Need a good flick to take your mind off of what a hot mess the world has become? Me too!
As you will know if you are returning reader, we stan Elijah Wood in this house. Recently-ish I was on a plane flying back from a long overdue trip visiting my family in another province (travel during covid isn’t fun, kids, avoid it if you can!) and Elijah’s new film Come to Daddy was available on the in-flight entertainment, so I gave it a go. It looks like it’s also available to stream on Amazon Prime. I had no idea what it was about aside from the movie poster, which features Elijah standing in front of a strange hillside dwelling, sporting what google would refer to as a “hipster haircut”, and gripping a bloody carving fork.
I settled in as the dude seated next to me also seemed to settle in, leaning ever closer to my side, encroaching on the sacred armrest space, with his eyes lingering on my screen more than his own. Elijah has that power.
It was fun seeing our humble and kind-eyed muse playing Norval, a spoiled and self satisfied city kid that prizes his limited-edition gold phone designed by Lorde and makes dubious claims about his music career and impressive industry ties. He heads out to meet his estranged father and soon wishes he’d never left his cushy life behind. The supporting cast were also very well chosen; I particularly enjoyed Wood’s scenes with Stephen McHattie in the beginning of the movie.
After about 15 minutes in I thought I knew where the movie was going and was a slight bit disappointed, thinking it would follow a predictable and somewhat familiar thriller arc, but then the movie took that notion and chewed it up, spitting it back into my face like HAH! YOU THOUGHT! A sudden and revelatory twist makes things very interesting indeed.
While much of the film relies on slow and steady tension building and thoughtful, amusing dialogue, this is a jaw-clenchingly brutal movie at times. There was one violent episode in particular where my mind was racing “oh god, is Mr. Seatmate still looking at my screen, yikes, this is fucking brutal, oh god, it just keeps going, hahahaa, jesus, sorry you had to see that sir, HAHAhaha”.
Overall, this is a movie I would easily recommend to anyone who likes bloody misadventures and dark humour. I got some genuine surprises, a couple of good laughs, and was assured that Elijah’s still got it— he carried this movie along through the quiet and poignant moments as well as the fight-for-your-life ones.
Ant Timpson’s Come to Daddy gets 5 big blue eyes out of 5 from me!
As you will know if you get me talking on the subject (don’t do it, I’ll never stop talking), I am very much enamoured with Japanese food, fashion, and culture. I’ve visited Japan twice in the past, and am currently planning trip #3 once it’s safe to travel again. With the many different things to see and do and local cultures and food specialties in every prefecture, I will never get bored of visiting this lovely country.
In Japan, both my sweet tooth and my umami tongue (?) are satisfied. Yet, every time I fly back to Canada I find myself missing the delicious foods of Japan. Sure, there are a few wonderful Japanese restaurants where I live, but there are some things, like mochi and dorayaki, that I just can’t get in town. Some foods can be ordered online, but then they are heavily processed and super overpriced. Monthly Japanese snack boxes are fun, but you don’t get to choose what’s in your box, and after a while you get a lot of repeats and stuff that you don’t want. I also live in a small town in northern Alberta where the nearest big city with an Asian supermarket is at least 5 hours away.
So what’s a small-town Alberta girl to do? Well, I’ve started to stock up on Japanese ingredients. Some things I can find easily in town, like udon noodles or panko breadcrumbs. Other things, like mirin and rice wine, are more hit or miss. Then, some things, like kombu seaweed, sweet rice flour, furikake rice topping, are impossible to find anywhere in my area.
With no other options, I’ve had to bulk up my pantry. Between ordering things online, stocking up whenever I go to Edmonton or Calgary, and even bringing home a few things from Japan, I’ve begun to gather my own stocks of ingredients. I’m the flustered girl you see at the T&T market during my biannual trip to Edmonton rushing around and buying implausible amounts of dashi soup stock because I simply cant buy it at my home grocery stores.
Where to start!?
A good place to start might be the konbini egg sandwich. These humble and unassuming morsels are known to travellers as a quick and cheap option available in convenience stores (“konbini”) across Japan. You might be thinking “who the hell wants to eat a stinky convenience store egg sandwich when they are travelling?!” and in any other country you’re totally right. However, Japanese convenience store offerings are on a whole other level, to the point that one of the things I regularly miss about Japanese cities is stopping into a friendly neighborhood konbini and loading up on affordable snacks and meals. A lot of things are new and exciting in Tokyo, and it’s great fun to explore restaurants and try out new cuisines, but there’s also something so comforting about knowing that the bright lights of konbini are waiting for you nearby (always nearby) any time that you just want something that you don’t have to think about or navigate. A simple, quick sandwich.
RECIPE USED: A pretty simple mix of a couple mashed up boiled eggs, couple tablespoons or so of mayo, salt and pepper to taste. Throw it between a couple slices of bread and voila. Should give you enough to make 2 sandwiches.
I was pretty happy with how my egg mix turned out, but my whole grain braid couldn’t compare with the soft, thin, chewy, cakey white bread used on my favorite konbini egg sandwiches.
Next up, another konbini staple: onigiri.
RECIPE USED: it popped up on the MyFitnessPal app one day and I’ve since lost the recipe, but rest assured these are easy to make and if you google “onigiri recipe” you will get tons of hits.
I guess I never took a picture of an onigiri in Japan aside from this one of them still in the wrapper. My own onigiri look like sad little rectangular lumps because they took on the shape of the little bowl I used to form them, but I assure you they were tasty. I used tuna (with mayo, basil, salt, and pepper) for the filling.
Shabu Shabu is a type of hot pot and a really great meal for sharing in the winter when it sometimes gets to be -38°C where I live. I bought a double-chambered electric hot pot that we can keep on the kitchen table while we eat. The name Shabu Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) refers to the swishing (shabu) noise that the thin slices of meat make as you twirl them through the hot broth. The broth gets tastier and tastier as you eat, because the juices and flavorings of more and more ingredients get deposited to the pot as the meal goes on. I took this a little too much to heart when I was in Gunma and one of the ryokan staff noticed me putting pickled vegetables in my hotpot… they got a good laugh out of that (apparently the pickles do not go in the hotpot. To be fair I didn’t even know they were pickles).
I’m still experimenting with my Shabu Shabu, as some ingredients are hard to find. Enoki mushrooms are hit or miss in my town, and so far I’ve only found one grocery store that offers the thinly sliced hotpot meat.
Next, it’s bento time:
RECIPE USED: White sushi rice topped with furikake and mini hamburger bites with carrot shapes from The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go by Makiko Itoh, Mini-hamburger bento, p. 27
Bento are awesome kuz you can throw together whatever you want into a cute little portable bento box. Bento picks and other little accessories can add to the creativity, but bento don’t have to be Pinterest-worthy; leftovers make great bento fare and you can use whatever tupperware you have on hand. I also love making tamagoyaki, which is like a rolled omelette.
Speaking of omelettes…
RECIPE USED: not applicable ^-^’
Ok, to be fair I didn’t actually make omurice here, sorry… this is just a badly flipped omelette on top of some hastily placed lettuce and grape tomatoes. It was basically an excuse for me to try some ketchup art. Someday I will master the omurice in all of its smooth, saucey glory. Someday.
On to dorayaki…
RECIPE USED: Get Started Making Japanese Snacks: Step By Step Recipes for Delectable Bites by Yamishita Masataka, p. 14 Tsubu-an & p. 22: Dorayaki
I have something to admit…The first time I had dorayaki (well, actually it was taiyaki, those fish shaped cakes which are sorta similar) I was put off by the red bean paste that is a common filling in Japan. I am someone who has a huge sweet tooth and is used to overly sugary western snacks, so the first time I tried azuki bean paste I thought something like “this is weird…I’d rather have custard or icing inside”.
HOWEVER! I can honestly say that anko has since grown on me. Very much so, in fact. I’ve developed a taste for it, and I’ve bought my own azuki beans and started making Japanese snacks with anko filling at home. The first one I tried was dorayaki.
Dorayaki is like two sweet pancakes wrapped lovingly around a filling of anko paste. These pictures are from my second attempt. The first time I tried making dorayaki, I used custard powder (the recipe calls for custard sugar) and ended up with globby, chewy pancakes that were less than delightful. Pro-tip: regular sugar works just fine! Then for the anko paste filling, two common kinds of anko paste are tsubuan (chunky consistency) and koshian (fine consistency). I made tsubuan for my dorayaki, and I also used it in my next sweet:…
The mochi I made in Japan with friends is probably about as authentic as you can get. We made it as part of a New Year tradition, and took turns pounding hot rice in a giant usu mortar.
The one I made at home, on the other hand, involved using sweet rice flour to quickly make the mochi dough. I put a bit of anko paste inside, and voila: daifuku mochi. Make sure to have some potato starch or cornstarch on hand to keep the mochi from sticking to every single surface imaginable.
RECIPE USED: No recipe… just shave some ice and pour a bit of syrup on top. I ordered grape kakigori syrup online, but you can also use sno-cone syrup or whatever.
I had to buy an ice shaver to make homemade kakigori, but I’m so glad I did. It’s such a nice summer treat, light and cold and sweet. The closest thing I can compare this to is a sno-cone, but in Japan shaved ice, as with so many other things, is taken to higher levels of sophistication (levels which I clearly did not successfully replicate at home).
Latte art is beyond my talents currently, but nonetheless I was super surprised at how tasty my matcha latte turned out. It’s so easy to make, too! This is a recipe I will whip out again and again. Heating the milk also gives me an excuse to use the cute spouted Animal Crossing pot that I bought at the Nintendo store in Parco Shibuya last year! I think it makes the latte taste better…
Bonus time: pudding!
RECIPE USED: Dr. Oetker Crème Caramel boxed pudding
I’m calling this a “bonus” because I only have a picture of a pudding label that I stuck in my travel journal (can’t believe I never took a picture of an actual konbini pudding! I guess I was too busy eating them), and the pudding I made at home was from a box…
The custard puddings from Japanese konbini are… TOO good. I ate way too many of them. Breakfast with a side of pudding? Pudding with lunch? After dinner pudding? Dangerously delicious.
You don’t see these puddings out and about in Canada. The closest I could find for a quick pudding was this Dr. Oetker box mix. It was tasty! Still, not quite as tasty as the plentiful puddings of Japan.
Well, that’s about it for my forays into Japanese cooking for now, but I have more ideas for the future that I want to try, such as matcha mochi, kushiage skewers, and maybe even a fluffy Japanese style strawberry shortcake!
I am an indecisive person. I don’t generally use neat categories, since things most often fit into gray areas. It’s usually hard for me to say anything is my #1 or “favorite” of something. However, when I discovered Yamamoto Takato’s work there was a click in my brain and I knew that I had found something that appealed to me so deeply and on so many different levels; so much so that I can confidently say Yamamoto Takato is my favorite artist.
Yamamoto is a Japanese painter who experimented with Ukiyo-e Pop style, ultimately creating his own “Heisei Estheticism”. Ukiyo-e influenced compositions meet with gothic scenes, creating gorgeous and brutally captivating paintings (check out his bio here).
In Yamamoto’s work there are themes that come up again and again- youth and decay, innocence and destruction, darkness and light, horror and fascination. He presents the grotesque and the erotic together.
The subjects of Yamamoto’s work are often very confronting, holding you with their arresting gaze. Pain and pleasure, vitality and death, bondage and surrender— these intermingle often.
Vampiric seduction and bloodplay have been a fascination of mine since my early teen years, and this theme is also reoccurring in Yamamoto’s work. My favorites of his pieces involve beautiful vampires feeding on androgynous, glassy-eyed prey.
The images here are just a very small sampling of Yamamoto’s works. I am in awe of his huge life’s work of hundreds of detailed paintings, many of which are not found online but are included in his art book collections.
My collection of Yamamoto’s signed works are some of my most treasured books. They are produced in gorgeous hardcover with attractive slipcases and textured covers that suit the artwork inside.
When I was in Tokyo last December, I got my nails done in a salon for the first time ever. I went to Aki Laccio and he created an amazing Yamamoto-inspired nail art look for me!
At the beginning of the pandemic, when the Getty Museum challenged people to recreate their favorite artworks using things around the house, I threw together this ode to Yamamoto using some blankets and costume pieces. I don’t think I captured the expression, but nonetheless I had fun doing it!
Hello reader— if you’ve been reading my blog for a while then
1. you are awesome, and
2. you may remember a couple years ago when I posted A Rather Overdue Love Letter to Elijah Wood From Alberta’s Unfortunate Fangirl. I wrote about how my plans to finally meet one of my favorite actors, Elijah Wood (Frodo in LOTR), at a geek convention were squashed by the simultaneous timing of my own presentation at a library convention. It was like the plot of a Highschool Musical-esque movie (omg, which one will she choose, her first celebrity crush or her first real public speaking gig!? Time to break out into a choreographed musical interlude on the emotional turmoil of it all!) but as much as I would have loved to meet Elijah, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity and adventure of presenting my session at the Alberta Library Conference (despite needing to overcome the terror of being in front of a group of people).
Then, when I heard that the entire hobbit crew, including Elijah, were planning to come back to Calgary for the 2020 Calgary Expo, I knew this is the time I will meet him and fulfill the dream that my 13 year old self held on to so tightly! I was excited to go to Calgary Expo for the first time; I’ve heard it’s bigger and generally more happenin’ than Edmonton Expo, which I have frequented in the past.
But alas, this is 2020, so again, it was not to be. FOILED AGAIN! Of course the conference was cancelled, thanks to Covid19. The event space probably would have been filled with murder hornets anyway, so whatever. It’s cool. No biggie.
So April came and went with no Calgary Expo. My 30th birthday also happened, and although I’ve realized that birthdays are generally underwhelming once you hit adulthood, I was hoping to get some friends together and go out for karaoke or something and have my first real birthday “party” in years (30 is supposed to be one of those big milestones, isn’t it?)… but again, Covid made that party idea impossible. It’s all good- gotta do what you gotta do to kick the virus’s ass!
I did, however, get some birthday moolah, and this coincided with Elijah becoming available on that Cameo site where you can pay celebs to make personalized videos. Requesting Elijah was a bit pricey, and the whole premise of the site gave me some cringey vibes to be honest, but I thought oh, what the hell, he made the decision to be available on there, it’s my birthday money, and this is a cool opportunity.
So, I sent in my request, explaining that I am a huge fan and asking if he wouldn’t mind reading my aforementioned blog post to him from 2018. He sent me back this wonderful video and it really made me happy- such a genuine, positive, and kind response. I think it was birthday money very well spent! Thank you so much, Elijah!
This is by far the most special art project I’ve ever done . The Art of Conversation is a project that brings artists and seniors in our community together, made possible through a partnership between the Arts Council Wood Buffalo and St. Aidan’s Society. The idea is that the artist hosts a conversation with their partner and the resulting discussion becomes the muse for an art project.
Before I first called my partner Libby I was nervous- what if we didn’t click? What if I didn’t get any ideas for my piece? Happily, my fears were unfounded, as we had a great chat and I had the initial ideas for my project before we were even done talking. This project was a joy and Libby was my inspiration.
This video includes some audio clips from parts of our conversation, and video from my process creating the artwork.
With the protests happening in America right now, us friendly Canadians may like to think that we are a more welcoming country unburdened by the problems of our neighbor. In school they taught us that we are the mosaic to the US’s melting pot— aren’t we setting a good example of inclusion and diversity? Don’t we have welcoming immigration policies? Aren’t we above what is happening in the United States? It’s a sentiment that I’ve seen being bandied about in recent days. The trending hashtag #meanwhileincanada popped up and at first was being used to contrast us to our neighbors south of the border with viral images and videos like that of a moose taking a dip in somebody’s swimming pool— hah, good ol’ Canada eh?!
Fellow Canadians, talk to your Black neighbors and you may learn that this “friendly Canadian” label is nothing but a dangerously convenient facade. We cannot grow complacent because we think we’re “not racist in Canada”. There are many things I love about our country, but we have a long way to go and it is always our responsibility to educate ourselves the best we can about the realities in Canada so that we can actively work toward a better tomorrow.
Below I have collected some information on articles, books, and videos with anti-Black racism in Canada in mind. However, there is a further wealth of information available on how individual and systemic racism is very much alive in Canada in many forms. Such racism is rooted in our colonial past and impacts many people every day, including people of colour, immigrants, and our Indigenous peoples.
Note to reader: I am a white Canadian woman and I am not in any way an authority on racism in Canada. I hope that these resources may serve as a jumping-off point for personal learning and an introduction to some Black Canadian voices. These resources are not exhaustive; please feel free to share any resources that you feel should be added.
Jen Katshunga; Notisha Massaquoi; Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); and Justine Wallace for Behind the Numbers: Black Women in Canada
Today, more than ever, urgent and sustained action is needed to tackle persistent and profound barriers to change and to challenge entrenched norms and stereotypes. Success will only be achieved if Black women are equal partners and leaders in this work.
In Canada, Black women are still discriminated against in the healthcare system, where we face alarmingly high rates of maternal death. We continue to be victims of police and state violence, and in the workplace, continue to be paid less than both white men and white women.
Black students say they are “being treated differently than their non-Black peers in the classrooms and hallways of their schools.” They say there is still a lack of Black presence in schools. There are few Black teachers, the curriculum does not adequately address Black history and schools lack an equitable process to help students deal with anti-Black racism.
Every time we hear about another example of blatant racism, we tend to be shocked, as if we’ve collectively agreed that sure, things happen here—but it’s nowhere near as bad as it is there. That’s B.S., obviously.
Sometimes, I just want to order an artisanal handcrafted lobster roll without getting the feeling that it’s somehow unusual for me to do so. Or be able to sit in a dimly lit speakeasy while a gentleman in a bow tie and handlebar moustache concocts a $16 cocktail for me, without becoming more of the show than the actual show.
Now the controversy over Hong Shing restaurant comes along to remind us that it’s not just white-owned establishments practicing discrimination against us, but also other people of colour.
I want Black children and youth to no longer feel ashamed of crumbling school buildings, or be afraid to drink the water, or experience unbearable physical and distractive cognitive challenges due to sweltering heat in their classrooms. The nearly $4 billion backlog in school repairs must be fixed. Schools must become fully accessible, infused with colour, arts and green space.
In my dream, roaming the mall for a new pair of jeans or for a knapsack is no longer hazardous for our kids’ health. Shopping while Black is a carefree experience. So is interviewing for a job while Black.
There’s this idea that Toronto is becoming a post-racial city, a multicultural utopia where the colour of your skin has no bearing on your prospects. That kind of thinking is ridiculously naïve in a city and country where racism contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle of criminalization and imprisonment.
The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power
Desmond Cole, 2020
Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter In Canada
Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson & Syrus Marcus Ware (Editors), 2020
Talking About Identity: Encounters in Race, Ethnicity, and Language
Carl James & Adrienne Shadd (Editors), 2001
In The Black: My Life
B. Denham Jolly, 2017
Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada From Slavery to the Present
Robyn Maynard, 2017
Blank: Essays and Interviews
M. NourbeSe Philip, 2017
Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora, and Black Studies
Roots and Resistance is a webinar that explores in depth conversations about the connections between sexual violence, state violence, and healing from collective and individual sexual abuse and trauma for Black survivors.
Cosplayers around the world who had been working hard on their costumes have found that the cons they were preparing for were cancelled thanks to Covid19. Cosplayers, however, are nothing if not creative. My friends at M’Guphynn Media, who usually bring their fancy equipment to cons each year and make cosplay music videos with the resulting footage, put together this awesome Cosplay Music Video: Quarantine Edition, made up of submissions from cosplayers (including myself as Rize Kamishiro at 2.36 and my doggos as Harry Potter and Mario at 0.24 and 3:04 respectivelty!)
A few weeks ago I compiled some of my video clips from our last trip to Japan (December 2019) into a 30 minute video. It’s a chronological mashup of many of the sights and sounds that we experienced on our trip, which took place mainly in Tokyo this time.
I hope that you will enjoy this video, which features dancing, singing, a Pokemon cafe, some cute dogs, amazing food, Sailor Scouts, robots, cram-packed stores, shrines and temples, kawaii monster girls, karaoke, mochi-pounding, snakes, and much more.
For the past few weeks in my self-isolation, I’ve been working on an Animal Crossing island that our library patrons can enjoy from home. I’ve created a YouTube video to highlight the main features of WBRL Isle. Many thanks to the other library folk who helped me collect special items for this island!