Friday, May 29, 2009

Anime North 2009: Chapter 2

There are few things sweeter than knowing hundreds of people all around you wish nothing but pain and misery upon you. It was with this feeling, lofting me ever higher, that I started to stride around Artist’s Alley.

Artist’s Alley is a hall which is staffed by amateurs – many of whom are high school students trying to make their mark in the Anime / Manga world by selling their own self published books, posters, key chains, bookmarks. It’s rare that I ever buy anything in the alley, but I always seem to spend a great amount of time strolling past all the booths. You can see, in the artist’s eyes, a real hope; you can see a real passion. When you start to slow down and look at a piece, and the sellers start talking to you about it, you know that it’s out of pure love of the form, not just some half thought out sales pitch.

Once I’d completed my rounds I took a final glace – I had been looking for one particular booth. Each year one of my old students sets up shop, and though I’d not been her teacher for the past two years, I still try and find her to support her craft and make sure she hasn’t given up on the dream. I did not see her.

I made my way into the dealers room, away from the simplicity and craft of the amateur pieces. I had entered the maw of all things terrible. Fathers everywhere must have been in tears as their fourteen year old daughters walked out of the house in less than they would ever wear to the beach. One girl laughed, agreeing, as she overheard me make this comment. Though I had brought my camera, I made sure never to take it out of my bag. Nothing good could come from that.

Luckily a number of people have posted their own creative commons images of the event, which I’ve included here for your viewing pleasure. All the understanding, without any of the distressing and troubling justification required to have taken the images myself.

Music was playing, peoples voices were screaming, and then all of a sudden:
"I lost the game." "Dammit, I lost the game." "Lost the game!" "…THE GAME!"

The game had been lost. And as a tidal wave, threatening to destroy all those in its path, the game continued to be lost from one side of the hall to the other.

What, might you ask, is this game? Well – it is an internet phenomenon that has but one rule. The object of the game is to never think of the game. Any time you think of the game, you have lost the game. Does it sound foolish or ridiculous? No? Then you should have been at A.N. And if you weren’t, you must go next year. Does the game sound stupid and without purpose? Yes? Then you, my friend, have just lost twenty internets.

This is the type of place Anime North is. It’s the type of place where people can come together and bond over nothing. Over things that oh so few will ever understand, yet for those brief three days you know in your heart that you are not alone. Everyone around you is just as messed up as you. They’ve spent the same amount of time on youtube watching the lastest meme. They’ve embraced the same cultural awareness. The too can has cheezburger.

I browsed manga, and idol cds, and capsule toys imported directly from Japan. I also kept my eyes open for a Yuffie Action figure priced at less than twenty dollars (ultimately this was not to be.) I listened to awkward teenagers once more try to start awkward relationships with such classic openers as, "so… do you like music, and – umm – stuff?" This is an exact quote, and what makes it perfect is that it’s just what you’d expect.

A greasy haired fourteen year old approached a girl of similar age, midriff bare, and clothes distressingly limited. In a normal environment you would expect this boy to learn a terrible lesson in pain and heartache, best taught through the tinny clang of country music. But here? Here the girl turned to him and nodded. They walked off together, and started talking. I think I saw them sleeping on a couch together a day later. This is the type of place A.N. is.

And that just makes the separation anxiety that much worse when the dream finally ends.

But that was still days away. Now it was time for me to go to some panels, watch some anime, and try to get some sleep.

Page [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Anime North 2009: Chapter 1

Right now, as I sit on a couch in the Double Tree Hotel's lobby, a maid lies curled up beside me. No, she's not a hotel employee shucking her responsibilities, or taking full advantage of her fifteen minute break. No hotel offers such delicately laced trim and eloquent patterning on their uniforms; I dare not even mention how short the skirt is. This maid, tranquilly sleeping into Sunday afternoon, is simply an eighteen year old girl who chose to dress up for the weekend, participating in what is known at CosPlay here at the Double Tree and the Toronto Congress Centre for the three day, two night, event known as Anime North. She is not alone. A loud clap; an employee wakes her from her slumber, "we can't let you sleep on the couches here." This wasn’t a problem the night before.For her, and so many others, the dream has now ended.

Friday, five o'clock pm.

I exit the highway onto Dixon road hoping that I’m in the right place. My google maps directions have long since been lost under a mass of clothing, bottles, and bags – all required to sustain me for the next three days. Anime North in my destination: Toronto’s premier anime convention. AN also happens to be one of the largest Anime Conventions this side of the Pacific. People will show up from all over the continent to drop, shop, and gawk here.

I begin to worry I might have exited too early, or – worse – too late. Just as this fear starts to take hold, from over a small hill comes Alucard, hand in hand with Kite and Blackrose, followed by two unknown catgirls. As I jog right, I see not another pocket of five or six unreal beings brought to life, but an entire parking lot full of them. Clearly my directions were sound.

A line stretches around the congress centre, filled with people waiting to get inside to begin spending all their hard earned (or in the case of many of the people here – their parent’s hard earned) money. This line will take them three hours to get through. Once inside they will be queued into another hour long line. Finally they will be able to wait the five minute line into the dealer’s room. For them the next four hours will be torture. Torture interspersed with awkward conversations and even more uncomfortable flirting as convention friendships and relationships form.

Angering hundreds of uninformed fourteen to twenty year olds, I simply pulled my badge out of my pocket, picked up a day before when no line existed, and walked inside.

The halls were alive with the sound of the internet.

Page [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

Anime North 2009: Chapter 0

When I travel, I normally go to see cities. Some people visit museums, some people go to see theatre, some like nature and landscapes. I travel to see cities. But all that might change with my upcoming trip. Two new things have appeared on my radar. One is the idea of following professional sports teams, and the other is following conventions.

I know people who have travelled far and wide to go to PAX, or Comicon. Now here, in my own proverbial back yard, I am presented with Anime North. North Americas greatest fan-run Anime Convention. For over a decade this con has been running strong - and for all fellow travellers who enjoy all things quirky, cute, and anime, I will present you with the tale of my three day, two night experience.

If any readers out there have travelled for a convention, please comment below with your own tale.

Page [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

Monday, May 25, 2009

American Outlet Malls

American Outlet Malls – what can be said about them? That they’re fantastic – that they’re depressing – that they seem to wrap up the best and worst parts of a country all at once?

They’re clearly a metaphor for a culture – it’s no wonder that shopping malls were chosen by George Romero as a place that even the living dead would flock to. There’s something about consumerism and fulling our capitalistic needs that draws us all forward. Sure we like to own things, and we like to buy things… but when you can do that for even less than the people around you, it’s just fantastic!

I have a hard time paying retail now. For anything. It actually upsets me, and gives me a vague sense of buyers remorse. To be honest with you, I can’t think of the last time that I paid full price for a book. and have become good friends of mine. Almost all hard covers are a cool 30% off. And for those pesky paperbacks? Well I used to know people who worked there and could be me 30% off that way. As soon as those days ended, due to a changing of part time job statue for full time student, I discovered the store BMV in Toronto which offers most books anyone would want for 50%+ off. This is not a used book store – oh no. It’s all new stuff for cheap. I believe they sell off warehouse overstock (though this confuses me – without getting into how stores like Chapters operate, there should be no overstock.)

And flight tickets – I’m sure you’ve all had that feeling of dread, if you ever dare to ask other people how much they paid for the same flight you’re on.

But back to the strip malls. Once more – we have our favourite Americans walking around in their track pants ensemble. Something about these discount malls really pulls this side of people out. Comfort is king here, and that’s part of what I love. No one is trying to impress anyone else. When you fight over the last pair of Nike shoes 100 dollars off, there’s no time to wear fancy clothes. We all knew why we were there.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to find clothes, shoes, techie gear, camping supplies, video games, or books – these malls have them all. And I was enjoyed the experience of people at their best, just attempting to find deals. The sociological value alone was enough for me – but then… then I found a book store.

And what did they have here? Comics. I love comics. I do – I can’t help it. And what sign did I see over the racks of comics (we’re talking 200+ page trade paperbacks, not 24 page singles.) A sign that read: All comics $1.00. Surely this must be a joke! It was not. Like a pack of locusts I descended (yes, I like an entire pack) on this pile and started sifting through them. Tragically I owned so many, spending hundreds on what would amount to about twenty bucks here. Each trade, one dollar here, costs about twenty bucks, after my thirty percent off finagling. This was my personal mecca. In fact, my dreams have been pushing me to return there some day soon.

There was only one draw back: I was in America. I could only take fifty dollars across the boarded. I had fifty five dollars worth of comics, and that extra five dollars amounted to a hundred in the real world. I was not prepared to sacrifice any.

As I contemplated taping some to my body as I returned to Canada, my plight was overheard by the manager. Don’t worry he said (I worried. I could let none go! Not here, not now!) As he took the stack from me, he said “We’ll just give you 5% off the whole lot, and that will put you under fifty.”) Wait, what? A discount on a discount? My god America – I love you, I love your people, and I love your malls: Retail… a price for suckers? Oh how I miss that mall.


Now, more about discounted comics - my next post will be about the North American Anime Convention: Anime North. And oh, the doozy that post will be. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wisdom Comes from Many Places

I just stumbled upon a post over at Kuro5hin titled How to Quit Your Job and Travel the World.

I've been thinking of writing a post along these lines for some time, but as I'm already so back logged (and heading to Anime North this weekend - thus preventing me from creating anything substantial over these brief two days off) I felt I should share the linky love and pass this site on to the rest of you.

Sure the author uses a homicidal anarchist who kills thousands as a basis for good advice (I am jacks waning sense of surprise) but the points he makes are still valid.

From never fearing to go it alone, to always remembering your own towel, this post doesn't leave one hanging. Peppered with popcultural refferences it's also a worthwhile read just to see what names will be dropped next, and how they'll be used.

Pleasant reading, all.

[marking cout]
23 essays, 50 journals, and thirty creative pieces left to mark.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Breaking News: You could save BIG TIME!

Well, that's not really breaking news, but an article was brought to my attention from the Professional Hobo. She has recently written an article on travelling full time for less than 14 000 per year. As someone looking to travel full time, I find this quite useful, and can only assume that there are a number of you out there who might also want to get in on some of her tips and tricks.

To break it down, she has organized her post into sections:
  1. Save 80% on Airfare
  2. Work for Accommodation
  3. Get Free Accommodation
  4. Work While Traveling
  5. Learn the Truth About Volunteering
  6. Become a Part of a Community
  7. Avoid the Biggest Trap
  8. Be Food Wise
  9. Roll with the Punches
  10. Rethink Travel Expenses
  11. Travel Slowly
Don't those look fantastic folks? I know I'm enamored. So please, by all means, go give it a look and help spread the useful knowledge and information. Undoubtedly you'll be glad you did. Even if not for the tips, than the writing style alone.

[we now return to the sloggingly slow updates, and torturouly spaced updates you've become used to here over the last little while. I tell you what though, they're in the works. I only hacve 35 tests, 28 essays, 100 journals, and thirty creative pieces left to mark, and then I'll be golden! Plus the Blue Jays aren't in town, which gives me little reason to go out. So - they're coming. Please bear with me!]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spotlight on Hardee's

Hardee's Restaurant opened in 1960 and is the fourth largest hamburger selling restaurant in the United States of America. In fact, it trails only behind McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy's.

Just like McDonalds, Hardee's featured kid's meals - offering up such delightful toys as the California Raisins.

Only now do I realize that it was at Hardee's, back when I was in grade three, that I aquired my personified raisin toys.

As mentioned in my previous post Hardee's is well known for there fantastically caloric foods. By putting gross amounts of food on top of gross amounts of food, Hardee's has tapped into a market ripe for the picking. In fact their flagship burger is the Monster Thick Burger.

What is the Monster Thick Burger one might ask? Well - it is a double bacon cheeseburger slathered with Mayo. It is your daily recommended intake of fat, and then some. It is over 1400 calories all in one neat little package. It is... disgusting, and unfortunately, quite delicious.

There is marketing genius in American fast food chains that I am only now learning of. This is a constant through a number of chains: loads of food, for low prices. The idea being that if it's cheap to order mass quantities of food, you'll do it. But then you'll acclimatize to the amount of food. And the next time you'll order more, and more - each time becoming use to the food.

Now - I'm still not sure the purpose of this, unless they're in line with the privatized health care system - as it's just as profitable to make people pay more for less, as we do here in "the Canada." But - I'm sure there's something more to it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fast Food Connections

You can tell a lot about a culture by its food. In this case, you can tell even more about a culture by its fast food.

As Canadians we tend to separate ourselves from Americans. We do this often when we travel. We will wear the flag on our pack, or on a bandana around our head. In some cases we will just clothe ourselves from head to toe is the gool ol' red and white. But deep down inside we truly believe Americans are not all that different from us.

What can one strip of land, the largest unguarded boarder on earth, really do to change people? Certainly someone born one hundred kilometers north would be similar to one born one hundred kilometers south. And we really do tend to believe this, until it comes smashing down around us, smacking us in the face.

The Hardee's Experience
Stopping the inane shouting of "Chimpanzie that! It's MONKEY NEWS!" from the Rickie Gervais podcast, being able to take no more of the ramblings of one known only as Karl, we pulled into a Hardee's parking lot.

Hardee's is a restaurant that I remember fondly from my youth growing up in Florida. Though I only fully spent my grade three school year there, I did travel back for every Christmas, March Break, and Summer vacation for the better part of my life. I'd travelled there so many times, I can honestly say that if I never return, that will be just fine with me.

But there I was at Hardees, trying to explain to my travelling companions that this would be a cultural experience the likes they had never dreamed of. Surely it would be similar to a McDonalds, they tried to offer up - they were disbelievers. They were disbelievers until the moment they stepped through the doors.

Inside were a large number of white men and women whose leather belts were all strapped to their last hole. "These are my people!" I proclaimed. I was not the odd one out this time, no - for south of the border I blend in seamlessly with the environment. It was they who seemed visually out of place.

But like anything, the more you stare at it, the more you notice the differences rather than the similarities. Now I am by no means a small man, but at the same time - the shirts I wear could be worn by someone trying to pull of a "baggy look." The shirts these people wore - could make two of my own shirts. And I don't say this to offend, or insult, for I hold nothing against these people, and I hold nothing against those who like to eat. I too enjoy a delicious meal - often if possible.

While my companions searched the menu, lost amongst the foreign choices, I headed to the washroom. It was on that brief stroll that two more oddities struck me. Just past the ordering counter was an alcove, darkly lit full of cigarette machines, and no less than three different hunting arcade games. Why you could digitally hunt rabbits and foxes, or move up to large game such as deer. But for the truly daring, the dangerous game hunter machine offered the most deadly of northern beasts for your shooting pleasure: The polar bear!

And there were people playing these games.

And they were actually dressed in their hunting clothes.

This was difference number one. As I shook my head (and secretly wished I had some quarters in my pocket) I made my way further onward towards the washroom. I was stopped only when I saw a spinning rack of t-shirts: "Jesus died for MYSPACE in heaven!" And it had the my space logo... HERO (with the Heroes TV logo, and a bible verse below it.) A picture of the "Easy Button" from business depot, with the word Jesus replacing easy. The slogan below? The simple solution. There were over twenty different delightful varieties. All sorts of ways for you to show, through t-shirted joy, your love for Jesus Christ. This is something we don't often offer in Canadian fast food joints, or accompanying service centres.

A closer inspection of the tag would reveal the price: 9.99* (*price may be different for XXL - 4XL sizes) ... ... ... 4XL sizes?! I had not even heard of such a thing before - though I admit to being slightly excited by the possibility.

A quick glace back to all the locals sitting down eating their meals - the excitement was removed, but replaced with understanding.

But honestly, who can blame them? Hardee's offers a 1/3lb cheeseburger, for only a couple of bucks. No time for 1/4pounders here - no sir. 1/3 pound or nothing! And then for an extra 59 cents, they will top that burger with 1/3lb of steak. That's right - an extra third pound of meat for just over half a dollar. And their fries? Well you'd be crazy to not pay the 29 cents to get them slathered in cheese and bacon.

Yes - American fast food - a lot becomes clear here. A lot of the eating is a cultural experience - though my companions didn't quite understand what I meant - not until the Amish family walked in, in their hand stitched denim clothing, leaving their horses hitches up to the fence by the high way. They were on their way to sell pies from a wagon stored near by.

Fast food: It's definitely a cultural experience the world over.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back to Basics

My updates have been slim as of late. And there is an excuse for that, although not an entirely good one in regards to the web-o-sphere. It is the end of the school year, and as such there was been nothing but projects, tests, and marking. Terrible terrible amounts of projects, tests, and marking.

I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to start focusing on Toronto – and this is true. The summer months are definitely giving me a reason to get out and about and explore my city. However, I’d like to first finish off some topics I’d alluded to some time past. These will include the Canada West road trip, and the Road Trip to Columbus Ohio.

The Road Trip
If there’s one thing that every group of friends needs to partake in, it’s a classic road trip. A journey filled with terrible music (or in this case, far more terrible podcasts.) Along the path you’ll find fast food, snacks, a terrible need to use a restroom when none present themselves, and long onward stretching nights on the road.

My journey would take me from the simple, sensical side of Canada to the inconceivable world of the United States of America. Belt sizes would increase, jesus would become far more prevalent on t-shirts, and the most fantastic outlet/strip malls would overtake the horizon.

Delicious fast food, unheard of in the unassuming north, would present wondrous opportunities for savory sensations. Bookstores would offer 95% off sales, on the most needed treasures. Motels would – well, cheap one night motels are the same the continent over. These were the places I would travel. these are the things I would do.

Ohh – and there was a soccer game too. Right, I almost forgot.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Summer's on it's Way!

Sunday saw a vibrant return to life in the city. A number of things were responsible for this, I'm sure, but for me it was simply the sunny sky. I could walk around in my M.E.C. purchased closed toe sandals, feeling pretty fantastic with myself. Ohh, how I watched as my pile of potential marking piled up and up and up. But that didn't concern me (mind you, I'll be staying up late the next few nights to get through it all.) No, it was a beautiful day and I had just purchased a new camera. It was time to get out there and see the city.

I started off walking down Front Street, passing by the memorial to all those who died in industrial accidents. Some died by being killed in a bread mixer, others dies in an explosion in a fruit juice factory. Each plaque, a reminder - work place safety is everyone's concern. Think about that next time you're asked to stand inside a human sized blender (also known as a bread mixer.) David Ellis' parents will always remember. Coincidentally, my school had an assembly about him last month.

My main goal for the day was going to a Hot Doc (Toronto's Documentary film festival) but I had some time to kill, so I thought - why not take in three innings or so of the Blue Jay's game? I saw two home runs, and got a ticket that I could later use for pizza. When I left the Rogers Centre (read: Sky Dome) the street car moved me much faster than I had anticipated. I decided for a brief stop at Kensington Market to photograph the graffiti there. This was a trip I'd long since put off.

And then it was just a quick walk to the Royal Cinema on College.

Toronto - some people will tell you it's a small city, or that there's nothing to do: They're just not trying hard enough. It's a great city, a beautiful city; it's my city.

Over the next little while, you'll see some Toronto Highlights, tourist suggestions, and all number of other local things which may include restaurant reviews, and local hot spots. If you're planning to be in the Greater Toronto Area, stay tuned.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Departures: Video Clips and More

For the record, I'd just like to point out that this site is not about Justin Lukach or his girlfriend. Why, this site isn't even about Scott Wilson. In fact, this site has very little to do with the show Departures.

With that being said, I will cater to those who click on my links. So here, for you all, is yet another Departures special.

Departure's Video Clips
Season One Introduction

Season Two Introduction

Deleted Scene: Green Fashion

Deleted Scene: Taj Mahal or Batmobile? Justin Lukach being himself

Departures Interviews
Departures on E-Talk

Departures Links
Departures Entertainment
Departures Episode Guide
Departures: Wikipedia Entry

So who am I:
I'm a teacher who is planning to travel the world for a year, inspired by the show Departures. I will be travel blogging along the way, perhaps shooting my own videos now and then (as memory allows. Fun Fact: A 24 minute HD video requires a full 8GB memory card.)

You can read about my previous trips to Japan, New York City, and across Canada. You can also read about my planning for my Around the World Trip.

On my trip, I will be vising a number of the locations Scott Wilson, Justin Lukach, and Andre Dupuis went to on their own journeys. The overlap will be Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Spain, Zambia, Chile, and Antarctica.

If you'd like to see those countries from a different perspective, please feel free to check back regularily.

Happy travels.
All original text and photographs Copyright © 2009 one.year.trip / previously.bitten | Theme Design by previously.bitten | Entries and Comments.Powered by Blogger