Obligatory Christmas post

What does Christmas mean to me?

This is a question that is often posed to us to get us to think about the real meaning behind Christmas, ie, love, family, peace, some religious stuff that I should know about but don’t.

I attended a Christmas concert at the West End Cultural Centre this past weekend when I seriously posed this question to myself. I was sitting with more than 100 other people enjoying the sounds of local country artist Don Amero. It was the first time I allowed myself to give into the cheer despite Starbucks’ mission to shove Christmas down our throats starting Nov. 1. I’ve always been a firm believer Dec. 1 is an appropriate time to bust out the Santa suits, Christmas trees, infectious music, and Elf on the Shelf. Plus, advent calendars begin Dec. 1 and we all know chocolate is the real saviour this season (no offence to my God-fearing friends).

With this in mind, I went to the concert with my holiday bells on and with the woman responsible for my annoying Christmas appreciation—my mother. I’m a Christmas carols junkie. Any event where I can listen to people sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” I’m there. Even better if they are professionals. It was somewhere between “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” when I started to ponder my love of Christmas.

This time is certainly not the easiest. Many families in our own city live in poverty everyday. This is heightened when it comes to the holiday season. Mothers and fathers have to worry about putting presents under the tree when they can barely put food on the table. Some families are reminded of the ones who aren’t joining their china-adorned tables. Illness, cold weather, tragedies, Hallmark movies—all reasons this month isn’t beloved by all.

These are all reasons I understand and sympathize with when people say they hate the holidays. How could you not? But, they are also all things I’ve experienced in my own life.

There was the one Christmas I found my cat playing with something on my mattress. Upon closer inspection I saw it was a small bug. Terror sunk in. With my nose pressed to my sheets I scanned the rest of my mattress. I found a bunch of other small bugs enjoying the luxury of my fuzzy sheets. Bedbugs weren’t the expensive presents I was hoping for. I called my best friend to come help me (she dealt with them a year prior). She took my sobbing ass to Wal-Mart to buy mattress covers, garbage bags, and a vacuum. And, while I continued to sob into my Christmas Eve best she packed up my bedding and vacuumed my apartment.

There were the years my mother struggled to buy presents let alone a Christmas tree. This didn’t stop me from getting a Christmas tree up. Armed with scissors, scotch tape, markers, and a stack of construction paper, I made a paper Christmas tree the size of my six-year-old body. I taped it proudly to the wall and put my homemade presents underneath it.

And then we come to Christmas 2014. The day after spending two love-filled days, my stepfather collapsed on his bedroom floor and died suddenly and tragically. A day later I had to tell my seven-year-old brother his best friend and father died. I watched him cry into my mother’s shoulder as he tried to make sense of world-crushing news.

So, when people say the worst kinds of things happen at Christmas I believe them because I’ve lived through them. But, I wasn’t thinking of the bad ones when I was at the concert, I was thinking of the good ones.

The years of decorating with my mother (when we could afford it) while listening to Santa’s Super Hits and Elvis’ Blue Christmas. The many hampers that helped us have a Merry Little Christmas. My brother’s first Christmas.

The year my former boyfriend told me he loved me for the first time. It was the perfect snowy December evening when he blurted those three little words.

The first time I experienced Christmas on the farm. If you haven’t, I suggest you do so immediately, like this year. There’s something calming about looking out your window Christmas morning to see a field full of snow and slightly bushier and slightly straighter versions of the tree that sits in your living room.

These are the memories I choose to remember so fondly. It’s not always easy.

I’m a journalism student. I spend my days immersed in news. Some good, some fluffy, and more often than not some bad.

I’ve looked an alleged killer in the eyes as he waits to be tried (and eventually) convicted of murder. I watched a mother bury her son and my childhood friend because he couldn’t handle his life anymore. I’m working on a project about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and have listened to family members try to make sense of the pain and anger they have been unjustly dealt.

I’m not alone. Everyday we face the horrors of this thing we call life. To say I don’t let it affect me would be a lie. It’s hard, which is why I let myself give into the holiday cheer. I know life isn’t a Hallmark movie (as much as An En Vogue Christmas spoke to me on a real level). No one saves Christmas. You don’t fall in love with an architect at your work placement and Santa doesn’t come down the chimney (he/she takes out a finance plan at the local Apple store).

But, wouldn’t it be nice if all these things could happen?

What does Christmas mean to me?

It’s the one time of the year where I believe magic can happen.

 

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Big Rock Brewery

Big Rock Brewery hosts a contest every year called the Eddies. They ask people to submit print and video ads each year for a chance to win a cash sum. This year they decided to change it to short films only, with the tradition of theme.

As the last assignment for ad class we had to create a video for Big Rock that we could potentially submit if we wanted to. My classmate and I originally decided we weren’t going to submit ours, but after filming and going over our footage we decided to enter the contest.

So now I present mine and Erin’s tradition video. Enjoy, like, share, do all of the above.

P.S. Many thanks to our wonderful actors. I want to hug you all.

When there’s no time for tv

I’ll admit I haven’t watched any new television for a number of weeks. School has taken over the past month of my life. My memories are whirlwinds of proposal writing, magazine making, and cookie baking. Its been a struggle to come up with content weekly for this blog.

So, to give you an idea of what my life has exactly been like, I am going to list everything I do besides watch tv.

1. Not sleeping.

All. The. Time.

2. Eating mass amounts of junk food because I don’t have time to cook a proper meal.

3. Drinking. Only on Fridays. Because, well, it’s Friday.

All the alcohol.

4. Spending 80% of my day hunched over a laptop.

5. Falling asleep to re-runs of That 70’s Show on Netflix.

There is one more week left.

One more week till I can get back to my sweet sweet boob tube.

So close, but yet so far.

Two for one

Hi readers, I will be doing something different this week. You are getting two posts for the price of one this week. Today’s will be a review I did for a journalism assignment. I went to Carbone for the first time and took 546 words to explain my time there. Tomorrow’s post will be a sneak peek at Sunday’s premiere of Game of Thrones.

The special thing about Carbone Downtown is not the atmosphere, not the six televisions hung on the walls, and not the lounge, because quite frankly this can be found at any Moxie’s or Earls. No, it’s the delicious, delicious food.

According to their website, Carbone specializes in “authentic Italian coal fired pizza.” An authentic pizza-eating experience would be more like it. There are no pepperoni or cheese pizzas on this menu. Instead, there are ingredients such as parmigiano, Kalamata olives, arugula, and prosciutto, which sound a lot scarier than they taste.

Carbone offers six signature pizzas. For those looking for something different try the New White, which has no tomato sauce. The New White includes ricotta, parmigiano, cracked black pepper, cherry tomatoes, spinach pesto, and roasted garlic oil. The combination of cheeses makes for a melt-in-your-mouth experience and the thin crust allows you to eat the entire thing without filling up on dough. But don’t worry, if you can’t eat it all it still tastes mighty fine microwaved for breakfast, the next morning. A 12-inch runs for $16.95.

If you are looking for a traditional meat-lovers pizza try the Tyrol. With cut up pieces of Italian sausage, ham, and sautéed mushrooms, the Tyrol is sure to fill up the spots in your stomach not taken over by the various sides and starters offered. A 12-inch is $17.95.

If none of the six signature pizzas get the tummy grumbling try building your own pizza with ingredients such as roasted red peppers and roasted onions starting at $1.45; goat cheese and cherry tomatoes starting at $1.95; or oven roasted chicken and spicy eggplant starting at $2.45. All prices are for 12-inch pizzas.

Sides include coal fired wings about the size of a thumb. But, what they lack for in size they make up for in taste. The taste of fresh herbs and spices and caramelized onions, to be exact. A pound of these itty-bitty meat munchies costs $10.95, but if there is a group of four or more go with two pounds for $18.95.

The Caesar salad was light on the garlic and light on the dressing. Carbone opts for a vinaigrette-style Caesar dressing instead of the traditional creamy style. The result is a light Caesar perfect for those who ask for the dressing on the side. A sharing size, perfect for a group of four, costs $12.95.

As the night goes on the lights are dimmed, the music gets louder, and the nights special, double Long Island Iced Teas, turn into Burt Reynolds shots.

The crowd is a mix of leftover Jets fans enjoying a meal after a Saturday game, co-workers looking for something to nosh on after an eight-hour shift, and a family celebrating a young woman’s birthday.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Carbone is the lack of beer taps at all the tables. There is one lone circular table in the lounge that houses a fill-it-yourself beer tap. The table seats ten and according to Cam, the server, the same goes for the Taylor location.

For folks looking for an alternative to downtown staple Tavern United MTS Centre or newbie bar The Pint, check out Carbone Downtown. But be careful, you may show up for a drink and end up staying for the food.

Feminism and Television

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I was hanging out with some girlfriends over the weekend, and we were doing what normal girlfriends do- drink wine and watch Sex in the City.

After the first glass or maybe the sixth or seventh (whose counting) we got onto the topic of feminism. My one friend declared she is a “modern day feminist” and my other friend declared she wasn’t any sort of feminist. This made me splutter into my nearly finished glass of white wine, and I continued to go on a wine-fuelled rant.

“How can you say you’re not a feminist? Do you not believe in equality for all sexes?” I asked her.

“Of course. But I just wouldn’t call myself a feminist,” she replied.

“But if the definition of feminism is ‘the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities’ wouldn’t it be fair to say by agreeing with this definition you would be a feminist,” I asked.

“I guess. I just don’t see myself as a feminist,” she said.

This is a conversation that we have heard all too many times. And, to be fair I used to say exactly what my friend said. I was so caught up in the idea of feminists being bra-burning, man-hating, head-shaving herbivores that I couldn’t see just what was at the root of supporting feminism- equality.

I can’t say for certain when that image switched in my mind, but I can say for certain the evolution of female characters on television helped speed that process along. As a child, I was never the Disney princess loving type. I much preferred the rebel-rousing adventures of Mulan and the agility of Kim Possible. I never wanted to be saved. This translated into my teenage years with one of my all-time favourite characters from any television show: Veronica Mars.

Here was a girl that was supposed to be the same age as me but dealing with things no average girl has to deal with. In the very first episode the viewer witnesses Veronica being drugged, raped, and subsequently victimized. This however didn’t quiet Veronica. She used her rage to fuel her search for justice. She advocated for other rape victims. She didn’t take shit from anyone and even went so far as to take down a fraternity who was implementing a points system based off the women the members slept with.

She was and still is my hero. I even went so far as to buy a matching messenger bag like the one she carried in the show. I was fifteen and impressionable. Don’t judge.

Included in Veronica Mars’ fan base is Buffy creator, Joss Whedon. Buffy, of course, features another ass-kicking female like many of Whedon’s projects including his other television show, Dollhouse. One of my favourite quotes about female characters in television and movies comes from Whedon.

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This calls attention to another issue- the “strong female character” Should their be a distinction between female characters and strong female characters? Or should we just assume that all women are capable of being strong without labelling them as such? You know, because we so often hear about “strong male characters.”

For other witty responses to that question click here.

Another one of my favourite feminist characters is Leslie Knope. The difference between Leslie and Veronica is Leslie didn’t have some horrific, life-changing event happen to her. She was a woman pursuing a career in a male-dominated field. She wasn’t a bra-burning, man-hating feminist, she simply believed in female empowerment and equality. Her optimism for the world around her was a refreshing take on the “strong female character.” It gave me hope that I didn’t have to be jaded, all I had to be was optimistic. But to be honest, if Amy Poehler engaged in bra-burning in front of me there is no doubt in my mind I would join.

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I could go on and on about the portrayal of women in television. At some point I will probably dedicate an entire post to Arya Stark but for now I will leave you with a thoughtful (slightly older) Buzzfeed piece, yes Buzzfeed does more than listicles.

As for my friend, we agreed to disagree. I still love her and respect her decision to not declare herself as a feminist. She brought up a valid point.

“Maybe we need a different word for it.”

Maybe we do. Maybe we don’t. Maybe we need more people to get over the F word.

I’m not sure what the right answer is, but I do know this- don’t mix red and white.

Hecla Island

Disclaimer: Taking a break from our regular programming.

Last week I travelled to Hecla Island in Manitoba for a travel assignment in my journalism and advertising classes. The idea was to visit a small town and get a story. My group chose Hecla, a place I have never been before, and set out Friday morning for the almost three hour drive. I’m not one for going out and finding a story (despite for my dreams of a career in journalism), but this assignment really changed my mind. Wait, not changed my mind but opened it up to a career I always thought about – travel journalism.

Here are the results of my journalistic efforts. Enjoy.

Winter Wasteland, are the only two words needed to describe the drive through Hecla Village on Hecla Island, on a March day.

The one km stretch houses abandoned cottages, beat up cars blanketed in month old powder and fresh piles of snow, untouched by footprints. Ice fishing shacks appear and disappear through the fog hovering over Lake Winnipeg, creating a game of whack-a-mole but for the eyes.

During the short drive historic buildings, such as Hecla School and Hecla Church, stick out amongst the modern style cottages, evidence of the early Icelandic settlers.

The only forms of life are the two bottom-heavy ravens perched on the cemetery’s tombstones and the two burly beasts out on the ice.

At closer glance they are not beasts, but two commercial fishermen on the job.

“If you don’t fish for a living you farm, that’s just what we do out here,” said one half of the fishing duo, David Jonasson, 45.

The other half is Bob Grimolfson, 43, a resident of neighbouring town Riverton. Grimolfson has been commercial fishing his entire life, a career passed down in his family.

“More or less my whole family’s been doing it,” said Grimolfson. “It started in the ‘60s when [the government] expropriated all the land here to make a park and my dad and all my family were kicked off and they had to move to Riverton.”

Hecla Island was founded in 1876, just three hours north of Winnipeg. Icelandic immigrants originally founded the island, but in the ‘60s controversy occurred between the government and the community over land exchange. Forty years later the controversy was resolved.

“In the ‘90s the government gave the land back to the people that were still alive. My dad got his original property back with his original house,” said Grimolfson.

The family made headlines in 2011, when the causeway connecting the island to Highway 8 was named after Grimolfson’s great-grandfather, Capt. Grimsi Grimolfson.

As the day winds down, the fishing duo feed a net through the drilled holes in the ice.

“With the two of us we are just taking it easy, there’s no rush,” said Jonasson. “We’re just here for a relaxing day.”

While other small towns offer attractions like prehistoric dinosaurs and suspension bridges, Hecla Island offers the simplicity of carefree isolation.

“You’ve got to come here in the summer time,” said Jonasson. “It’s like God’s country.”

Er Bear and Teneshqua

Er Bear and Teneshqua

David Jonasson and Bob Grimoflson doing their fishermen thing

David Jonasson and Bob Grimoflson doing their fishermen thing

My fave, Erin

My fave, Erin

I'm such a keener.

I’m such a keener.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I finally got around to watching Netflix’s new comedy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It stars Ellie Kemper (formerly from The Office) and is created by Tina Fey. In between hours of proposal writing and eating an unnecessarily large bowl of cereal I watched the first episode.

I am now three episodes deep and I don’t want to say I’m unimpressed, but I’m unimpressed. Maybe it will hit me five episodes in, or maybe it will hit me during the very last episode but right now it’s a solid meh for me. I’m not saying it’s bad but it’s definitely missing something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

For example the first episode includes a remixed news cast similar to the one below:

*still cracks me up*

But c’mon that was years ago. Do we really need to keep auto tuning news casts? And, should their place be in tv shows released six days ago?

I will credit Ellie Kemper for her portrayal of Kimmy. Kemper always does a good job at portraying somewhat naive characters with strong qualities. It seems like this role was made for her. I love the female empowerment in Kimmy. Even as a mole person she knows what’s up.

I am going to save a further analysis for when I get through the season.

Final Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoy the one-liners

“I’m a stranger danger ranger.”

“Someone got beans. Spill them.”

Have you watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comment section and enjoy a teaser for the next episode.

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