The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Vacation’

Away, Away, Away

Posted by Matt on September 5, 2011


(Fuck you, I don’t have a camera and my parents have a less-than-fancy one)

This was taken during my trip to Toronto, which I blathered on about rather boringly here. I have since grown very interested in the whole Toronto Island set-up. Something about a smaller community surrounded by water and just a skip from a modern metropolis, being able to see it right across the pond, has caught my imagination. Read the same shit I did about it here!

Places inspire me more than anything else. I look at a building, a park, a shopping mall, a street, an old hockey arena, and I start thinking about what could happen there, and how it could be used as a setting. If there was a martian battle there, what would it be like? I think locations have provided me with a basis for my most solid story concepts, because it anchors them to something real. It great being able to do whatever I feel like, but it often feels that with no foundation, nothing I can look at and feel like there’s a physical thing to base them off of, they can become a vaporous entity. Something that just drifts away, pointless and meaningless. I can think of a million silly things, but I just can’t seem to care about them without that connection to earth.

It often seems that this ideology I’ve developed has driven me to base most of my ideas on one or more of three things: character/personality, nature, and of course, places. All real things, things I can experience (in various ways and in varying doses). But location holds a special place for me, especially in the last few years, as it is something I’ve had the most experience dealing with. I don’t meet as many real characters I can turn into fake ones as I do step into buildings I can set a story in.

It’s one of reasons I enjoy just going somewhere else, not even having a real purpose for the journey (although when I do, there’s usually another story in that). While a lot of people I know have become jaded when it comes to vacationing, only feeling the need to go to places that live up to their high standards. Not me; anywhere I go, I can generally find something worth thinking about. Even in the dingy little villages that dot the provinces, only half-integrated with the modern world, usually home to an auto shop, a family restaurant, and a droning sense of monotony. There’s stories to be told about them, too.

At the same time, it also makes me appreciate where I come from, even when I want to escape. Familiarity breeds contempt, but familiarity also gives me the opportunity to employ nuance I just can’t with the big cities that leave me awe-struck, as an easily-impressed city slicker from the middle of the flatlands. I always pretend I want to escape, but what would I do without the schoolyards I know like the back of my hand, the hotel lobbies I once traversed and still associate with New Years Eve and lungs full of chlorine, or the city’s centerpiece, the hockey area where I once had to find my own fun while my siblings actually competed in sports. I’m quite curious to observe my own reaction if and when I finally leave this town for greener pastures.

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Posted by Matt on May 11, 2011

This weekend was spent at the Toronto Comics Art Festival with my friend Ben. Much fun and merriment was had by all. Here’s a play by play for the interested:

-I had never been to Toronto before, so it was a double exciting time for me! Actually, I had never been on a plane before, either, so make that triple. I can say that my opinion of both are now favorable.
Toronto seems like a good place. I especially liked how the different forms of public transportation, which we utilized over the course of the three or four days constantly, are linked, so you don’t need to pay extra to go from subway to street car to bus. And most of the routes are pretty easy to figure out, a bonus for stupid tourists like me. Even so, I can say that the constant looking for stops and riding and pass buying wore me out sometimes. My own personal preference seems to be for places where I can walk pretty much anywhere I need to go. That kind of keeps me in nowheresville, doesn’t it?

-For food, we went to different restaurants every day for all three meals, and each one was pretty good! Saturday began with Patrician Grill, where I got a good full breakfast with the biggest pieces of bacon I’ve ever seen (they were slightly burnt, but I guess you win some you lose some). The Blarney Stone, a pub that was located quite close to the Reference Library and The Pilot (where two of the panels were attended were held), had some huge-ass burgers. Saturday night was spent at C’est What, another pub with a delightful collection of taps and great Dijon chicken.
On Sunday, we started with Morning Glory, which was tiny, but had a goat milk and blue cheese-based omelet that Ben said was so good, we came back the next day (and got something completely different). In the afternoon, we went across the street from the library to a place called Mama’s Pizza, which must be a Toronto-based chain, because we saw it everywhere. It was one of those pizza places where they have huge-ass slices…and they were good huge-ass slices, too. Ben had a calzone that could plug a hole in the ozone. Big is good, yes. Finally, we went to another pub called Betty’s, which is one of those places made for large drunken gatherings, complete with colourful crap all over the walls and pictures of nude women in the bathroom. The burger Ben got was super thick (whereas the Blarney Stone’s burgers were wide), and they put a fried egg on it, just to make sure the thing was 125% awesome.

-But what’s all this talk about food? There were comics to be had! Yes, TCAF was swollen with comics and comic creators, some of whom I actually knew! But of course, getting to see the people I knew is only about 57% of the fun; it’s cool to discover new things, as well. It’s great seeing the huge variety of works out there by independent folks, all of whom were out hawking their wares and being super-friendly to mouth-breathing scum like me (although the crowds here were pretty good, the kind I can identify with over the more, let’s say, fanatic folks I have been led to believe would attend the more general nerd conventions). And as congested as the thing got, it never felt really chaotic. Kudos to the staff for keeping everything smooth for those two days.

-I didn’t spend that much money there, which was surprising. For the most part, buying stuff never felt like a high priority for me when I actually got there. I was too busy just taking in the overall comics atmosphere. Plus, I’m kind of a wuss, and didn’t want to approach the artists out of fear of looking like an idiot to people I respect. Oh well. The only purchases/things I had signed were an exclusive CD of gibberish put together by Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward (he also drew me a picture) and a copy of Godland: Celestial Edition Two, which I had been meaning to pick up at some point anyway, but now have a copy signed by Tom Scioli, who was nice enough to make sure I got a high-quality copy of the book.
When it came to getting things signed, that breathless act of fanboyism, I think I had more fun following my friend while he attempted to fill his sketchbook with doodles & signatures from 30 or so of his favourite artists we knew were in attendance. He got a surprisingly large amount, by the end. As previously mentioned, they were all good folks, which after the first few, gave us a much-needed confidence boost to pursue the rest. Among the notables were James Stokoe of Orc Stain, who went completely to town on the sketch (and he draws with his left hand, which is insane), Chester Brown, who didn’t think his drawing of Louis Riel looked very much like Louis Riel, and Scott C. of Double Fine Action Comics, who even let us take a picture of him! Of course, everyone there we talked to were super, and completely open for some silly inconsequential chitchat and “I like your stuff! It’s so neat!”. I think that openness and the love of the craft that permeated the place is what makes it such a joy.

-We went to 4 panels, all of which were entertaining. The first had Kate Beaton, Joe Lambert, John Martz, Dylan Meconis, and Dustin Harbin talking about the ways they approach the creative legwork of their job, talking about the difference between working in different formats or on several fun ideas versus one big life project, and also constantly talking about pooping.
The second panel we visited was the Adventure Time panel, attended by a few of the show’s current staff, including Michael DeForge, Bob Flynn, Andy Ristaino, Steve Wolfhard, and, of course, Pen Ward, who showed up 15 minutes after the panel started (he was working on that CD I mentioned earlier). It was interesting to note that all the staffers present were comic artists, and were pushing their own stuff alongside their Adventure Time items at their tables. The panel itself was really cool – each panelist went over how they all joined the show, giving us a little insight into the how that weird animation industry works. We got to see a cut of a theater short they produced recently that will apparently see distribution sometime in the future (it didn’t have sound, so Pen provided all the voices and sounds himself). The questions from the audience were pretty good, too, and we got some interesting answers, like Ward’s assertion that someone pitching ideas is better off coming up with a lot and then developing them after being picked up rather than setting one’s self up for a fall by spending all your time polishing a single idea that can be swiftly crushed by executives. We also got to hear him swear profusely as Lumpy Space Princess, which is apparently what he needs to do to get the voice right. We also got to hear him drop some video game know-how by referencing A Boy and His Blob and the Barney game on the Sega Genesis (it was in answering a question about what they would do if they had complete creative control over an Adventure Time game. Pen revealed that his current goal is to get the chance to design a game, and that his ideal AT game would have “Katamari graphics with Monster Hunter gameplay”, which sounds about right). I think the other guys said some stuff, too.
The third panel we visited was more of a game the audience got to view. Essentially, Kate Beaton, KC Green, Chris Hastings, Aaron Diaz, and two members of the audience were split into two teams, where one would see a card projected onto a screen that the others couldn’t see, and then draw the manner of death described on the card in such a way as to allow his or her teammates to guess it. Ryan North was the official judge. Hilarity ensued. Beaton and Hasting’s team was given most of the really hard-to-convey scenarios in the first two rounds, but made a surprising comeback in the last round because the audience member on their team decided to skip the cleverness and just draw straightforward representations. Strategic!
The final panel, the last one at The Pilot on Sunday, also had Beaton, alongside Jess Fink, Jason Little, Jeffrey Lewis, and R. Sikoryak. Essentially, they read their comics aloud, with some performance mixed in. Each one was a great presenter, and they all had very distinct styles. I have no idea where Jess Fink’s little toy guitar came from – someone in the audience just handed it to her. A minion? I don’t know.

So, as you can see, there was a lot of stuff to see, and I barely saw most of it. Please refer to this, this, and this for the big picture. One of them even manages to capture a glimpse of us in the wild. Of course, only the few of you who know what Ben and I look like will be able to identify us in that photo. Consider it a perk.

Also, linking to lots of stuff makes me take quite a bit longer to finish a blog post than normal.

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Posted by Matt on February 21, 2010

Hello. I was on vacation for the past week. I went to many different places (including Montreal, Chicago, and Albany), all by train. It was very exciting! I may have to write about it some time.

Not now, I’m tired. Go away.

Posted in In My Life | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Posted by Matt on January 31, 2010

In slightly more than a week, I take a train for the first time in my life on a trip across the northeastern United States and to Montreal. Quite exciting, this vacation magic.

I will soon have to add Nestle to my enemies list soon, unless my news article about their concerned letter to the university is safe and non-inflammatory (I don’t think it’s inflammatory, but they might not have wanted to have the thing discussed publicly at all. Well, the administration gave me the letter in their meeting minutes package, and I have never been in trouble for printing what they gave me in there.) These are the journalistic issues I face every time I actually decide to do whatever small-effort reporting I can instead of just copy-pasting CBC stories.

I mean, we’ve barely had any complaints. We had to correct some minor things in an article or two, but that was months ago. We only recently got a complaint from someone who thought a stupid comedy piece we printed was offensive to the obese. We’re been pretty clean so far, I guess. Maybe further editions of my new Weekend Web-rip-off articles will get us some complaints.

Why am I so obsessed with complaints? For one, we are a student newspaper. If we can’t be rebellious pranksters, then who can be?

Second, The Quill has had a history of insanity. From the paper being shut down and printed independently for a few months, to the former President of the university refusing to talk to them because they printed an ill-advised statement he made to them about campus security, our paper has been involved with tons of shit. And, I don’t know, I feel responsible for keeping the tradition going.

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Posted by Matt on January 21, 2010

I’m baaaaaack.

The trip was interesting. Don’t know how much I participated in the things the conference was about (I went to a few of the presentations, and had to sit through the last half of the big final meeting where the press group’s constitution was amended. I essentially voted yes on everything, not giving a damn. Not that most of that was all that important, nor would my vote have swayed the decision either way). I heard some interesting things, though, and met some of the staff of other newspapers, who were fun to talk to and hang out with.

Edmonton is a pretty great place, and it was made better by the unusually warm weather. We didn’t do much while there, but I did drive through the city center (seeing the variety of local stores, clubs, architecture, etc.) We went to some comic stores, too. I’d never been to the really big nerd clubhouses that I’ve read about on the various comics blogs, and these met all the expectations that I had set for them. Big, with a huge variety of comics and trades, filled with unusual merchandise and old action figures. I now understand the glory and the awfulness of them. More of the former, though, but only because I had never been there before, I’m sure. Got some books I wanted (including one of the annoyingly unavailable X-Force/X-Statix trades), so the trips were overall very profitable.

Of course, there was the prerequisite trip to the West Edmonton Mall, which is every bit as large, glorious, and scary as I seen. To sound completely confusing, it both felt larger and smaller than I imagined. I mean, it’s really huge, and filled with many a thing. We traversed it in a few hours, although we didn’t see absolutely everything. We did, however, see lemurs, who lived in a habitat not far from the aquarium and Columbus ship recreation. That was completely unexpected, and amusing. Lemurs!

It was good to see the thing from the inside finally, after 10 years. Now I will have a bit more experience with it to help some of my ideas (one of which involves the mall, or a reasonable facsimile).

So yes, I had fun going out of town, aside from the long, claustrophobic car trip.

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Watched all of the first season of Mighty Boosh now. It isn’t quite as consistently good as the next two series, as it was still finding its footing and doesn’t have all the main cast developed (Bollo was only a bit player), and some of the stuff in it felt like half-baked versions of what would later be developed. But the comedy is still there, and many of the episodes are pretty great, and it has characters sadly absent from later series (Bob Fossil, who does make a comeback in series 3, and Matt Berry as Dixon Brainbridge, a truly great villain/asshole). My favorite episode is probably ‘Jungle’ (which features another one of Rich Fulcher’s insane characters who gave me probably the biggest laugh of all 8 episodes), although they are all pretty good, overall (especially in the last half).

It’s also probably the least frightening of all three series, although it’s strangeness is still in full-force. So if ‘Eels’ gives you nightmares, I can tell you there’s probably nothing here that will have the same effect (maybe ‘Charlie’).

Now I feel complete.

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A wrestling-loving friend of mine recently showed me Ring of Honor videos. As a promotion, I think it’s a pretty nice alternative to the big guns. It’s incredibly low-tech, and seems like an indie league with better lighting. But the wrestling is good, the wrestlers sell their gimmicks incredibly well, and Jim Cornette! So yeah, the examples I saw left me with good impressions on the whole thing.

Here’s the thing about wrestling: It’s carnival entertainment that often appeals to the lowest common denominator. But it can be fun, especially when you get some guys who create good cartoon personas for themselves and know how to keep a fake fight interesting. Basically, I see it in the same way I see kaiju movies: they are a silly good time that often appeals to the side of me that likes colourful characters beating up each other.

That said, most of modern wrestling is problematic. The WWE has no clue what it’s doing anymore, making dumb decision after dumb decision, wasting talent, having its flaws (including certain personalities being favoured over others for blatant and stupid reasoning) and now facing an avalanche of bad PR because of the ever-growing list of dead wrestlers. However, at least they show some sign of competence compared to the only real big budget rival in town, TNA, who have bought off many great people, have some promising performers, but who can’t do anything write. Wasting time with backstage story filler, including nonsensical gimmicks (even during non-gimmick matches), and having a large number of boring or confusingly short matches. It’s a train wreck, and even as someone who knows wrestling only from a peripheral view, I can tell that.

And that’s why ROH is kind of a breath of fresh air. It’s straight-up wrestling, and it gives the viewers what they want. It seems able to draw the most entertainment from this often bloated redneck industry.

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