26 December 2009

Stuff I Like - December

Gangster knuckle tattoo, what?
1) My new tattoo

I know, I know. A hand tattoo. That's a pretty big commitment - but I have a few lovely rings that cover it perfectly for job interviews/high society functions/my own wedding type events. The decision came on the heels of another - I have decided to extend my half sleeves down to what are called "sushi sleeves" (3/4 length - names for the fact that sushi chefs usually are fully tattooed underneath their blouse-things) and I figured that one measly knuckle couldn't hurt. I was in LA last Monday and I just marched down to the nearest tattoo parlour and said "let's do this."

I like it. It makes me feel somehow more gangster despite the fact that I am not even gangster in the slightest - I'm like, the exact polar opposite. Well, despite the knuckle tattoo... Oh! And what does the V stand for? (other than Vodka, Vancouver, Violence and erm....) Violet, of course. You should all get one!


Music starts at the 30 second mark. Watch this.

Let me start of by saying that I should, under any normal circumstances, hate CocoRosie. Freak-folk as a genre sounds like exactly the kind of thing that I would run screaming from whilst shoving my tiny fingers in my even tinier ears, but somehow this sister act snuck under my radar and made me a convert. From the moment that my BFF Xstina dragged me into her office and youtubed me to death with their videos I have been smitten with them, a near-romantic obsession. A strange blend of folk, hip hop, opera and children's musical toys, CocoRosie could easily veer into pretension and cliche, but somehow they manage to stay clear of awful and just make me happy instead. Of course, they live in Paris and are huge in Europe and you can sniff out a hipster by merely mentioning their name - but je vous aime. Le Sigh.

A lifelong dream, fulfilled. "I saw the best minds of my generation...."

3) Poetry

After a nearly 5 year hiatus I have been writing poetry like a teenager (let's just hope that it is better and less angsty than when I was a teenager.... eep!) No longer am I filling notebook after notebook - now it is all on m'little laptop, but it feels the same. Two, even three bouts of inspiration bombard my brain each day and I am just frantically trying to keep up and get it all out. Perhaps it was my November visit to San Francisco and the City Lights bookstore that triggered this renaissance of couplet and haiku, the swirling spectres of Ginsberg and Kerouac and Ferlinghetti rushing through my brain and tweaking and pulling at various synapses and making them crave an alternate form of expression. Or maybe I am just depressed and bored to be home....

The really unfortunate thing is that I happen to hate the word: Poetry. I don't think that there is another word out there that can make you seem so up your own ass, so incredibly pretentious and d-baggy than poetry. Shudder. So please don't ever call me a poet unless you want a beret up your keister. I own some. I am ready.

A different kind of Uke.

4) The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain

I don't really feel that I need to say too much here about how great this is. It kind of speaks for itself. Especially when you watch them perform Lou Reed's 'Satellite of Love.' Bing Bang Bong, indeed.

They don't call me Violent Violet for nothin'.

5) Optimum Wound Comics

I'll admit - I'm not and never have been a super big comic-reading lady (with the exception of all of the Tank Girl and Sandman issues I could get my teenaged mitts on.) I'm not one of those girls who finds comfort while safely ensconced in the basking glow of nerd approval and the geek-points that obscure manga can accrue. I do, however, savour a hard boiled crime caper with film noir styling and that is why I love Jason Thibault's baby Optimum Wound (and it's stepchild Blunt Force Beating, for which I write sometimes.) I will admit that this is kind of a shameless plug for a close friend and his endeavours, but I have been psuedo-promised that this year Violet Dear's image may make a surprise appearance in one of his stories, Battles Without Living Witnesses (but probably as alter-ego, Violent Violet) and wouldn't y'all like to see that?

"It was an insignificant bullet" - Brandon's Klaus Kinski tattoo.

6) Werner Herzog

I have mixed feelings about Wernie's latest offering, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans but that doesn't change the fact that he is a member of my 'trimurti of favourite of living directors' along with "King of Venereal Horror" David Cronenberg (a fellow Canuck!) and the exquisitely surreal David Lynch. Recently, my good friend Brandon got himself a tattoo of Klaus Kinski in Herzog's "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" and I realized that I had never seen it. Once I picked my jaw back up off of the ground, I watched "Fitzcarraldo" and its accompanying documentary "Burden of Dreams." Amazing. I am now hooked. I try to watch a Herzog film (and there are about 100) once a week.

But really, the main reason that Herzog is unbelievably awesome comes from this anecdote here.

exs and ohs
Violet Dear

25 December 2009

Violet Dear's Christmas Message to Friends and Readers

Many Christmas Cracker Hats....ALL AT ONCE! (And my late Grandfather's patented shoulder tea-towel)

This was written for my best friends yesterday - I decided I wanted to share it with you, dear readers...

Christmas Eve means a lot more to me than Christmas Day - it always has. My family celebrated on the Eve and the only Xmassy thing I did on the 25th was open Santa's gifts. For me, today IS Christmas.

I am sitting on my Mum's living room floor, surrounded by gifts and a beautifully decorated tree (thanks, X) with cats weaving their way around as they eat ribbons and claw at the pompoms on my new Mukluks. I'm listening to John Denver's "Rocky Mountain Christmas" and eating Mandarin oranges while I wrap some final presents. Sure, I am not filled with as much frantic Christmas excitement as I would have been 20 years ago, but it still feels good. It feels like a link in a chain of tradition that spans generations in my family.

What a year. What an insane amazing year! I spent 10 and a half months of it scaling mountains and climbing ruins, speaking Hindi and eating bugs - but my heart was always here with youse guys! (gag, I know - but it's Christmas time. C'mon....)

Last Christmas I felt gutted and wrung dry - completely homesick and missing my culture and traditions. As you may have heard me rant - India celebrates Christmas, ermmmm, incorrectly to say the least and I was regularly found drying my tears in front of "Nigella's Christmas Feast" clutching a peppermint latte (from the only Western coffee place nearby) humming "Silver Bells" under my breath. (On Christmas Day itself, I must admit I was not complaining - living on a boat in the Maldives kind of sucks the sadness from anyone....)

Throughout the year I had the chance to witness unparalleled beauty, often coupled with soul-crushing sadness. The smiles of orphanned children, the sweet nature of abused dogs, the collective pride of downtrodden nations. It all made me realize how unbelievably lucky we all are as we sit in our warm houses surrounded by Nat King Cole, Clark Griswold and the Grinch, smells of holiday cookies wafting through the air. We have so few problems comparatively - let's all be thankful and happy!

Of course, my year wasn't all travel - we had a time of unspeakable tragedy as Heppy lost her brother Evan - a pain that will continue for a long time to come - and as usual, in some sort of weird cosmic symmetry a time of happiness and discovery as I met my brother (Hi Tyler!) Both events will continue to shape and change my life forever.

And as anti-climactic and, in ways, depressing coming home from my giant trip can be it is worth everything just to be here and celebrate with my friends, my family and well, Nigella.

So you might feel all Bah-Humbuggy, you might say "Oh, f*%@ Xmas right in it's goatass" but just try to remember that today of all days is about reflection, family, joy and, let's face it - life.

I love alls y'alls - Merry, Happy, Joyous Christmas.

Violet Dear

17 December 2009

See, Jain, Think

My favourite quote.

During the Christmas season I know that we are supposed to reflect on family and friends and our good graces - but lately I have been getting a bit more esoteric than shortbread and giftwrap.

See, it was nearly a year ago exactly that I visted a humongous, strangely gawdy/beautiful Jain temple in Mumbai, where I was living at the time, and I am not sure if it is all the yoga I have been doing lately but I can't stop thinking about the quote pictured above.

Jainism is one of India's strangest religion - an offshoot of Hinduism that was first practiced 2600 years ago, around the same time that Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha, to you and I) was walking the countryside and creating his own religion, Buddhism. Jains are a super strict ascetic bunch who are so passionate in their vow of non-violence to ALL creatures that they sweep the ground in front of them as they walk (as to not step on bugs) and wear masks at all times (to avoid inhaling said bugs) - hell, they don't even eat food grown underground (that's the bug's food.) The practice is just common enough throughout India that many coffeeshops and hotels have special Jain menus. It is a fascinating and deeply tradition steeped religion - I am in awe of the Jains I have met.

You can see the weeks old bullet holes in the pillars at Leopold's.

A few days before Christmas (and our weeklong trip to the Maldives) my Mum, S and I toured downtown Mumbai mere weeks after the attacks, stopping to see the damage to the Taj Hotel and even having a drink at the iconic Leopold's (where 11 had been shot dead during the seige.) The Jain temple, one of the biggest in India, was the highlight of my day (even more than the vultures circling the Parsi 'Towers of Silence' - but that is another entry.)

"Every man is the architect of his own fortune." The quote written on the stairs in the temple hit me in the chest with its simplicity and wisdom - I had one of those cliched "A-Ha" moments (no, not one of those - one of these.) We were blessed with sandalwood tikka marks on our third eye and headed to another of Mumbai's sights - but this one was the most important to me.

The bowl filled with the fragrant sandalwood tikka for blessings.

So this Christmas, one year later, I reflect not on Jesus, not on Allah, not on Shiva - but on Jain wisdom and it's simple messages of non-violence and responsibility for oneself. Quit worrying about gifts and gossip and out-doing your neighbours. Worry about yourself, your own state of peace and your own joy. To be a navel gazing yogi - focus on this moment, right now and really live in it - make it perfect. If we all try this the world will be a better place. You are the architect of your own future. Remember that.

....and also remember, I do like gifts too. I'm not that spiritual.

Bless this S.

Before anyone writes me any outraged/patronizing/prosletyzing comments about Jesus please, please try to remember that every single one of the world's religions feels just as passionately as you do that they are the only RIGHT ones. You've made mistakes before, right? Like that time on that school trip? Or that time in Cabo? C'mon.

08 December 2009

Autopsy Turvy....

Violet Dear goes on the strangest fieldtrips.

The Old Morgue is the coldest room in the building that stands at 240 Cordova Street in Vancouver's - hell, Canada's - most notorious neighbourhood: The Downtown Eastside. Here, amongst the tricks and johns and junkies stands the Coroner's Court. This art deco building (1932) houses the Vancouver Police Museum's collection of guns, gore and city-specific crime lore and just happens to be curated by my good friend Joanna.

She is the reason that I find myself here, in the sketchiest part of my fair city on this subzero degree day shivering and cursing the airplane that ever pried me from Fiji. As I am not working (thank you, S) until I start school I find myself with the luxury to volunteer and flit around for a while this December. Because I know that Joanna always needs help down at the Museum I decided to pop in for a few days to research some topics for their blog (and also here, natch.)

As I mentioned last week I am always fascinated by the turning shifts and changes in any city's history, especially mine. I don't know whether it is the traveler or the historian in me but I cannot think of a better spent afternoon than one elbow deep in the seedy underbelly of this Klondike port town turned beacon of livability. The Vancouver Police Museum - whose building also houses the former morgue and CSI lab - is at the navel of this belly (too far?)

Care for a cold one?

On this brisk December morning the old morgue was really, really cold. Perhaps that is why an infamous Vancouver coroner was known to keep one of the big slab drawers reserved exclusively for beer..... The rest of the morgue has been converted into a display showcase for some of the city's most infamous crimes pre 1960 - macabre cases of murder that make people gasp and tarnish our affable reputation. Who's livable now, bitches?

Sir, I am not willing to overlook your, um - warts.

Through the morgue is the autopsy room - famous for one very special visitor, one Mr. Errol Flynn, legendary film actor of Robin Hood and swashbuckling fame. In 1959 a nearly bankrupt Flynn arrived in Vancouver, a 17 year old plaything in tow, to sell a yacht to a wealthy local businessman. After a few days of parties and rich food he retired to his room on Burnaby Street (mere blocks from my old heritage building on Jervis) complaining of a sore back. He was discovered dead hours later by the girl and transported to the City Morgue for his autopsy.

Over the next few days press and gossip rags from around the world descended on Vancouver to dissect the case of Flynn's death. The news of his humdrum heart attack was spiced up by his practically pubescent companion (when approached at the airport as to why he always had such young women with him he replied "because they f*%$ so good!") and the fact that his wife was safe at home in Hollywood, oblivious to teenager's existence.

No mention of any unmentionables in the autopsy report.

But most gossip centred on Flynn's most, ermmm, prodigious feature. Women were said to line up by the hundreds to try and catch a glimpse of his member - but would they have felt the same way if they had known what coroner Glen McDonald had known? Flynn had been afflicted by "huge VD warts," four of which McDonald's partner removed and set in formaldehyde. Upon some consideration of the potential scrutiny their handiwork may face during a second autopsy in Los Angeles the coroners elected to replace the VD warts - with scotch tape. Apparently, no further questions were asked of the duo regarding the subject. It seems they got away scotch free (way too far, yeah? Sorry. It's been a pun-filled day.)

I emerged from the morgue feeling that warm (now there's irony) sense of connection to my city's history and my forebearers lives that can only come from setting your feet (and keister) where those who have come before you have stood. Joanna had many, many more surprises to show me in the Coroners Court building - downstairs and down, downstairs hold many treasures (Tommy guns! Opium pipes! Old crime labs! Mannequin after mannequin!) that I will tell you about very soon.

In the meantime, try not to get Shanghaied as you wait for my post on Vancouver's seedy opium history. You'd best also try to avoid Mr. Flynn's, ermmm, condition as well....

Atmospheric Autopsy Shot to end with.

03 December 2009

Stuff I Like - November

Me and two of my BFFs - Jason and Kevin (not my cat - see below)

1) My friends.

OK, OK - I know it's sappy but man, did I ever miss all of my friends.

I traveled for a long time, met a ton of amazing people (here is one of their awesome blogs) and had a lot of late night beer (and in Australia, wine) fueled conversations, and yet here back in my home city I have the funniest, happiest, most intelligent and let's face it - good looking - group of pals any gal could ever ask for. I just wanna hug the hell out of all of them and never leave again.

(See what I just said there about not leaving ever again? We all know that is a lie, but I can pretend. For now.)

Ms. Beatrix Fruitbat. As someone asked me last night "Well, for miss and mizz what is the difference between the S and the Z?"
I deadpanned "Um, the difference is like Zebra versus Sebra. Um, duh?"

2) My cats.

I realized something recently - I never talk to you guys about my cats. And that's weird - because I pretty much talk about them all the time. I am an official crazy cat lady. I have had Mister Kevin (Kevin for short) and Beatrix Fruitbat (Trixie) for 6 years next month and as irritating as it is to clean their litter box and shove angry clawing cats into carriers for their annual vet check up I am smitten. It's gross. I talk to them all high pitch-y and do that thing pet owners do when we ask our animals a series of questions: "What are you doing? Whatcha doin' Mr Muffin Monkey Pants? I love you! You're a lover, arentcha? Are you a lover?" (This is an actual exchange Kevin and I had this morning.) I'll be the first to admit that cats can be kind of shitty pets (they are not 'aloof' and 'intelligent' they just have small brains) but I am happy with my guys. I'm just waiting for them to finally answer all those questions I keep asking....

3) The Rickshaw Theatre

There is always something about the worst, crackiest neighbourhoods in a city that attracts hipsters and artists. My city has the worst skidrow in North America (no, seriously. Yeah, we have socialized medicine and decriminalized marijuana and are all liberal and shit, but we aren't like, Sweden. We have problems.) and it lies smack dab in the middle of the most historic and special area of the city, spilling over into touristy Chinatown and even touristier Gastown - it's not uncommon to see horrified groups of cruise ship passengers shielding their children's eyes from the sight of junkies shooting up next to jib-dancing sex trade workers. Like, at 11am. The buildings are spectacular, the cobble stone streets are charming and the businesses of what was once Vancouver's healthy, bustling shopping district have closed - yet slowly gentrification is setting in. People who look like me want to go to shows and restaurants and dive bars in the "Downtown Eastside" and some shrewd business people have recognized the humongous money making potential of catering to us.

For years my friends and I have ironically slummed it at hip hop nights at the Columbia and Astoria and slammed pints of beer at the comically named Funky Winkerbeans - but I have never seen such an ambitious restoration as the Rickshaw Theatre (took me a while to get here - to the point - but I did.) Formerly a chopsocky kung fu theatre in the seventies, this theatre has been gutted and beautifully restored into a rocknroll venue - a night club with theatre seating rather than tables. Half of the seats have been removed to all for more milling around room, and the gently sloping floor allows for shorty-pantses like me to actually see the stage. I love it. And I love the fact that sometimes all it takes is one revitalized space in an area to kick off a renaissance. Vive le Jank.

I am actually blushing right now.
4) Neil Diamond

It just is. Lately I can't stop myself from repeatedly pressing play on the sweet sounds of the Jewish Elvis. I actually have seen Neil in concert (as well as Nearly Neil once) and I could hardly keep myself from throwing panties at the stage, although I was with my Grandma at the time, and trust me - I was too busy holding her back to have time to do so...

There is something so amazingly innocuously sexy about seventies Neil -well here, snuggle up with this. You'll be glad you did.

No, seriously. Go see it.
5) Precious

You know how some years there is a movie that everyone is like "Oh, yes - you simply must see and if you don't you are a cretin and I don't even want to know you?"
Well, this time they are right..... I emerged from the theatre after seeing this film feeling raw and gutted, my face red and my eyes puffy. I was afraid to speak words to my friend Alexis for fear that I would do that sputtering thing and just lose it right there in the lobby. Precious doesn't go for obvious tear jerking - it is fresh and original and really, really disturbing.
"I feel like I have been to war" I remarked to my friends when I could finally speak. And I'll put this here on the record: if Mo'Nique does not win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar I will never watch them again. And I like, LOVE the Oscars.... Serious. Go see this movie.

(PS - I am aware that this is being posted in December - won't happen again. Pinkie swear.)