Best. Pants. Ever.

I love this forever.


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Put Nature at the Heart

A photo of some poppies and a bright sky.
Photo by Henry Be.

People are always asking what they can do to turn this situation around. The truth is there isn't one single answer, though we can make a big difference by putting nature at the heart of our decisions.


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Lito's Kirie Art

Kirie is the Japanese art practice of cutting pictures, and artist Lito does it on leaves and the work is INCREDIBLE.

A photo of a person holding a leaf. The green leaf has been carved to show a scene where a crowd of people are looking up at a school of fish, in place of the clouds.

A photo of a hand holding a green leaf that has cut out in it a scene of cartoonish monsters.



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The Pandemic Isn't Going Anywhere, so I'm Changing My Personal Protocols Instead

A photo as if the viewer is sitting across the table from a woman who is wearing a health face mask and holding up a coffee cup as if to cheers.
Photo by Vince Fleming.

First, a caveat: I am writing all of this as someone living in a region that has followed reasonable COVID safety protocols since the beginning and has clear safety regulations for gatherings and businesses. Here, spread is mainly happening from social gatherings and workplaces that break protocol.

My friends! I have recently had a revelation regarding the pandemic: it's going to be around for a long time. That means I need to start letting myself do some things and enjoy life a little bit more if I'm going to get through this with a semblance of self.

Yes, I hunkered down for "Team Canada" with everyone else. I did my part to protect society by staying home unless absolutely necessary. Then, once things opened up and summer hit, I continued to do my part by only meeting up with friends outdoors, keeping distance, and not even considering indoor activities that weren't strictly necessary.

That means that despite things like movie theatres, restaurants, and dance studios being heavily regulated and allowed to open, I didn't even consider it.

The thing is that this is actually our lives now. If we can't start actually living and doing some fun things (with all these safety restrictions in place), then eventually you have to ask, what's the point? 

Nobody is actually asking us to stay hunkered down anymore. They are asking us to maintain physical distance, to wash our hands, to wear a mask, and to limit our close contacts.

We can do these things while seeing a movie! The movie theatre wouldn't be able to stay open if we couldn't! (Also, fun fact: you could live in the same house as someone and not be a close contact.)

I'm not saying we go out and run amok. We still can't have big ol' sweaty parties or do karaoke or kiss someone just because we feel like it. What we can do is wear a mask and follow an orderly protocol to walk into a theatre and sit six feet apart while an artist (who is twelve feet away or behind some plexi or on a screen) pours their heart out.

We can feel like a whole person with a whole life.


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I Am Living My Nightmare

A photo where all you can see is a blur of light and smoke in the middle with darkness around the edges. It's abstract and looks spooky and nightmarish.
Photo by JR Korpa.

I just realized that I am living the life I DREADED as a teen: in my mid-thirties, single, living alone, and I work in an office. (If you didn't read the word "office" with total disdain, go back and read it that way again. That's teen Andrea.)

These conditions were basically the worst things I could imagine.

Obviously, there are also things about my life that are great-great-great to the point that even my teenage self could have been excited for them. (I wrote a book! I have a cat who is almost as co-dependent for me as I am for her! I have lots of friends and we love each other deeply!) (I would also mention my amazing family, but teenage Andrea already had this amazing family, so it's not new.)

Still, the bones of my life are such that 15-year-old Andrea would have wailed in despair and possibly given up on EVERYTHING. (Why yes, I was voted "Drama Queen" in my graduating year, why do you ask?)

Sometimes I have a moment of realizing I'm living my past dreams. Those moments help me appreciate what I've got more. As it turns out, however, I'm also living my past nightmare.

Don't worry, it doesn't make me feel bad. It's kind of funny, I guess? That I catastrophized this totally reasonable existence as something that would mean my life was OVER? When really, it's life, so it's a mixture of great, sad, exciting, boring, meaningful, disappointing, and fine.

So apparently if I could go back and tell my past self anything, it's that my nightmare life is fine.

An animated gif of a woman holding two beers and clinking them together, cheersing herself.
Giphy


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George Byrne's Sweet, Colourful Los Angeles

Before I went to LA for the first time, I expected it to be a city of dirty highways. I stayed near Venice Beach so instead I saw bright colours, beautiful palm trees, cute shops, and blue skies. George Byrne's Color Field series depicts that version of LA.

A photo of the side of a building - the main part of it is light teal, with a light/bright pink section on the lower half. Behind you can see bright yellow stairs and the blue sky. The whole thing looks like candy.

A photo of bright blue pool water with a bright pink inner tube floating in it.


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Work in Progress

A photo of a dark wood wall with an inset bed or day couch, above it written on the wall says "work in progress"
Photo by Gaelle Marcel.

“Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”
— Plato


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You MUST READ Aisha Harris' Brief Guide to 21st Century Blackface

Aisha Harris' article, "A Brief Guide to 21st Century Blackface", is a MUST READ. She breaks down the different ways blackface shows up in media, from (attempted) satire to "is this blackface?" moments when an actor's skin is darkened for (maybe?) other reasons.

She points out where these various excuses generally fall short, as well as one example that works: Spike Lee's film Bamboozled. In the end, she suggests that all of this doesn't mean you never, ever engage with blackface in art, but that you have to know what you're doing with it, why you're doing it, if you're using the right context, and to really, really ask yourself if you're going to do it well.

"While nothing made in the last 20 years comes close to Mr. Lee’s film in terms of acutely exposing the folly, vice and stupidity of blackface onscreen, what this look back reveals is that quite frequently there has at least been an attempt on behalf of creators to engage in critique. Some went the Mickey-and-Judy route, treating it like an old comedic pastime with nary a thought to its racist roots, but many showed signs of nuance and acknowledgment, even if the execution fell flat."


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The Fight to Do Things the Way You Want

A black and white photo of Billie Holiday standing in front of a microphone, singing, wearing a beautiful dress.
Photo by The Library of Congress on Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

"People don't understand the kind of fight it takes to do something the way you want to do it."
-Billie Holiday


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I have shared Victoria Villasana's lovely work before. Her adaptations on portraits of cultural icons deserve another look.

A black and white photo of artist Yayoi Kusama with geometric, brightly coloured shapes embroidered on it.

A black and white portrait of Frederica Violi with brightly coloured embroidery over it.


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The Freedom of Never Getting On Top of Things, and Other Secrets to Life

An animated gif from the TV show Brooklyn 99, the character Gina Lanetti says "How did my life come to this?"
Giphy



The first one on his list was very apt for the week I have been having: there will always be too much to do, and that realization is liberating.

Because sometimes giving up is liberating, and if, during this age of productivity hacks and getting things done and habit stacking I can just know deep down that "getting on top of things" for any extended period of time is a lie, I might rest easier. Or at all!

Two more fave pieces of advice:

All things being equal, he suggests choosing "enlargement" over happiness. We are, apparently, pretty bad at predicting what will actually make us happy and use things like security as a proxy for that. Better to ask "will this enlarge or diminish me?"

The solution to imposter syndrome is to see that you are one, and so am I. None of us had a practice run at life--we're making it up as we go. That means that once you pass whatever basic qualifications are needed for a job or problem, you're basically as qualified as anyone else. Don't worry about it and do your best.


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My Relationship With The Entire World

A photo of a beach. It looks like a colder day, there are people line up along the water looking out and some other people walking away. The image has a black frame.

 

"My relationship with the entire world in this moment depends entirely on the relationship I have with myself."
– Paul Ferrini

I don't know about you, but I think my relationship status with myself is "It's Complicated."

Which is probably a reasonable relationship to have with the entire, very complicated, world. ;)


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Self-Care or Help?

An animated gif of a woman looking and smiling at the camera, holding a coffee mug, but the coffee mug says "help me" on it.
Giphy


I read a headline recently that said, "Parents don't need self-care, they need help", and I just think that's a good filter for all of us.

When we talk about our need for self-care, are we actually covering up the fact that we need help? If life is so overwhelming that doing chores by yourself feels like a day off or vacation (I have been there), we don't need to squeeze self-care into our schedules. We need help.


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It's Thanksgiving!

An animated gif from the TV show Friends. Monica has a raw turkey on her head with giant sunglasses on it and is doing a silly shimmy dance for Chandler.
Giphy

It's Thanksgiving!

In Canada, Thanksgiving technically celebrates EITHER Martin Frobisher's 1578 failed attempt to colonize the Northwest Passage (because they lost each other, found each other, and then celebrated with communion) OR, what it really seems to have been is a slowly-formalized practice of having a day of Thanksgiving after good things happened (mostly the ends of wars) that eventually became its own thing.

At some point in there, American loyalists who ditched their newly-independent country for the sweet, sweet embrace of the Crown brought with them the tantalizing allure of pumpkin spice and turkey as foundational elements of the meal.


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My Dear Yakutia

Alexey Vasilyev's photos of the Yakutia region of Russia are stunning and stark. It's the biggest region of Russia, but largely uninhabited, and has a climate with the biggest shifts of anywhere in the world, going from minus 60 in the winter to 40 in the summer. It's covered in snow from October-April.

Wow, these people are tough cookies.

A photo of two men standing in a forest. They are wearing large, furry suits that appear to be for some kind of giant animal or perhaps monster and are holding the heads of the suits in their hands so you can see their faces, looking deadpan at the camera.

A photo of a giant, snowy landscape with a large model of a mastadon covered in snow. A person, completely obscured by their winter coat and hat, stands next to it. It looks bleak.




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Prove Me Wrong: Strong Enough is a Terrible, Terrible Song


I was just sitting in a park, mulling over life and some past relationships (as you do) and the Sheryl Crow song Stong Enough popped into my head, so I decided to give it a listen.

My goodness.

I love the tune but I kind of hate this song!

I am going to pick it apart now, and I really hope someone will explain to me how I completely misunderstood the whole thing and it's actually really great because I'm bummed to have realized that this song has a terrrrrrible message.

First of all: the whole "strong enough to be my man" thing is kind of empowering but also kind of says, "it's really difficult to be with me, can you handle it???" Don't love that.

And how about THIS: "Lie to me, I promise I'll believe / Lie to me but please don't leave." 

EXCUSE ME???? This made me realize that this song isn't about a strong woman who needs a strong man to be her equal. This song is about a woman who values herself so little she is begging a man to just please stay and it doesn't matter if he tells her lies. (AGAIN, please tell me how I am wrong!)

"Just try to love me if you can"

STILL with the not valuing herself at all. Like, "I'm really hard to love, just see if you can do it, pleeeeeeeease."

This is how I now interpret this song as a whole: a couple just had a big, terrible fight. The woman feels broken. She feels like hell. She is upset and wants her man to come and pick up the pieces and make her feel better but she's not sure if he will even care to do it.

So what does she do? She describes how she's feeling (which does take a certain amount of courage and honesty) and then she (perhaps internally) begs and pleads for him to say whatever he has to so she feels complete again.

It's an understandable feeling, but dang if I don't want to spend time with it in a song.


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15-Seconds of the Best Thing You've Ever Seen

Baby giraffes!!!!




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Recommended Read: "I Lived Through Collapse. America is Already There."

A photo from the outside of a protest or riot - there is smoke in the air obscuring the view of what is happening and people are standing on the outside looking in, trying to see.
Photo by Amber Kipp.

From the outside, I have felt for some time that America is on the verge of collapse.

According to Indi Samarajiva, who lived through the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, America has already collapsed. His piece about it, "I Lived Through Collapse. America is Already There," is some kind of essential reading.

I am tempted to quote the whole thing, but I will restrain myself to this:

"This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down."

And also this:

"If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like 'this is it,' I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says 'things are officially bad.' There’s no launch party for decay. It’s just a pileup of outrages and atrocities in between friendships and weddings and perhaps an unusual amount of alcohol.

Perhaps you’re waiting for some moment when the adrenaline kicks in and you’re fighting the virus or fascism all the time, but it’s not like that. Life is not a movie, and if it were, you’re certainly not the star. You’re just an extra. If something good or bad happens to you it’ll be random and no one will care. If you’re unlucky you’re a statistic. If you’re lucky, no one notices you at all."

Yiiiiiiikes. Hello.

My first reaction is to think, okay, but it's not that bad. He talks about bomb checks and stores exploding. The US doesn't have that kind of thing happening.

Then my mind shuffles through a small portion of news coverage I have seen from the US in recent months, which includes people getting shot and killed literally for going outside and existing in the world (let alone sleeping in their beds or attending protests). I have seen an ever-growing number of people dying every single day thanks to a virus that the president tells people is nothing to worry about.

Soooooooo, yeah. I don't know what proportion of people in a country need to have their lives ruined and live in fear for it to count as bad, but I'm inclined to trust a person who has lived through it.


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Megan Constance Altieri is Eavesdropping

Looooooove artist Megan Constance Altieri's eavesdropping series. She has taken snippets of overheard conversations and printed them on clothes. It's glorious! (She's got a book and postcards, if you want to buy some for yourself.)

A photo of a cream coloured sweathshirt with the text on it "you won't regret the first, maybe the second"

A photo of a white button-up shirt with the text on it, "we're just introverts who thrive in the dark like a family of mushrooms"


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What Does a #MeToo Dystopia Really Looks Like?

A photo of a drain pipe with stickers on it. The sticker in-focus says "still heart feminism"
Photo by Markus Spiske.

A little thought experiment:

You know how, whenever there's a new Me Too flair up, the inevitable "but now we can't say anything!!!" whines emerge from men who aren't sure how to talk to women without making it at least a little bit sexual?

They love to paint a picture of a terrible dystopia where men's behaviour is strictly regulated and don't we know, women suffer for it, too! Nobody is happy!!!

Well, let's explore this dystopia for a minute, shall we? Let's say Me Too actually does win the day. What happen?

Women would have to find our way through doorways and crowded rooms without the gentle guidance of a man we barely know placing his hand on the small of our back. (We will get so lost.)

If you like someone (like, like like them), you may have to actually say something direct about it, like ask them on a date and use the word "date." (Oh no! How will we know romance is on the table without confusing invitations to "hang" that may or may not include surprise make outs?)

If a woman gets asked out and (uh oh) she says no, she may be denied fear of the guy suddenly turning mean. She won't get to hear the fun regressive insults or be told that he would never sleep with her anyway. (Our self-esteem may remain unscathed and WHO KNOWS what we would be capable of then.)

If you want some sexy times with someone, instead of engineering and executing an elaborate routine of slowly-escalating physical contact and location changes, hoping that she will not even notice what's happening until she finds herself in bed with you and then decides it's not worth the effort to leave, you may have to actually state your intentions and find out if she really wants to sleep with you or not and if she doesn't, she probably won't. (You will experience the horror of only sleeping with people who actually want to sleep with you.)

Jobs may become places where people tell jokes that aren't based on an assumed understanding that some people are inherently better than others or even that some people are there only for sex. (But what else is even funny???)

Speaking of work, if a woman has success at work that you feel is unearned, you won't be able to just freely run around telling people that she only got there because she's sleeping with the boss using, "just look at her clothes," as the iron-clad evidence for your rumour. (Now people may have to funnel their frustrations into a new whittling hobbie or - GASP - feel their feelings.)

As someone who loves reading dystopian novels, I've got to say, this one is very weak.


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Though You Have Considered the Facts

A photo of a sideview mirror on a car, the reflection shows a young woman looking out and up, with a happy expression on her face.
Photo by Kairat Murataliev.

"Be joyful though you have considered the facts."
-Wendell Barry

I think this quote goes well with last week's post about mixing your optimism and pessimism.

Also seems like the perfect mantra for our times. Lots of facts to consider. Lots of joy to be had.


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A Cat and a Snail

It's been a week. Here you go.



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Unsurprising Headline: Trump Has COVID

An illustration of a person in a hazmat suit with a larger sprayer, and coming out of the cloud of "spray" are the words "stop the spread"
Art by UN COVID-19 Response


For the record, I do not hope Trump dies of COVID.

I do hope that his experience shakes him enough to be even a tiny bit better. Imagine if he truly faced his own mortality for a moment and was even the teensiest bit transformed?

Honestly, I doubt that it will, but that's my hope.

(I would also hope that while he's distracted with getting better, other politicians and White House staff would be able to push through a few good things, but I don't think that is even likely enough to merit the effort of hoping for it.)


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Jana Sophia Nolle's Living Rooms

Photographer Jana Sophia Nolle works in San Fransisco, a city with a stark rich/poor divide. She was given access to the living rooms of wealthy people, and at the same time, to the shelters of people experiencing houselessness. Those without homes showed her their shelters, what they had constructed them out of, and their general strategy. She then re-created their shelters inside the living rooms of wealthy residents.

What a contrast.

A photo of a tent covered in tarps in the middle of an opulent living room.


A photo of a shopping cart, covered in a blanket, with some bags around it, in the middle of a fancy living room.


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Reality is Not Enough

An illustration by Henn Kim, it's a black and what drawing of an art gallery and woman is swimming (or being pulled) halfway through the painting. On the other side is an expansive universe of stars.
Henn Kim

I saw Henn Kim's illustration and let out a sigh of relief and longing. It's been so long since I had an experience like this from art - one where I felt transported into an entirely new space. I have realized that, as much as I can appreciate art communicated over a screen, it just doesn't give me this experience. For this, I need physical presence.

Her caption: "Reality is not enough, I need ART."

I can't wait.


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How Optimistic is Your Pessimism?

A photo of a letterboard on a bookshelf that says "you will be okay, you have no choice."
Photo by Kari Shea.

“Optimism is usually defined as a belief that things will go well. But that’s incomplete. Sensible optimism is a belief that the odds are in your favor, and over time things will balance out to a good outcome even if what happens in between is filled with misery. And in fact you know it will be filled with misery. You can be optimistic that the long-term growth trajectory is up and to the right, but equally sure that the road between now and then is filled with landmines, and always will be. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.”
-Morgan Housel

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure about this whole idea of the odds being in our favour, and not just because it reminds me of The Hunger Games. However, I do like the idea of mixing our optimism and pessimism together: things will be okay in the long run, but there will be misery along the way.

Or even, life will be a mix of the glorious and the horrific, both will be real, both will be deep, and both will occasionally be too big to see past. Sometimes we will work very, very hard and it will go somewhere, and other times it will go nowhere.

Sometimes it will feel like life is lifting us above the rubble and setting us down at a brand new high, and other times it will turn out that the rug we are standing on was covering a hole in the floor and we fall straight through.

It's all going to happen. We will be okay. (We will have no choice.)


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