since the weather was still miserable.

I had a job. Now the only thing left was to find a place to live!

(06/06/11).

Today marks my first day as an employee in a Canadian workplace! I can now officially say I work ‘in a bookshop’!

I am envisioning it being something like the show Black Books. I’d like to be Bernard but I know I’ll be Manny! No seriously, it’s going to be fun and a little bit hard since I really have no idea about books, but I am incredibly confident in my ability to serve customers so that bit is going to be easy. The book smarts can come later.

The first thing my new boss said to me was actually that he knew when he met me that he wanted me to work in his team, that I would fit in really well. He listed a lot of things that he identified in my from my interview. Some true, some not so true. Man I’m good at that bullshitting interviewing thing!

Summer Wonderland (08/06/11).

With the weather predicted to be 31 degrees (that’s Celsius, of course!), we decided it would be a good time to head to Canada’s Wonderland, an elaborate water/theme park about an hour from downtown Toronto, public-transporting it.

After all meeting up on the subway, we headed off.

 Arriving there we discovered the water park was only open on weekends, despite it being summer holidays, a fact the Internet neglected to mention! Our crew for the day—myself, Thomas, Declan, Sarah, Yann, Peter, Tanya and new recruit Gary—decided we’d just wander around the park, clockwise it would seem, and select rides that took our fancy.

There were a few in the bunch that didn’t partake in some of the rides due to their specific dislikes/fears: heights, the feeling of falling, the resulting dizziness or going upside down. I must admit to some degree I’m not okay with any of those but with the chances of anything going horribly wrong (à la Final Destination 3) very slim it was pretty irrational to be afraid of a ride. Gary pointed out all fears were irrational and, with that being a very valid point, I decided to overcome ignore my fears and go on all the rides the others suggested. Oh, and of course to preserve my dignity!

We spent the day going on pretty terrifying ride and, when we enquired about going on one again, we were told the park was closing. 

It was 6pm. The Internet had said the park was open until 9pm.

We had only made it about halfway through the rides and had missed the one we’d been building up to all day, the Behemoth.

Slightly morose, we headed back to collect our belongings and grab the bus home. As we were packing up it started to rain.

 Following that came a massive thunderstorm just as we were making our way to the bus. As we drove back to the subway station we watched the lighting crack all around us. So vivid. So close. So intense. Yann helped lighten the mood with his own rendition of Kiss From A Rose by Seal!

All it all it was a good day. I didn’t let the freak weather at the end sully my memory of all the crazy fun we had riding our way around Wonderland. I only hope we can go back again soon and check out the amazing water park.

I left the park bruised and battered, with a throbbing neck and very tired eyes but a very warm feeling in my heart.

—April Bonnick.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Postcards from Canada: 19th May to 26th May 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Postcards from Canada 2nd May to 14th May 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Postcards from Canada 26th April to 1st May 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 5th August 2011.

Related: [Explorational] Homepage.

Guest Post: Postcards from Canada.

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (19/05/11).

Thursday night brought my first real baseball experience. Okay, so that’s not entirely true. I saw Australia VS. Chinese Taipei play an exhibition game for charity but I’m talking real American baseball! I see a distinction, even if this is Canada.

The usual crew headed to the game, stopping for $1.50 hotdogs on the way. We arrived sometime around the 6th or 7th inning, much to my annoyance. Everyone else preferred to get their pre-drink on then get there on time. However, we settled in to watch the home team, the Toronto Bluejays, take on the Tampa Bay Rays.

With all sports I need to have a favourite player. Not too long after we got there a batter came to the plate, one JP Arencibia, who looked reasonably attractive so I picked him. After a couple of pitches he slogged the ball for a home run! In my books that’s a pretty good choice. I like my sportsmen the way I like my superheroes, able to save the day!

I’m not sure at this point that I totally understand the game and I do have the most terrible memory, but I think that the Blue Jays won this particular one. 

Sadly, I forgot my camera to catch any memories but please enjoy the above terrible photo, captured on my phone.

“Lions & Tigers & Bears… Oh, Museum?!” (24/05/11)

A seemingly boring day at the hostel was transformed into a mini adventure at the last minute.

Sol, like me, was sick of lounging around at home so he suggested we head down to the Royal Ontario Museum since it was free with our City Passes.

We didn’t get there until about an hour before closing so we grabbed a map, chose all the areas we wanted to see the most, and made our way around the museum. We figured if we had any time left after that we’d see whatever else we could squeeze in.

First stop was the natural history section. We looked at a lot of taxidermied animals. I was most excited about the local animals: grizzlies, polar bears, moose and the like.

I was devastated to discover that the battery on my camera was almost dead so I tried to conserve it and only take photos of the important stuff. I already knew the museum had a free afternoon so I figured I would just return at a later date to take in all the galleries had to offer and capture it in digital permanence.

Luckily, like me, Sol has a fascination with dinosaur skeletons, so we made a beeline for them. The prehistoric moose was a nice oddity!

With the very little time we had left, we had a gander at their elaborate geology exhibit. There were things in every colour, size and shape. Some of my favourites were precious stones, not usually seen in your average jewellery store!

Sadly, we got ushered out before we could see anything else but I definitely enjoyed what I did see and plan on finding the time to head back.

Working Girl (25/05/1126/05/11).

As I was walking home from Fort York, the birthplace of Toronto,  I got a phone call. It was about a job I had applied for the day before. After a very quick and super breezy phone interview, I was offered an interview the following day. Things were coming up April!

After only a day’s notice and lots of fretting over not having an appropriate job interview outfit, I decided on a new dress I had purchased from H&M and made my way to my meeting.

The job I was interviewing for was in a bookstore, inside a hospital. I got there nice and early and met with my potential future boss for semi-formal chit-chat. He said he wanted to get to know me and my work experience to see if I’d fit well in his small team.

The questions were kind of expected, the usual. I never prepare for interviews as I’m pretty good with coming up answers on the spot but I really should have planned ahead for the most obvious question: what books do I like?

Well, let’s just say I don’t think I answered it very well and didn’t even think to mention two of the authors whose catalogues I have read most of: Nick Hornby & Chuck Palahniuk. Or even get some cred for loving Shakespeare!

—April Bonnick.

Stay tuned for next month’s installment to see if April gets the job and what other shenanigans she gets up to in Old Toronto Town.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Postcards from Canada 2nd May to 14th May 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Postcards from Canada 26th April to 1st May 2011.

Elsewhere: [Explorational] Homepage.

Guest Post: Postcards from Canada.

Bienvenue à Toronto! (Welcome to Toronto!) (02/05/11).

I must admit I feel like I have squandered a lot of my time thus far in Toronto. I am yet to do anything incredibly touristy, unless you count walking the streets and taking photos of pretty buildings. Walking around everywhere has helped me to learn my way around the city and a lot of the street names, as well as find some hidden gems. I do intend to see the view from the CN Tower, get some culture at the Royal Ontario Museum and revel in all things the Maple Leaves at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Instead of acting like a tourist I’m at the point in my journey when I need pieces of home. And for me that means seeing my favourite band, Anberlin, who happen to be in town, and catching a roller derby bout next week. Not exactly Australian past times but they do equate to a relative state of normalcy for me. After Disneyland satisfied my love of shopping (and added to my collections of badges, Mr. Potato Heads and stuffed toys), Toronto alleviated my impulse to buy dresses. I got a super cute white and blue speckled summery number from H&M.

H&M also had a staff wanted sign up too, which brings me to my other mission while in Toronto: finding a job, and hopefully a house. I’ve seen a few signs around, which is more than I can say for the online classifieds. I also got into apartment hunting, mainly to see what is out there, but it all seems scarier in a foreign place. After only a few days here I deemed it responsible to extend my stay at the backpackers another two weeks. While living at the hostel I’ve managed to meet some good people, mostly boys. One I have nicknamed “Dreamboat”, a particularly charming and adorable man, who I have already written to my best friend, girlfriends and mum about. But being in a backpackers and talking to other travellers has meant I’ve heard many a travel/life story over beers, good old pub grub and games of pool. How very Australian!

“United Nations of Awesome!” (09/05/11).

So week two of Toronto life got a little more productive and a lot more exciting.

After chatting in the bar with a friend, James, I ran into one of my old roomies and another boy I’d met through him. Despite my lack of shoes, they tried to talk me into coming along on a pub-crawl. With a bit of arm twisting, and a mental self reminder to “roll with the punches”, I was recruited.

Being after midnight by the time we left, we only had a few hours before last call (which is 2am for a 2.30am close here in Toronto). With no real idea of where we were going we set off down the road and headed into a nearby pub. After having all our IDs checked and purchasing drinks, we settled into a large table, accommodating all 12 or so of us, and started to get to know one another. Everybody had some connection to someone else there, but most of us were new to one another.

With time against us, after downing one drink, we headed to our next location, a bar all of one minute from the last.

The second pub was much the same as the first. Everyone ordered a drink and we got chatting. We discovered that our little group consisted of seven different nationalities and after my flippant comment, “We’re just like the United Nations”, another Aussie, Luke, piped up with, “Yeah, the United Nations of Awesome!” A wonderful name that I will forever associate with that night.

CN Towerific (11/05/11).

The Toronto Blue Jays at practice. Break me off a piece o’ dat!

After the events of the pub-crawl, I managed to meet a great group of people.

With a lot of them either leaving or staying in different hostels, there weren’t many to be seen around the backpackers. However, I did get a new roommate, a New Zealand traveller named Hannah.

We were pretty friendly, pretty quickly. We talked about our travels and our intended travels, as well as life at home.

Later that night we ran into each other in the bar and got chatting again. We subsequently met two guys from the hostel,  another Aussie and an Irishman. After talking to them for a while, the suggestion of tequila shots came up. I passed but was obviously ignored as a shot was placed in front of me, just like the other three. This was to be my first ever tequila shot, at the ripe old age of 25! With free alcohol being supplied by the Irishman and his inability to understand the word “no”, I proceeded to drink another four tequilas and two vodka sunrises, to end up just a wee bit tipsy. However, I did not realise the alcohol’s affect on my senses until I tried to stand still for a little bit and could feel myself swaying. Quite an interesting experience as I rarely drink so much in such quick succession and have never even felt tipsy before.

Having lost Hannah to the company of another, I spent some time with my Irish friends from the pub-crawl. They reminded me of their plan to hit up the CN Tower the following day, so we arranged a time to meet up and I headed off to bed.

(If there was one thing I was excited about doing in Toronto it was seeing the CN Tower, a structure built to deal with the growing telecommunication needs of the city. There’s something about seeing a whole city from a bird’s eye view that makes me happy.)

The group consisted of myself, my new roomie Hannah, fellow Aussie Sol, the birthday girl Tanya, her boyfriend Peter, and their friend Sarah.

We made our way up the 114 storeys, 346m (1,136ft), to the observation deck. I spent a lot of time taking photos of every bit of the city I could see with my amazing camera. When everyone was done we headed down to the glass floor level.

This level is much like the one above but a section of the floor has been replaced with glass panels. The idea is to stand over the panels (they can hold the weight of four rhinoceroses) and look down at the plaza below. That’s 342m down! Being not afraid of heights, just a tad afraid of falling, and having done The Edge experience at the Eureka Skydeck back in Melbourne, I was very surprised to find myself feeling physically ill when I came within a foot of the glass floor. (I’m blaming the 5 shots of tequila from the night before!) It took Sol pushing me across the floor to get me on the glass panels and even then I couldn’t bring myself to look down. I snapped a few photos through the floor but could only stand there for about 30 seconds before I thought I’d lose my breakfast, which consisted of Tim Horton’s, naturally.

We did get a few rather good photos of our feet and our mugs as we stood over the glass floor. 

After some gift shop purchases (I didn’t earn the nickname Gift Shop Girl for no reason!) and an epic air hockey battle, with the birthday girl being the victor, we made our way back to the hostel.

Once home, we all settled in for another night of drinking at our hostel’s bar and our newest tradition, late night early morning McDonalds!

“I’m Niagara Fall-ing for This Place” (12/05/11).

My lovely roomie, Hannah, convinced me to accompany her on a day trip to Niagara Falls and so I obliged. Despite a little direction-related tiff between the tour guide and the bus driver, the hour and a half drive was rather pleasant and very informative.

The guide spoke about the history of Toronto, Hamilton, St Catharines and Niagara, as well as the significance of buildings or districts that we travelled through or past. I learnt about the Mississauga,  Etobicoke and Iroquois tribes and that the name Spadina Avenue (the road next to my hostel) originates from the Ojibwa word ishpadinaa meaning “sudden rise in the land”, and that Toronto was a Mohawk word meaning “where there are trees standing in the water” which, according to the tour guide, referred to the trees the natives used to tie their canoes to.

After my education, and nearly crossing the US border, we arrived in Niagara Falls to be hit by the extreme beauty and awesomeness of the falls and their surrounds.

First on the agenda was our Maid in the Mist experience, where you go on a boat down into the falls. Just looking at the falls from the bus, or even the road, was spectacular, but being down there, right in the falls, was incredibly awe-inspiring. We may have looked like giant, blue condoms but having the pristine water mist over you as you get a hands on experience was well worth the extra $16.

After taking too many photos, water logging our cameras and drinking our own piece of the falls (trust me, you can’t help but get at least a mouthful!), Hannah and I headed in the direction of food.

I wanted nothing more than a hot dog and chips and Hannah felt like ice cream so we found a hot dog stand right next to an ice creamery (!) and then took our loot to an amazing memorial park that overlooked the falls, escaping the mini-Vegas that is the main street.

It was the most picturesque way to spend an afternoon. 

With not much time remaining until our bus departed, we ran over to the Hershey’s store for a sticky beak. I discovered they make York mint patties, which I had been meaning to try since first seeing the ad on US television. Departing with a massive bag of them, and having had our photos taken with the giant Hershey’s Kiss character, we legged it to the bus stop, where we realised neither of us remembered what kind of bus we rode into town on. 

Finding other lost souls from our bus, we found the vehicle and made our way to Niagara-On-The-Lake, via the whirlpool, a section of the lake, which branches off but in the centre the churning water looks like a whirlpool. There we spotted a hot boy, a fellow Aussie who had gone unnoticed on our bus, who laughed along with me at Hannah’s reluctance to go anywhere near the cliff face.

At Niagara-On-The-Lake the first place I spotted was a store with stuffed toys in the window and a hilarious sign, “The Owl & The Pussycat, at the Sign of the Pineapple”. (I forgot to ask the cashier to explain said sign.) I dragged Hannah inside and found myself a hand puppet version of Red from Fraggle Rock! Han wasn’t too familiar with the show—let’s just blame her youth—but a lady in the street commented, “Oh, you’ve got yourself a Fraggle!” Glad to know the average Canadian appreciated my purchase, too.

Let’s Get Zoological (14/05/11).

The Saturday brought Sarah’s birthday, a bunch of rain and a trip to the zoo. After an hour and 45 minutes and one streetcar, a subway and a bus, we arrived at the Toronto Zoo.

Our group consisted of myself, Sol,  birthday girl Sarah, Tanya, Peter, Thomas and Declan.

Following consultation with the map we made our way towards the polar bear enclosure. We found one of the two bears swimming adorable laps of his pool. We watched and took amazing photos for about twenty minutes. He looked so peaceful that all I wanted to do was cuddle him. I could have watched him all day!

With that checked off my wish list I would have been happy to head home, as Thomas would probably agree. (He shares my love for polar bears!) Despite the miserable weather we soldiered on. We explored more of the tundra region, the Australasia area and finally the African region, finding many other animals along the way. We spent about ten minutes trying to get Sol a picture of a cheetah and roughly the same time trying to get a snow leopard to scale his fencing so we could get the perfect shot.

We decided after another downpour that we’d see a few more animals before heading home.

We checked off another tiger, orang-utans and eventually giraffes, after we located them hiding from the weather in a shed.

We had planned to check out the North American section, as I wanted to see a grizzly bear and the birthday girl was eager to see a moose, but we decided to call it quits just before closing time.

I made an obligatory pit stop at the gift shop (I didn’t get the nickname McGiftshop Whore for nothing!) and purchased myself an adorable hoodie—all white save for a couple of black eyes, a little black nose and the words “Toronto Zoo—Canadian polar bear in a snow storm”, which I had wanted since I first saw it in a souvenir store downtown. I also got a few badges to add to my ever-increasing collection.

—April Bonnick.

[Explorational] Homepage.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Postcards from Canada.

Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Week: Conservativism Reigns Supreme in The Sunday Age’s Opinion Section.

I was pleasantly surprised to see an article on Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys juxtaposed against one on the SlutWalk in The Sunday Age’s Opinion columns this past weekend.

What I wasn’t so pleasantly surprised to find was that they were both championing the censorship of a show “many critics and some intellectuals have applauded… for [its] brave comedy” and of women’s rights to wear what we want when we want where we want without the risk of sexual assault.

On that, Nicole Brady, author of “It Makes Sense to Be Aware of What You Wear” actually sides with the Toronto policeman, Michael Sanguinetti, writing, “The word ‘slut’ was probably overkill, but that policeman was onto something… Boiled down, and stripped of the inflammatory ‘slut’, his argument was ‘be careful about what you wear’. Advice as dull as your mother telling you to wear a coat on a cold morning.”

I don’t want to go into why what the cop said was wrong and why Brady’s likening of “not dressing like a slut” to wearing “a coat on a dull morning” is an archaic way of thinking (for that, you can go here).

In the article to the left of Brady’s, Bruce Guthrie continues in his argument against the ABC/HBO partnership, saying that the ABC’s charter may be in conflict with the success of and American market for the show. “I’m not sure if the cable network has a charter, but if it did it would probably say this: ‘Our goal is to make as much money from our programming as possible’,” he writes. Guthrie specifically takes issue with Lilley’s portrayal of rapper S.Mouse, a role for which the actor and creator appears in blackface. “Why is it okay for Lilley to wear blackface, but the guys from Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday are vilified for it?” I’ve heard it asked.

Unlike Brady’s, I can see Guthrie’s point. I think Angry Boys has a lot of potential, and it is damn funny, but I feel that it has gone a bit downhill from the first episode, which focused heavily on the Sims twins, Daniel and Nathan, and their Gran’s workplace, a juvenile detention centre, to last week’s third, which “explained—and showed, needlessly and graphically—how surfer Blake Oldfield became a eunuch.”

But it does portray Australian “bogan” life to a tee, and I think if the show focused a bit more on the juvenile detention centre, and the classism and racism that surrounds it, Angry Boys would not only be a funny show, it would also be an apt dialogue on Australian society.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Event: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Ralliers outside the State Library on Swanston Street.

Best. Sign. Ever.

Last Saturday the highly anticipated SlutWalk occurred in several Australian cities, and I attended the Melbourne event with my fellow anti-slut-shamer friend Laura (both of us below).

We rocked up in our sluttiest outfits, which you can see above, complete with permanent marker declarations of our proud sluthood to boot. Some of the other outfits we noticed were short skirts with knee-high skull print socks and customised Doc Martins, worn by event organiser Clem Bastow (below), lace dresses and gym gear, the latter of which adorned a short-haired tattoo fan with a body Tracy Anderson would envy.

Clem Bastow.

Monica Dux.

As Bastow commented when she gave one of the opening addresses, along with fellow event organisers Karen Pickering and Lauren Clair, and noted feminists Monica Dux (above) and Leslie Cannold, amongst others: “thank you, God, it looks like you’re going to rain on me”. But no one was gonna rain on our parade and, despite the chilly temperatures, we still walked tall and proud in whatever get-ups we chose to wear.

Dux said this is the beginning of a movement, which I have to disagree with. SlutWalk is not the beginning of a movement; it is part of the reignited battle to stop victim-blaming and slut-shaming based on one cop’s archaic musings on rape and how much a woman was “asking for it”. Here’s a fun fact: WE’RE NEVER ASKING FOR IT! (See Bastow’s sign, above). No matter how we are dressed, where we are, how much we’ve had to drink, or what we do for work.

Speaking of, I was really proud to see the representation of sex workers at the event, and president of the Australian Sex Workers’ Association, the Scarlet Alliance (represent!), Elena Jeffreys (above) spoke about her sexual assault and that even though she was paid for sex, she was not consenting to assault. Her opinions on the SlutWalk were really interesting and I hope they receive as much publicity as the negative perceptions of the rally have in the media.

In the days leading up to SlutWalk, I was embroiled in a heated debate on Facebook with a friend who disagrees with the SlutWalk. I think he confused—like a lot of people—the meaning of the SlutWalk with an excuse to get gussied up in a very risqué manner when, in fact, that was not at all what it was about. That didn’t stop protestors on the steps of Parliament House at the top of Bourke Street brandishing their “rape is horrifying, but so is immodesty” placards (above). Like one of the speakers (whose identity escapes me: should have used my BlackBerry voice recorder!) said: it’s not up to us to curb our behaviour (and that includes how we choose to dress) at the risk of potentially being sexually assaulted; it’s up to those who sexually assault to curb their behaviour!

I think most people against the SlutWalk had a problem with the use of the word slut. As Cannold said, “words matter…: … we won’t stand for one, the same one, being slung at us over and over again to demean and degrade us.” Lori Adelman, in a post on Feministing, said she didn’t agree with the term “slut” and that she “would much rather have attended a ‘Do Not Rape’ Walk”:

“I find that the term disproportionately impacts women of colour and poor women in order to reinforce their status as inherently dirty and second-class, and hence more rape-able.”

To me, “slut” is just a word. It meant as much to me to be called a slut when I was 12 as it does today; as they (and Rihanna) say, sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never hurt me. It’s not about the term “slut”, it’s about the backwards and extremely offensive views that go along with that word. As coordinator of the first SlutWalk in Toronto, Sonya Barnett, told Rachel Hills: “if he [the policeman] had said something else, we would have called it something else.”

The speaker who garnered the most attention, though, was transgendered man, Cody Smith (above), who had been raped both as a biological female, and as a trans man. There were tears a plenty during his speech!

It was nice to see such a welcoming, non-judgmental turnout of everyday men, women and children of all walks of life, wearing all sorts of garb, not just the fishnetted and cut-out body con dresses that certain attendees chose to wear (guilty as charged!). After all, rape is not about what you’re wearing, what you look like, what size you are, how old you are, what your sexual orientation or gender is, or any other denomination that you happen to belong to as a person. It is about the perpetrator, and nothing you can or cannot do will stop them from attempting to rape you.

As Smith said, it shouldn’t be the victims of sexual assaults’ responsibility to educate the general public on sexual assault and victim-blaming. And I thought the sexual revolution happened several decades ago: it shouldn’t be up to members of a fringe movement to educate the general public on the sexual rights of women to express themselves however they please without the threat of retaliation. In fact, feminism—which is what the SlutWalk was all about—shouldn’t be considered as on the fringe in 2011.

[Feministing] SlutWalk: To March or Not to March.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Ask Rachel: What Are Your Thoughts on SlutWalk?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: SlutWalk.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So a Tattoo Makes Me Public Property, Huh?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Has Feminism Failed?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “S&M”: Is it Really So Much Worse Than Rihanna’s Other Stuff?

Black and white images via Ali Ryan Photography.

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.

UPDATED: Apocalypse Now—2012 Come Early?

In light of my doomsday musings on 2012 being the end of the world, I came across this “Comment of the Day” on Jezebel, which lamented the supposed discovery of the lost city of Atlantis:

“Oh, fuck. All the loose plots are being resolved. I guess the world really is going to end next year.”

With all the natural disasters and political uprisings in the world at the moment, you’d be forgiven for thinking the end of the world—2012, according to the Mayan calendar—was happening as we speak I write.

But with Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, New Zealand’s recent earthquake, Queensland and Victoria’s floods and Cyclone Yasi, the civil war in Libya and the Egyptian revolution, the end is nigh.

Now personally, I don’t actually believe the end of the world will occur on December 21, 2012, when the Mayan, or the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, finishes. I think it will be more of an ideological shift caused by catastrophic events, like those happening in Japan, than Armageddon.

But let’s have a look at when the end of said calendar occurs and what it actually means.

In a (very sketchy) nutshell, December 20, 2012 marks the end of the 13th b’ak’tun, (equivalent to 144,000 days and 394.3 solar years), while December 21, 2012 will be the beginning of the 14th b’ak’tun.

There have been rumours that no prophetic predictions have been made after 2012 by Nostradamus et al., but Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, says that reaching the end of a b’ak’tun cycle was cause for celebration and that the 2012 hullabaloo is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”

This lends evidence to my theory that with the world literally cracking up, it’s only a matter of time before we have to take heed of global warming warnings, which are manifesting themselves in natural disasters across the globe. Is it merely a coincidence that the first stage of the ratification of the Kyoto protocol finishes in December 2012?

Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock (pardon the highly distasteful pun) in recent days would know that the Japanese quake was the seventh most powerful in history, and was actually so forceful, according to Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the University of Toronto, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that it actually “shifted the Earth’s axis by 25 centimeters (9.8 in). This deviation led to a number of small planetary changes, including the length of a day and the tilt of the Earth. The speed of the Earth’s rotation increased, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds due to the redistribution of Earth’s mass.”

Not to mention its repercussions across the rest of the world, including Hawaii, the U.S. and Canada’s west coasts, Tonga, American Samoa, New Zealand, Russia, Mexico, Peru and Chile, and the holdup the nuclear disaster will cause for other countries interested in adopting nuclear power, including Australia.

Egypt’s uprising and Libya’s civil war seem like child’s play in comparison, but one humanitarian disaster after another seems to be the way of the future unless we get our act together and think of the bigger picture.

Twitter played a huge part in Egypt’s revolution (the Libyan people haven’t been so lucky, with internet access shut down by the government); mobile phones allowed Christchurch’s residents trapped in the rubble to contact family and emergency services with their whereabouts. With electricity, phone and internet connections down in Japan, it’s proving difficult to take the same road (again, pardon the pun; the tsunami washed out roads and train lines, leaving most Japanese residents in affected areas stranded). However, Google Person Finder, which was used in the Haitian, Chilean and New Zealand disasters, is coming in handy.

I’m not 100% sure what this all means, or even how it all relates to the supposed “end of the world”.

What I do know is that it seems increasingly likely that every time we turn on the news or open up our web browsers, we won’t see Charlie Sheen’s latest antics, but another disaster that is leading us to the end of the world if we don’t take a look at ourselves and make a change, as Michael Jackson so poignantly sung.

[Jezebel] Comment of the Day: Earth Prepares for 2012 Series Finale.

[Wikipedia] Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar.

[Wikipedia] 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami.

[USA Today] Does Maya Calendar Predict 2012 Apocalypse?

[WebCite] Japan’s Quake Shifts Earth’s Axis by 25 Centimetres.

[CBS] Earth’s Day Length Shortened by Japan Earthquake.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Apocalypse Now: 2012 Come Early?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Big Issue Review, 1-14 March, 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Minus Two & a Half Men.

Images via YouTube, Wish I Didn’t Know.

 

In the News: Apocalypse Now—2012 Come Early?

With all the natural disasters and political uprisings in the world at the moment, you’d be forgiven for thinking the end of the world—2012, according to the Mayan calendar—was happening as we speak I write.

But with Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, New Zealand’s recent earthquake, Queensland and Victoria’s floods and Cyclone Yasi, the civil war in Libya and the Egyptian revolution, the end is nigh.

Now personally, I don’t actually believe the end of the world will occur on December 21, 2012, when the Mayan, or the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, finishes. I think it will be more of an ideological shift caused by catastrophic events, like those happening in Japan, than Armageddon.

But let’s have a look at when the end of said calendar occurs and what it actually means.

In a (very sketchy) nutshell, December 20, 2012 marks the end of the 13th b’ak’tun, (equivalent to 144,000 days and 394.3 solar years), while December 21, 2012 will be the beginning of the 14th b’ak’tun.

There have been rumours that no prophetic predictions have been made after 2012 by Nostradamus et al., but Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, says that reaching the end of a b’ak’tun cycle was cause for celebration and that the 2012 hullabaloo is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”

This lends evidence to my theory that with the world literally cracking up, it’s only a matter of time before we have to take heed of global warming warnings, which are manifesting themselves in natural disasters across the globe. Is it merely a coincidence that the first stage of the ratification of the Kyoto protocol finishes in December 2012?

Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock (pardon the highly distasteful pun) in recent days would know that the Japanese quake was the seventh most powerful in history, and was actually so forceful, according to Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the University of Toronto, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that it actually “shifted the Earth’s axis by 25 centimeters (9.8 in). This deviation led to a number of small planetary changes, including the length of a day and the tilt of the Earth. The speed of the Earth’s rotation increased, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds due to the redistribution of Earth’s mass.”

Not to mention its repercussions across the rest of the world, including Hawaii, the U.S. and Canada’s west coasts, Tonga, American Samoa, New Zealand, Russia, Mexico, Peru and Chile, and the holdup the nuclear disaster will cause for other countries interested in adopting nuclear power, including Australia.

Egypt’s uprising and Libya’s civil war seem like child’s play in comparison, but one humanitarian disaster after another seems to be the way of the future unless we get our act together and think of the bigger picture.

Twitter played a huge part in Egypt’s revolution (the Libyan people haven’t been so lucky, with internet access shut down by the government); mobile phones allowed Christchurch’s residents trapped in the rubble to contact family and emergency services with their whereabouts. With electricity, phone and internet connections down in Japan, it’s proving difficult to take the same road (again, pardon the pun; the tsunami washed out roads and train lines, leaving most Japanese residents in affected areas stranded). However, Google Person Finder, which was used in the Haitian, Chilean and New Zealand disasters, is coming in handy.

I’m not 100% sure what this all means, or even how it all relates to the supposed “end of the world”.

What I do know is that it seems increasingly likely that every time we turn on the news or open up our web browsers, we won’t see Charlie Sheen’s latest antics, but another disaster that is leading us to the end of the world if we don’t take a look at ourselves and make a change, as Michael Jackson so poignantly sung.

[Wikipedia] Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar.

[Wikipedia] 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami.

[USA Today] Does Maya Calendar Predict 2012 Apocalypse?

[WebCite] Japan’s Quake Shifts Earth’s Axis by 25 Centimetres.

[CBS] Earth’s Day Length Shortened by Japan Earthquake.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Big Issue Review, 1-14 March, 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Minus Two & a Half Men.

Images via YouTube, Wish I Didn’t Know.