Big Question Marks

Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Late is Too Late?

Dead Christmas trees littered the curbside weeks ago. The candy canes disappeared from store shelves even before that. Suddenly it's the end of January and there's that niggling feeling that we should consult our calendar more often, and oh, just maybe, perhaps, TAKE DOWN OUR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ALREADY!

The traditionalists reading this are probably wondering why we still have Christmas lights up on January 31st. Truthfully, they didn't take all that much effort to put up: there were no 20-foot ladders, feral animals in the eaves, or snow squalls to contend with, or anything like that. It was more like, untangle one strand of lights, get out the clear packing tape, and tape them up around the front window. On the inside. (One point for apartment living!) It's not like it'll be a massive effort to take them down.

But, we wonder, is there really a magic date to take down the Xmas lights?

After taking a very informal poll of opinions of those around us, we've heard some say that the beginning of March should be the very last deadline for Xmas lights still being socially acceptable (as it's pretty gloomy up to then, but spring is definitely on its way after that); others say February's when enough is enough; and there's the school of thought that Boxing Day is when it's all over for the lights. Not surprisingly, there's many opinions online about it too — including a Facebook group titled "Take Your Damn Christmas Lights Down". (The group has 97 fans.)

As people who haven't owned Christmas lights in a long time (OK, we did try to put some up inside our van back in Australia, but they tended to drain the car battery), getting back into these little nuances of northern hemisphere culture is still something we stumble over now and then. And we're a bit torn on the whole issue. Even if the Christmas cookies are eaten and the presents have been opened, it is still nice to come home after work to electric holiday cheer — though maybe it's more about denying that bitter, awful winter that has yet to come. Maybe the same sort of that seasonal denial that kept some of us (not naming any names here!) wearing flip-flops well into October. But after taking a visual poll of our street, we've found that at least four other houses are still proudly lighting their houses for Old St. Nick. So bah humbug that!
OK, seriously though. How about you take our handy reader's poll and tell us what you really think, so we don't have to go consulting Yahoo! Answers or anything like that. Or Google, for that matter!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Terrible Discovery

It's kind of fun to live in the dark. This darkness I speak of, is being without television. Over the past few months we've been reading lots of books, getting our news from the internet, watching movies on our computers. Sure, we do have a TV set in the living room — it's huge and old and is hooked up to a DVD player: it's good for watching our small collection of movies, borrowed TV seasons, and DVDs borrowed from the library (Toronto Public Library has all kinds of films, from Hollywood bloodbaths like the new Rambo movie to seasons of Flight of the Conchords.... we love our library!). When the World Series was on in October, we flipped around our few fuzzy channels and found we couldn't get anything more than a very staticky Omni 1 and CBC, and some French channel with crystal clear reception. We didn't waste any more time on it — truthfully, we were sick of TV wasting all of our time over the years.

We always get this look of shock when the fact that we don't have cable television comes up in conversation. There's usually a look of pity, a pause, and a comment like "Well, that's probably a good thing..." or even better, "So what do you do with your time then?" Well, we spent 6 months in Southeast Asia without televisions (OK, occasionally we'd score a room with a TV showing Korean soaps, or surprisingly in Burma, we once had a room with a satellite news station from Australia), and managed to entertain ourselves just fine. Is there really nothing interesting enough happening in Canada worth turning off the telly for?

Or maybe it's just that sedate lifestyle of living in one place, working the same job for a long time, and hanging out with the same people that does it to us. We admit, even in Melbourne, when we got settled with an apartment, steady-ish jobs, and a city we knew well, we turned on the tube and zoned out in front of anything that was on. At that time in Australia, there was no such thing as cable TV, only satellite (expensive FoxTel) or antenna reception — even in the city you'd only pick up about five or six channels on air. We got hooked on some pretty crappy cop dramas, a Australian newscaster we liked to call "Space Granny" (see photo, left), and even watched some Aussie Rules Football. And we realized how in Toronto, we take for granted the many channels available, thanks to having that American entertainment juggernaut not far across the lake and well within reach of an antenna if your apartment's on a high enough floor. But television didn't seem to dominate Australian workplace conversations, either, which was kind of refreshing. Here we've been feeling left out.

Anyway, so on Monday night we realized that even after months of living without TV, we weren't ready to miss another season of 24 (we'd forgotten about the first episode on Sunday). Just for the hell of it, we thought we'd try to plug in a cable splitter and cord into the wall, and see if perhaps Rogers screwed up and had given us cable with our internet connection. Well, we didn't even get that far. Adrian attached a cable to the back of the TV set, a splitter onto that, and suddenly we had our channels clear as anything. We flipped around and found out we somehow get all the major networks, without even plugging into the wall. And happily watched Jack Bauer kick down some doors and yell at bad guys.

And there went our evenings. Suddenly, we know when the Law & Order reruns are on, we can rhyme off the weather forecasts, and we've learned Survivor's coming back soon with the villains and good guys. We even watched the Canadian Dragon's Den, which by the way, has anyone noticed the noise that animated dragon (that shows up before and after commercials) makes sounds less like a dragon and more like a strangled puppy? Last night I even watched Survivorman, a show I despise. Anyway, this whole TV thing is a bittersweet, possibly terrible discovery for us — yup, we're back in the loop, but has it really improved our (or anyone's) quality of life? I guess now we've truly settled back in.

** Well, you learn something new every day! Apparently our beloved "Space Granny", Lee Lin Chin, has more than a few fans online. Here's A BLOG devoted to her oddball fashion sense; a few of her newscasting get-ups on Flickr (HERE and HERE), and according to Wikipedia, she once starred in an Aussie miniseries with Nicole Kidman. We miss you, Space Granny! Is there a Canadian equivalent??

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Office

New year, new office. What better way to kickstart 2010 but with a little re-thinking of the apartment/home office?

With a couple of freelance gigs on the go for both of us, we've realized the need to make a better, more functional workspace at home to get our work done. The two of us plugging away on our laptops in the same room has been fun, but there's a lot of "Hey! Check out this cool Lego version of The Matrix!" and "Oh my god! I totally want this USB flash drive that looks like a slice of strawberry cake!" Not that these aren't totally awesome finds, but well... maybe it turns out we're really good at finding random cool things online and not getting our work done.

So it's an IKEA sort of lesson: making the most of your small living space. Though our apartment consists of only four rooms (kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom), we've managed to squeeze two more "rooms" out of it. By arranging furniture in little clusters, our apartment actually feels a lot bigger. Our living room has an area to relax in, with couch, TV, and coffee table. On another wall is a desk, with a computer and printer- our 'living room office'. We were lucky enough to inherit a desk already built into a bedroom wall, so with a little rearranging, it's no longer a a storage area for our art supply boxes and now a snazzy plant-filled workspace next to our big front window (great light too). It's even got a baseball autographed by former Blue Jays star third baseman, Kelly Gruber (thanks Neil!) for inspiration.

By the way, did anyone read about the recent shark attack in South Africa? "Longer than a minibus"? Yikes! We're glad we did our surfing lessons in Australia. OK, now back to work...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Few Resolutions...

Happy New Year! We finished off 2009 with a New Year's Eve full of great fun and reuniting with friends we haven't seen in a while! We hope everyone had a happy end to 2009 too. It's snowy as ever here in Toronto and it's still kind of a novelty. We've even volunteered to shovel snow once or twice...

But alas, to be really cliche and do that thing we're supposed to do every January 1st, it's time for a few resolutions!

1. Write more blogs! (No kidding!)
2. Get back in touch with old friends.
3. Spend more time enjoying the outdoors.
4. Get creative-- time to get out the paintbrushes, crochet hooks, sewing machines, all of that good stuff while we're holed up inside avoiding the cold.
5. Get cultured. Go to more museums, art galleries, and cultural events (we had a great time hanging out at the Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, festival held at Harbourfront Centre this past November. Not exactly like being back in Mexico, but pretty swell anyway). Toronto's got plenty to offer and we're going to get into it!
6. Eat more rice. Not that we're sad to have returned to the land of cheese (yay!), but we sure felt healthier while in Asia, living off rice for at least two of our daily meals.
7. Exercise more-- yup, gotta throw that one on there.
8. Try new things. Bollywood dance, anyone?
9. Fill 2010 with adventure-- wherever and whatever that may be.

And speaking of being creative, here's a little fun we stumbled upon online tonight: is a nifty little site where you can download 'cubist' versions of your favourite characters-- from Domo-kun to Barack Obama, seriously-- to print and fold out of paper. Random fun!