Well, it finally feels like winter is upon us. I was walking through the Plateau neighbourhood today and admired the second day of snow blanketing the city after a few measly flurries earlier this month. Today was pretty great weather, actually, despite the lack of sun, which is the city’s usual winter climate. The high was -1°C, which apparently really felt like -5°C; this is balmy weather for winter here in Montréal! It looks like more snow is coming our way tonight so it might actually be a white Christmas come December. Speaking of which, it is the end of the year — yikes!
[Image Credit: Still from Motherlover by The Lonely Island – Video link NSFW]
Last summer I was inside a Winner’s department store with my boyfriend, grabbing a few essentials missing during our trip to Toronto. Boyfriend decided that, due to the sweltering Ontario heat, he would buy himself a few short-sleeved shirts. We were in the men’s clothing section when he turned to me and said, “Pick me three shirts.”
I was startled by his request, which was really more like a demand. I do not like making decisions for other people unless I am in a work setting and need to flex my bossy skills. I am Lucy, I like cooperation, I believe that people live their lives in the ways best fit for them, and I would never tell anyone what kind of shirt to wear .
That is not to say that I do not like fashion nor appreciate good design. In fact, I am a fashion and design snob — to myself. I have a fine arts degree, I have British Vogue bookmarked on all my devices and I eagerly await each season’s runway shows. I even had a tendency as a toddler to refuse wearing tops with collars, buttons or polka dots. My parents had to explain to other people that I was “allergic” to these embellishments, and to this very day I still squirm in collared button-downs and squint my eyes at polka dot patterns.
However, I do not mind at all if other people, even my significant other, wears collars, buttons or polka dots. (Well, maybe not the polka dots.) In fact, I do not like making any of his decisions. We definitely discuss joint decisions and bring equal perspectives to any matter. But when it comes decisions that do not affect me or are relatively insignificant to my well-being, I relinquish any responsibility that my boyfriend may try to bring my way. This is truly an example of my life philosophy of “Live and let be.”
However, that summer day, my boyfriend insisted that I pick out his shirts. I sifted through the racks nervously and kept muttering, “Hmm, I don’t know, I don’t know.” Boyfriend grew impatient. “Just pick what you would like to see on me. Pick what you like. I trust you.” I reluctantly came out with a casual navy blue top, a light blue collared button down with a strip of yellow interior lining, and a utilitarian black button down. He took the items to the change room and then had me give him my opinion, which mainly came down to the fit of the tops. We ended up buying two of the shirts.
I was telling a married friend of mine about that particular day last week when she stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Lucy, I buy all of my husband’s clothes. ALL OF THEM.” It is perfectly fine for my friend to buy her husband’s clothes, but I still feel weird about the thought of doing the same for my boyfriend. However, I know that my friend is not an anomaly; I have another friend who nonchalantly buys complete work outfits for her boyfriend from Banana Republic as if she was grabbing a carton of eggs from the grocery store. I would watch her match the merino wool sweaters to charcoal trousers and wonder if, when she came back home with her shopping items, her boyfriend would clap his hands excitedly and exclaim, “You’re the best mom ever!”
Now that American Thanksgiving is behind us, it’s officially acceptable to get into the Christmas spirit. I recently made a trip back to Montreal, and was excited to see the city dressed up for the holiday season. I have always particularly enjoyed the Christmas lights on McGill College Street — the view from downtown, up to McGill’s Roddick Gates and to Mount Royal makes for stunning scene. This year’s lights are hot pink, which is, to my recollection, a first. I think they look absolutely fabulous, and are a refreshing change from the traditional white lights.
I heard rumblings about this Christmas song collaboration with Cee Lo Green and The Muppets last month, and it has finally been realized! Look out for special appearances by Shaq, a convertible Rolls Royce, and of course Statdler and Waldorf making pun jokes at the end. Now it really feels like the holidays.
[Image Credits: Instructables]
South Korean musician Psy of Gangnam Style fame was recently at Oxford University to speak at the Oxford Union, then dropped by the MTV Europe Music Awards to romp around the stage with MC Hammer and pick up his award for Best Video. Since he dropped his epic video back in July, Psy is everywhere lately or perhaps not around enough for those who cannot get enough of his custom tuxedos and horse dance.
If you wish to bring some Gangnam Style into your home, here is your chance. Instructables teaches you how to make your own tiny Psy figurine dancing to Gangnam Style wherever and whenever you want to inject cheesiness in your home. All you need is the following:
- A printer
- Access to the Internet
- Recommended but optional: A cutter, tweezers, pins, and tiny scissors
By flexing your arts and crafts muscles, Psy will be bopping on your desk in seven simple steps. Click here for full instructions.
We already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada last month, but it seems that the American turkey day is a much more serious matter down south. For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving Day today, here is The National covering “The Thanksgiving Song” from the animated sitcom, Bob’s Burgers.
Have I ever seen an episode of Bob’s Burgers? Nope. But I sure do enjoy this short, silly and purposefully morose song. Like cranberry sauce and stuffing, this will be the perfect accompaniment to your bird feast and days of turkey leftovers. And it also serves as a great way to tide us over until The National brings out another great album, which we hope is very soon.
[Image Credits: @tomoko]
Hilary might not enjoy Starbucks, but I sure do. Yup, I know they are a monopoly on the verge of taking over the world (Number 2, the character in the movie Austin Powers, is the sole shareholder) and their roasts are way to dark for the palate. But I am a sucker for any good study spots where I can camp out with WiFi for hours, and Starbucks is one of them. I actually jumped in glee when a new location opened up in my neighbourhood and loved that they played The xx’s Stars in the background. For sure I support the other cafés in my neighbourhood, but I definitely do not discount Starbucks as an option.
Well, for Tokyo-based Tomoko Shintani, she visits Starbucks for the purpose of being at Starbucks. That is, she does not go there to study or work like I do, but her Starbucks visit is for the purpose of creating illustrations using Starbucks paraphernalia. Her black and white drawings are unapologetically cutesy and girly, and Tomoko uses her Staedtler pens to incorporate her mugs and paper cups into her drawings. You can follow her on Instagram @tomoko. More of her illustrations follow below.
My sleep schedule is and has always been a bit scattered. I am not one of those people who, by the coaxing of a natural internal clock, wakes up every day at 6 am with bright eyes and clear mind. No, my body will sleep until noon if allowed and later I will be guzzling sugar-free Red Bull at 3 am to continue my study groove. Is this healthy? Never said it was. But since I have been perpetually a student it is easy for me to continue with these habits and watch my face ashen from too much caffeine and not enough sunlight.
Other than copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks, the other essential ingredient to productivity is a great soundtrack. I love great music and insist on having appropriate music for the specific occasion, which means that my iTunes playlists are highly organized with customized collections. I have a “Happy” playlist, a “I Feel Shitty” playlist, a “Relaxing Favourites” playlist, and even a collection called “Fun” when I feel like inserting some ridiculous gansta rap (Notorious B.I.G. anyone?) or the energy of Daft Punk into my day. But the playlist on continuous rotation is my mix for studying purposes, which are mainly instrumental tracks plucked from various artists and genres.
I perused these tracks and thought I would share some goodies, some which are oldies but remain classics in my music library. There are so many artists and tracks that I want to share, so I am organizing the tracks by genre and into four separate posts. For this post, I will go over five of my favourite Electronic musicians and songs that are in rotation for my study music soundtrack.
Caribou, formerly known as Manitoba, is a British-based, Canadian musician whose work is usually light, upbeat, and is self-described as “liquid dance music.” The track above, Sun, is from his 2010 effort called Swim. Swim is the follow-up to his 2008 Canadian Polaris Music Prize award-winning album, Andorra. Keep in mind that, in addition to being an award-winning and prolific musician — over an eleven year span, Caribou has issued six albums — Caribou also has a PhD in mathematics. Listening to Caribou smacks me into productivity and promptly cuts any whining that I might have pondered.
This is John Lewis’s 2012 Christmas TV advert. Their 2011 enjoyed much success, and this year they have kept within the theme of tugging at consumers’ heartstrings. If you find the song as beautiful as I do — a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love — you can find the full track here.
I have a profound distaste for Starbucks coffee, and I know many others feel the same way. I find most of their coffee-based products thoroughly revolting, and I broadcast this opinion to as many people as possible, or commiserate with them, depending on my audience. I have even taken it upon myself to devise creative tweets about the company. Indeed, a friend and I collectively decided that a new Starbucks coffee slogan could be “Starbucks coffee: tastes like ashes, roasting on a fire, in the deepest pits of a Dantean hell”, and that the Internet deserves, and needs to know this.
My disdain for Starbucks isn’t noble — it has less to do with the fact that they have sucked the soul out of neighborhoods by putting mom and pop cafes out of business and turning consumers into robots, and everything to do with their crummy coffee. I do not consider myself a “coffee snob”. I have heard people proudly declaring themselves as coffee snobs, whatever that means. I am not one. In fact, I don’t drink it all that often, and am more of a tea drinker myself. I suppose then that it may seem bizarre that I harbour such strong and negative feelings towards the company. I think it stems from a naive belief that if you’re that big, with such a devoted client base, you should be delivering, at the very least, a satisfactory product, which I believe Starbucks fails to do for the most part.
This brings me to the green tea latte. I first discovered this beverage some time ago as a student in Montreal. I am of the loud, blaring music, crowds of people, school of studying – I have always tried my best to avoid libraries. I therefore often found myself in downtown cafes, and while the city centre is populated by a fair variety of coffee chains, Starbucks is by far the most prominent of them in terms of numbers and popularity (at least amongst my friends and classmates). I’ve spent hours and hours at Starbucks in various parts of town, and finding a tolerable beverage has always been a challenge. It was my friend who introduced me to the green tea latte, and while I strongly object to the current trend of food glamourisation/veneration, I have to say that this drink brings me a special joy. I usually order it with soy milk, and it’s frothy, creamy, flavourful yet comfortingly mild. Indeed, everything one looks for in a hot beverage.
It therefore saddens me that the one drink I can stomach at Starbucks is unavailable in the United Kingdom. Other novelty beverages seem to have enjoyed success in the UK – I noticed this fall, to my horror, that pumpkin spice lattes have made it to London. I mistakenly thought that the pumpkin-flavoured product craze was reserved to North America. Starbucks’s seasonally-themed drinks aren’t the only non-coffee based items to have successfully made it onto the UK menu. Frappuccinno, in their many varieties are on offer, and from my unscientific observations, seem to enjoy good sales. So why is it that the green tea latte has not made it over? Is it too wild and unconventional for the UK consumer? I wonder whether Starbucks has made a conscious decision to exclude it from the British product mix, or whether it has been altogether neglected across EMEA, which I expect it is, given that the UK is the most US-like in consumer tastes as compared to the rest of Europe.
To get to the bottom of this I did a bit of investigating over the Internet. My research led me to the “Green Tea Latte for U.K. Starbucks” community on Facebook, which consists of a small but powerful group of 22 Likes. A member wrote in to Starbucks to inquire about the absence of the GTL on their British menu. Jessica, a Customer Care Specialist, thanked “Alec” for his feedback, and reassured him that the company regularly reviews its range to ensure a varied selection. She also pledged to share his comments with the development team.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t understand the absence of this drink in the UK, but I find Starbucks’s response to Alec inadequate, much like their espresso. Despite Starbucks’s unclear and mysterious motivations to exclude GTLs from the UK, other chains have seen its appeal. EAT now includes the GTL on their menu, and I have even noticed small local coffee shops, like the Missing Bean in Oxford, serving it. Hopefully, Starbucks, as a global chain that has all but monopolized consumers’ coffee and hot beverage consumption, will eventually deliver a menu that is up-to-date with changing habits and tastes. In the mean time, I have discovered a few handy Youtube videos, and may try my hand at making a latte myself one of these days.