5 Product Switches For Cruelty-Free Hygiene

Instead of LifeDeathBrand cotton pads, try:

Make-up Removers

EcoTools Eco Cleansing Sponges, made with soybean oil and cotton, are soft on one side for make-up removal and spongy on the other, offering mild exfoliation for the face and lips. But best of all, each one lasts for one month and a bag costs the same amount as a bag of cotton swabs.

Instead of Secret or some shit, try:


Kiss My Face Liquid Rock has a liquid crystal roll-on deodorant that doesn’t contain aluminum. The summer scent smells like orange blossom.

Instead of Crest or some shit, try:

**I was going to put this –

Damn. The strawberry flavour was so non-poisonous tasting.

Damn. The strawberry flavour was so non-poisonous tasting.

…but have learned that, although Tom’s of Maine was once a great company, they are now owned by Colgate (raging animal testers!). You can buy Tom’s of Maine with the reasoning that it will influence Colgate to change their animal testing policies (PETA is taking this stance), but I’ll be looking for an alternative to Toms of Maine Silly Strawberry toothpaste.

Instead of Pantene or some shit, try:

citress-shampooEarth Science Citress Shampoo lathers nicely, and has a real fruit extracts like grapefruit, orange, and lemon that give it a mild refreshing scent.

Instead of l’Oreal Studio FX or some shit (which smells like a Rico Suave on the prowl), try:

albaAlba Botanica Strong Hold Style Gel has wheat proteins, B vitamins, and antioxidant protection. It’s a lightweight effective gel, however I suggest wetting your hands before applying to help it absorb. With strict policies against animal testing:

We share your concern that animals not be used to test cosmetics, toiletries and household products. We do not test our products or ingredients on animals, nor do we ask others to do so for us. Furthermore, we require that all our ingredient suppliers meet the same criteria of no animal testing. We offer a unique collection of quality personal care products for caring consumers seeking natural, organic and cruelty-free ingredient alternatives within the vegetarian ethic.

… Alba is smarter than Jessica herself.

Now, a bibliographic music sample of the lyric that inspired this title. RIP Left Eye : (

Vegan with a 9mm Handgun

April 29, 2009

On April 21, 2009, the FBI added ‘Animal Rights Extremist’, San Diego Daniel Andreas, to their Most Wanted Terrorist List.

Uh huh. Okay. So if you're radical, you don't have time to shave.

Uh huh. Okay. So if you're radical, you don't have time to shave.

An “animal rights extremist” from Berkeley, Calif., was added to the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list of terror suspects last week. Daniel Andreas San Diego, a 31-year-old computer specialist, has been on the run since 2003 and is wanted in two bombings of corporate offices in California, said Michael J. Heimbach, an assistant director of the FBI’s counterrorism division. “He is a known animal rights extremist” (you mean like an Islamic Holy War extremist?) Heimbach told reporters Tuesday at a Washington, D.C., news conference. He added that San Diego set an improvised explosive device in the bombings that caused “extensive property damage and economic hardship.” “The investigation revealed that metal nails were used in the construction of the device to create a more forceful effect,” Heimbach said. It’s the first time an accused domestic terrorist has been put on the “Most Wanted List,” which includes Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and Adam Yahiye Gadahn.

San Diego has a tattoo that proclaims, “It only takes a spark,” according to authorities.  An arrest warrant was issued for San Diego after the 2003 bombings in Northern California of the corporate offices of Chiron Corp., a biotechnology firm, and at Shaklee Corp., a nutrition and cosmetics company. The explosions caused minor damage and no injuries (this is just sick). A group calling itself “Revolutionary Cells” took responsibility for the blasts, telling followers (you mean like cult followers?) in a series of e-mails that Chiron and Shaklee had been targeted for their ties to a research company that conducted drug and chemical experiments on animals. Officials have offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to his capture, five times the reward amounts offered for other so-called eco-terrorists wanted in the U.S. In February, the FBI announced San Diego may be living in Costa Rica, possibly working with Americans or people who speak English in the Central American country.

Law enforcement officials describe San Diego as a strict vegan who possesses a 9mm handgun (strict vegan? Does he whip his hummus?..) On his abdomen, he has images of burning and collapsing buildings. The FBI’s “Most Wanted” terrorist list is distinct from the much longer-running “Ten Most Wanted” list. Al Qaeda chief bin Laden is on both.

Well the good news is, if Bin Laden is on both lists and the US does fuck all to find him, then San Diego should be just fine.

In a “free” country where you can get arrested for leafleting outside a restaurant, where you can have your free vegan cupcakes confiscated, where you can be ostracized and even fired for your dietary choices in your workplace, and where you can do jail time for releasing sentient beings who spend their entire lives suffering in confinement for someone else’s profit, is contributing to the economic loss of such industries so unreasonable?

1. The Crucify Kit


Feeling guilty? Want to share Jesus’s pain? Or share your pain with him? Try The Crucify Kit! Salvation sold separately.

2. The Chewbaccapacka


You’re never alone with The Chewbaccapacka.

3. The Bluntcake Candle


The Bluntcake Candle: If you blow it out, your wish won’t come true.

4. The Cupcake Bandage


The Cupcake Bandage: Hurt me now.

5. The Tape Tape


The Tape Tape: The 80s and the homonym together 4eva.

6. The Have-Your-Bacon-And-Still-Not-Eat-It-Too


Huggable pig flesh with realistic terrified expression.


Dawn of a New Canada

April 26, 2009

Proudly Archaic

Snowflake Furs: Proudly Archaic

Interview with Megan Halprin, co-owner of Snowflake Furs:

Megan Halprin, co-owner of Snowflake Furs

Megan Halprin

(What’s funny is that Megan wouldn’t give me her name and wanted to be referred to as “someone from Snowflake”. Why doesn’t Megan want to stand behind her views?)

This is a summary of Megan Halprin’s answers, because after initially agreeing to be on camera she then refused. Megan’s feathers were clearly ruffled when I entered the store as she tried to identify who I was. She asked who I was with and I replied that I was there as an individual (my pins and stickers barely concealed). She asked what my opinion was on the protest and I said it didn’t matter because I was here to collect her opinions – here they are:

  • What is your opinion on the protesting happening outside your store right now? I think it’s uncalled for and hypocritical. Fur is no different than leather or silk. They are targeting us when many other retailers sell animal products and they themselves are not entirely free of using any animal products.
  • Why do you think there is such a backlash against fur over other animal-derived clothing? Because people don’t have cows, goats, and sheep as pets. They see the small, furry animals as cuter, more relatable.
  • Have the protesters had any negative impact on your relationship with Fairmont Hotels? No. They have had no media attention. We have been with Fairmont for thirty years.
  • Except for me. No offense, but you’re not really media.
  • Right. I’m small press, but several hundred people read this blog (update* over 1000 a day)
  • Do you wear fur? Yes. I don’t think we’re doing anything wrong. We’re not trying to cover up what we’re selling (though Snowflake no longer displays any fur in their windows). We don’t say we’re selling fake fur and have it mixed with real fur. We don’t sell dog fur, or fur from endangered species, or seal fur.
  • Would you consider selling seal fur? Seal fur has been worn in this country for a long time. When the native cultures hunt it they use the entire animal.
  • Are you aware that in Canada’s commercial seal hunt, where 300 000 seals are killed every year, the seals are killed for their skins and then simply discarded? That’s called culling. If they didn’t do this, the marine life would be off balance.
  • The protests have been going on for along time now. Are they affecting you? I just think that people have the right to make up their own minds. Everyone has the right to choose for themselves. If they want to wear fur and shop here, that’s their decision. It’s their right to make their own choice.
  • But then (the protesters) also have the right to stand in the street and protest, right? They don’t have the right to yell at people and berate our store. The way they’re acting is harassment.
  • I think the reason they’re behaving in a harassing fashion is because they feel that the animals are being subjected to even more harassing practices. How would you feel if people kept harassing you at work, calling and hanging up and trying to ruin your business?
  • I think if I was working in a store in which I may have overlooked something about the product I was selling, I might be open to what the callers were trying to say. I haven’t overlooked anything. I don’t think it’s okay to call a person’s store and hang up, or affect the business of Griffin’s Restaurant beside us – they don’t have anything to do with this. (The Shac Model in action!) People have the right to get information, but the protesters are distorting the facts. They don’t know who our suppliers are. They don’t know where our fur comes from.
  • I think they’re trying to express that all fur production is inhumane…

(I decided to end the interview here.)

Some self-insight from Snowflake:

“What will the future bring? Rokie is trying to spend less and less time in the office and is hoping to leave more and more of the day-to-day running of the company to the Head Office Team. She is still President and CEO, and continues to hold the overall vision of the company. Megan Halprin sits in the chair as CFO. With the support of our suppliers, agents, and staff we will continue to grow and thrive. Simply the best in great Canadian design has been our catch phrase for over a decade. We will continue to grow into it.”

So the questions become: Who are Snowflake’s suppliers? Who are its agents? Its staff? And would these people take their business elsewhere if they were persistently faced with the stress of being reminded of the moral implications behind the products they are selling?

Are you more afraid of aging than death?

Then sit back and let me be your lab rat today in:

3 Cruelty-Free Sunless Tanners

Pitted Against Each Other

1. Clarins Liquid Bronze Self-Tanning


Brand: Clarins claims their motto is “plants and nothing but plants”. Clarins also claims that it was one of the first companies to stop testing on animals in 1988.

Scent: Eggnog. It doesn’t have that nauseating soy-sauce-brown-sugar scent that many other self-tanners emanate, but still has a strong scent.

Effectiveness: Clarins Liquid Bronze Self Tanning works, but at what cost? (see below)

Longevity: Clarins Liquid Bronze Self Tanning should be applied every 2 or 3 days.

Skin Irritation: ingredients include DHA, Erythrulose, aloe vera, and vitamin e. I did notice some mild breakouts with this product, possibly because the product contains too many ingredients (hence the added scent to conceal them.)


Verdict: Although the scent of this product is better than most, its ingredients are not gentle enough on the skin.

2. Phytomer Creamy Self Tanning Gel


Brand: Phytomer claims to have respect for natural equilibrium in their algae farming practices. They also claim to act for environmental protection.

Scent: None. The only self-tanner I have tried that does not smell. There is a fragrance listed in the ingredients, but it does not smell, let alone smell like a self-tanner.

Effectiveness: Aye, there’s the rub… While Phytomer’s Creamy Self Tanning Gel appears to work on the body, producing a light, but natural tan, the results aren’t as noticeable on the face.

Longevity: I applied this stuff every single day to my face while I was in Hawaii, and still couldn’t tell if it was working. Even the body results only last 2 days max.

Skin Irritation: Phytomer contains marine sugars to stimulate the skin’s melanin. The product is a clear, silky gel, but has more of an oily than creamy texture, no matter what they say. So does it cause breakouts? The rich texture is not something those with problem skin want to risk.

Price:$44.50 ~ Yowsa.

Verdict: Better work for that price! Oh right, it doesn’t really.

3. Nature’s Gate Upper Tanagement


Brand: Nature’s Gate Organics claims to seek to replace chemicals with natural alternatives and claims to value sustainability.

Scent: Coffee ice cream or Bailey’s, but mild – not overbearing.

Effectiveness: This stuff is dope. It works overnight to create a natural look.

Longevity: Tanagement should be applied roughly twice a week. 

Skin Irritation: Containing olive oil as a moisturizer and ivy as a soothing anti-inflammatory, Tanagement is the best natural colour you can get without rubbing dirt and berries on your skin. Because this tanner is in the cream form, it can be mixed with moisturizers and (so far) has not induced any breakout wrath.

Price: Tanagement is on sale at Whole Foods right now for $14.99 ~ an unbeatable price. (Normally it is around $22.00)

Verdict: Hands down winner!

*None of these products are tested on animals.

And now, a bibliographic shout out to the propaganda that inspired this title:

Hopefully the kids asked their parents, then thought about it on their own, possibly researching the different drugs available, possibly from the library from an AADAC pamphlet and determined what their effects were, then went out and experimented with a couple (and questionned the ones that were tested on animals), then made the decision for themselves.

Animals In the Basement

April 26, 2009

Candlelight Vigil for Lab Animals


In the basement of St.Paul’s Hospital on busy Burrard, at UBC, SFU, BC Children’s Hospital, VGH, and the ICORD Centre, animals are being tested on right beneath our eyes, Canada silently advocating the death of 250 000 000 animals per year. Why is no one questioning these methods?

Because of the underlying belief that our pain is different from an animal’s – that our lives are worth more. Because some sad0-masichistic part of the collective unconscious believes that we must cause pain in order to heal ourselves. Le’ts take a closer look at Jessie’s sign.

Is this the way to healing?

Is this the way to healing?

Stepping over the discarded needles in the mossy grass outside St.Paul’s, we looked into the hospital’s basement windows in the labratories where the animals are being killed. “When one animal is experimented on – it’s sick, when many animals are experimented on it’s science.” (One of Jessie’s pins)

No animals in view, only torture equipment, most likely because they don't want broken windows.

No animals in view, only torture equipment, most likely because they don't want broken windows.

The AD-AV (Animal Defense & Anti-Vivisection Society of BC) has posted an article by surgeon, Werner Hartinger on their website, entitled:


Werner Hartinger, MD, Surgeon

“The problem of animal experimentation is complex, many-sided and hard to fathom. The cruel and deadly use of animals has been legalized by politicians, justified by church institutions, described as unavoidable by science and industry, accepted without criticism by too many people not interested in the sufferings of others, and defended in every way by all those who gain profit from it…”

Dove's next campaign? Yes, Dove tests on animals.

Dove's next campaign? Yes, Dove tests on animals.

We must become label readers.

We must become internet sleuths and share with each other the information we learn.

We must look for The Leaping Bunny, an international symbol that represents the most rigorous standards in the humane treatment of animals.



Wanting to make more vegan choices after learning about the brutalities of the dairy and egg industries, but having a hard time giving up the indulgences you’re used to?

As a longtime veggie, I crave a good sugar rush but have started exploring ways to replace those cravings (replace, not reduce). On my quest to become more vegan (full vegan, possibly – we’ll take it one day at a time) I have discovered some delightful alternatives to get a good shuga-buzz going, which don’t involve cow rape and/or exploding chickens.

1) Ohmygod Shoes Vegan Cupcakes!

Yesterday for Earth Day, Liberation B.C. gave out 400 vegan cupcakes. I tried the vanilla ones, fell in love, and have tracked down a few similar recipes for y’all.

Earth Day cupcakes

Earth Day cupcakes

– Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes from ChezBettay

– Fluffy White Cupcakes from ShmooedFood (these ones are calling my name, literally. My dad’s nickname for me from my childhood: Schmooker)

– Golden Vanilla Cupcakes from Culinate

Golden Vanilla Cupcakes

Golden Vanilla Cupcakes

I have made a lot of cupcakes in my time and have tried them from Crave Cupcakes and other so-called pros, but normally I find that the icing is too buttery and the cake part is too crumbly. These vegan cupcakes were compact, had a delicious cakey taste, and the icing was a very palatable texture.

2) Organic Gummi Bears

These bad boys can be tracked down at Capers or Whole Foods in the bulk section. Make sure you snack on a few before you pay for them though so as not to succumb to being overcharged : ) Made with fruit pectin instead of gelatin so you’re not chomping on animal bones.

Bouncing here and there and everywhere...

Bouncing here and there and everywhere...

They store-bought ones look like this but more polished and colourful as store-bought things should.

The store-bought ones look like this but more polished and colourful as store-bought things should.

3) Organic Vanilla Sandwich Cookies

Move over Girl Guide cookies, this Country Choice brand vanilla Oreo has gooier icing and a sugar kick like a shot of heroine.

Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Powdered Sugar With Organic Corn Starch, Organic High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Organic Sugar, Organic Oat Flour, Organic Molasses, Baking Soda, Sea Salt, Organic Vanilla Extract, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor.



4) Soy Ice Cream Sandwiches

Hedonism tip: soy ice cream sandwich + hot bath…

I scream, you scream, we all scream for soy ice cream, except the baby cows being slaughtered : )

I scream, you scream, we all scream for soy ice cream, except the baby cows being slaughtered : )

5) Mango-Hurricane Smoothie from Booster Juice*

(*This smoothie is listed as containing yogurt, you simply have to request no yo)

The Booster version is actually pink, but this makes you crave one, right?

The Booster version is actually pink, but this makes you crave one, right?

The trick to this mango-strawberry-guava-passionfruit smoothie, if you want to try making it at home, is passion fruit juice. This healthy slurpee is refreshing, sour, and packed with fruit. Also a great headache cure.

Here are some ingredients to steer clear of if you don’t want to support factory farming:

Casein—Whey’s cousin, casein is made from curdled milk. Yuck!

Gelatin—Rhymes with “skeleton.” Coincidence? I think not. Gelatin is a protein made by boiling cows’ and pigs’ skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Jell-O? Heck, no!

Lard—Lard is such a gross word, it almost makes you wonder why they just don’t call it what it is: “Fat from hog abdomens.”

Pepsin—If the thought of eating lard turns your stomach, stay away from pepsin, a clotting agent from pigs’ stomachs, used in some cheeses and vitamins.

Rennet—Certain words just make you cringe, like coagulate, congeal, clot—which is what rennet, an enzyme taken from baby calves’ stomachs, is used for in cheese production.

Stearic Acid—It may sound less gross than “lard,” but stearic acid, which often rears its ugly head in chocolate and vitamins, comes from a fatty substance taken from slaughtered pigs’ stomachs—or from cows, sheep, or dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters. Still want to chew on that piece of Fido?

Cetyl Palmitate—Check your head if you’re using margarine that contains cetyl palmitate, the fancy term for the waxy oil derived from sperm whales’ heads or from dolphins. “I can’t believe it’s not ” oh, wait. It is” Whale head wax”?

Urea—Urea comes from urine and other “bodily fluids.” It’s used to “brown” baked goods, like pretzels. Um, yeah. And the oven is for ??

Okay, now just for kicks, let’s watch Shoes, betch:

Keep It Locked

April 22, 2009

7 Reasons

Why Drum and Bass

Is Auditorily Orgasmic


Drum and Bass:

The genre is characterized by fast breakbeats (typically between 165–185 bpm, occasional variation is noted in older compositions), with heavy sub-bass lines. Drum and bass began as an offshoot of the United Kingdom rave scene of the very early 1990s. Over the first decade of its existence, the incorporation of elements from various musical genres lent to many permutations in its overall style.


BassDrive is a 24/7 drum and bass radio station featuring live shows with guest DJs, as well as live broadcasts from venues all over the world. Representing the best in drum and bass & jungle music.

1) Layering:

Dnb is substantiated by overlapping beats and melodies fading in and out in indistinguishable patterns. Vocals, rhythms, and instruments are calculatedly introduced into the music either in sequence or simultaneously to create rich, complex sounds not unlike classical music.


2) Continuity:

Given dnb’s frequent transgressions and shape shifting, there is an endless quality to the music in which the listener  becomes deeply absorbed into the music for extended periods of time. Rather than repetition, there is a sensation of soothing pulsation that persists even hours after listening to dnb, accompanied by a compelling interest in what turn the music will take next. With the constant subtle shifting of the music, there is a sense of never having to step away from it to asses what song is playing or if you like the track, because (good) dnb is too intricately blended to dissect. By inserting new bass lines at optimal points within the music and removing them to then replace them with others, there is always an anticipation of which beat will drop next, not a mourning of a particularly good beat that has ended.


3) Harpsichordination:

Yes, I made that word up. But, with the continuous layering of sounds, the effect is that this blend presses several auditory buttons at once, likened to having several pressure points being activated at once by Shiatsu massage, or to the sensation of pressing several keys on an organ. Through precise switches in beat, accompanied by overtones of various pitches, the brain is able to pay attention to two or more sounds at once, resulting in a physical experience similar to clitoral stimulation during penetration. Listening to large amounts of high quality dnb is not only pleasant ~ it is a physical pleasure.

62b3a-harpsichord4) Funk:

For those who enjoy break beats, or even funky house, dnb can emulate the same booty shaking festivity, but with an added intense, complex drive. Once one has listened to drum and bass extensively, new school breaks will sound lacking in something – the up, down, up up, down pattern seeming almost naked, hungry – unfulfilling. There will always be funky, and often heavenly breaks, and the breakbeat is closely related to dnb, but in extensive listening sessions drum and bass can provide a larger variety of funkadellic sounds, sustaining its drive by exploring a wider range of musical  nuances. This music thrives on deep, wobbly, shaken, trippy, soulful, defiant rhythms.


5) Deep Impact:

Some who are not familiar with drum and bass ask: “so what – is it just a drum and some bass?” Well… (not even) close. Perhaps a better way to define drum and bass would be an interplay of deep bass and carefully interspersed treble. Its beauty lies in the variation between sounds, in the sheer range of sound spectrum, always sustained by a low, gyrating rumble – the anchor of the music. This deep beat you can feel in your gut is ideal for dancing to (and has technically created a new genre of dance), and also invites healing.


6) Emotional Healing:

Because drum and bass embraces a wide spectrum of sounds, from the gutteral bass to the dreamy layered tunes painted, lobbed, or injected into it, it is able to stimulate the range of chakras. The sacral chakra – re-igniting primal urges while soothing the broken heart with its musical tear-dropper; the root chakra – building strength and a sense of presence in one’s environment; and the solar plexus chakra – easing digestion and anxiety. Dnb often produces such joy and satisfaction that it leads to a natural release of overwhelming emotion. Beyond which, it provides a sense of  well-being which can act as a blank slate to address other arising emotional issues, or simply allow the third eye chakra to wander.


7) Narrative Essence:

In its shifting complexity, drum and bass conjures a series of unique atmospheres, inspiring distinct abstract  sensations and igniting matching visuals, and/or creating musical storylines linked together only by one’s own navigation. It is the navigational essence of dnb (also present in trance) that sets dnb apart from other genres, the extensive sense of unfolding as it brings you places. Dnb stimulates the imagination not only in images, but through stories – imagined sequences of events churning and developing with the progression of the music.


*Tune in to BassDrive, you won’t be sorry!








In elementary school, we were shown a film on a projector in the gym where a girl who shoplifted a sweater was cuffed and charged, but then her friend, who was with her but stole nothing, was also charged, simply because she knew it was happening. The movie resonated with me. Months later, when a friend of mine wanted to steal friendship rings with me downtown one day, I was extremely distraught and, although I wanted the ring, a gold trinket with a little hanging pearl, I silently urged her not to and reminded her later about “the movie”. Brainwashing works.

I started shoplifting in high school after noticing my cousins with boxes of Colors perfume after we’d left the drug store when they hadn’t bought anything. It took a minute to put two and two together:  “heyyy, where did you guys get those???”… Then, it was whatever was small enough to fit into my pockets. Why pay for anything I could slip up my sleeve? Then it went to another level, stealing bikinis and bras at outlet stores south of the border. And then one day, at the end of a stealing spree at the mall, in a store where all I had stolen was a few accessories, the shopgirl thought for some reason I was stealing clothes (I wasn’t). While I was paying for whatever cheap thing I decided to use as my decoy at the till, I heard the girl calling security. My friend was coming into the store at just this time and I grabbed her arm and booked it out of the mall, reluctantly ditching the stuff I’d stolen in a public washroom garbage. After this, I stopped stealing, not out of guilt, out of fear of being caught.

Later in life, I had girlfriends a few years younger who were busted for stealing rave paraphernalia at Zeller’s: soothers, fake eyelashes, glitter, Vicks Vapour Rub. They were banned from the mall for months. One of the girls was pretty wealthy, and her parents couldn’t figure out why she was stealing. Same reason she went to rave parties : ) As for their consequence, it’s pretty hard to identify a few young girls among thousands of people a day on tiny cameras.

Usually there are no consequences to stealing unless you’re doing it Winona Ryder style. Once while chatting with the manager of a big box video store, he told me that when he suspects people of stealing, he just lets them go. Because he can’t prove it without accosting them and risking assault, and because once an employee of his did chase a guy down and grabbed the thief’s fanny pack to stop him, which was full of dirty needles – the guy was a smack addict. The crimestopper had to take AIDS tests for years afterward.

If you  shoplift at Wal*Mart and someone says: “hey you, stop right there” All you have to say is: “No, thank you!”

(The guy in this vid is a little uptight, maybe due to the sleeves of his gap-t cutting off circulation to his bulging biceps.)

So on this Earth Day, steal a thing or two from the man (*evil corporations ONLY – no Mom and Pop, unless they’re a butchershop, and you’re chucking out the meat after you eat it). Keep your sense of adventure high, and the homogenous corporate spread down.

Revolution, baby.

Depressing Lies

April 18, 2009

Depressing lies:


They’re not true.

Does nursing an “Everything is Going to Be Okay” notion hurt us in the end? Or does it help us to manifest favourable outcomes?


A friend was telling me the other day that she needed to learn to trust herself again, and that her inability to trust herself lead to her inability to trust others. I replied that trust (ing others) was a useless concept because it implies holding others to our personal morals, which are changing daily, and which we could not have formed without a tailored individual life path. Let’s begin with differentiating self-trust from trusting others – defining self-trust as the quiet confidence developed through completing personal challenges. This trust is based on empirical evidence, eg. you know you will do the dishes when you come home because you more often than not keep a clean house; in turn, when you do the dishes, you add this information to the idea “I clean frequently, therefore I can trust myself not to let the dishes build up.” Self-trust can be defined as a mental construct built through a series of personal successes that, when utilized (hate that word), is capable of dispersing anxiety over one’s future performance in a given situation. Trust when it comes to trusting others becomes a very different topic, because it involves projecting this self-created mental contruct onto other people, with their own developed mental contructs.

It’s easier to forgive a person for a mistake you have already made yourself. For example: you’ve rear-ended another car, so when it happens to you, you understand the potential guilt that the person who inflicted the damage to your car may be suffering, and rather than become frustrated with them, you choose to alleviate their guilt as much as possible. But when you are wronged by a person in a way you have never wronged anyone, it becomes nearly impossible to forgive, the notion that you would never have done this to someone stronger than any forgiveness. For example: a person using you for sex. Maybe you can’t imagine how a person could separate sex from love, and see it as sociopathic. When a person betrays our trust, they are simply not living up to the morals we have projected onto them.

There are times in our lives when we are seeking a specific type of attention from the people in our life and not a single person is able to provide this solace to us. This can be an opportunity to a) never trust anyone again, or b) to build a relationship with yourself that can withstand the extremity of any emotion, or both. Maybe trusting is a positive choice…

At its most fundamental level, “trust” is defined as relying on a person or deity to come through, or expecting a situation to unfold in a certain way; it is a way of obligating something outside of ourselves to take responsibility. The essence of the word trust represents trying to impose a certain outcome. And if  “God”, ie. The Universe, ie. The Source lets us down, then It has broken our trust. It has betrayed us. It has acted against our best interest. So what is the use of having the trust in the first place? Does nursing an “Everything is Going to Be Okay” notion hurt us in the end? Or Does it help us to manifest favourable outcomes?

Trust is, in effect – an attachment to results. And this is the very thing that holds us back in most situations – the constant monitoring of life, comparing its outcomes to what we thought would happen. If we were able to sustain judgment and assume nothing – that not a single person would come through for us, and we deserved no happiness simply by birthright, then wouldn’t be ecstatic to receive a thoughtful remark from a friend, or a sunny day?

While riding in the van of a friend one day (and questioning his sanity as rolled hash on a frisbee on his lap with one hand while speeding), he made the intelligent remark that he had no use for “hope”, because hope insinuated that maybe someday you might get a sliver of what you want, but that “faith” was the stronger term because it was a present knowing that was happening now was directly related to what was to come. He looked at hope as crossing one’s fingers, and faith as certainty.

But is there a a danger to faith? A danger in asserting certainty when curiosity persists? (aka. those who have been sworn to a particular religion and who are expected to stay loyal to their doctrine simply by “having faith”). Faith is often defined as the opposite of gathering empirical evidence for something – to not question and “simply have faith”. This concept of faith seems curiously similar to the definition of trust, the “trust me” mentality that something happened a particular way, or that there is one correct way to live one’s life.


There is a place for different type of faith though that can come in handy… This faith comes freely in moments of happiness – “See, everything worked out just fine…” and you feel silly that you worried so much, you feel like you were wasting your  time. But when things are bad, it’s much easier to “lose faith”, to feel that the badness is the state you will always return to eventually. The Handy Faith comes from observing this flux and making the choice of which extremity you would prefer to call home. The Handy Faith is the choosing of one’s home.

Whether your essential final place of rest lies in your happy memories, or your eventual failure… Both are  simultaneously true; we can’t ignore death. You will lose the ones you love and the ability to pursue your passions, at some point in your existence. But, the potential use of The Handy Faith involves accepting the notion of “hell” as an essential stage of strengthening your vital relationship with The Other World, the place where you are, and have, everything. “Even here? I can be in THIS horrid place, and still somehow come back to “heaven”?” The Handy Faith is an acceptance of inevitable change, followed by a deep understanding of unconditional love – the idea that there is no one out to get you, that every experience you pass through is a divine piece of evidence for eternal bliss.

So how is “trust” related to “faith”?

Trust: a reliance on a projected outcome

Faith: a confident belief in a self-decided truth

Trust is a glance into the future, and faith is more of a feeling.

Trust seems to be outside of one’s self, while faith seem to be internal.

Having faith in a person seems to imply that that person is already doing a good job, and that if they screw up, it will be an essential part of their path. Trust seems to imply that you hold a person in high regard, and have built them up as a pillar to lean on in times of emergency, but this directly defies the concept of The Handy Faith, because you are setting a contract for conditional love – “If you do this, as I trusted you to, then I’ll keep regarding you as highly as I do now.

Trust is conditional; Faith is unconditional…

The SHAC Model

April 14, 2009

“…but that’s precisely why governments exist: to protect corporations and preserve the smooth functioning of the capitalist economy.”

CrimethInc, a decentralized anarchist collective composed of many cells which act independently in pursuit of a freer more joyous world, recently posted an essay on the effectiveness of The SHAC Model, ie. the tactics used by Stop Hungtingdon Animal Cruelty in order to shut down Huntingdon Life Death Sciences. The SHAC movement has been one of the most successful activist campaigns in recent history, despite some of its members being jailed.

“On December 21, 2000, HLS was dropped from the New York Stock Exchange; three months later, it lost its place on the main platform of the London Stock Exchange as well. HLS was only saved from bankruptcy when its largest remaining shareholder, the American investment bank Stephens, gave the company a $15 million loan.” CrimethInc.

(HLS then moved from the UK to the US because of its greater anonymity for shareholders.)

The radical tactics used by SHAC supporters ranged from effective home protests, to an employee being hospitalized after being beaten with an axe handle (someone using the Bush style violence-to-end-violence technique). But the most effective strategies used by SHAC were targeting HLS’s affiliates, their investors and supporters, who generally did not have a personal attachment to HLS strong enough to withstand the pressure they were receiving from SHAC to stop doing business with HLS, and who, out of terror from the notorious name SHAC had gained for itself in the press, withdrew from the controversial situation.


This sexy terrorist is rocking a studly black leather jacket, a favourite among bad-ass animal activists.

The following video, SHAC Strikes Back, features some undercover footage of animal abuse within the HLS labs and the widespread tactics that were bravely used by SHAC.

The disturbing footage in this video helps to explain why radical means were used to fight back against animals being used as scientific objects. The question becomes: Does hurting a sentient being ever justify scientific solutions to alleviate sentient beings from pain?

(…to health problems arising from things like lab-created carcinogenic chemicals packed into our food, clothing and possessions, but that’s another story…)

Is it the end, or the means to the end that matters?


Huntingdon Life Sciences: Making Pain Profitable

And will it ever stop? Will there not always be reasons to run experiments on animals unless we decide ethically as a planet to use more effective human alternatives, such as human tissue experiments and computer models?

“The number of activists isn’t huge, but their impact has been incredible . . . There needs to be an understanding that this is a threat to all industries.
The tactics could be extended to any other sectors of the economy.”

–Brian Cass, managing director of HLS


“Carr Securities began marketing the Huntingdon Life Sciences stock. The next day, the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, to which certain Carr executives reportedly belong, was vandalized by animal rights activists. The extremists sent a claim of responsibility to the SHAC website, and three days after the incident, Carr terminated its business relationship with HLS.”

John Lewis, Deputy Assistant Director
FBI Oversight on so-called “Eco-terrorism”

Direct action against those doing business with HLS has taken many forms, occasionally escalating to arson and violence. In February 2001, HLS managing director Brian Cass was hospitalized after being attacked with axe handles at his home. That July, the Pirates for Animal Liberation sank the yacht of a Bank of New York executive, and the bank soon severed ties with the lab. A year later, smoke bombs were set off at the offices of Marsh Corp. in Seattle, causing the evacuation of the high rise and their disassociation from HLS. In fall of 2003, incendiary devices were left at Chiron and Shaklee corporations for their contracting with HLS. In 2005, Vancouver-based brokerage Canaccord Capital announced that it had dropped a client, Phytopharm PLC, in response to the ALF firebombing of a car belonging to a Canaccord executive; Phytopharm had been doing business with HLS. All this took place against a backdrop of constant smaller-scale actions.

In December 2006, HLS was prevented from being listed on the New York Stock Exchange, an unprecedented development that resulted in a full page ad in the New York Times portraying a masked, apparently leather-jacketed caricature of an activist declaring “I control Wall Street. In 2007, eight companies dropped HLS, including their two biggest investors, AXA and Wachovia, following home demonstrations and ALF visits to executives’ houses. In 2008, incendiary devices were left under Staples trucks and Staples outlets were vandalized. About 250 companies altogether have dropped in the course of the campaign, including Citibank, the world’s largest financial institution; HSBC, the world’s largest bank; Marsh, the world’s largest insurance broker; and Bank of America.

“We were aware of the activists, but I don’t think we understood exactly to what lengths they would go.”

–Warren Stevens, on dropping a $33 million loan to
Huntingdon Life Sciences despite having vowed never to do so,
following rioting at his offices in Little Rock and vandalism of his property

The SHAC Model

When people think of SHAC, they picture demonstrations at the homes of employees and investors; some anarchists mean nothing more than this when they refer to the “SHAC model.” But home demonstrations are merely incidental to the formula that has enabled SHAC to wreak such havoc upon HLS. To understand what made the campaign effective, we have to look at all its essential characteristics together.

• Secondary and tertiary targeting:The SHAC campaign set about depriving HLS of its support structure. Just as a living organism depends on an entire ecosystem for the resources and relationships it needs to survive, a corporation cannot function without investors and business partners. In this regard, more so than any standard boycott, property destruction, or publicity campaign, SHAC confronted HLS on the terms most threatening to a corporation. Starbucks could easily afford a thousand times the cost of the windows smashed by the black bloc during the Seattle WTO protests, but if no one would replace those windows—or the windows had been broken at the houses of investors, so no one would invest in the corporation—it would be another story. SHAC organizers made a point of learning the inner workings of the capitalist economy, so they could strike most strategically.

Secondary and tertiary targeting works because the targets do not have a vested interest in continuing their involvement with the primary target. There are other places they can take their business, and they have no reason not to do so. This is a vital aspect of the SHAC model. If a business is cornered, they’ll fight to the death, and nothing will matter in the conflict except the pure force each party is able to bring to bear on the other; this is not generally to the advantage of activists, as corporations can bring in the police and government. This is why, apart from the axe handle incident, so few efforts in the SHAC campaign have been directed at HLS itself. Somewhere between the primary target and the associated corporations that provide its support structure, there appears to be a fulcrum where action is most effective. It might seem strange to go after tertiary targets that have no connection to the primary target themselves, but countless HLS customers have dropped relations after a client of theirs was embarrassed.

Complementary relationship between public and underground organizing: More than any other direct action campaign in recent history, the SHAC campaign achieved a perfect symbiosis of public organizing and underground action. To this end, the campaign was characterized by an extremely savvy use of technology and modern networking. The SHAC websites disseminated information about targets and provided a forum for action reports to raise morale and expectations, enabling anyone sympathetic to the goals of the campaign to play a part without drawing attention to themselves.

• Diversity of tactics: Rather than pitting exponents of different tactics against each other, SHAC integrated all possible tactics into one campaign, in which each approach complemented the others. This meant that participants could choose from a practically limitless array of options, which opened the campaign to a wide range of people and averted needless conflicts.

• Concrete targets, concrete motivations: The fact that there were specific animals suffering, whose lives could be saved by specific direct action, made the issues concrete and lent the campaign a sense of urgency that translated into a willingness on the part of participants to push themselves out of their comfort zones. Likewise, at every juncture in the SHAC campaign, there were intermediate goals that could easily be accomplished, so the monumental task of undermining an entire corporation never felt overwhelming.

This contrasts sharply with the way momentum in certain green anarchist circles died off after the turn of the century, when the goals and targets became too expansive and abstract. It had been easy for individuals to motivate themselves to defend specific trees and natural areas, but once the point for some participants was to “destroy civilization” and everything less was mere reformism, it was impossible to work out what constituted meaningful action.

Further information analyzing the advantages and limitations of the SHAC model for the future creation of anarchic pursuits can be found on www.crimethinc.com

“Where all animal welfare and most animal rights groups insist on working within the legal boundaries of society, animal liberationists argue that the state is irrevocably corrupt and that legal approaches alone will never win justice for the animals.”

–ALF Press Office

RIP: Goldie & Brenda

April 12, 2009

When I was a kid, my parents bought my younger brother and I two goldfish. My brother named his Goldie, because he would only finish his dinner to the story, Goldilocks, and I named mine Brenda, because, well – that was her name. We kept the two fish in a tank in my brother’s room. One day, I went into the bathroom to notice my mom flushing the fish down the toilet. I felt very uncomfortable about this and asked her why. She replied: “because I didn’t want to take care of them anymore.”

And now I present to you:

Your Mommy Kills Animals

Peta declined to be interviewed for this video, having heard that the film would be taking a critical look at their organization, which it does. Some feel that this movie even pits animal rights groups against each other. However, this is a useful film for deciding where you sit on the animal activist chain – how are animals’ rights different from humans’? One of the most intriguging aspects of this film is the coverage of the SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) 7, a group of seven activists whose rights were unabashedly trampled as they pursued their freedom of speech, each acquiring jail sentences of 3-6 years and fines of a million dollars for protesting at the homes of animal testers and posting contact information for Huntingdon Life Death Sciences online. The SHAC 7 trials are one of the largest human rights violations in recent history.

In the quest to eradicate fur, should animal lovers nix faux fur, too?

Below is a clip of Beyonce (also a promoter for l’Oreal cosmetics, which tests on animals) being made to face the facts of what she’s perpetuating in her clothing line.

Beyonce defers to her mother as she gnaws on a chicken bone.

Some animal rights activists disagree with wearing faux fur because it perpetuates the trend of the ‘fur’ look, making it sometimes hard to distinguish which fur is real, and which is fake. I understand and respect this viewpoint of wanting to shift people’s minds from associating fur with fashion to associating fur with unabashed cruelty, however don’t think that cutting humane fur alternatives from our fashion diets is the solution. I believe humans are drawn to the soft and fuzzy fur-like texture and naturally seek a range of materials in our fashion self-expression, and so instead of denying ourselves of that furry feeling, the best solution is to seek humane alternatives.

Humane alternatives, however, do not consist of “recycled” fur, such as Sunny Fong’s brilliant idea last night on Project Runway Canada to use “Peta friendly” fur from old coats in his new line, the gentle-demeanoured soul failing to consider how this line would be created on a large scale if successful and failing to realize that he is advocating a material sourced (though maybe not purchased himself) from the unnecessary suffering of animals.

Sunny Wong, Project Runway Canada designer using fur in his new collection

Sunny Fong, Project Runway Canada designer using fur in his new collection

Caged White Foxes, A Glimpse Into A Fur Farm

Caged White Foxes, A Glimpse Into A Fur Farm

All ideas come from nature, the umbrella being based on the the idea of a tree, for example. And so just as the veggie burger and the veggie dog flourish, though they sometimes look indistinguishable to meat, so can faux fur substitute our cravings for the soft and fuzzzy IF it’s purchased using thorough investigation (see HOWEVER below). Yes, it makes it harder for animal activists to pinpoint passing culprits on the street, which we naturally train our eyes to do, but for those who would die for fashion, faux fur could become an effective compromise to elminitate the use of all fur in fashion while not eliminating similar textures from the fashion vocabulary.

As awareness spreads about the realities of the animal industry, the world will continue look towards substitutions. It is possible for the extremists of both sides to come together if we provide obtainable ways for meat, fur, and leather lovers to consume cruelty-free substitutions. Diets which deprive are usually given up entirely. Bad habits are more easily quit if they are replaced with an equal, positive behaviour.

Foie gras and veal lovers speak of a waged “vegan war” in which the vegans seek to convert meat eaters and consumers of animal products through an if-you’re-not-with-us-you’re-against-us holy war type crusade. This war is laughable, of course, to most vegans, who are vegan due to their compassionate natures and want to end the violence, not start it.

Okay, this is some mad justified, fun “violence”. Lohan is a faux-lesbian, so it’s reasonable and timely that she make a switch to faux-fur.

The fur industry is sickening and horrific, animals often skinned alive and twitching in their bones before they die. Alternatives are available, making it possible for replacement instead of depravity.

Check out this dope vegan shoe site: www. ragazzivegan.com, for example, which carries faux-fur footwears such as:

Vegan Victoria 1

Vegan Victoria 1

And this:

Vegan Victoria 2

Vegan Victoria 2

And this:

Vegan Victoria 3

Vegan Victoria 3

And even this:

Vegan Suzy

Vegan Suzy

And, OMG, even this:

Vegan Lana

Vegan Lana

Animal activists have made a lot of headway for eliminating fur from fashion, and some designers have coalesced:

  • Anne Klein
  • Calvin Klein
  • Donna Karan

HOWEVER because faux fur has come so far in looking indistinguishable from the real thing, controversy remains.

Peta’s attitude is that as long as it isn’t real, who cares if it looks like it is. But Carol McKenna of the UK anti-fur pressure group Respect is concerned. ‘I used to think fake fur was brilliant, but now it is indistinguishable from the real thing, I fear that the designers using it in this way are perhaps promoting real fur,’ she says.

Also, some designers, in a compromise to use less fur, have begun to mix real and fake together, such as Fendi, which is a pretty lame effort.

When buying faux fur inspect it carefully:

  • Real fur, when you blow on it, will separate in a nearly perfect circle.
  • EBay Canada indicates how to know if you’re buying real fur, and – though it’s written for old school dead-inside people who do want the real stuff – it has some tips on deciphering which is which.

Loopholes And Labels:

“Falsely advertising or mislabeling a real fur product is a violation of the federal Fur Products Labeling Act, which the Federal Trade Commission is empowered to enforce by seizure of false or deceptively advertised or labeled garments, the initiation of proceedings for injunctive relief, and the imposition of monetary penalties, which can range up to $5,000 per violation.

The violations documented by The HSUS include a Burberry brand jacket advertised online by Saks Fifth Avenue as “faux.” The jacket’s label does not indicate that it contains fur, but laboratory tests reveal that it is trimmed with rabbit fur. The Fur Products Labeling Act currently requires the labeling of fur apparel only if the garments contains more than $150 worth of fur.

“Because of this loophole, consumers don’t even realize they’ve been duped into buying real fur,” said Leppert.

Below are some companies that have been busted for using real fur under the guise of faux:

So if you choose to wear faux, be careful of the sneaky, horrific fur industry. Buying from a vegan site like Ragazzi is safer than a department store because they adhere to different ethical practices. If you chose to claim your fashion right of wearing faux fur, take all the measures to assure what you are buying is actually faux.

Cruelty-free fashion is the dawn of a new era~

Step into a World

April 7, 2009

The Back Room

“…the North American dream. What it’s become…”


Are you sure you would like to clock in? the computer asks. Yes/No. These computers, always trying to save us from ourselves. To make my rent tomorrow, I need a hundred dollars in tips tonight. Can the computer save me from eviction? From Visa? I clip on my holster-apron of capless pens and jot down the dinner special, through the windows, the mountain line like frosted glass in the rain, the trees turning gold too early like a greying 22 year old. Winter coming, like the human race – slowly consuming everything. “Every time I do a show, I die a little bit,” Madonna was recently quoted saying, her ripped, veined arms traces of her fighting this inevitable truth too hard. Living is dying, I’m starting to get.madges-guns2 

Willa, table five, Jessica says instead of hello, tapping at the computer screen like she’s trying to scare fish in a tank, her blonde hair tied back into a pokey French braid, her white eyeliner beautiful and scary.

And we have a staff wine tasting tomorrow, are you coming? she asks.

I consider a way to tell her that I place wine connoisseurship in the same category as marriage and the economy – Things That Only Exist In Our Minds.

You’re out of it today, Jessica cuts off my dial-up speed search for words, looking at me like a toothbrush dropped onto the floor of a Super 8.


Can I use your ‘puter? A stray little girl tries to hijack the screen.

Trust me kid, I look down at her, you start pushing their buttons, soon they’ll be pushing yours.

It’s a touch-screen, she corrects me, wandering back to her Blackberry engulfed mother at a nearby table.

The restaurant is full. Pleasant conversations among stylish salt and pepper shakers set to poor Norah Jones stuck on a gerbil wheel of her four greatest hits. The usual designer consignment store clad West Van crew with their complaints that the focaccia bread tastes like it was run through the dishwasher, being placated by servers with efficiently clenched hearts and brows clamped into punctuation marks that may in the end cost more to correct than the tips they’re clamping them for.

Marcel stands behind the bar polishing a wine glass and singing: Ten percent, every now and then I get a little bit more but it always evens out to ten percent … to the tune of Total Eclipse of the Heart , his classic Timmy from Lassie grown-up, golden boy looks a dead match for his show tune warbling.


Here, he hands me a MasterCard. Will-a you ring this through for me?

I take the card and for a guilty flash understand how those shady identity theft circles get started – plastic so much more relaxing to steal than an armoured car.

Willa, table two. Jessica Tasmanian-Devils by. And table seven.


Since I moved out of the rentals’ house – a childhood of Calgary winters I thought were cozy because I was always sheltered from them – life’s changed. Every moment based on tasks completed for money, when you break it down. Money doesn’t buy happiness? Well it does buy the backdrops on which happiness is set. The costumes, the lighting, the props. So: how do I fuel my life? Oil not the only resource up for ethical debate. If serving West Van retirees clinging to their dropping Canadian dollars and deadweight property investments is not a sustainable fuel source, then what is?

I greet my tables with plasticine smiles and free eye contact, wondering how I would prefer to be interacting with them. If I would like to know more about them than whether they want fries or salad, or if I would prefer to simply be a few hundred pages on their bedside tables, my Master’s in English Lit from UBC growing bacteria, not the Activia kind.

Table seven, an old chap from the yacht club and his lipstick-outside-the-lines wife, claps for me as I arrive to take their drink order.


Do you know what it says on the waitress’s gravestone? the cap’n asks, possibly threatening my life. It says better late than never, but never late is better, he says, pleased with himself.

Are you sure you want to take this crap?


Now, he says to his wife. What do you want, dear?

She opens her menu and takes out a small magnifying glass.

I used to think glamour would save me. Large sunglasses, heels, a daily shining sun, and a thousand cameras recording my every move. Then I realized I live in Canada. Warmth and paparazzi challenged Canada. The true North strong and free, not the true North breezy and current. So I gave the dream up. A dream based on colouring books that asked: Where Do We Go When We Die? (my drawn answer: myself on a director’s chair yelling “cut!”, the Hollywood Hills in the background). A dream based on board games where the players had to choose ratios of Love, Money, and Fame for their faux futures, my choice – all fame. Now, in between dreams like Jack Johnson – I’m blank. My mind, shaken clear like an Etch-a-Sketch, ironically forcing me to empathize with ex-boyfriends who swore: “I don’t know what I want.”


Excuse me, Miss – is the Fraser Valley Pork Loin braised? What does it come with? Can I substitute greens instead? Willa, table three. Could I get more coffee? Do you take American Express? That’s funny, the cap’n lowers his arm, for a moment I thought my hand was broken.

In the xylophone of polished cutlery against white plates, I split into a thousand shards, a three-way mirror fantasy world militia of myself. Pour, lift, wipe, ask, write, type, count, pour, lift – ouch, hot. Try to carve a piece of mental real estate for myself out of this noise, a hundred and six TV channels, and an internet of colourful blog opinions and pictures of celebrities with bottomless closets and theft-proof identities. I try to find some clarity among the impatient glances of my customers (the only flashbulbs trailing me, for now), the gradually comprehended reality that they aren’t the only ones here escalating their appetites into an insatiable me-want-cookie hunger. Maybe I should have told them the truth about the Fraser Valley Pork Loin. That it may or may not be diced with bits of murder victims and dead prostitutes. Pigs will eat anything.

Are you sure you want the thoughts that come in the quiet of clarity?


From the hostess stand, my manger, Rick, gives me a bureaucratic come hither gesture in his pretty-boy meringue dress shirt and old-world spiffy pinstripe suspenders that indicate he’s not afraid to snap those bad boys against his chest a few times. What’s with the skate shoes, Willa? he asks.

I look down at my shiny black skate shoes, sheer black nylons and a sleek black skirt helping to blend them into obscurity. Shoes of compromise. I will forfeit my individuality if you will only permit me a cushiony sole.

We’re not turning ollies at the skate park here, Willa, Rick says, drunk off authority, rolling on it like a tab of ecstasy; it grinds his jaw.


Rick, come on, don’t be a dictator, I say, printing a bill. And don’t be the first part of the word either, I mumble.

Flats or wedges, he assigns me an ultimatum.

Move it or lose it, Slowy Slowerson, Jessica hip-nudges me aside to use the computer, an elastic, never-enough-hands panic on her face, her loosening French braid an outer snapshot of the unravelling cords of her brain.

Swinging through the kitchen, Chef Tom hands me a sample of blue cheese from the special. I taste it: layers of morphing flavours all just slightly indecipherable like the crossroads of my future. Or maybe…

Tennis balls, I describe the taste to Chef Tom, taking my pear valoute soup for table two.


The heavy door smacks my butt on the way out, sloshing the soup up on the rim, the bowl burning off my thumbprint, literally erasing my ability to leave a trace. When I arrive at the table it’s unoccupied, I put the plates down and look around for the customers, locating them at table thirteen. Evidently the man at the next table was coughing too outwardly, infesting them with his public germs.

Where in the hell is my beer? The cap’n stands from his table and actually pounds a fist onto the bar. How long do I have to wait around here for some friggin’ service, he yells, a clattering fork daring to interrupt him.

Sir, can I help you? Rick listens to the cap’n tell on me like a third grade girl being chased by boys.

We’ve been waiting forever , the wife chimes in.

What’s with Sailor Joe? Marcel asks, as I load my tray at the bar.

Ever read The Twits by Roald Dahl? I ask.


It’s the recession, Marcel says, pouring me two Sapporos and a half litre of shiraz. Makes people stingy and on edge. They still eat out, they just tip less and complain more.

What is a recession? I ask him, stabbing my drink chit. Seriously. I’m from the eighties.

I imagine students writing their notes between lines on old newspapers and young ladies drawing lines up the backs of their calves. As though without money we’d go back in time, poverty the wormhole to the past.

Hey guys, Rick materializes like an unwanted apparition through the wall on a stormy night. Just remember to look like you’re working, even when you’re talking, m’kay?

Living is dying, I say to Marcel, balancing my full tray.

Drink green tea, Marcel suggests. Antioxidants.

Making my rounds, I deliver a lukewarm cappuccino to the Golden Girls


at table three, who take the opportunity to coach me on making foam like Alberto mousse, then get schooled on the difference between rare and medium rare by germaphobe table two/thirteen, who refuse to get Maple Leaf cold cuts disease and have a good lawyer. I make a self-note to stick fingers in all cappuccinos and cut incisions in all steak flanks before serving them from now on. What would I do if I didn’t have to work? Spend the day making concept art about how 9-11 was an inside job? Simulating flight paths with remote control airplanes and making buildings out of old milk cartons? Or maybe I could make indie films with infectious soundtracks that would make people feel sad and contemporary, later purchasing them on Itunes so they could feel like they’re in the film, like they ‘re being watched – the North American dream. What it’s become.

The restaurant moves around me with jolted fluidity, a long line of red brake lights slowly jerking forward – the world stuck in front of me. I empty a bill fold of loonies into my apron. If I had the money, maybe I could make films. Maybe they would even become timeless. Maybe the aliens would find capsules of my DVDs after the world blows up or gets shunned by the sun, and wonder about me. You are free, I remind myself. Free to borrow money at 18% and have a home that doesn’t belong to you until you’re too old to care for it. Bussing table seven, I open the bill fold. The cap’n has left me nothing, his pension already spent on washable handkerchiefs and Axe Body Spray that reminds him of his first bottle of Old Spice, of a time when he felt clean and noticed.

Visa haunts me like a dead loved one. How will I keep up with my expensive self? Will I end up like the kids who hang themselves over the student visas they signed up for that came with free t-shirts on the first day of university? A new meaning to pay-as-you-go.


I take a breather and go to the back room to refill the ice bucket, rain dripping through the slats of the roof, wetting the expensively pressed linens. West Coast rain, one drop at a time like held in tears. I sit on a box of coffee filters and try to meditate on the gratitude of being able-bodied as I staple together completed credit card slips with small pieces of metal extracted from the Earth – its surface being eaten away at like an apple, then transformed it into intricate, disposable things, its circumference shrinking, inch by inch. A savoury smell feathers in from the kitchen, expensive local ingredients being prepared by disgruntled local chefs stuck in the back of the restaurant away from the action like I’ve become stuck in the back of life. I long to just go home, then consider that everything I own, every IKEA lamp and pretty white piece of Apple technology is the fruit of some unwilling task. M y Ipod, a month of bitten-tongue Sundays, stopping myself from disclosing that the Foie Gras mayo is made by shoving a long stick down the throat of an already full duck.

Willa, Rick calls for me. Where are you? What’s going on?

I’m okay, I yell.

I don’t care if you’re okay, get in here, he yells.

What’s my switch up? I wonder, as Anna Olsen calls it on Sugar when she takes peanut butter cookies and turns them into peanut butter ice cream sandwiches. How do I turn the edible into the delicious?


I’m giving Jessica your tables, Willa, Rick yells, afraid of entering the back room lest it soil his delicate metrosexual threads. And your tips, he yells.

I sometimes think it would be easier just to get it all over with at once. If instead of a thousand people chipping away at me piece by piece until I melt into a pile of compliant employee, I could just sell out one colossal time and be done with it. Like the girl who auctioned off her virginity online to pay off her student loans.

Just a minute, I call up to Rick, too late.

If you can’t keep up, they replace you as fast as technology here.

I’m just re-evaluating my life and life itself, I call in explanation, fairly sure he’s not listening.

In the damp room, I curl up on a stack of white linens and crack open a warm jar of maraschino cherries. Chill with the up and coming stock of tomorrow’s meals, contemplating the chain of unhappy workers with neglected hands and permanent frowns it’s already made its way through, my past not so different. Christmas, a mass child bribery ending in a pile of wasted paper surrounding objects that can’t love you back, Disneyland, the breeding ground for virgin-whore pop stars, Gap jeans, a faraway child’s wasted life. So what now, when all you knew and loved never was? What happens when the perpetually dispensing paper towel rack of life – turning, turning, turning in public washrooms across the world daily – runs out? When the forests have all been used to wipe things clean and dry?


But Madonna said more, I remember now, having forgotten or maybe deleted the info to make room for table three’s order. I twist of the stiff gold cap of the maraschino jar and take a cherry from the jar with my fingers, savouring its throat-singeing burst of red dye. “…but no shit is worth doing unless you’re willing to die for it,” is what she said.

What am I willing to die for?

Are you sure?


East Coast vs West Coast Street Fashion: The No-Longer-Sub Culture of the Hipster

Sabina Radoncic: Astoria, Queens, New York

Sabina Radoncic: Astoria, Queens, New York

Is there a difference in street fashion from one side of North America to the other these days? Or have we all become fashion clones, letting the ads tell us what to wear? Along the shrouded remains of the buildings formerly known as the World Trait Centre, New Yorkers rush past what did or didn’t happen in their city daily, a blank spot in their city’s identity.

So how is this affecting the city’s fashion identity?

The dominant street style in New York has become that of the hipster, a style which Adbusters recently described as “the dead end of Western civilization”, depicting hipsters as extremely aesthetically conscious, but essentially self-obsessed, hypocritical, and apathetic.

What do these supposed fashion zombies dress like? The male hipster might be seen wearing a peck-baring v-neck T, a busboy vest, a fedora, and some scraggly facial hair, while the female hipster might wear an ironic t-shirt with a logo such as “I Listen to Bands That Don’t Even Exist Yet”, fringed boots, and a few pin-on buttons (think “I’m Rockin’ On Your Dime” not “Save the Seals”).

Most hipsters also enjoy the all-pervasive skinny jean, the American Apparel hoodie, neon Rayban shades (lenses optional), and the staple keffiyeh scarf (though hipster mecca, Urban Outfitters, stopped selling keffiyehs in 2008, purportedly because of the Arabic garment’s terrorist symbolism).

Other New York favourites are the dress-length plaid shirt and the once dorky patterned rubber boot.

Hipster style is often considered a modern twist on Bohemian style, as it’s supposed to be effortless, but effortless in hipster terms means straying just far enough from the pack to still be considered hipster (any use of the term in self-description rendering all efforts null and void), because while hipsters reject “mainstream” fashion, they also submit to conformity within their own style.

Bohemian culture may have thrived in neighbourhoods such as Greenwich Village before it thrived elsewhere, but hipster culture is just as rampant in other North American cities, its quirky stylistic components scavenged mainly from corporate establishments.

Cory Grude, Greenwich Village, NYC

Cory Grude, Greenwich Village, NYC

Saranya Tanaponvsit, Soho, NYC

Saranya Tanaponvsit, Soho, NYC

The keffiyeh scarf is especially popular in L.A., given the city’s hot-sun-cool-breeze climate. Hipster style swarms Los Angeles areas such as Los Feliz, Venice, and Melrose, but L.A. also ranks high in the fashion freak show category, with its bursts of dirty glam – fur coats in grocery stores (the big nasty ones), bare chests under suit jackets, and puppy-type-animals in purses.

The Los Angeles climate also attracts its share of urban Grecian princesses, with side braids, floor draping maxi dresses, and gladiator sandals, as well as android men equipped with fast-track-to-fame Bluetooth ear pieces – (and no, they are not talking to you even when they’re looking right at you).

L.A. fashion is not always as it appears on the glossy magazine pages. Though the Three’s Company high-waisted wide-leg jean currently graces ad campaigns and tabloids, the skinny jean still rules the streets of L.A..

And on the opposite end of hipster style, unabashed in its flaunting of excess bling and loud branding, the Christian Audigier tattoo-on-clothing look has gonge forth and procreated from L.A. this year, recently knocked off by none other than Gucci in its “Tattoo Heart” collection.

Merging the caring-a-lot Audigier culture with the not-caring-too-much hipster culture in Los Angeles is the Jackie O look – three-quarter length sleeved jackets with mod bibbed collars, large buttons, and flared waistlines, perpetuating the fertile-sexy look of 2007. The coat, sported by both the flashy and the irreverent in L.A., is often found in houndstooth and plaid patterns, and given names such as “The Royal Family Secret Jacket”.

Jennifer Chrisholm, Robson, Vancouver

Jennifer Chrisholm, Robson, Vancouver

Vancouver, sometimes referred to as the L.A. of the North, has an inner-city density following only that of New York and San Francisco, creating a metropolitan lifestyle in which people’s clothing becomes their vehicle.

Vancouver hipsters embrace high top runners, leg warmers, patterned tights, and, more than any other metropolitan city I’ve been to – the Dorothy bicycle-with-basket, but Vancouver’s downtown shopping districts are also marred with predictable corporate storefronts, giving the city a somewhat homogenous street fashion flavour.

Vancouver’s main winter look consists of bright peacoats and slouchy, pointy-toed, mid-calf height boots. The most universally frequented store among Vancouver female shoppers is Aritzia, the store’s “TNA” triple loop found so commonly on stretchy pants and hoodies that you sometimes forget that Talula National Athletic also stands for Tits N’ Ass.

Though Aritzia is mainstream in its prevalence, it also appeals to the hipster scene through affiliations with Vice magazine.

Beyond hipsterism, a minority of Vancouverites are making a switch to Green Fashion, meaning buying and wearing  clothing that is produced with organic materials, using no animal products, and not made in sweathshops. Several small clothing manufacturers assmebled last month at The Spring Living Fair on Main Street to showcase their designs; the only drawback – cha-ching!

However Rio Rain, located in North Park Royal, features some reasonably priced athletic and outdoor wear made from recycled materials. (Now Echo Rain)

Julie Van der Hoop, Robson, Vancouver

Julie Van der Hoop, Robson, Vancouver

Perhaps the only new street fashion subcultures reaching past the whatev hipster realms (though the city is home to hipster haven, Haight Street) can be found in San Francisco.

Take the circus style, derived from the 50,000 attended Burning Man festival, which consists of black, white, and red clothing with Beetlejuice-esque stripes, layered under long gothic coats.

Alternately, at a small dive bar in the Mission District called Amnesia, you can find – swing dancing to Balkan music from the roaring 20s – guys in suspenders, newsboy caps, and baggy knee-length golf pants, and girls in pin curls and flapper potato sack dresses. How refreshing.

San Francisco Swingas

San Francisco Swingas

So with the current coast to coast omnipresence of hipsterism, does the Western world have to get over hipster style in order for underground fashion to be reborn? Maybe the lull in the corporate economy will spark the creation of “post-hipster” street style. Possibly, we can look forward to seeing the Western world’s translation of recession-chic on the street in the near future, which will hopefully include at least some lines drawn up the backs of calves and homemade masterpieces, or at least some Value Village clothing collages.

Roco, Davie, Vancouver

Roco, Davie, Vancouver (Roco is rocking a full piece denim jumpsuit with a pocket along the back to carry his own doo-doo bags)

  • Disclaimer: These classy individuals featured above (including Roco) were all super fantastic to shoot and are not being classified as hipsters (not that there’s anything wrong with that : D ), they were just some colourful, friendly street examples.

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