Jess Taylor, writer

Pauls out in stores NOW!

Archived Posts

 

July 25, 2012.

More books on reading list. The Savage Detectives. Video from writing retreat in Haliburton. Pictures added of me hosting an EW Event. Random stuff.

 

Hey all!

 

Soooo books. Sometimes you read a book, and every page makes you super excited and feel like you are reading something that is going to change your life. That's what reading The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano is like for me right now. I'm currently half-way through and hope to finish by the end of the weekend. On the way home from tutoring, I almost started weeping over its language on the subway. The final paragraph of the first section was so good I copied it into my writer's notebook. People who have been following this blog over the years (yes, I mean you, Mom and Jane!) may remember that I was reading 2666 last summer. While I loved 2666 as well and some of the sections had the same affect on me, The Savage Detectives is a totally different feeling. I want to make things and break things when I read it. I want to collapse in a weeping heap while hugging its spine to me. It is possible that I shouldn't work for 12 hours and read it on the subway. Perhaps I'm just exhausted, but I'd like to think it's the book making me feel that way.

 

Yes, yes, yes, I'm working two jobs again (which is actually kinda more than that because one of my jobs is tutoring and I currently have more than one student). Some days I leave my house at 9am and get home at 10:30pm. Why do I do this to myself? I do not know. I do this every summer, so I expect no sympathy. I am just a crazy person who needs to learn to set limits in regards to everything. One day.

 

I am 222 pages into the roughroughrough copy of my novel and am feeling pretty good about finishing it before I leave for Scotland at the end of August. Then the intense editing and rewriting process will begin! Definitely an adventure! So I've been writing a fair bit. A couple weekends ago, I went up to Menaka's cottage. Menaka is one of my writing comrades from U of T. Six out of seven of us went up, and we swam and we wrote and we talked about writing and we talked about food and we talked about drinking and we drank and we ate food and we talked about weird things and I was a bog beast and terrorized my comrades in the water, but everyone is still my friend. Everyone decided (they 100% were not forced) to be in my next Chat with Jess video!!

 

eLDKFvFa_lo

 

Hee hee. I'll leave it up to your imagination how much of that awkwardness is intentional and how much is a result of just being awkward.

 

So, as I say in the video, EW is going well and thriving! July was even bigger than June, which I found hard to believe! Here is the flyer for All-Star August!

 

Here is a hilarious photo of me laughing at my own jokes while hosting! 

 From Jovial July! (c) Stephanie Coffey Photography.

 

There's another pic of me from Jovial July in the LOOK section, and to see photographs of all the readers, hop on over to The Emerging Writers Facebook Page. 

 

Check out the current summer reading list! I've added some books I've started that I borrowed from Jeremy, one of my fellow writers and the publisher of Dragnet Mag!

 

All the best! Talk soon and see you at a show soon I hope!

XOXOX,

 

Jess 

June 23, 2012.

Reading list!

 

Hey there!

 

I posted my summer reading list, which I will keep updating as I keep reading! Let me know if you have any titles you recommend since I'm always buying and reading books! I think I will also post a kids reading list sometime soon, just because I've been working a lot with junior level kids (ages 9-12) and feel that it's really important to get them excited about reading.

 

XOXOX,

Jess 

June 18, 2012.

Site working again! New chat! Art posted! In a new band! Writing! Trillium Reading!

 

Hey everybody!

 

I apologize for my site being a bit buggy the last few weeks. It looks like the problems have all been fixed - I can log in again, I can see the YouTube videos, and it no longer crashes my safari. So I've made you the following video. Yes, another chat with Jess - let's get reacquainted. I did write one blog post on my wordpress last month - check it out. 

VIDEO!!!

hhxJQSsdGRc
 
 
Also, it is Jovial July next at the Emerging Writers Reading Series.
LOOK:
 
I recently had an illustration published in Issue Five of Dragnet Magazine. Check it out: dragnetmag.net. I have also posted my process of this illustration in the Look section under Assorted Artwork. This will probably only be interesting for people who do art themselves, but I thought it was neat since I rarely take photos of work in progress and used a variety of media on this.
 
I played a show recently as part of the band, Old Friends. We played a lot of my new acoustic songs and wrote a song together. It was kind of different and neat to play songs that were so new. Stefhan and I are thinking we are going to keep practicing, writing songs, and playing shows... maybe even record! Recording is one of my favourite things ever, so I hope we do that. Give us a shout if you'd like us to play! We might add Ken Taylor, my brother, on bass.
 
 Picture taken by Beata Grudzinska. Old Friends is Jess Taylor on vocals and guitar and Stefhan Iwaskow on vocals and ukulele.
 
As I mention in the video, I went to see some of the Trillium nominees read on Tuesday. I didn't really know beforehand that this was the huge reading that occurs the night before the Trillium Awards are announced at the dinner! I had met some of the poetry noms from going to readings and wanted to see them read and ended up having a wonderful night! All the readings were fantastic. I'd seen Jacob McArthur Mooney read a couple times before, but he was incredible as always. I'd never seen Nick Thran read, although I'd heard him recite some of his work, and wow, just wow! Helen Guri, the other nominee, was amazing as well. I'd never heard or seen any of her work before, and I didn't know that she was one of the early graduates from the program I am in now! I ended up buying both her nominated book and Nick's that night (I already had Jake's), and when getting my book signed, I discovered that she is so kind and generous. This is something I've really started noticing since I've started going to events and meeting people this year... a lot of the people in the Canadian scene (and in the poetry scene in particular) are so nice and welcoming. It's something I really appreciate, especially since sometimes I feel so, "Duh, what-up, I'm young!" The rest of the night was fantastic as well. I got to see Ken Babstock read, which was a big deal for me, and even though I didn't understand it, I really enjoyed hearing the French readers as well. I must learn French!!! There was incredible food as well, which more than made up for the $7 drink tickets.... itty bitty burgers, itty bitty lobster grilled cheese, itty bitty pad thai.
 
Then it turned out one of my close friends was actually getting brought to the Trillium Awards Dinner with one of her mentors! The funniest thing about all of this was that we made plans last week to go to the Toronto Reference Library to do research for our books yesterday. I had never been before (at least, not since I was about nine), and I ended up going Tuesday for the Trillium readings, Wednesday for research, and my friend went home to change and then back for the dinner! That's a lot of Toronto Reference Library!! I got her to live text me who won in each category - Nick Thran for Poetry andPhil Hall for Best Book! Fantastic! Congratulations to the winners and to all the nominees! 
 
Anyway, that was my excitement for the week!
 
XOXOX,
Jess 
 
 

May 11, 2012.

So many things! New videos! How May's show went. Jittery June! New website for EW. Trying to find a job. Hustlin'. Bagels with peanut butter. Poem out in offSIDE Zine

 

Hey everyone!

 

How's everyone doing? I'm doing awesome! I'm currently eating a bagel with peanut butter (I know you all care). When I was in preschool, they used to make me eat bagels with peanut butter and you could choose to have a whole or a half. A half was actually a quarter because it was half of one side. Me, being me and overly-enthusiastic and having no control, would always yell, "WHOLE! WHOLE! WHOLE!" I also would shout, "I'm starving!" since I am prone to hyperbole and was constantly corrected.

 

"You aren't starving. People without food in Africa are starving."

 

"No, I'm actually starving."

 

"You are just hungry."

 

"I'm so hungry it feels like I'm starving."

 

Anyway, so they would give me a whole.... But the problem was, I'd eat half of it and be full. They made the kids eat all of what they asked for. They thought I'd learn from my mistakes, and I sobbed, shoving more and more peanut butter bagel in my mouth. I never learned. And I spent the rest of my day upset. To be honest, right now I just ate what qualified as a "whole" in preschool, and now I'm onto my second "whole," and you know what, I think I probably won't be able to finish. But I blame this on getting bored of what I'm eating instead.

 

ANYWAY! I'M SURE THAT WAS JUST FASCINATING FOR EVERYONE! Sorry, I have a cold and am kind of stumbling through this post. OH WELL OH WELL.

 

I made this trailer for Magnificent May over the weekend. LOOK:

9KDZ33WA3qw

 

Neat, huh? The show went so well. Great attendance... My readers were professional. No one went over time, and I felt like everyone's personality and energy really came across through their reading. That's what I really like about the Emerging Writers Reading Series. I find that these young writers are really thinking about what makes them, them as opposed to how they can be like any other writer. The result is an exciting show that is different and always has a mix of personalities and styles.

 

The next show is Jittery June! My readers are Marsha Courneya, E Martin Nolan, Matthew R. Loney, and Justin Walmsley.   

I have to admit that I'm quite proud of this flyer. Especially the little fish with hands. It should be a really good night! Come out! DO IT!

 

I made a website for The Emerging Writers Reading Series. Look at it:ewreading.wordpress.com.  Yay! I will get a domain name going soon... Just have other expenses to take care of first... business cards, stickers, etc. 

 

My poem, "Garden Centre," came out in offSIDE Zine a couple weeks ago. Check it out.  Also, I made this video. Yes, another chat with Jess. And I read the poem. We also play pictionary.

6E-WsAwgM4g

 

So that is that. Sigh.

 

Currently, I'm just applying for jobs. I went to a million readings last week, and then this week I took some time off from the reading scene after running my own show. There are always so many readings to go to. I really love it. Next week I'm going to go to a few for sure.

 

Ok, that's all for now! I hope you guys enjoyed this.

 

Have a good night and a fantastic night!

Jess 

April 12, 2012.

The Laundry Revolution. How April's show went. Magnificent May! Guitar. My novel.

 

Hey everyone! How goes?

 

I'm doing well! I've been working out lately, riding my bike everywhere, and even started yoga. But, after walking around the city putting up flyers for three hours a week ago, my foot has decided to stop working! It is now elevated. I think I'll go to the foot doctor... Probably need to pony up some dough for good shoes and orthotics, which are definitely as nerdy as they sound. Oh well.

 

THERE IS A NEW REVOLUTION IN TOWN! THE LAUNDRY REVOLUTION! Do you guys remember the Pant Revolution (which is on-going of course)? Well, this revolution may be even better. This is what it is: Washing clothes. By. Hand. BY HAND! Think of all the quarters, loonies, and toonies you'll save! I know, I know, for those born a little earlier than me, this might not seem like such a revolution. But I assure you, it is. I'd never seen a bar of laundry soap before, and when I came across one in an Indian grocery store, I freaked out. I mean, everyone's done the thing where you just randomly decide to wash some clothes in a sink or tub because you're too lazy to go to the laundromat... but this....this is actual laundry detergent in bar form. So easy to use! So convenient! And. SO. CHEAP! My bar of Sunlight Laundry soap cost me 75 cents. Amazing. The guy at the counter said, "You know that's for clothes right?" I was shocked. Of course! Why else would I be so excited?

 

One thing I learned on Tuesday is that the Pant Revolution and the Laundry Revolution can only be combined with careful timing. I wanted to wear my navy blue jeggings to the Astounding April! EW Reading, but they had cake batter on them from baking with Naomi Freeman, one of my writing friends. So I decided to try out this soap. But I had only an hour before leaving. And got the pants soaked. Long story short, I went to the show with damp pants. A hairdryer does not dry jeggings adequately. Fail. 

 

The show on Tuesday went really well. The turn out wasn't as big as the first show, but there was still a big group in attendance and was still that friendly vibe I've been trying to establish. I'm really pleased with how the series has been going. I've been able to provide every reader with pay so far, and the promotion improves with each event as I discover new outlets to promote the series. I'm booked all the way up until August, which is fantastic. The readers were all really good this month, and, with the exception of some technical difficulties, everything went smoothly. Check out the next event in May:

 

 

That flyer is ridiculous. I don't know what happened to me. I just wanted to include all these cool things and lost sight of how to put them together. Oh well, it's funny. And we all know, I'm a fan of funny.

 

So my friend, Stefhan Iwaskow - he used to be in The Big Man Himself with me - and I are going play a show either at the end of May or in June. We'll do some of my acoustic singer/songwriter stuff and probably write a new song or two. I also want to cover this song by Said the Whale:

S5im9ovqEgg

 

I want to do some videos of us jamming, maybe get my brother, Ken Taylor, involved too. Updates on the show and that stuff to come. I've written two new songs this month, which I think we will perform.

 

So. Novel. I'm almost done all my course work .... just have to finish a seminar write-up, and then have two final papers. And then I'm done. All of my course work for my Master's. It's crazy. I kind of don't believe it. I'll start meeting up with Michael Redhill about my thesis project in May. I already have 30,000 words completed. No, I didn't mean 3,000. 30,000. I think I'm about a third of the way through, maybe a little more than that. 108 pages. Some of that is drawings as well. But I'm feeling pretty good about it. I also feel like I just want the time to be able to plough through to the end before I even meet Michael in May. That way we can just focus on editing and rewriting. But at the same time, I need to get a real job (in addition to the tutoring and editing work I've been doing) and finish my term papers with strong marks so that I can go onto a PhD eventually.

 

sOsHgjOQM0M

 

 

I also am feeling a bit at a loss for what direction I'll be going after my Master's is done. I know this is a bit pre-emptive, since I still have another year. But I like so many things. I mostly just want to write. I also like teaching and editing. I like helping people. I like making a difference. I like running things. I like planning things. I like doing my reading series, but you can't make a living off of toonies and loonies once a month. I don't know. I'm good at hustlin' so I'm sure I'll hustle myself up a future one way or another.

 

That's all for now. I'm going to make you guys a new video soon - I already have my ideas... Just need the time to film it. And a May trailer is coming soon.

 

Take it easy... have some fun this weekend!

 

Love,

 

Jess 

 

 

March 19, 2012.

First EW Reading Series Event! Poem up on Squawk Back! I got a job.

 

Hey gang!

 

Guess what? I got a job! I'm an employed person! I've started tutoring with Write City. I love it! It's so much fun, is rewarding, and is exactly the kind of stuff I want to be doing. Yay!  

 

I also had two poems accepted places last week. "Garden Centre" got accepted into the May 2012 Issue of offSIDE Zine, so be on the lookout for that. It's basically a poem about crying as you water herbs and things. "Squids" got accepted into Squawk Back and is already up! Click the link to read. It's about being scared and fascinated by something when you are little. It is also about swimming. 

 

I made a video where I talk about things. I also read "Squids":

 

 

A4_lQBcO0u8

 

You guys are champs! My first event went awesome. Soooo many people came, and it was hella fun! Check out the next event, Astounding April! on April 10, 2012 with Jeremy Hanson-Finger, Patrick Plestid, Rasiqra Revulva, and Andy Verboom.

 Please submit for May 2012. Guidelines are on our Facebook page.

 

On Thursday, I'm running the Creative Writing Brown Bag showcase. Basically we put on a show for the rest of the department. I rigged it so that we can have a food/Q & A reception after. Yum!

 

XOXOX,

 

Jess 

March 3, 2012. 

Song. Topanga Oceans Release Show Review. Sick on a Saturday Night. 

 

Hey everyone!!!

 

How's going? Ok so it's Saturday, and I was supposed to go to a really cool party where everyone was going to dress up like Ryan Gosling and listen to music by Ryan Gosling and act like Ryan Gosling, and I tweeted at Ryan Gosling and everything so that he'd maybe come, and I was really really excited, and now I have a sore throat and a fever and am in bed. So no partying for me. Which means that you guys get a blog post, I get to finish reading Dispatches by Michael Herr (wonderful book!) and start Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone for class, and I will probably work more on my novel. Oh, and cuddle my cat, of course (how could I forget!). But I remind you all that I have a fever, so I apologize if this is disjointed.

 

Here is a song for you that I've been working on. I hope you like it. It's still rough since it was brand new when I recorded this.

 

rEmKU8WkhKk

 

Topanga Oceans 7" Release Show

On February 24, 2012, I went to Sneaky Dee's to see Topanga's 7" Release Show. The Facebook event had over three hundred people confirmed as attending, so I made sure to show up early so that I wouldn't need to line up. I grabbed a beer, hung out awkwardly by myself in the almost-empty upstairs of Sneaky's. It was sure worth it though! By eleven, the venue was almost entirely packed and I got to be up front for the earlier bands.

 

The first band, The Fabulous Yawn, had a really cool sound. The singer, Spencer MacEachern, had a voice that reminded me of Said the Whale and had great stage presence. David Monks from Tokyo Police Club was playing the bass for them, and it was neat seeing him outside of his frontman role. The group joked around on stage and got the crowd going. I was really impressed since this was the first band, and in the past, with shows in smaller venues, there is always at least one bad band on the bill. All of the acts were musically solid.

 

Next up was Grounders. I was surprised to see one of the friends I went to Mayfield's Visual Arts program with playing the drums! Rob Canali rocked it on the drums (and his art is amazing too), and all of the musicians in the band were skilled and engaging. I found myself dancing along. Definitely a band to watch!

 

I didn't get to watch Modern Superstitions as much as I would have liked since I decided to circulate and catch up from some of my old pals from the ska scene (a lot of people who are now in Indie Rock bands used to be in ska bands. Stefan Babcock from Topanga used to be in Stop Drop n Skank back in the day, a band we played with dozens of times. Hollerado also has a lead singer, Menno Versteeg, that used to be in a ska/punk outfit called The Delegates). I handed out a ton of business cards. It was nice seeing a girl singer though, and the music sounded pretty good from what I heard of it.

 

Topanga. Wow. What words? Explosive? Energetic? Cascading? Nothing can really do it justice. Stefan has always been an intense and gripping frontman, and the group as a whole works together seamlessly on the stage. It was tight, the songs well-written, and the floor was shaking from dancing and all the excitement. I longed for the old days where I didn't fear the pit or a few mild bruises. I wanted to throw myself into the tangle of bodies. Stefan even got to crowd surf. What fun. All in all, it was a great night, and I was really glad I went out and picked up the 7". Now just to buy a record player...   

 

Ok, gang, I need to read and go to sleep and get rid of this fever!

 

Hope you enjoyed!

 

XOXOXOX times a million,

Jess 

 

 

February 24, 2012.

A Chat with Jess Taylor. Business Cards!!! Feb 28th Event!

 

Hey everyone!

 

This is weird for me. It is 1am, so it is Feb 24th, but to me, it still feels like the 23rd... back when my buttermilk hadn't expired. Now it's the next day. My buttermilk is bad. I can't make buttermilk biscuits anymore. Unless I buy new buttermilk...

 

I got my business cards. LOOK:

 

 I tell you a bit about them in my new video: A Chat With Jess. Actually I tell you about a lot of things I've been up to. Also, I don't know if people can tell my videos aren't scripted at all... You can probably tell from this one. Basically, I have an idea of what I'm going to say, and then I say it really inarticulately. Sometimes I do a second take if I really mess up pronouncing a word. (Some people are aware of the fact that I have difficulties pronouncing certain things...I have a couple theories on why... My brother and I were really close in age and learned to speak relatively close together...He had a speech impediment as a toddler/preschooler, but I could understand him perfectly. A lot of my problem words he says similarly. Also my mom is from Boston and so pronounces vowels differently than people around here...She drops her Rs only when she's sleepy.) Anyway, enjoy!

 
 
wvV3MdR86xM

 

In other news, the event I'm running on February 28th is coming soon! Please come out! It would mean a lot to me. Here's the link to the event. 

 

Head on over to the LOOK section to see my business card drawing the right way round and also to check out the EW Reading Series flyer!

 

Have a good night all!

 

HOGZ and KISSEZ,

 

Jess 

February 14, 2012.

The Pant Revolution. Talking about people and feelings. Business Cards. Canada Reads. Upcoming Readings. Life and Stuff.

Hey everyone!!!!

 

Happy Valentine's Day!

This adorable and hilarious photo was stolen from puppybunnyguineapretty.wordpress.com. Right on. I gave everyone in the English MA and Creative Writing MA program Valentine's Day cards in their mailboxes... I got puppies and kittens and Lego ninjas. So far I haven't heard anything about them, so people either haven't gotten them yet or they just think I'm a weirdo. Which I am.

 

Ok, guys, get ready for soul searching Jess Taylor. Lots of soul. Lots of searching. I've been thinking about my writing a lot lately (as usual), but also about people and how I want to write about people, and how I want the book I write to be both really fun, but also very true, and actually good. I wish I understood people better sometimes, so I'm going to get out a bunch of sociology books. And read them. Which sounds ridiculous, but I'm really excited about this. My marine biology book is still going to happen, but in a different form. It's going to be a book within a book within a book, and I've already gotten a chunk started. Very excited!

 

Other news! I am doing a reading for Inktank Magazine on February 28, 2012. At Duffy's Tavern. Go to it! I helped with the booking and promotion, so I'd love if a lot of people came out. I'm waiting to hear back from the venue for sure, but I think the first EW reading will be March 13, 2012 at Duffy's. I already have my first four readers confirmed and am waiting to release that info until I have the date officially confirmed. Then you can expect some exciting promo!

 

I've ordered some hilarious business cards. Basically I made a really silly drawing of myself. You can check it out in the design section of the LOOK page. I'll post a picture of them when they actually arrive.

 

I went to Canada Reads with my writer friend, Menaka. If you go here, and watch the Livestream you can see me and Menaka behind Arlene Dickinson. I'm going to be writing a blog post on Canada Reads this week for Echolocation's wordpress blog, and I will post a link to it when it's up.

 

Have you heard about the Pant Revolution? There's these things called jeans and then something called leggings, and then they come together to make wonderful clothing babies called jeggings. Jeggings are the most awesome pants you could ever wear. Because they look like jeans, feel kind of like jeans, but are super comfortable and cool looking. Maybe people will disagree, but all of my friends who experience pants on a regular basis agree that jeggings are much more enjoyable.

 

(stolen from fashionfeen).

 

Ok, and that's all for now. I got to get back to some real work!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess 

 

January 29, 2012.

Video review of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Emerging Writers Reading Series! I made an octopus.

 

Hey all!

 

Hope you all are fine and dandy! Sorry for not posting in a while... I've been getting things together and also.... I'm starting a reading series in Toronto! Check out the EW Reading Series on Facebook. I'll post some info here as well. Basically, I just wanted another reading series happening in the city, but one that gave longer sets (as opposed to an open mic format) to emerging writers. 

 

The reading at the ART ALL NIGHT show went so well! I read on a staircase. My middle poem went over the best. People actually laughed! Like in a good way! It's because it was my poem about learning to shotgun a beer, haha! The audience was amazing, no one interrupted or talked and everyone made eye contact. THEY WERE ACTUALLY LISTENING... TO POETRY! Fantastic. Apparently one of the people who ran the show heard people saying good things about the reading in the bathroom. YAY!

 

I've started painting an octopus.

 Right now, I've used liquid watercolour, staedtler coloured pen (0.3 mm), and have started with some pastel work. I'm going to do a lot more pastel work on it...Not sure what else yet. I want to get some texture going and collage is my go to, but I'm not sure I'm feeling that this time. Maybe a different kind of paint? Or just thick pastel? We'll see.

It stemmed from this drawing:

Just some blue pen in my notebook. He is saying some offensive things about how he's cooler than the coral reef. But with cuss words. 

 

A Visit from the Goon Squad: Video Review

ebSvFaBOB0g

Haha! If you check out my YouTube channel, check out the outtake where my cat rubs her face all over the book. I guess she gave it a good review too!

 

Love and kisses,

 

Jess 

 

 

January 16, 2012.

A video.

Hey everyone!!!

 

Guess what?

 

I made a video! Yeah, I know.. Another boring old video of me.. BUT! You get to see me put on and take off sweaters. That's kind of fun, right? Also, I show you all my nerdy writing stuff!

TrFCD4CPJKk

 

That's all for now!

 

Love ya,

Jess 

January 10, 2012.

Videos!!!!!!!!! I got a reading gig! 

 

Hey all!

 

How's it goin'? I'm chilling in my office at school today, having a blast, reading, you know, the usual.

 

I have some news though! I have a reading gig coming up on January 21st! It'll be at the Van Soelen Art Loft on Geary Ave, and I think I'll go on around 9 or 9:30. Come on out and check out some art and hear me read a few poems! It should be really fun!

 

As promised, here is a video of me reading the poem that was on Art of Losing, "What Happened the Past Three Months is This." I also give you a tour of my office!!!! I made this today, so I'm still wearing those clothes, sitting in that chair, at my desk. You know, if you want to picture what I look like while I'm writing this for you.

 

b8Mk791URO0

 

On Sunday, I went over to my dear friend, Lydia Voura's apartment to have a homework and reading party. I hadn't officially started classes yet and then she gave me a latte that I put a spoonful of sugar in... And let me tell you there is a reason why I only take milk in my coffee. So I was super hyper, playing music on my laptop, harassing her on Facebook, and generally being a big distraction.  We did these weird things that collect all your Facebook statuses over the year 2011 and make them into a best of collection type thing. It occurred to me that they kind of looked like prose poems, so I decided to read Lydia's like it was a prose poem...

 

oCUowpR1BEM

 

I think I am an embarrassing friend to have. Haha!

 

Anyway, in other news, I'm currently reading A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I'll probably finish it tonight and write a review of it for next week. I'm going to write two poems today and try to finish my short story, "Perpetual."

 

Anyway, hope your week is going well!

 

LOVE AND KISSEZ,

 

Jess 

January 4, 2012.

Happy January! A new year. A lot of videos. A lot of music. 

 

Hey! How you all doing?

 

I'm doing really awesome! Back to life in the big ol' dirty city. Well, I've been going back and forth from my hometown, Caledon, Ontario, to Toronto because I couldn't leave my cat too long. But I had a good holiday with friends and family and a really good New Years! I'm so excited for this year. One of my friends told me, "This is going to be your year!" and you know, I think it might. I've got this new thing... it's that you gotta just decide not to be awkward and be positive all the time... pos not awks. Basically, if you are in a new social situation, you gotta sit yourself down and say, "Ok, self, listen, I know this is new and kinda scary, and you feel kind of nervous right now, but don't be awks. Seriously. Be pos. It will be ok." So far it's been working for me! I've been having a lot of fun in Toronto and meeting a lot of new people. Yay!

 

Hmmm writing and reading? I sent out a bunch of new submissions the past few days and have been rewriting, editing, etc, and of course I've been writing more prose poems for my collection about the city. I'm currently reading Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell and finished Special Topics in Calamity Physics and The Literary Conference over break. Nice nice. I also recorded a couple videos for you guys. They are some of my old songs on acoustic guitar. Check it:

htTBHIujAm0

 

mfUZ5IjvcYM

 

So there's that.

 

Today I went over to my friend Nick's house and we made up a song. Then we recorded the song. The song is kinda jokey and fun and a little bit (ok, a lot) gross. We made up a "band" name. It's called His & Hers. It was really fun. We'll probably make some real songs one day because it turned out better than we expected, and it was fun writing lyrics together. Normally I find collaborating on anything writing-related a pain, but this went well!

 

Back when I was at York, there was a guy in my poetry class, Kit Weyman. He and I chatted a bit because we both came from music backgrounds... his music of choice was hip/hop and rap and mine was ska/punk. He goes by the stage name of Kit Knows, and does some really cool stuff. Here are a couple of videos promoting his album, The First Space: Kit on the Moon, which can be downloaded for free on his website.

 

vmfqgU1zWb4

 

AHRfilms Presents - Kit Knows "The Writing's on the Wall" from Mark Valino on Vimeo.

Pretty cool, eh!

 

So I'm going to try to do a video of "What Happened the Past Three Months is This," the prose poem I have up on The Art of Losing.   I'm going to try to see if I can trick Jane Ozkowski into doing it with me... she's one of my best writing pals, and she's moving to Scotland on the 18th! What what? But... that just means, I'm going to Scotland in the summer!

 

Ok, I think that's it for now! Have fun, kick it old school!

 

All the best,

 

Jess  

 

December 23, 2011. 

Corned Beef. Winter Reading List. Oh hey there holidays! Michael Redhill is going to be my mentor. 

 

Hey everyone!

 

How's it going? I hope you're all dandy because it's the holidays! This is my first holiday not working! It's pretty fantastic, but I kinda ran myself thin this December going out all the time. But all is good, all is good! My landlords baked me some cookies for Christmas, and life is pretty ok.

 

I have to write approx. 1000 more words of a final essay, but other than that my school work is all done!!! YAY!! Until January 10... but anyway! So that means more time for me to bust through my list of writing goals. I bought some slang flash cards to better immerse myself in slang. I think I might just start writing 100% in slang (not a huge shift... one of my poems used "tradesies" and a story recently used "sketchbag"). 

 

Pretty ballin'! But ok more time away from school work also means more time to read, which means... yes, folks, another reading list! As usual, I'll update the list as I keep reading new books... Right now I'm working through The Literary Conference by Cesar Aira, and it's pretty awesome. I think it should be noted that a lot of the books on Jess' Winter Reading List (2011-2012) were recommended by my dear friend and fellow writer, Nicholas "Nicklez" Herring. Just so you don't think I have a natural amazingly keen taste for books.. like I go into a store and have a spideysense for good books. That's Nicholas with the book-spideysense. I just happen to know how to read.

 

Here's something else exciting: I know how to make corned beef. What's better than corned beef? CORNED BEEF HASH! What's better than corned beef hash? NOTHING! Seriously. Nothing nothing nothing.

 

Slowcooker Corned Beef 

1 Beef Brisket (I like to buy Maple Leaf's pre-cured corned beef...it's easy)

2 Cups water

Close to a million potatoes

A few carrots

A few pieces of onion

Prep: Dump everything into the slowcooker and cook on low for 12 hours! Then eat. A lot.

 

Corned Beef Hash (or The Best Thing Ever Eaten Ever Ever Ever)

Left over corned beef

Close to a half a million potatoes should still be left

Like 2 pieces of carrot

A little bit of fresh onion

BUTTER!!!!

Prep: Put frying pan on medium heat. Put butter in the pan. Put onion in the pan. Kinda saute the onion. Cut corned beef into smallish chunks. Put in pieces of potato and the few carrots. USE YOUR FORK (VERY IMPORTANT) to squish the potatoes, carrot, and corned beef into each other. Fry until desired crispiness. Eat the whole thing yourself.

 

You can also eat corned beef on a sandwich. Or you can make a corned beef breadless sandwich (this is actually just cold corned beef, but it made me feel sketch to just eat cold corned beef off of a plate so I gave it a name.) I don't have a pic of the corned beef to show you because I ate it all.

 

Ok, ok, ok. Serious matters now. I have my mentor for the book I'll be working on next year. Michael Redhill!!!!!!!!! I'm so stoked. Go google him and read all his books, please and thank you. I'll be here waiting.  

 

Anyway, Happy Holidays, gang. I hope you hug your rents or some pals or something. Go out and do something fun. I'll post a video of me reading a poem next time (HOW EXCITING!!!!)

 

Hugz and kissez,

Jess 

December 4, 2011.

The Muppets Review. Prose Poem up on Art of Losing. Happy December. Jam sessions.

 

Hey there!!!!

 

Well, well, well, a lot of really cool things have been happening lately, which means this will actually be a semi-serious blog post instead of something ridiculous like last time. Happy December! I bought a Christmas tree this weekend (a little four footer, def not enough for all my ornaments, but still cute). So I set it up in my apartment and am hanging with my cat while I heat up pizza. Quite nice really.

 

I went home this weekend and had a really good time with my brother, mom, and dad. On Friday, we had a really big jam session, which was fantastic!!! I hadn't played guitar in so long - it killed my wrist, but was so worth it. We made up a silly song with me on vocals, Ken on guitar and piano, Dad on mandolin, and Mom doing the back-ups. Then Ken and I just played a bunch of my old songs and one new song together. You can go watch that HERE or go to the WATCH section. It was just a rough, informal jam, which my dad happened to video on his iPad. It's kind of neat though cuz you can see how we used to work through songs and such. 

 

icvw5mEE-4Y

 

 

Also, I have a prose poem up on The Art of Losing. It's about losing my gloves at a party. It's the kind of prose poem I've been working on lately, so that gives you a bit of a taste of where my poetry has headed. I'll probably do a video of this in a couple weeks now that the poem is out there. The Art of Losing is run by the talented poet/fiction/non-fiction writer, Suzannah Showler.

 

Ok, in other news! I actually saw the Muppets on Monday!

 

The Muppets: Mupp-tactular 

 (c) Disney

 

So I went to see The Muppets with my good friend, Andrew Battershill (check out his magazine, Dragnet Magazine), and we were both in stitches during the whole movie.  With Jason Segel both writing and starring in the movie, I shouldn't have been surprised. This man is a huge fan of The Muppets, which is why he was so dedicated to such a film. I really think his efforts have paid off. All of the jokes were appropriate to the spirit of The Muppets franchise and had the right mix of silly/ironic/and self-reflexivity that always made The Muppets such a fun watch for people across the age spectrum. The songs as well were top-notch, both making fun of the musical genre, but still being incredibly fun and singable songs. In total, I'm giving this 10/10 and will definitely buy it when it's released.

 

Anyway, I think that's it for now! Winding down to the end of this semester and am having a party this weekend, which should be fun!

 

I hope everyone is feeling good!

 

Love,

Jess 

 

November 30, 2011. 

O(h) My Heart showdown!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Hey everyone,

 

I have something exciting for you today!!!!!!! GUESS WHAT IT IS?! Come on! Nope, it wouldn't be that, are you ridiculous? YES! YOU ARE RIGHT! How did you guess that? YES FOLKS I AM 100% serious... today I am having a musical showdown for you.

 

My impending UFC battle with Adam Levine of Maroon 5 next week started getting me thinking about music and also about battles. So here I'm going to have two songs battle. It's an O(H) MY HEART SHOWDOWN!!!! 

 

The first video is of R.E.M.'s "Oh My Heart," (2011).

 

eN1f4AFgiAc

 

VERSUS

 

"O My Heart" by Mother Mother (2008).

 

sBAoLoxJ32Q

 

Two very different songs with two things in common: 1. The phrase "O(h) My Heart" 2. A little girl named JT likes them!

 

BATTLE TIME!!!!!

 

Video:

It is a tie for the videos... the R.E.M. video has lovely landscapes and such and the Mother Mother video has collage and fish in it!

R.E.M. - 1  Mother Mother - 1  

 

Instruments:

The R.E.M. song uses a lot of really cool instruments whereas the Mother Mother song uses the trad guitars/drums/ some keys... I think R.E.M. takes this category home especially for the horn instruments at the very beginning.

R.E.M.- 2  Mother Mother - 1

 

Release Date: 

The Mother Mother song was definitely released before the R.E.M. song so I guess if there was ever a legal battle over the title "Oh My Heart" (which I know would never happen), Mother Mother would win.

R.E.M. - 2  Mother Mother - 2

 

YAY! It's a tie! WOO HOO! Everyone hug!

 

Listen to both of the songs please and thank you. 

 

Well, that amused me for about 15 minutes! Have a good day, and I'll talk to you next week,

Jess

 

 

November 27, 2011.

What the heck, Maroon 5!!!???!!!! Writing too many poems instead of final papers. Bought some books. December 16th show postponed.

 

Hey all!

 

So today I thought it might be a good idea to buy the newest Maroon 5 C.D. on iTunes... I had never bought anything by them before, but I like Adam Levine's voice, and I used to listen to that "Never Gonna to Leave This Bed" song before my Life Change. So there I was, working on my Digital Now! final paper, which I chose to write on hitrecord.org (CHECK IT OUT). Anyway, my intentions were pure in buying this C.D. The result: I wanted to eat my feelings. I ate all the left over curry from last night and now I think my stomach is imploding.  Why are Maroon 5 songs so sad? What's the deal? Adam Levine! Geez! Someone get this dude a girlfriend or something.. or don't - relationships are tricky.. But seriously, can't you write about something fun instead of being all sad and stuff? Write things in major keys, smile in your music videos, what is happening to the world? Why did I eat so much curry?! So I'm now still only 2100 words into my final essay out of 4500 words, and it's all Maroon 5's fault.

 

ADmCFmYLns4

 

 

In other news,  my show I was going to do on December 16th is postponed until the new year. I know, I know, I'm sad too, but I promise I'll do a bunch in January.

 

I've been writing a bunch of poems lately... Since 2011 started, I've written 23 poems, most of which I've done multiple drafts of. Out of those 23 poems, 13 have been written in the last month. One I wrote today, and I also wrote a song today. I've started recording myself reading these poems too, so that I can see where I stumble and how the language sounds, and also to practice my reading. So instead of working on other things, I've just gotten really obsessive about recording multiple versions of these poems and editing and replaying the videos. Crazzzzy. But I think my poetry has gotten way better. They've all been emotional prose poems. I think I've found my place in poetry, my subject matter. I think I'm just becoming a better writer in general, which isn't surprising considering it's been my primary focus lately and I do it every day. Fantastic! Who knows, I guess I'll just keep working hard.

 

I went to a bookstore the other day. I bought some books one of my professors from York back in the day recommended... Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Good Squad, and then some books my friend made me buy: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me by Javier Marias, and Ghosts by Cezar Aira. I've started Ghosts, and it's really good so far, but I have to read Omeros by Derek Walcott for one of my classes and have been spending more time on that. But that's great too. 

 

 

My week was full of going out and blurry thoughts and greygreygrey city streets. I think this week is going to be crazy busy because of school, and one of the journals I work for, Echolocation, is having their launch this Tuesday at No One Writes to the Colonel (which I've definitely been saying COL-ON-EL all week cuz I'm pro like that).  I want to see The Muppets this week, and I'm even considering just going by myself and sitting in the theatre and having some popcorn. I'll bring a notebook and pretend to be a reviewer. And then I'll write a review for this blog. Hooray!

 

Anyway, take it easy and don't listen to Maroon 5 if you don't want to have an eat-your-feelings day,

 

Lovelovelove,

Jess 

 

 

 

November 19, 2011.

Performing on December 16th! I wrote a new short story! Is there such a thing as too many books?

 

Hi all!

 

So I just finished moving in the second batch of my things to my Toronto apartment on Thursday, and I realized two things. 1. I have a hella lot of books. 2. My tallest bookshelf cannot fit in my new place. That being said, there are now books everywhere! And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. I'm going to put a picture here for those that don't believe me.

 Those boxes are also full of books. 

Those bags are full of books. With the inability to keep my big bookshelf, it looks like some of my books are going to have to live in stacks on my floor until I can come up with a better solution. This situation seems to be typical of book lovers in their twenties everywhere. I wrote a poem about it that got published in the York University newspaper back in 2009. You can read it here: The Neglect of Books. As long as I have my books around me, I guess I'm ok with it. Can you spot two of the books I mentioned recently on this blog?

 

In other news, I was really hungover yesterday, which for some reason always means I can power through a rough draft of a story in about an hour. I don't what it is... it goes hand in hand with my ability to make rational decisions and remember everything while drinking. I think it's because while I'm hungover I'm really not productive, so I always end up over-compensating before I go to bed. After I got home from an awesome concert (which included spoken word, rap, hip-hop, dance teams, and a lot of other really kick-ass stuff. There was an actual dance-off. I'M NOT KIDDING!) around 11, I just ended up writing until 1am. The story is called "Night, Moon, Sky" and I really like it. It draws on some of my experiences lately in the city and being so young and confused. It includes my little moonsong. Here is a video of me singing my moonsong and explaining the different variations, including the one included in the story. 

It's pretty silly, but I'm sure someone out there understands that sometimes you just have to sing to all those things in the world. 

 

In other news, I got a show!!!! I will be doing a reading on December 16, 2011 at the Free Times Cafe. it's a fundraiser of sorts. I'm really excited, as I've been itching for the stage recently. I hope to do another one in January with InkTank Magazine.  And I want to record some of my acoustic songs over the winter break, so I might end up doing a show to promote those. Anyway, more details to come on the show!

 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend! Tomorrow I'm going to have a movie night with people from my new Creative Writing class, and then on Wednesday, I'm having a reunion of writers from the York University Creative Writing program. HOW EXCITING! I think my week is going to be packed.

 

Anyway, hugshugshugs and all that jazz,

 

Jess 

 

November 10, 2011. 

What's the deal with Creative Non-Fiction? Thumbs up, Life, thumbs up.

 

Hey everyone!

 

How's it hanging? Free and easy? I hope so.

 

So I'm up next to workshop in my Creative Writing class, and for some crazy reason, I've decided to send out a creative non-fiction piece. You know me and creative non-fiction. It drives me up the wall. So much of it is bad! And I feel like I'm guilty of doing a lot of the things that are wrong with creative non-fiction like:

1. Over summarizing events that took forever.

2. Allotting appropriate space to things that took forever.

3. Assuming that people want to read your story just because it is about you and you consider yourself incredibly awesome.

4. Not paying close enough attention to the language because you believe the events speak for themselves.

 

Why is creative non-fiction so hard? WHHHHYYYY?! I feel like I'm in eighth grade writing in my diary. And whenever I describe something sad, I think, "Well, Lullabies for Little Criminals had a girl that became a prostitute at 13 in it. Did you become a prostitute at 13? Have you ever been addicted to smack?" And you know what? I haven't done either of those things, so my life's just dandy. But I feel it's almost impossible to just write a creative non-fiction piece where you are like, "My life is completely rad!" If I tried to do that, it'd be like this:

 

My life is completely rad. I have a brother who has been my best friend like my WHOLE LIFE! That is so awesome. When I was younger, we were in a band. That was so cool. We had a lot of fun and got to see a lot of cool places with our close friends. My parents are pretty sweet. They never hassled me for wanting to do art for a living. I now live in an apartment with the most badass cat ever and get to do what I love everyday. I have a lot of cool friends that put themselves out there for me, especially when I need it the most.

 

Am I wrong here? Would people actually read that story? Of someone just bragging about how awesome their life is for pages and pages?  Well, my creative non-fiction piece, which I prefer to call my fictional non-fiction piece, is all right I guess. I saved it with poems! I'm big on combining forms. Basically, if you are frustrated with one form, just throw on another form and then you are good to go! The poems make it wayyyyy better. I think I'm now proud to send it out. But, as always, I'll have to see what my pals in class say!

 

This picture here is dedicated to life for being so amazing. Even with all the stresses, if you think about it, you could always write a creative non-fiction piece like my paragraph above, full of all the radness and none of the bother. I think I'm going to start to think of my life in this way. Yeah, there's bad. But usually there's good tagging along behind. It's better to not get all distracted with that stressful stuff.

 

I feel like I should post a video or something. 

 

Here:

 

tmlawajXdto

 

I've been getting into Sloan lately and was watching YouTube videos and stumbled across this beauty. You go Sloan! I definitely was doing this in my room while watching the video. Sometimes you've just got to dance!

 

Anyway, have a good night!

 

Hi-fives all around,

Jess 

 

November 4, 2011. 

Moved to Toronto. Check out Jane Ozkowski. Lullabies for Little Criminals. Happy Movember.

Hi Everyone!

 

So it's November, month of horribly naked trees, no holidays, coldness, and.... moustaches! My friends and brother in The Gentlemen Thieves are growing awful facial hair (for some reason I approve of beards but not staches) for prostate cancer. You can check out their Facebook Page where they are donating 25 cents of their own dough for every LIKE (and believe me, these dudes are broke, so that's saying a lot). And check out their Movember page to donate more if you feel like it. 

 

So big news! I moved to Toronto yesterday! I ended up finding an apartment super fast and moved on in. It's really nice, and even had a walk-in closet that was big enough for me to turn into a study to write in. My cat is moved in too and is sleeping in her little cat-bed right now. Awwwww. So I'm now a Toronto girl. I feel the same as when I lived in the suburbs, but we'll see if I feel more cosmopolitan as I stay here.

 

Right now I'm reading a book called Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill. It was a Canada Reads book back in 2007 and is pretty good so far. The story is really captivating and, despite some repeating imagery which is making me really mad, I think the language style is great. It actually reminds me of my friend, Jane Ozkowski's writing except with more junkies, children, and references to Quebecois culture. So if you do happen to like Heather O'Neill, you might want to check out Jane's work too.

I'll even make it easy for you by posting Jane's most recent poem here for you. It's called "Rosary Bees." You can email me or tweet at me to thank me later for this poetry experience.

 

OqfAS7RsIbU

 

As for my own writing, what with all this life-rearranging, I really haven't been keeping up with my writing log or working on my novel enough. I did write a rather neat short story though. I can't wait till winter break where I'm just going to work on my novel and try to polish up the pieces that I had critiqued in workshop.

 

I hope everyone is doing good and is feeling incredibly stoked on life.

 

Much love,

 

Jess 

 

  October 28, 2011.

Life Change. Apartment Hunting. Mother Mother. House of Leaves. 

Hey buddies!

 

Ok, so most of the people who actually read this probably know I've gone through a crazy life change the last couple of weeks. I'm not going to go through it here, but basically I'm living with my parents right now. Even going to Nantucket with my mom, I didn't realize how many hilarious things she says most of the time. I'm going to try to write down a top twenty and post it before I leave.

 

So basically, I'm looking for apartments right now. I have four lined up for Saturday, and I am SOOO EXCCCIITTTEEDD! I think I'll be able to decide on one this weekend. It helps that I'm really not that picky. On the subway line, not going to make me declare bankruptcy, ok I'll take it! And I have four that meet these criteria! FOUR! Lately it feels like, even with all the sadness that's happened, that I'm expanding, the world is expanding, I'm feeling good, I'm feeling crazy, I'm feeling sad, I'm feeling anxious, I'm feeling, I'm feeling, I'm feeling. And that's a good thing indeed. 

 

I'm listening to Mother Mother right now. I bought the CD yesterday. Not sure why. Well it's good, that's for sure. I don't buy music too much anymore (not in my ghetto budget) or listen to the radio, but I was listening to the radio when I was shuttling myself between Burlington and Caledon and heard "My Baby Don't Dance" and wanted to hear it more. I never illegally download - after being in a band, it's just something I can't get into. So I ordered it on iTunes. Even though my iPod is being all sketchy about actually charging. So now I'm listening to it, while writing to you. Somehow I never got around to it yesterday. But it's good. I think that's all I have to say about it.

 

50LShhlkTfw

 

Also, the past few weeks were consumed by school work and reading House of Leaves. I'm doing a seminar presentation on House of Leaves for my Digital Now! class. For this class, I've made a simple website for the project instead of doing a powerpoint or something.http://www.houseofleavesdigitalnow.webs.com . Check it out! I'm going to post my essay up there the night before my presentation (I don't want people to read it all before I do my presentation).

Check it out! 

 

Anyway, that's all for now!

 

Much love. Hug people. Seriously.

Jess 

 

October 12, 2011. 

 Review of 50/50. Petite Pimp.

 Hey everyone. 

 

I hope you're having a good day.

 

If not, here's something silly for you:

 This is me when I was around 2. I didn't know fur was bad yet. Pretty silly.

 

Review of 50/50

 

I saw 50/50 on Thanksgiving weekend. I've been a fan of Joseph Gordon -Levitt since the 3rd Rock From the Sun days.  His acting didn't disappoint here. The story is that Adam, a 27 year old man working in radio, is diagnosed with spinal cancer. He starts chemotherapy treatments and learns who in his life he can count on and who is only using him. Seth Rogen stars as Gordon-Levitt's best friends, and I think he does the job well. He is still very "Seth Rogen" though, which is to say it is a similar role to what he usually plays. All in all, this was a good movie, and I'd recommend going to see it. 8/10

 

That's all for now!

 

Have a good cloudy day!

 

Take it easy,

 

Jess 

 

October 7, 2011.

 Photos added from September 27, 2011 - InkTank Magazine's Launch Party!

 

Hi. It's me again.

 

The wonderful Beata Grudzinska sent me photos she took from the InkTank Magazine Launch Party that happened on Sept 27th. Check them out in the Look section!

 

Here's a preview:

Giant Jess!

 

Have a good night,

 

Jess 

 

October 6, 2011. 

Website somewhat rearranged into Look, Listen, Read, Watch. A video for you.

 

Hey buddies!

 

Right now I'm watching some weird movie on W network called Second Chances. For some reason, W Network plays the weirdest stuff. Seriously. Really weird.

 

So far I've had quite the week. Went out with my old York University Creative Writing crew on Monday. Ordered some corn beef hash. Yum. Corned beef is the best thing in the world. Then on Tuesday, I went out with the people from my new Creative Writing class at U of T. I had such a good time both of those days that I woke up thinking I only wanted to hang out with writers from now on. But then I remembered how fun some of my other friends are too. Also it's good to know people that are into a variety of different things.

 

So after doing pretty much nothing yesterday, I had a productive three hours before bed and worked hard on this site. I've rearranged the website into Look (Pictures), Listen (Audio), Read, and Watch. Read and Watch are both brand new. For Read, I've tried to either link or post content that I've published over the years. Watch is more of my pickings and choosing of videos representative of what I've done. There are so many videos of the Big Man Himself, that I just wouldn't be able to put up all of them.

 

Here's a video I didn't post. Maybe I will later. It's from early 2007 when we had our first drummer still! I was 17 I think. Hahah. It makes me laugh to hear me shout, "BUY OUR STUFF!" Pressure much?  It's hard to believe so many years have gone by.

 

7DCtITdcnfg

That song is called Ska Radio and was played on CIUT's Ska Party show and also on a podcast in Quebec. It was our first "single."

 

Maybe I'll play guitar for a bit today.

 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the changes I've made to the site!

 

Take it easy!

Jess 

 

October 2, 2011.

 Holy cow, it's October! Two pieces in October's InkTank Magazine. Big Bad TA! How the reading went. Writing Retreats. AND MORE!

 

Hey everyone. I'm so sorry. It's OCTOBER! How did that happen?

 

I guess between funding applications, getting started with school, and increasing my daily writing quota, I have been kind of ignoring this website. It will never, ever, happen again.

 

NEWS! I have two pieces up on October's issue of InkTank Magazine. The issue's theme was "Food and Hunger" so I submitted a short short fiction piece called "Hunger Belly." Jane "Ozkowski" Oczkowski and I wrote a collaborative non-fiction piece called "The Perfect Compliment Sandwich." It's about getting rejection letters. And it's awesome. 

 

Jane has a new website called www.janeozkowski.com.  It's pretty cool. We went on a writing retreat to her cabin a couple weeks ago. We wrote a lot. Here is a picture of me holding up my notebook full of writing:

 

 In the background is my writing kit. I'm kind of a nerd, and so have started collecting writing paraphernalia. I have fingerless gloves to help with typing, a writing kit (Nantucket Diddy Bag), a hat that boosts my confidence, and a couple sweaters that I try not to wear in public.  

 

The other night, I did a reading at the Ossington to launch InkTank Magazine. It was fun, and a lot of people came out. I was surprisingly not that nervous, but afterwards I felt weird instead of pumped. I read two new poems and they went over pretty well, so I might keep them in my set or at least keep working on them. My brother's fiancee took pictures, so I should have those up soonish.

 

Also I became a TA last minute for this semester! I just finished my first batch of marking. It was a lot of work, mostly because I got switched last minute, but I really like it. I remember so well being in first year that it's kind of strange to be marking the kind of assignments I used to do. I guess that's what I get for going straight through!

 

Reading a whole bunch of books right now... For pleasure I've mainly been focusing on House of Leaves and The Collected Stories of Deborah EisenbergHouse of Leaves is blowing my mind and also making me scared of my house. It's kind of on hold for the moment, but I think I'm going to do my Digital Now! project on it, so I'll have to start reading it pretty hardcore.

 

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg is amazing. Probably my favourite thing I've read in a while. I had never heard of her before, and one of my professors from when I was at York recommended the book to me. I went out and bought it right away because it's a beautiful book and this is the man that recommended 2666 to the class. I've limited myself to one short story a day, and I keep catching myself trying to cheat. The book is 992 pages, and I love the stories so much that I'm sure if I let myself keep reading I wouldn't stop. Then I'd have to explain why I knew nothing about Postcolonial Ecocriticism to my class. "Umm sorry, I was reading some short stories.... I know I have no idea what theory you are discussing, but the stories are really, really good." Then everyone would go out and buy the book and read that instead of theory. Then our class would only talk about short stories and not theory at all. Sigh.  

 

 Awww yeah.

 

Anyway, enough of me being a book nerd. I'm off! I will update on Thursday. Check out my stories on InkTank!

 

Jess 

 

 

 

September 14, 2011.

 Check out "There's Something Missing" on InkTankMagazine. Back to school. Nantucket. Reading at InkTankMag launch Sept 27th.

 

Hey everyone! Hey!

 

How are you all? I am doing awesome.

 

Getting back to school, going on vacation, and basically getting to write more has gotten me out of that awful slump I was in when I was working at the coffee shop. I never stopped writing during that time, but I stopped having any energy at all. It's nice to feel it back and to wake up in the morning and be able to write from 9am-11am without interruption. And then eat. And write some more. 

 

Here is a picture of Nantucket:

 We were going to do our seal watch on August 25, but because the hurricane was starting to get closer, the waves were really rocky. It wasn't that windy on the island and the weather was beautiful so my mom and I were kind of wondering what was the big deal. And I really wanted to see seals. But then we decided to grab a hotdog at Surfside beach. THE WAVES WERE HUGE! Some were 7 feet tall. I played at the edge of the water because I was scared about undertow (I'm not used to the ocean at all- this was my first time.) You could tell who were the people who were locals or people who came to the ocean all the time. Five year olds knew right where to dive through a wave so they could pop up on the other side. It was fantastic! Seeing those little kids body surf while I was running in the other direction. Oh hey, I'm 22. I'm scared of waves. Durr.

 

My mom and I ordered clam chowder everywhere we could and rated them. I will update this entry with our full clam chowder breakdown once I have my mom's scores, but overall we decided:

 

4. The Tavern's "Quahog Chowder" around $3-$4- August 23, 2011

3.  Slip 14's "New England Clam Chowder 'Best Ever'" $6- August 25, 2011.

2. The Brotherhood of Thieves "Chowder" $5.75- August 24, 2011.

AND IN FIRST PLACE:

1. Downyflake Donuts "Clam Chowder" $3.75- August 26, 2011.

 

The best was certainly saved for last. We had to walk 45 minutes to Downyflake because they had moved from their downtown location. My mom remembered it as being a quick walk, but since they moved 20 years ago to a bigger location we had to go to the outskirts of town. We were so glad to see this restaurant! We were just going for breakfast, but when we saw they had chowder too we were so excited! Our last chowder! Four chowders for four days! And it turns out it was the best! We told our waitress about rating the chowders and that her restaurant's had won! "Really?" she said, not at all amused and kind of wondering if we were crazy. I said eh after every sentence my whole trip and freaked out when I heard Arcade Fire and Metric on the radio in every shop.  

 

IN OTHER NEWS!

 

I have a story up on InkTank Magazine called "There's Something Missing." Please go check it out! I will also be reading at the Launch on September 27th. My good friend Jane Oczkowski, who runs Albatross Bones, will also be reading, so make sure you check it out! And while I'm at it, Dragnet Mag is a magazine that my new classmate Andrew Battershill co-runs with some people. It's pretty legit and will have it's third issue released on Saturday. Another one of my classmates, Nicholas Herring, will have his story in it. SHOUT OUTS FOR ALL!

 

Well, that's about it for me now. I'm going to start updating Monday nights and Thursdays/Wednesday nights. And maybe more in between if I'm procrastinating.  Now I have to go pretend to do some work. 

 

Oh, and in case you didn't notice, the summer is over! So the summer reading list is now finished. I'll do another one for Christmas Break so then I'm not just posting school books, but I'll review things that I read in my spare time or catch my interest.

 

Have an amazing night! Much love to

every

single

person.

 

Jess 

 

August 19, 2011.

Review of A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid. Two more shifts at my job. Nantucket soon.

 

Hey there people.

 

I only have two more shifts before I finish my job at the cafe. I'm super excited to just start focusing on writing and reading these next couple of years. It's going to be the best. My website should be redesigned in the next month, I'm going to make up some business cards and stickers. Things finally feel like they're getting moving.

 

Off to Nantucket on the 23rd. Tomorrow's my official last shift, and then I have some hanging out to do before I leave. On Sunday I'm going to see my old friend, Alex. Monday David and I will probably go to a waterpark if the weather's good. And his band is playing a show tomorrow too. 

 

I read another book from one of my upcoming classes. This one is going to be in a class on Post-colonial criticism and environmental criticism.

 

Review of A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid. 

 

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid is part memoir and part long essay, totalling only 81 pages. In these 81 pages, Kincaid is able to delve into satire, postcolonial criticism, social criticism, the complication of past imperialism and the new independence of a country not used to self-governance. Kincaid is funny and angry with a cutting wit and satire. I found that the entire book was extremely well-written and shifts effortlessly into the different topics it covers.

 

You know the troubles I have with memoir and non-fiction. With Kincaid's book, I never felt bogged down by the writing or thought the writing too simplistic. It was interesting and inventive in all the right places and to the point in the places it wasn't. She also effectively balanced her love and nostalgic memories for the parts of the island, Antigua, that she loved while still forcefully pointing out the wrongs of the past and present.

 

I'd recommend this for anyone interested in post-colonial criticism, people who have been tourists (the first section aptly examines tourism by addressing the reader as a tourist, using the pronoun you), people who have experienced colonialism in their own personal history, and people interested in long-form essays. This book is so rich that I'm sure most people could find something to enjoy in it.

 

That's all for now. I will try to write another post before I go to Nantucket. Not sure how much I will post while I'm there - I'm going to try and focus on planning my novel and working on a science journalism article.

 

Have fun, enjoy this summer day!

 

Jess 

 

 

August 15, 2011.

Updated calendar. Books for classes. 

 

Hey there!

 

I'm updating my calendar with the info for the variety show I'm going to be reading at September 4th. I'm so excited!

 

Only a week until I go to Nantucket!

 

My major book orders for my school books have started coming in. I've read a couple already for myPathological Forgetting in Canadian Literature course that I'm taking second semester. So far these books are awesome!

 

 Hopefully the rest from the course are as good. So far this has made me excited for grad school!

 

Much love,

 

Jess 

 

August 8, 2011.

Couple of readings in the next month. My pro writing hat.

 

Hey everyone!

 

Ok, some exciting news. I'm going to be representing InkTank Magazine at a variety show on September 4th in Toronto. Details are in the Calendar section. I'll be doing a reading for about 10 to 20 minutes. It'd be great to see some familiar faces. And I promise I'll do a good set. I'll also be double-heading the launch party with my pal, Jane Ozckowski.   

 

I got a hat custom made at Lids. Check it out: 

This is the side I wear forward when I'm in a mood to write prose (most of the time). 

 

This is the side I wear forward when I'm in a more poetic mood.

I will post more pictures later!

 

Have a good night!

Much love,

 

Jess 

 

August 4, 2011.

Starting work on new novel. Nantucket bound. Review of Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. 

 

Hey everybody!

 

How's it going? I hope people are getting to enjoy their summer a little more than me! I've been still working in between 40 and 45 hour weeks, but I managed to get to one of my favourite beaches... Sandbanks Provincial Park.

 

It's also getting to be time to start thinking about school. I've already gotten messages from one of my professors telling me to start reading now! And a message from one of the graduate administrators telling me to start putting together my funding proposals for next year. It feels so strange to have to be thinking about the 2012-2013 school year before I've even started my 2011-2012 one! I ordered my books and have started reading a couple.

 

Thinking about my funding applications has kickstarted me on brainstorming for my new novel that I will write as part of my MA program. I've decided to write something new for the project instead of using it as an opportunity to polish up Storytellers. I like to always do something new so that I end up with the most work possible that I can then polish on my own time. The cool thing about my program is that as well as writing something new, they will pair me with a mentor who will help me polish my manuscript. 

 

My new book is going to explore some of the same themes as in Storytellers... the multiple voices and forms, the inspiration from geographical landscape, but I am also going to intertwine the history of marine biology with it. Bringing out some of my Science and Technology Studies background. There will also be an almost fairytale-esque feel to some parts, close to magic realism. I'm very excited and have started some early writing of it. I still need to do a lot of work though.

 

I am heading to Nantucket, Massachusetts with my mom in late August, after I'm finished at my job. She's originally from Massachusetts, from a suburb outside of Boston. She spent a few years living and working in Nantucket though. We want to go to Boston and the surrounding area too sometime so I can see where she grew up, but for this three day trip, we decided on Nantucket. I'm going on a seal watch, which is where they bring the boat up super close to this island where tons of seals hang out. We're also going to do an ecology field trip with the marine association there and help collect crabs and fish from the harbours as part of a ecological survey. I'm so stoked. And I know this will end up being inspiration for my new novel.

 

I've added Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer to my  Summer Reading List. As for what I thought of Eating Animals...

 

To Eat or Not to Eat- A Review of Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

 

I love Jonathan Safran Foer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated. Even though I knew that Eating Animals was nonfiction and about Foer's investigation into, well, eating animals and his wayward relationship with vegetarianism, I still expected to love him for it. But, I didn't.

 

I do think Eating Animals was wonderfully researched. Jonathan Safran Foer went past the usual arguments that are in books and media discussing eating animals and factory farming to include more personal interviews, visits, and even sneaking into a factory farm. The narratives that came from his personal interviews were engaging, and interacted well with each other, offering different perspectives on the subject. I wasn't expecting the range of research methods and was expecting more of a persuasive argument that relied on logic. I was pleasantly surprised in this aspect.

 

Unfortunately, where this book let me down was the place I thought it would stand up the straightest. The language. Eating Animals fell into the traps that many fiction writers fall into... the writing didn't always feel natural. In a fiction text, you want to be aware of the writer's choice of language. For non-fiction of this type, the language needs to feel natural - (Right now, I can hear one of my professors in my head criticizing me for saying this. "What about Joan Dideon?" he is saying. "What about all of the Creative Non-Fiction we read?" Ok, I guess I will have to specify.) If a writer is going for a stylization in non-fiction, it needs to be consistent. What I found with Eating Animals was certain awkward phrases that didn't seem to fit the voice. I would go over and read them again. Why is this in here? I would ask myself. Then I realized it was the writer trying to avoid cliche, or trying to be different. But it needs to fit the tone. Because of things like these, I felt like the book didn't focus enough on the writing. During the personal narrative especially, I think Foer could have developed his use of language a bit more. It seemed like nothing else he would ever write, almost like a first draft. 

 

Parts of the book also seemed repetitive. I know to expect this from long form non-fiction in the beginning chapters and end chapters, but it seemed that I was constantly being recapped on the information that was already outlined. To give Foer due credit however, this did allow me to put down and pick up the book at random times without forgetting what I had read. The book also kept me reading somehow. Usually I get bogged down with informative non-fiction and have a hard time reading several pages at a go. This book was almost an effortless read for me.

 

I bought Eating Animals because I want to collect as much of Jonathan Safran Foer's work as possible. But I wouldn't recommend this as a MUST BUY. Borrow and read this book if you are interested in the subject matter, but if you are drawn to it because you want something written by the astounding fiction writer, Jonathan Safran Foer, I would pass it by and buy Tree of Codes instead.

 

Well that's all for now! I might post a click flick review in a few days! Haha! From a critique of a non-fiction book to Friends with Benefits- I do it all!

 

Have fun and enjoy the outdoors!

 

Much love,

 

Jess  

 

June 20, 2011.

Summer Reading List Posted. Review of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

 

Hey everyone!

 

So I have a surprise for the book lovers out there... A SUMMER BOOK LIST. Basically, I'm going to post the books I'm reading this summer as I'm reading them and give them a rating according to how challenging the book is and how enjoyable I consider it. You can check it out HERE .

 

I sign up for my courses on Wednesday, and I'm soooo excited! I didn't think I would miss school so much. Working full time this summer has really shown me how much I need to work somewhere that involves literature, reading, and writing.

 

My mom and I might go down to Nantucket this summer. I'd love that. She's from Boston originally, but to see where she grew up, we'd have to have a bit more time and money. So maybe next year and Nantucket the end of this summer.

 

NOW! Here's a review, since I know I've been slacking.

 

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

I'd never read Jonathan Franzen's, The Corrections, but after reading Freedom, I think I may just go on out and buy it. The only thing I had read of Jonathan Franzen was a fake interview question in Grantaabout why he still allows himself to be photographed. His new novel captures the same mix of poignancy and irony that was in that paragraph in Granta, and I think there is the potential for Franzen to become one of my favourite writers.

 

My friend Jane asked me, "Well, was [Freedom] the best American Book of the Year?" as it had been rumoured to be, and I'm not sure. I feel to answer the question fairly, I would have to read everything that came out in 2010 in the States and take a couple courses on American Lit too. But, in my humble opinion, the book was pretty amazing. 

 

If you want to be sucked into the lives of a family, learn something about the world, experience multiple perspectives, this is the book for you. Even if you don't want to read about those things, this book is still for you. Come on, there's even a rock star in it. The switch in perspectives is never jarring and somehow is able to be written in the same charming tone laced with a sarcastic humour while still having each voice sound unique.  

 

At 576 pages, I felt that if I had the time to set aside, I could've read this book continuously and finished it in one day. When I set the book down, the characters were still with me - I wondered about them, felt about them. Dealing with political topics such as how to best make a positive impact on the world (Environmentally? Socially? Politically?), big oil, and the war in Iraq, Franzen never is preachy. Instead he is more like one of his many protagonists, Walter, constantly questioning how to live. What are our animal instincts vs. moral obligations? How can you keep a changing family together in a changing world?

 

I can't help but wonder if this will be the book I've enjoyed reading the most over the summer break. I strongly suspect it will be.

 

All right folks! Keep an eye on the reading list, and I'll post more reviews soon!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess 

 May 6, 2011.

Working 55 hour weeks. Reading a lot. Reviews to come soon.

 

Hey everyone!

 

How's it going? Recently I've been working 55 hour weeks between two jobs. I'm tired! The plus side to being so tired all the time is that I've been catching up on my reading instead of going out anywhere. I finished 2666 by Roberto Bolano, Annabel by Kathleen Winter, and am about 250 pages into Freedomby Jonathan Franzen and am hoping to finish it in the next couple days. I promise I will post a review of at least one of these books soon! I also saw Prom, and to my embarrassment, it wasn't bad.

 

I've also been working on writing a bio for my friends at F that Junk, a promotion and marketing company. If you need any help promoting yourself or getting an online identity going, let me know, and I'll hook you up with them. Frankie from Metal F (the F in F that Junk), should do me a website redesign in the near future, so be on the look out for that!

 

Take it easy and reviews soon!

 

Much love,

 

Jess  

March 30, 2011.

Last night's reading. How to balance work, school, and a writing career?

 

Hey everyone,

How's it going? I know I just wrote yesterday, but I thought I'd let you all know how my reading at the Art Bar went last night. I was indeed able to get a spot onstage and so did my writer friend, Jane Oczkowski. I read my poem called "Tantrum," and she read hers, "She Flew on the Back of a Bird." I love the adrenaline rush after performing. It's the best, makes it so worth it. For some reason, even though I get a little nervous before reading, it isn't nearly as bad as when I used to play in bands. I don't know if this is because I'm more confident in my writing ability than my musical ability or because I've grown more confident in general.

 

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how I'm going to balance a literary life. There was a time when I never knew about any literary events going on and could never seem to figure out how to research it. Now that I know about some of them, I feel like there is about five different amazing events going on every night of the week in Toronto and probably even more that you can only find out about through word of mouth. I feel so guilty whenever I don't go out to these things because I have to work, or do homework, or even just stay in with my boyfriend. I think, "No, Jess! You are supposed to be a writer and go to these things!" But it is impossible to go to everything. How can you pick and choose?

 

What is more important to becoming a real, recognized writer (as in people know you and will buy your work), the performance and networking or setting aside time to perfect your craft and send out work? I feel there must be a balance that I can reach, but with training at one job, still working 20 hours at another and finishing up my final year, I'm terrified it's getting away from me.

 

People say to me, "You're only 22. Why are you worrying about these things? You should be out having fun!" But I need to work to make next year a reality, and writing is the most important thing to me. I've always had that spot inside to me that tells me that passion and determination is the one thing no one can ever take away from me.

 

Anyway, if you are an aspiring writer like me or an established one, I'd love to hear how you prioritize everything. I can mention your comments in here if you want. Just use the contact form. 

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess   

March 29, 2011.

Posting photos of readings. Upcoming reading. Future more or less straightened out.

Hey everyone!

 

Recently, I've been doing some open mic nights and readings around town. Tonight I'm going to try to get on stage at Clinton's Art Bar (they take the first ten to sign up). I performed there last week and had a blast. Last week, I also read at an art show at York University. That was a lot of fun because I got to do an actual set rather than just reading one poem. I posted the pictures in the Photos section.

 

I am now 22 (as of yesterday), and I think I'm pretty happy with how far I've gotten with my work. I have decided I will go to the University of Toronto and sent them my acceptance of their offer yesterday. I'm going to be in the English in the Field of Creative Writing MA. Right now Michael Winter is the acting director, and it was amazing to meet him when I went down for visitor's day. I also got to meet three of the other writers that are going to be in the program with me. That was really cool since these are going to be my classmates for the next couple years. I even bought a U of T sweater and have been wearing it around York University. So far, no one has commented. I guess people are used to seeing people wearing sweaters from other universities there (low school spirit). I have enjoyed my time a lot at York though, especially in the Creative Writing program. That program, the faculty, it's something special for sure.

 

So I guess that's pretty much it for now. I'm working two jobs now, one at Timothy's World Coffee and then still selling cards at Hallmark. It's been crazy! But I think it'll be worth it when I have a lot saved up for living expenses during grad school.

 

Take it easy, and I'll write more in the week!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess

February 24, 2011.

Thinking about music. The Gentlemen Thieves. Worrying about the future. Barney's Version Review. 

Hey everyone!

How's it going? Sorry it's been so long since I've written. Grad school applications took up more effort than I expected, then Christmas and working at Hallmark. I'm on reading week now, and enjoying the break since this final year has been tough!

 

David and Ken, my brother and former bandmate, have started a band called The Gentlemen Thieves. If you have a minute, check them out on Myspace or Facebook .They are really cool people (and I'm not saying that just because it's my boyfriend and brother). I went to a recording session with them the other day, and it made me realize how much I miss being in a band. Recording was always my favourite part. Ken and I are going to try to put together some recordings though, so maybe that will help fix my craving.

 

I feel like all areas of the arts are connected, but sometimes you do lose something if you focus too much on one area. I know I want to write more than anything though, and in order to be serious about something, you have to make sacrifices. So I have. 

 

The summer is coming up fast, and I still haven't found a summer job that will help me pay my way through grad school. I've already gotten into one program and am waiting for my other replies. It feels so strange hovering like this, without knowing where I'll be or what I'll be doing next year or how I'll even be able to afford anything.

 

Review of Barney's Version

David went away skiing over the long weekend, so I had my friend Alex from Kingston stay over for a few days. We went out to the movies to see Barney's Version. This movie is based off of the book by the same title by Mordecai Richler that won the Giller Prize in 2007. Unfortunately, I haven't read the book, which I can safely assume is better than the movie. This is not to say the movie was bad - on the contrary, it was a great story with good acting.

 

Barney's Version is supposed to be an account of Barney's life from his point of view, detailing his three marriages and the death of his best friend, Boogie. I'm not going to give away the ending, since you guys can use Wikipedia if you want to do that, but I will tell you that this movie was hilarious when it tried to be funny and heartbreaking when it tried to be sad. Paul Giamatti did a great job as Barney, but when Dustin Hoffman came onscreen paying his father, he stole the whole movie in a second. 

 

One criticism I have about this movie is that, from what I understand of the original book, it gets away from some of the aims of the novel. The novel is called Barney's Version because it's supposed to be Barney's version of events and to portray him as an unreliable narrator. It is harder to set up the unreliable narrator idea in a movie, but I don't think enough of an attempt was made. It is obvious we are in Barney's memory, but there isn't a really challenge to his truthfulness. Voice over or contradictions could have set this up. 

 

All in all, a great movie. My friend and I had an awesome time. 8/10.

 

I think that's all for today. Next time I'll do a review of a graphic novel I just finished called Essex County. It was part of this years Canada Reads Contest run by the CBC. 

 

Have a great day, and don't fear - winter's almost over!

Jess

 

 

 November 16, 2010.

An award for poetry. Speaking at schools. Writing Centre. Moving.

 

Hey everyone!

 

I apologize for not writing in over two months. Really. I hope that over the next couple months it will be easier for me to update this webpage. It's my last year at York University and so things have gotten hopping the last little while. I've been running all around campus trying to get funding and applications and reference letters sorted. Then I moved. And now I have bronchitis, even though I'm still jumping around everywhere, which I'm sure isn't great for my aching lungs.

 

Some really exciting news! Actually, a lot of exciting news! I guess I will start with the most recent: I have received Honourable Mention for the Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Poetry Award for my poem "Working Hands". I'm thrilled! About a week before I moved I received a mysterious envelope, much like a Hogwartz invitation or something. It was inviting me to York University President's Creative Writing Awards Ceremony. I thought everyone had been invited or something. No way, jose! I brought my brother and my writerly companions, Jane and Patrick. There was great food, and I shook hands with the President of the University.  I'm really happy that the university puts something like this on. There should be a couple articles covering the event surfacing in YFile and maybe in Excalibur, so I've made a press section where I will throw up links and clippings.

 

David and I successfully completed our move, and the house is great. I have "a room of one's own" for my writing, which is just perfect!

 

I went back to visit Mayfield Secondary School today to talk to the Writer's Craft classes. I think it went a little better than last year, but sometimes I worry that I'm seeing a decline in young people interested in writing. I'm trying to get the Extremely Awesome Writing Centre for Youth going again. The second meeting at the Caledon Public Library will be November 25th from 7pm-8pm at the Albion-Bolton Branch of the Caledon Public Library (150 Queen Street S., Bolton, ON). Feel free to email me for more info.

 

I've been buying a truckload of books, most recently: Cities of Refuge by Michael Helm, 2666 by Roberto Bolano, Winter Sport by Priscilla Uppal, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. People have also been giving me books, and I won two books with the award last night. I promise, promise, promise I will post a review of at least one book and one movie (probably Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) in December.

 

Much love and undying respect for anyone that reads this,

 

Jess 

 

 September 12, 2010.

 

Three Day Novel writing contest! Back to school tomorrow.

 

Hey everybody!

 

I hope everyone has had a great summer and is ready to go back to school. Personally, I've had such a crazy last few weeks of my vacation between figuring out graduate school stuff, competing in the 3-Day Novel competition , and finding a place to live with my boyfriend. It's been very stressful, but very good as well. I secretly like being a busy person.

 

So the 3-Day Novel contest was intense, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The actual writing part wasn't that difficult. This is probably because I'm a huge planner with my writing. Normally I construct huge plot outlines and diagrams and timelines, but this time I didn't do any of that. I wrote brief notes on each character and had an idea of my climax, but most of the middle was a surprise to me. At the same time, I knew where the story was going and so could guide it along.

 

What I think I wasn't expecting was the way it messes with your head. It's a really weird experience because you sit in the same spot for long periods of time. You forget about eating because you get into your story. Then suddenly, you find it hard to type or put simple words together. Normally I eat every two hours. With the contest, I'd eat a muffin and get some coffee at 9, and then not eat anything until 2 or 3.

 

Day One: I started writing Friday night just after 12:01am (technically Saturday morning). I got three pages done and then went to sleep. In the morning, I wrote about five pages before heading out for some coffee and microwave dinners, granola bars, and muffins so that I wouldn't have to cook all weekend.  I came home and wrote another 6 pages. I decided to aim for 50 pages a day, even though the novels that are submitted to the contest usually average 100 pages. I ended up completing 40 pages on Day One. David brought me over some fish and chips and sat with me while I ate before sending me back to work.

 

Day Two: I woke up a little bit earlier thinking that I would definitely reach 100 pages by the end of the day. This day was the hardest for me. I didn't leave the house at all, which I think was a mistake. I should've taken my laptop over to a Williams or something for a change of scenery. Since I set my novel in Georgian Bay, I also wanted to do some research. David and I took a trip there, and so I brought back those experiences and also a newsletter/ park map. I ended up having to do some additional research that day and so that slowed me down quite a bit. I kept day dreaming about Ribfest as well, which I missed this year because of the contest. I also had rough music notation of a song that one of my characters play in the book, which I scanned and inserted into the text that day as well. David brought me ribs from Ribfest as well. Yay! I ended up writing only 30 pages, hitting 70 pages before I went to bed. I probably could have pushed through to 90 pages by the end of the night, but the book was getting too sad so I needed a break.

 

Day Three: I woke up the earliest this day and was excited to start working. I went out and bought coffee and got right to work. I was already at 80 pages before noon. I also had to do some research on certain freshwater organisms and that type of thing, which took some time out. When I edit the book, I probably will fact check and research this area some more. A lot of journal articles were blocked to me because I wasn't signed into my York Library account, but I didn't have time to go through those archives. I was done my climax at 90 pages and kind of felt like I wanted to just end it there. I was able to write four more pages as a denouement, and I'm glad I put it in. Then I went through and edited. When I edit, I end up expanding usually because my style can be sparse on the first draft. The final rough draft totalled 101 pages. I was done the entire 101 pages including a brief edit by 6pm. All was good and so I went to chill and come back into reality with my boyfriend. While I was over at his house, I had a panic around 10pm and discarded my last line and rewrote it. I'm so much happier with that line!

 

So it's all mailed out now. At first, I wasn't sure if I would do the contest again. I mean, I have two rough drafts now that the summer is over that I need to work on and polish. It wrecked my stomach and left me exhausted, even though I didn't get frustrated with the story. Now that I've had a bit of time since I competed in it, I'm not sure. I was able to produce a rough draft in only three days. That makes me feel really good. And I think it's a good story. What is also neat about doing it in three days is that, now that I've had some space, I'm already thinking of edits and where I can expand the book. I could see the book ending up being around 150 or 200 typed pages, and I'm excited to get editing. Fill the Page with Colour which I worked on for about eight months is something I still don't want to look at and start editing since I spent so much time on it. We'll see how I feel closer to Labour Day next year.

 

Anyway, I suppose I should get ready to go back to classes tomorrow! Have a nice night!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess

 

August 6, 2010.

Review of Despicable Me. Review of Inception. Why I want to go to grad school. Dreams.

 

Hey everyone! How are you?

 

Finally finished up my summer courses! I hope the marks end up being good. I went on a trip to Sarnia yesterday to do a card revision for Hallmark with my bosses. It was pretty good, but my legs are wrecked from squatting on the ground pulling out cards for so long.

 

Something that one of the people I was working with brought up was that going to school is a way for people to avoid the real world. I disagreed with this. I've heard this sentiment often from hard-working people who decided to work instead of going to school or continuing onto to graduate programs. I disagree with it because it assumes that there is only one type of student. I know many students that do either rely on government assistance to pay their way through school or have their parents pay for everything while in school including their rent, food, books, tuition and nights out. Then you get students that are working their way through school. They might get some OSAP, but they pretty much work full-time while getting an education in order to support themselves and also to make sure they are able to graduate school without so much debt. Then there are students like me. While my parents do pay my tuition, I pay my rent and bills, work hard to get scholarships that will help go against my tuition, volunteer and participate on campus, and take my part-time job seriously. For those second two types of students, being in school helps them to learn to manage their time so that they can better interact with "the real world". If anything, the years these kids are in school will be their most stressful until they become a parent or something.

 

Why should someone go to graduate school or university? When I first went off to university, I wanted nothing to do with it. I thought I should be working and writing and that a career would miraculously form itself around me. Now I am hopefully continuing my education with grad school. It's a personal decision for everyone. For me, grad school will allow me to actually do something with my degree, as well as help me gain contacts and feedback on my writing. I will still be developing pieces of writing that I can send out to publications. Also, being in a competitive environment like a writing program helps students strive to be even better. I know it's not for everyone, but I've learned a lot of life skills balancing school and work and everything else I do so I don't think I'd have changed they way it happened for me.

 

Review of Inception

 

I lucid dream quite frequently. Something like the way technology doesn't work right will reveal to me in my dream-state that I'm dreaming. I used to hate this because my dreams always seemed so real and vivid. More recently, I enjoy it because once I understand I am in a dream, I can control it slightly and even will myself awake. I also feel like it's using my brain in a different way. Most of this dream control I picked up from Richard Linklater's movie, Waking Life, which I feel everyone should watch. While I don't know if Nolan was doing this specifically, I think Inception owes a lot to this movie as well.

 

Inception is a movie that a lot of people have been waiting to see. Almost everyone you talk to will like it. I only know of about three people who disliked the movie, and as soon as I find out why, I will let you know.

 

I don't want to say too much about this movie because I went in only knowing that it was about dreams, and I think this ignorance really helped me discover the movie on my own. It's a thinker, so don't go into the movie expecting to understand everything perfectly, but also don't work too hard to decipher it.

 

The acting was pretty well done. I didn't know Ellen Page was in this movie and was really glad to see her in a more grown up role. She did a really good job in Juno, but had several similar roles to it shortly after. This role really let her shine, and I think she was great. DiCaprio was good as well, but sometimes when he's acting psychologically damaged it annoys me. I don't know why. Maybe I feel like he over plays it a bit. This character could have been a little more stiff with his emotions. I think it would have suited him a little better. The melodrama reminded me a little of Shutter Island, a movie I really did not feel like linking with this movie.

 

I recommend that everyone see this movie though so you can decide for yourself! Tons of people will think this rating too low, but I'm only going to give Inception an 8, partially because I felt the story wasn't as innovative as everyone thought it was and secondly because it danced with the melodramatic a little too frequently. 8/10

 

Review of Despicable Me

 

I went into this movie with high expectations. I heard from my co-worker that the movie was extremely cute. Did it meet my expectations? Not really.

 

The movie was cute, I'll give you that. And it was funnier than I expected. I saw it in 3D and really did not feel that it added to the experience much at all and probably should have just been released as a normal movie. The main character is super-villain, Gru. He steals important things with interesting weapons like his freeze ray, has a team of little yellow minions, and an old professor type guy that designs his weapons and gadgets. Then Vector, a young emerging villain, steals the pyramids, making Gru's heists seem pathetic. Gru, haunted by memories of wanting to be an astronaut as a child, decides he's going to steal the moon. He'll shrink it with a shrink ray. (Ignore the science of it. I started to think about it and then I just had to let it go). Vector steals the shrink ray. So Gru adopts three little girls from an orphanage that Vector has ordered cookies from so that he can gain easy access to Vector's home. Gru ends up loving the little girls and staying a daddy.

 

The little girls were awesome in this movie. They all had their own personalities and exhibited behaviour that actually fit with their ages and with the issues that abandoned children have. At the same time, I was hoping that Gru would end up revealing more to them about what he does for a living and teach them to be mini-villains as well. The idea of the movie started out to be really unique and kind of edgy for a kids movie, and then turned totally conventional, as the only thing that changes is that Gru stops being a villain and  turns into a really good Dad. I think they could have kept the story unique, while keeping the change in Gru and showing his loving side. 

 

Also, the movie ended everyone dancing. Dancing. And it didn't seem casual or funny. It was just lame, corny dancing. It was cool the first time it was done in Shrek. Even after that when the other Shrekmovies did it, it still was kind of hokey. This movie took it to a whole other level. It was awkward to watch. It must be really fun to animate dancing characters or something because these end of the movie dance numbers do nothing to contribute to the stories at all. STOP PUTTING THEM IN, DREAMWORKS AND UNIVERSAL STUDIOS! BOTH OF YOU BETTER QUIT IT!

 

For that, I give this movie only 6/10.

 

Anyway, 

I hope everyone enjoyed this blog! Let me know if you disagree with any of my opinions!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess

 

July 15, 2010.

Review of Away We Go. Christmas shopping? In July?

Hey everybody!

 

How's it going? I've been busy as always.  It's crunch time in my summer courses... I have two essays due within a day of each other, two exams in the same week, and on top of that, I've started working on graduate school applications. Because I am applying to Creative Writing graduate programs, there is a lot more to assemble. I need to make sure the writing I put in my portfolio is AMAZING, so I've been working hard.

 

Even with all of this work, I still had time to go to Blockbuster. They are having a massive sale! I ended up spending a ton of money on Christmas presents. I know. Christmas. Every year, I start earlier. It's too expensive to buy things all at once. Plus, I'll probably be moving around Christmas this year, so I'm trying to keep as much stress away from that time. Besides, I work at Hallmark, and we just released the first batch of Christmas ornaments for this year. It gets you excited. I love giving gifts!

 

But one of the DVDs I bought for myself at Blockbuster was Away We Go. It only cost me $2.50 previously  viewed!

 

Away We Go Review

 

I would have definitely spent more than $2.50 on this movie. I had wanted to see it since I saw the first trailer. In it, Verona (Maya Rudolph) gets pregnant by her live-in boyfriend Burt (John Krasinski). When Verona is six months pregnant, she and Burt visit his parents, who they've moved to live close to, only to find that they are moving across the ocean before the baby is even born. Verona and Burt find themselves able to move wherever they want, with the only requirement being that they want to be close to a family member or friend. Away Verona and Burt go to Phoenix, Tuscon, Miami, Montreal, trying to find what type of family and life they want. The story is also very much about loss.

 

This whole movie was really well done. Verona's sense of loss over her parents is tangible without being melodramatic or even talked about for most of the movie. Burt and Verona also make a very real couple, something that is hard to come by in movies. Even though their love for each other is strong, they still have tensions and doubts between them. 

 

This movie written by the great writer Dave Eggers, who is one of my heroes because of his extensive career and his formulation of writing centres for youth, and his wife and fellow writer, Vendela Vida. Around the same time he co-wrote the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are with Spike Jones. I think both of these movies are exceptionally written. Something that surprised me about Away We Go (although considering Eggers' style, it shouldn't have) was how funny it was. I was expecting it to be more quirky-funny and dramatic, but it was actually really funny at times! I definitely recommend this movie. 9/10.

 

So that's all for now! I might disappear for a couple weeks with all the work I have to do, but I promise to get on here when I can!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess 

July 6, 2010.

Audio Up! Downloadable C.V. Posted!

Hey everyone!

 

Just a small update today. I've put up an audio track. It's called "(An Incident Involving) Glue," and it's of me reading that poem. Ken Taylor recorded and produced the track, and you can read it published onUnbre;la Zine. I also put up links on the Audio page to the myspaces of bands I've played in. 

 

I've also put up a downloadable academic and literary Curriculum Vitae in the Resume section.

 

Enjoy!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess 

 July 3, 2010.

Happy Belated Canada Day! Reviews of The Elementary Particles by Michel Hoeullebeq,Shrek Forever AfterToy Story 3.

Hey everyone!

 

I hope everyone had a fun Canada Day! I had a really good day off. David and I went up to Palgrave to visit my parents, went swimming, and saw fireworks at the conservation park in Albion Hills. 

 

Review of The Elementary Particles by Michel Hoeullebeq.

This book was recommended by one of my Creative Writing profs, but he told the class, "It definitely isn't for everyone." I would agree with this. I did enjoy the book, but I could see how many aspects of the book could turn a reader off, especially the explicit sexuality of one the characters.

 

The book is about a man named Michel and his half brother, Bruno. Michel is a biologist who invented a new species of cow, grew up through the 60s and 70s and is unable to really love. The premise of the book is really interesting because it is very contemporary. It is written almost like a biography or historical account of Michel's life, which I think makes the book captivating and interesting. The narrators would exist in the near future and are actually a genetically improved version of humans. I know that this style of narration would be challenging to do well, and I think Hoeullebeq pulls it off effectively.

 

One of my main criticisms of the book is the fact that characters, especially Bruno and Michel, sound too similar in their dialogue. Michel is supposed to be a very distant, removed, and intellectual character. He's supposed to be a real genius. Bruno is hyper-sexual and of moderate intelligence. On page 131 and 132, the brothers discuss Aldous Huxley. Here is an excerpt:

"'He may have lacked style or finesse or psychological insight, but that's insignificant compared with the accuracy of the original concept. Huxley was the first writer to realize that biology would take over from physics as the driving force of society - long before the other sci-fi writers.' [...]

Michel went over to the bookshelf and took down What Dare I Think? and handed it to Bruno. 'It was written by Julian Huxley, Aldous's older brother, and published in 1931, a year before Brave New World. All of the ideas his brother used in the novel - genetic manipulation and improving the species - including the human species - are suggested here'" (131-132). 

 

What frustrates me about this part of the book is that not only are the viewpoints of the two characters the same (that Huxley's ideas were great), but the tone and style of speaking is very similar.

 

This book is fantastic if you are interested in science. One of the things it does really well is to infuse the book with real scientific facts, made-up scientific facts, and social context without straying away from being a literary text. The book has a large scope which really made me appreciate it.

 

Unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend this book for people who can't handle books that are overtly sexual. I enjoyed the book a great deal, and if you are someone that can get past graphic sexuality, you'll really like this book.

 

Skrek Forever After

 

Just a short review of this movie today. While David was on tour, his mom and I got together for dinner and a movie. We decided to see Shrek Forever After since we both enjoyed the series.

 

The newest Shrek movie was well done. We watched it in 3D, and while I'm not a fan of 3D for live action films, I really enjoy it for this type of animation. It really made me feel like I was involved in the movie. In the movie, Shrek wishes he could be a real ogre again for a day and because of his wish, Rumplestiltskin takes over Far Far Away. Shrek has to win back Fiona, now the leader of a rebel ogre force.

 

I liked the movie a lot, but thought it was all wrapped up a little too quickly. The animation was awesome, and Donkey's fur looked so real! Definitely a movie to see. If you aren't too big a fan of Shrek, it might be a renter though. 7.5/10.

 

Toy Story 3

 

Yesterday David and I saw Toy Story 3 in 3D. It was really nice to see in 3D, and I think it was worth the few extra dollars. I was a little kid when the first Toy Story movie came out, and my family saw it in theatres. Recently when I was visiting home, my brother Ken and I reminisced about one of the best days of our childhood. Toy Story had just come out on VHS, and our dad was home with us. He took Ken and me to Jumbo Video to buy Toy Story. Man, it was a dream come true, but it didn't stop there. He also got us a Toy Story poster. Then we noticed they had some Toy Story toys there. My brother and I admired them, and my dad said we could each get one! Ken got Woody, and I got Buzz. Ken's Woody had a real drawstring and detachable hat. My buzz could glow in the dark, said "To Infinity and Beyond", had wings that popped out, and a laser. So cool. We both still have them and are saving them for if either of us has kids.

 

So the Toy Story series has a special place in my heart. In this movie, Andy is all grown up and is leaving for college. His mom makes him decide which toys he wants to put up in the attic and which toys he's going to throw away or donate. Andy throws Woody in the box of stuff to bring to college and dumps the rest of the toys into a garbage bag. All the toys think they will be thrown away, but Andy pulls down the attic ladder. Only Woody sees Andy get distracted by his sister and leave the bag in the hall. Andy's mom puts the bag out with the trash. The toys escape, but thinking that Andy didn't want them anymore, they put themselves in a box for donation to Sunnyside daycare. Woody, trying to explain that Andy still wants them, gets donated to Sunnyside as well. I'm not going to give the rest away; you'll have to go see it.

 

I've heard people say that this was the best Toy Story movie. I think that now I've grown-up, I could appreciate this movie more than the others, but the first movie will always be the one with the best memories for me. At the same time, this movie really got to me. I can understand what Andy's going through especially, something that was really well done considering the main characters are the toys.

 

Definitely go out and see this in theatres, whether you have kids or just remember what it's like to be one! 8.5/10.

 

That's all for today because I've got to buy groceries! Thanks for reading.

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess 

 

 

 

 

June 18, 2010.

 

Cars. Reviews of Sex and the City 2 and Letters to Juliet. Novel Finished. David Home From Tour.

 

Hey everyone!

 

So on Tuesday, June 15, I left my house at 11:30pm to go pick up David from Mississauga. I was so happy to get him home! He had a great time on tour, feels like his world has expanded now that he's seen more of Canada. I'm so jealous! I made him a huge orange card out of bristol board to welcome him home.

 

While he was gone, I set a goal to finish all the text of my novel, Fill the Page with Colour. I actually was able to finish it! I'm proud of myself. It was good practice for the 3 Day Novel contest I will be doing over Labour Day weekend.

 

I wanted to talk a little about cars today. My brother is going to buy his first car soon. I bought my car before the second year of university. I went for a used Toyota Echo. It's navy blue, a colour in the newer Toyotas that is called "nautical blue". I was first planning to lease a "nautical blue" Yaris, but with the added money it would cost in lease payments and insurance, it wasn't worth it. So that's why I ended up getting my Nautilus. I keep joking that I'm going to install an organ in the back. For my next car, I want to get something more fuel and environmentally friendly. For a while, I was considering a Prius. But Ford is coming out with a lot of really environmentally friendly cars, which, for the first time puts me in an interesting position: Foreign or Domestic?

 

Somehow my family became a Toyota family. I don't know why. When I was younger we had a mix of domestic and foreign cars. My parents never owned a new car their whole lives until the late 90s, but would buy whichever used car they found for the best value. I remember a gray domestic car from when I was about 3. It broke down on hiway 50 in Bolton, and we had to call a cab to get home because I was still too little to walk home. This is one of my only memories of living in Bolton (I moved to Palgrave when I was four and a half), and my brother probably doesn't remember living there at all. My dad drove a light blue Chevrolet at that time which he gave to my mom after the gray car broke down. I think that's when he bought the white Volkswagen Jetta. We went through a car accident in that car, grew up in that car.

 

I think the first new car my parents bought was a leased Toyota Tercel. I'm not sure why they chose to go for it; it was probably just the best deal. That car really impressed my family with Toyota though. To be honest, that car might have even been used, but it was great car. Next came our bright red Echo. This was the car I learned to drive in. My brother and I both loved that car and hoped our parents would keep it so one of us could buy it off them eventually. When I was shopping around for my first car, my dad regretted not keeping the car because I ended up buying a 2001 Echo and then they could have sold me a 2002 for less money. What a nice thought! But instead we traded in it for the Yaris, the butt of several of my brother's jokes. My dad has gone through two different leased versions of the Toyota Matrix, which he loves.

 

For a used car that's almost ten years old, my car works great, and we're a team. I'm really good to her, and I've never had to repair anything over $300, which is really good for a used car. I get her regular oil changes, she's still quiet and has amazing pick-up. She's brought David and I to Montreal and to Ottawa. I'll probably recommend that my brother goes for a used Toyota because of the good luck I've had with mine.

 

But when it comes to hybrids and electric cars, it's completely different. Of course, I'm not going to be in the market for another car for a few years, and things could have totally changed by then. Just look at the car industry here; companies have gone bankrupt and rebuilt themselves in the last two years. I like the idea of supporting North American industry, but the factories that built the Toyota cars we've bought were made in a factory in Canada, so it's still giving jobs to Canadian citizens, which is the most important part. Both Chevrolet's Hybrid car and Ford's Fusion are cheaper than Toyota and Honda's cars, and in leasing a new car, you don't have the same problems that come up with a used car.

 

Something that is totally being revamped is the electric car. In my history of technology class, we've been talking about this a lot. In Canada, most of our electricity is produced by hydro and wind power. This is the same in Norway. This means the electric car would be an environmentally friendly technology for these countries. For parts of the U.S. and Europe where electricity is produced in a "less green" way, hybrids would be a better alternative. Nissan has developed an electric car, and Ford has one in the works. This technology will probably be expensive when it first comes out, and the creation of charging stations will take some time, but it's still an exciting shift in cars. If the domestic realm keeps up their green initiative, they can pull ahead the winners emerging from the recession.

 

Anyway, let me know your thoughts on the foreign vs. domestic battle. I'll post your comments up here!

 

For the reviews, I'm sorry, they are two chick flicks. I'm going to do mini reviews for them though.

 

Sex and the City 2

 

This was a fun movie. I saw the first one, and occasionally watch the series. I haven't seen every episode, but I've seen enough to know all the characters and the main story lines. So I was stoked to see the return of Aidan (John Corbett) in a Sex and the City movie! He was always a lovable character. I wish he was in this movie for longer though. The movie was a pretty solid sequel. I even liked it better than the first. What sucked was, in the climax of the movie where Mr. Big is being all cool and Mr. Bigish, the movie cut out! It came back in for the ending, but they didn't backtrack, just gave us free movie coupons. Oh well, FREE MOVIE!

 

One weird thing about the movie is that when they go off to the "New Middle East", Miranda, Carrie, Charlotte, and Samantha seem so shocked by the headscarves, hijabs, and burkas that most of women wear. All right, I'll give it to them that burkas are not common in North American society, but when I go to almost any well-populated, diverse area, I see some women wearing headscarves. At university, there are even some girls that wear burkas or hijabs, and even when I went to the park in Burlington, I saw tons of women there with their kids wearing headscarves. Something that Carrie remarks on is the embroidery on a woman's hijab. Miranda educates her that young women wear the traditional clothing in new ways with new adornments. Ok. The headscarves I see out and around the GTA are often quite fancy, especially since most of the Muslim women I see are younger (since I am a young person myself). One girl I am friends with wears them of all colours and patterns, all quite beautiful. Even older women I see wearing headscarves will wear pink or purple or green as well as black.

 

Considering the girls are from a very populated area of North America, New York, I'm surprised about their ignorance over headscarves! If I was Muslim, I would be offended by this and without being one, I'm even a little offended. Mainstream media really seems to ignore different religious practices and clothing unless it takes place somewhere other than in the Western nations. And even then, the clothing is commented on, explained, and ridiculed. While I do feel Sex and the City 2, was trying to open the eyes of their audience to different ways of dress in other countries and trying to build tolerance in their audience to other cultures, I really feel it failed in this aspect.

 

Overall though, this movie was fun to see in theatres! Perfect for a night out with your girlfriends! 7/10

 

Letters to Juliet

 

Pretty much all of Letters to Juliet was giving away by the trailer which made watching the movie a little bit boring. This movie was PG through and through, so if you want to take your 12 year old to the movies, don't worry about taking them to see Letters to Juliet.

 

The movie was a little tame for my taste without many twists or turns in the movie. You know from the beginning that Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) isn't in love with her fiance anymore and will fall in love with Charlie (Christopher Egan) because they argue all the time. The chemistry between the two of them was believable though, and all of the characters were likable.

 

So it was fun, a little cheesy, but not really memorable. 6/10

 

That's all for today! I saw Shrek Forever After so I will review that next time. I'm also in the process of reading The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebeq and will be finished by the next time I post, so I'll review that as well!

 

Have a good weekend!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess 

 

 

 June 4, 2010.

Lucky readers: Two Reviews! Today is Jess Taylor's Canadian Day! Review of Finny Walsh by British Columbian Steven Galloway and Cavalcade by the G.T.A.'s The Flatliners!

 

Hey readers, movie goers, lovers of the arts!

 

So I've noticed that lately, I've had a lot of U.S. viewers! Greetings from Canada! My mom actually grew up in Boston, and I've got a lot of family living in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Today I'm doing a double review blog, showcasing some Canadian talent! I'm reviewing the Flatliners new C.D.,Cavalcade, and a novel by Steven Galloway,Finnie Walsh.

 

Not too much going on lately. I signed up for courses for my final year of University! Also David has gone on tour with his band, Corporation. I'm hoping that I'll finish the rough draft of my novel over the 13 days he is away. I don't like when he's gone, of course, but it's something you get used to if you have a partner that travels a lot. For me, it's different too because I used to play in a band, and I know what it's like to have that drive and desire to push your artistic career. So I'm trying to look at it as an opportunity to focus on my own writing and work.

 

 

Cavalcade: No longer Skunk Rawk, but some great melodic punk. 

 

Being a long time Flatliners fan (and I'm talking since their Demo 2002 was released), I recently received Cavalcade, their new release, as an anniversary gift. Before the past few months, I had been a bit resistant to their changed sound.  I associated The Flatliners with Skunk Rawk, which is Punk Rock with Ska elements mixed in. It doesn't have horns and is harder sounding than Ska/Punk bands. I thought The Great Awake and their other new releases were really good, but didn't feel like The Flatliners I expected.

 

I've realized it's time to let go of the past. I mean, I bought an iPod nine years after the technology was first pioneered. As the great Bob Dylan once sang, "The times they are a-changing." Once I was able to come to terms with this, it was easy for me to see The Flatliners' C.D.s as a natural progression towards more complex songwriting and fuller sound. What has come out of this change is a mature, well developed album.

 

Artwork: The cover artwork is effective and detailed. While horses and damsels usually aren't something I'd associate with The Flatliners, it works well with both the C.D. title and the dramatic graphic style that is often used for their t-shirts. All together the C.D. comes across as a complete unit with effective artwork.

 

A lot of C.D. reviews don't comment on C.D. packaging or artwork, but I feel it's important to touch on in a review. Artwork is a lot of what goes into making an album and part of what the consumer pays for.

 

Songwriting and Lyrics: Chris Cresswell has always been one of my favourite lyricists. Like a lot of songwriters, Cresswell follows a certain lexical set - he draws on images from the body and images from the damaged body. Lucky for him, this offers an abundance of different images, so it never feels overused. The other thing about using this imagery is that it goes perfectly with a name like "The Flatliners" and adds to a cohesive band identity.

 

In terms of the songwriting, the songs on this album are very well structured. I don't think there is one song on this album that I'd consider boring. Almost every song uses tempo changes and great vocals and background vocals to create a full, interesting sound. While starting to use conventional singing (as opposed to "throat"), the sound is still pleasantly rough and will shift to rougher singing or "throat" singing in a song for added interest.

 

Overall, this is a great album, and I highly suggest that my readers pick this C.D. up! Currently, it's on sale at HMV for $10. The Flatliners are currently touring and will be on Warped Tour this summer. Catch them in a town near you! www.myspace.com/theflatlinerstoronto 

 

Finnie Walsh: Hockey, Magic Realism, and Very True to Canada.<

 

I first became acquainted with Steven Galloway at a reading at York University. I had heard the name before associated with UBC's Creative Writing Program and also with The Cellist of Sarajevo, Galloway's third novel - the one he is best known for.  When I saw him read, I was surprised by how young he was! I loved the bits he read from The Cellist of Sarajevo and bought a paper copy, but searched for other books by him on the Kindle. That was how I came across Finnie Walsh.

 

Finnie Walsh follows the friendship of narrator Paul Woodward with his friend, Finnie. United by a love of hockey, Paul and Finnie become best friends even though the boys belong to different social classes (Finnie's father owns the mill that Paul's dad works at, along with the sports equipment store). The boys keep Paul's father awake playing hockey before he goes off to work his night shift at the mill, and because of this, he ends up losing an arm, tainting their love of hockey with bad luck and guilt. This marks the beginning of the bizarre journey that Finnie Walsh takes the reader on. From the outside, it seems to be an ordinary story about the love of a sport shared between two boys from the prairies, stapled with hockey facts that follow the emerging career of Wayne Gretzky. Both boys go on to play in the NHL for short periods of time. The novel is also set apart by odd accidents, a thief of prosthetic arms, a sister that can see the future, and a sister that collects pristine "toys". Really magic realism at it's finest, in an unique contemporary way.

 

I read this book a little while ago in the winter, and it really stuck with me. What made me want to write a review about it was two things: 1. Hearing about the development of Don Cherry's career and 2. Hearing about David's dad growing up in Winnipeg playing hockey. After hearing about these two things, it struck me how true to life this book really was. The journeys of Finnie and Paul through hockey and their brief stint in the NHL was similar to a lot of young dedicated hockey players. David's dad was offered to go to NHL camp, but didn't end up going; Don Cherry played in it briefly before switching to coaching. This was really well done in the book and not overly-dramatic at all.

 

I'm not the biggest hockey fan, although I do prefer it over most other sports. Even without being a hockey fan, I still enjoyed this book a great deal. I think being interested in hockey would help a reader enjoy this book, but someone who is not interested in hockey would still find something to like about it.

 

A side-note: When looking at some of the customer reviews of Finnie Walsh on amazon.ca, I was surprised to see how many people said things like, "Finally a good book from Canada!" Most of the people who said stuff like this were Canadian. What's up with the self-hatred, Canada? There are tons of good books by Canadian authors. People who don't like Canadian books haven't been reading the right ones. Stumbling across Steven Galloway is a good place to start, but what about: Michael Winter'sThis All Happened, Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy, Eden Robinson's Monkey Beach, Catherine Bush'sClaire's Head and Rules of Engagment? And there are a ton more!

 

If any readers want to comment on reviews or send me a list of their favourite Canadian books, I'll post it up here and credit you! Just contact me either on twitter: JessTaywriter or through the contact form in the Contact Me section!

 

I hope you enjoyed today's post!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess 

 

 

 

 

 May 28,2010.

How I was traumatized by Bell Mobility. A Review of The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.

 

Hey everyone!

 

I'm going to tell a you a very sad story starring myself and Bell Mobility. My phone, a LG Rumour 1, has been acting up for the past couple months. It would drop calls, turn off randomly, go from full battery to no battery in either five minutes of a phone conversation or four text messages. Since I moved out on my own, my cell has become my only phone line, so I needed it to be dependable. Also, David is going away for most of June on tour, and I hate it when the phone dying cuts our infrequent conversations even shorter. 

 

I only had this phone for 10 months, so I assumed it would still be under warranty. It was, but in order to get it fixed, I'd have to: Take it to a store that wasn't the main one I go to, find my original receipt even though they had the purchase info listed in the computer, pay a $30 deposit that I would get back if they sent back the phone (which seems counter-intuitive to me), rent a phone for $35, and pay a security deposit on the loan phone of $125 that I would get back once I gave back the loan phone. Considering all of the hassle, I thought I'd just see about getting a phone outright. I'd have to pay full price in order to not extend my contract, but later, I was told by Customer Service that I wasn't even allowed to start a new contract! I also was not able to buy a phone at full price off of Bell.ca because they require you to start a contract or sign up with prepaid online. 

 

My options were said to be 1.) Get my phone repaired 2.) Buy a new phone in a Bell store or 3.) Buy a phone from a friend or online from eBay or something. A couple friends offered to sell or give me their old phones, but I really wanted a new one with a keyboard so I decided to try and find one. I resigned myself to buying one from the Bell store even though they were pissing me off by never knowing or explaining my options, contradicting information I had received from another representative, etc. Then I was in Futureshop with David looking for DVDs and checked out the phones there. I asked a Sales Rep if I could buy a phone there that I could attach to an existing plan. She said, "Of course!" So I bought a LG Rumour 2, but this time I bought a replacement warranty so that if anything goes wrong with the phone, they'll just hand me a new one at Futureshop and I don't even have to go near Bell. The phone was $60 so I was stoked, having budgeted $150 for a new phone.

 

Then I tried to activate the phone by calling Bell (which they told me I could do). They told me I had to bring it to a Bell store to get them to program it. I did. The people at the store told me they programmed it, but I'd have to call Bell to activate/ register it. So then I called Bell from a pay phone. They couldn't activate it and told me to bring it to Futureshop. Futureshop couldn't activate it, so they called Bell. Futureshop and Bell formed a super team and together activated my phone.

 

Needless to say, this whole problem almost caused a breakdown. Out of everyone, Futureshop was the most helpful because instead of pawning me off to another company or a different section of the company they stuck with me until they fixed the problem. So now I have a new phone that I hope will not crap out on me like my old one, but even if it does, I can keep getting replacements up to two years. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience because I was so lost and could find very little information on attaching a new phone to my plan, which you'd think would be simple!

 

A Reader Reading The Reader on a Reader

 

Sometimes, I listen to CBC Radio because I'm a nerd like that. Every time I listen to it, I feel so educated at the end of it! The other day, they had a guest on named Bernhard Schlink. He was talking about his book Guilt about the Past which was released in English in 2009. Growing up in Germany belonging to the generation that grew up just post- World War II (Schlink was born in 1944), his book explored collective guilt and cultural guilt like that he felt in Germany regarding the Holocaust. He sounded so interesting and well-spoken that when they mentioned one of his fiction books, The Reader, I thought I might try to track it down to read.

 

Having not bought a book on my Kindle recently, I decided to search the book title to see if it came up. It did and was only $10. Translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway, The Reader is about a fifteen year old boy who starts an affair with a thirty-six year old woman, only to find out years later that she was a guard at a concentration camp.

 

This book was excellent. There are a couple lines that were a little cheesy or repetitive. For example, "A plethora of doorbells indicate a plethora of tiny apartments". This could have been a result of the challenge in translating the book from German. The language most of the time is spot on, beautiful, and moving. The story is emotionally contained, yet still moves the reader emotionally.

 

One of the things that Schlink did best in this book was leaving off chapters. Every chapter ended on a line that made my stomach feel like I was on Drop Zone - unsettled, surprised, delighted at the unexpected, moved. These lines willed me to keep on reading even more than the highly interesting subject matter. The inciting incident was well-done as well. The story begins, "When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis." It is Michael's sickness that allows him to meet Hanna and allows for their relationship to develop. I thought it was a unique and clever way to start a book. 

 

I highly suggest that everyone should read this book. I think it is one that I'll reread, and it was a pleasant and quick read while still being a meaningful one. It has also been adapted into a movie starring Kate Winslet, David Kross, and Ralph Fiennes, so if the story interests you but you don't like reading, you can see the movie (Even though I'm more of a fan of books than movies...even though I love movies).

 

That's all for now. Much love and respect,

 

Jess

 

 

May 19, 2010.

Summer School. Review of The Trotsky. Volunteer Editing.

 

 

Hey everyone!

 

 

Sorry I’ve taken so long to put up a new post. I got a job doing volunteer editing for Existere, York’s Journal of the Arts and Literature! Try to pick one up if you can.

 

It was David's birthday yesterday so we went out to Fallsview Casino on Monday. I lost a whopping $35. I don't think it's a good idea to gamble when you're as poor as I am. That could've been seven lunches or one month of groceries.

 

 I just started summer classes. I’m taking “The History of Technology” right now, and I’ll start “Science and Religion” at the beginning of June. Most people think it sucks taking school during the summer, but from my experience, there are definitely benefits.

 

 

What Sucks About Taking Summer School:

 

 

Shortened Summer: When people enter university straight from high school, one of the coolest thing is knowing you’ll have four months of summer at least. Many people plan trips, work full time, catch up with friends and family. My first summer I worked full time and made enough money to buy a car. Last summer and this summer, I took summer courses, so I wasn’t able to get a full time summer job or a second part time job. Last year, because of the strike, I only had fifteen days off and nine of them I had to work. This summer is much better. With the Creative Writing classes, I had very few out of class exams so I had almost all of April off and most likely will have all of August off.

 

 

Less Food Places Open: At York, during the summer, most of the cafeterias get closed down. All that is left open are the fast food places and restaurants in York Lanes and the Student Centre. It’s still a lot of options, but it means a longer walk for food for some students.

 

 

Faster Paced Courses: Because summer courses take fewer months, the courses are much more fast paced. For instance, “The History of Technology” would normally take seven to eight months, but only takes three months in summer school and requires two days a week instead of one. It’s hard keeping up with that much reading a week.

 

 

What Actually Rocks About Taking Summer School:

 

 

Fast-Tracking or Catching Up: A lot of students end up being in the situation where they either want to graduate faster, make sure they graduate on time because they are going to school part-time, or, like me, they changed either their major or their minor and need to catch up in the summer.

 

 

Less Crowded Campus: Everything in the summer is less crowded from restaurants to book store lines to buses. When you go to school somewhere as big as York University’s Keele Campus, this is definitely a huge benefit.

 

 

Staying in Practice: One of the best things about taking summer classes is that I never go through the First Essay Shock. The First Essay Shock happens when a student goes back to school after a summer of relaxing and has to completely relearn how to write an essay and how to do proper citations. This doesn’t happen if you keep doing essays all throughout the summer.

 

 

The Trotsky

 

 

David and I have been waiting to see this movie since we first saw the trailer. Both of us watched Jay Baruchel  on Popular Mechanics for Kids as children and more recently saw Baruchel in Knocked Upand She’s Out of my League. In fact, Baruchel is popping up everywhere these days, even as a voice actor in How to Train Your Dragon. This is great for two reasons: He’s Canadian and a good actor.

 

 

The Trotsky was both fun and thought-provoking, a mix that is hard to come by these days. Leon Bronstein (Baruchel) is a privileged Jewish seventeen year old living in Montreal, Quebec. Home for summer holidays, Leon takes a job at his Dad’s factory and tries to organize a union and a hunger strike for the employees. This is because Leon believes he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky (birthname: Lev Bronstein). Unfortunately for Leon (although I would say fortunately because I liked public school), Leon’s father decides Leon should go to a public high school for his final year.

 

 

On Leon’s first day, he notices the “fascist” way of assigning detention at his new high school and decides to attend detention with a boy named Skip to demonstrate solidarity. Leon joins the “Student Union” (really more of a Student Council or Government that organizes dances) and convinces his new council mates to help him put together a real student union, to stage a student strike, and a student walk-out.

 

 

Leon also seeks out the help of Frank McGovern (Michael Murphy), an Ex-American Communist-supporting civil rights lawyer. Leon’s scenes with Frank are some of the best in the movie and allow us to see why people don’t just dismiss Leon as crazy. Frank is a compassionate character, the perfect political mentor archetype, even if he isn’t really willing to help Leon as a lawyer. While talking with Frank one day, Leon meets Alexandra, a student who has just completed her PhD. She is nine years older than Leon, just like Trotsky’s first wife. Leon starts to court her and, somehow, succeeds.

 

 

There are a lot of really great things about The Trotsky. All of the characters, even the antagonist ones such as the principal of the school, are extremely likeable and interesting. Leon’s sister (Tommie-Amber Pirie) and step-mother (Anne-Marie Cadieux) were both charming and believable in their roles. I loved how Leon’s relationship with his sister was one of mutual respect. She’s his real side-kick in the movie, informing the press, organizing his rallies.

 

 

The music was awesome. I was so surprised to hear indie band, Hollerado, playing in the background of one of the scenes. Hollerado is from Montreal, Quebec and Manotick, Ontario. Members of the band were first in The Delegates (RIP), a punk/ska band. Both of these bands are amazing so be sure to check them out. Hollerado just got their C.D., Record in a Bag, in stores. It’s actually in a bag that they encourage you to reuse. It’s amazing that the soundtrack of the music used real local artists.

 

 

The depiction of Montreal was really accurate as well. I love how some characters were English speaking only, but some of them fluctuate between English and French, like Leon’s mother. Some characters only speak French as well. Whenever a character spoke in French, sub-titles would pop up. This wasn’t irritating at all. The subtitles were large and easy to read. It really represented the bilingual nature of Montreal.

 

 

The movie was still accessible to a large audience. I really hope people in the USA don’t think the movie is just a movie about Montreal that would only be funny if you speak French or know Montreal. It’s about much broader themes and uses topical humour and political humour as well as the typical type of humour you would see in a teenage comedy. You don’t need to know a lot about politics or history to get the humour in The Trotsky, even though it might deepen your understanding.

 

 

This was a great film. I really hope everyone goes out and rents it or watches it in theatres. I had to drive all the way to Mississauga to see it since it wasn’t playing in Burlington, but it was worth it. 9 out of 10.

 

 

Wow, this was a long entry today. I hope everyone stuck around and enjoyed! Have a great night.

 

 

Much love and respect,

 

 

Jess      

 

 April 29, 2010.

 Pictures from recording yesterday posted! Oceans review!

 

Hey everyone!

 

Recording was fun yesterday! Make sure you check out the pics in the Photos section. Ken and I recorded four poems. We're going to do another four or so another days. That'll make a lot of videos. The first one to go up will probably be "(An incident involving) GLUE", since it has been previously published on www.unbrellazine.com.  Most journals don't like to publish poems that have been previously published, either online or in print. And you can't blame them! They want something new and unique. I might even through up the audio of the poem before it's made into a "Poetry Video."

 

Things went well at Mayfield Secondary School yesterday. I read the beginning of "Christopher Plays the Blues" and "Fill the Page with Colour" and "3000 Words". I talked a lot about university life and writing in general. The kids were a bit quiet, but asked more questions than the other group I had last week. I think they were trying to be polite. One girl actually might help to restart the Caledon writing centre.

 

Oceans Review

 

Last year, David and I went and saw Earth. It was pretty great, although some (all?) of the footage was from Planet Earth, the television series. This Earth Day, Disney released Oceans. Now I haven't seen much of Blue Planet, but I think Oceans might have done the same thing. I was really excited to see this movie though. I am obsessed with animals and conservation. These two things are what attracts me to science. I used to want to be a wildlife field biologist and follow wolves around, studying them. So I'll let you know whether the movie met my expectations.

 

First off, like EarthPlanet Earth, and Blue Planet, the cinematography was phenomenal. The shots they got were amazing. Animals are so cool! When the movie started, I thought, wow, I'm going to have to buy this.

 

But something ended up holding me back. Rather than exploring really weird creatures of the sea, the movie would go back to watching penguins walk on land instead of watching them do things underwater. It was nice that they looked at mammals that swim and eat in the sea as well as fish and crustaceans and other sea animals, though. Unfortunately, there was no giant squid (although they are really hard to find), no really weird deep sea creatures with glowing appendages. That was a bit of a disappointment because I was looking forward to that the most. Maybe they will end up doing a movie specifically for deep sea, like how their next movie is going to be African Cats. It looks like Disney will keep making these movies for Earth Day, so they are going to have to get more and more specific.

 

In terms of narration, Pierce Brosnan did a pretty good job. When I first saw he was narrating, I was worried that all I would be able to think about would be James Bond. I never did think about James Bond, and his voice was soothing and fitted the mood of the movie. One downside to the narration was that there weren't a lot of interesting facts given out. When seeing a narwhal swimming, the narrator would call it "the unicorn of the sea" and then not even tell you what it's horn is made out of (it's a tooth!). I can see why they might do this though. They are trying to get through a lot of animals in two hours, and also, not everyone in the general public likes facts as much as I do. They prefer to be entertained. 

 

I definitely enjoyed the viewing experience. I'll continue to watch these Disney Nature films every year as long as they are out. It's worth it to see it on the big screen. I don't think I'll buy it though unless they come out with a box set of a bunch of them down the road. I'd rather get Planet Earth and Blue Planetbox sets instead because those will give me everything I love about the movies with the facts I felt were missing. In general though, I think Disney Nature is doing a great job of getting the general public more interested in animals, conservation, and learning about the natural world. I give it a 9 out of 10.

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess

 

April 28, 2010.

 Posted more pictures! Recording poetry audio today!

 

 Hey everyone!

 

I've added more pictures in the Photos section. They are of my zine that I published in high school and also of my miniature graphic novel that I made for Contemporary Literature last year. Check it out! Speaking of high school, last week I went back to my old high school, Mayfield Secondary School, where I was in the Visual Arts program. I went to talk to their Writer's Craft class about getting starting writing and also about the Creative Writing program at York. I'm going back today to talk to the other class. Last time, it went pretty well, but I didn't bring any of my work to read because a) I didn't think they'd be interested and b) because I didn't think I'd have a lot of time. Of course, I ended up being allotted the whole period and a girl asked me to read my work. Oh well, this time I brought a bunch of stuff to read. I'm not bringing a whole story, but a lot of beginnings. Also, apparently this class has a lot of people who are interested in songwriting. Mayfield is an arts high school where the students do a type of "majoring". If accepted into the program, they can specialize in one area of the arts: music (either instrumental or vocal), visual arts, dance, or drama. So a lot of the music students are interested in songwriting. Instead of bringing one of my songs, I decided to bring a new one from my brother since he actually studied songwriting in his post-secondary music production program.

 

Ken is actually going to record audio tracks of me reading my poetry today! I want to make videos to go along with me reading, so first thing is getting the audio to overlay. I'll take lots of pics to throw up here. So all in all, it'll be a busy day.

 

I saw Oceans on Sunday, so I'll make sure to review it soon (most likely tomorrow). So check back!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess

 

 

 

 

April 22, 2010.

Kick-Ass review! Working on the Novel. Happy Earth Day!

 

 Hey every one!

 

Happy Earth Day!

 

So, looking over the reviews I’ve posted, I have been watching way more movies than reading books. This makes me sad since I love reading. When I was little, I used to take forty books out of the library at a time. I have been writing a lot more than usual, but I believe a mix of reading and writing is needed. Over the Christmas break, I wrote a lot and read four books. It was one of my most productive times. I used to read and write in cycles: reading a lot one month, writing a lot the next month. Usually I don’t get to go to the movies so much, but what the hell, I’m on vacation until my summer courses start so I’m going to enjoy it!

           

So I’ve started reading Tree of Smoke and will post a review at the end of the month. I went to the library last week to see if they’d take some children’s books I had left over from my Children’s Literature course, but they either had too many copies or the books were too old. I’m going to see about selling them or donating them to a school instead. This week or next week, I’m going to head over to the Central Library branch to see about starting a youth writing program and to take some books out.

 

I’ve been working on my novel a lot more now that my new story “The Lady of the Lake” is done. Of course, there is always revising to do, but I’m feeling really productive. I’m hoping to still finish all the novel text before the Labour Day weekend. I’m going to participate in the three day novel contest over that weekend, so I need to be done with the main story of Fill the Page with Colour before I start something new.

 

 

Kick-Ass Review

 

David’s sister, Rosie, wanted us to all go on a double date to the movies. David had been waiting to see Kick-Ass for a while, and it seemed interesting from the previews. David loved the movie, and Rosie and I were pleasantly surprised.

 

The movie is about Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a comic-reading teenage boy. When we first meet Dave, he introduces himself as a bit of a nobody, super-horny, and not very good with girls. After being mugged repeatedly and not having anyone come to his aide, Dave decides that there needs to be super-heroes in the world. Dave buys a costume and becomes Kick-Ass. His first stint crime-fighting is taped and gets thrown up on YouTube, where it becomes the top rated video. Kick-Ass rises to celebrity status, but there are other, less conspicuous super-heroes out fighting crime: father-daughter team Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). Unknowingly, Kick-Ass gets roped into a fight between Big Daddy, Hit Girl, and the gangsters that run the town.

 

The highlight of the movie was definitely Chloe Grace Moretz’s performance. This little girl is a great actress with six years of acting experience. She’s only 13!  Seriously, this movie is worth seeing for her performance alone. It’s a shame that the writers didn’t do more with Hit-Girl’s character so that she’d have even more of an opportunity to show off her acting skills. All the characters are a little one-sided, which is understandable considering the comic book nature, but was still disappointing for me, since I prefer complex stories.

 

Normally I hate Nicolas Cage (if you are asking, “Why does Jess not like Nick Cage?” go rent The Wicker Man), but his performance was actually really well-suited to the character of Big Daddy. He and Chloe Moretz worked really well together and had a dynamic father-daughter relationship. I liked how his character brought a bit of a darker side to the movie, but this could have been taken further. His comic book brain-washing of Hit-Girl was captivating as well. I’d like to have seen more of it.

 

As a character, Dave was not developed to my liking. When we first meet him as a constantly masturbating, sex-obsessed teen, you think the tone of the movie will be one like Superbad, full of sex jokes, but really this doesn’t fit with Dave’s later character at all. He’s actually after one girl and treats her well. He’s also a character looking for good in the world, which isn’t captured by the opening either. The opening didn’t introduce the character in a true way. If the movie was trying to set up a character arch from innocence/ immaturity to experience/ maturity, it didn’t really frame it well enough. Sure, Dave gets more experience with girls and with fighting, but he already seems like a mature character in the scenes just past the opening.

 

Other than those few character flaws, the movie was pretty well done. The style was captivating and unique, all the acting was good, and it was a fun movie to watch. One of the things I really enjoyed was the pop-culture references: Lost, YouTube, etc. Also the movie is very self-reflexive about both comic books and movies based off of comic books. These two things really made it the perfect movie for a post-modern age.

 

David is going to buy it on DVD, and I highly suggest that if you’re in the mood for some satirical action with comic relief, go to the theatre and see Kick-Ass! It won’t disappoint you. If you don’t have the money to go out to the movies, then rent it when it comes out on DVD. It’s worth the few dollars for sure. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.

 

That’s all for now, but I’m sure I’ll have another post soon.

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess       

 

 

 

 April 17, 2010.

 I'm sorry to say, I've reviewed The Last Song, the most ridiculous movie ever made.

 

Hi Everyone!

 

So far it's been a week of sending out submissions, catching up with friends, and working hard. And I thought being done school would be relaxing! Last night, my friends, Heather and Fran, took me out to dinner and a movie as a belated B-day present. We went to East Side Mario's, always a favourite since they have lots of vegetarian meals for Heather and lots of food for me and Fran! By the time you finish the all-you-can-eat salad and garlic home-loaf, you can only eat about two-thirds of your pasta. This means that, if you are a poor student like I am, you'll have a nice lunch for the next day. Awesome. I had penne with sausage and peppers and did a really good job at not eating any of my vegetables. Scurvy here I come! Fran's chicken ended up being just a hunk of chicken on the plate, no fries or sides. She ended up ordering a side of fries because the chicken looked too lonely.

 

So, as I've written before, I love going to the movies. Usually I like to see an indie movie, a really unique movie, or something really awesome that both my boyfriend and I can enjoy. Because of this, I don't get to see a lot of chick flicks. I used to watch a bunch with my girlfriends back in Palgrave and Bolton, or with my mom, but since I've moved to Burlington, I haven't seen one. It was time to see a chick flick.

 

The Last Song: What Happens when You Cram Ever Single Chick Flick Motif into One Poorly Written Movie.

 

Can you tell I loved it? That was sarcasm. I'm going to give a lot of movie away in order to do it justice and to make this review entertaining, but I decided not to mark it as spoilers since I think my typical reader isn't too concern with having The Last Song ruined for them. 

 

The Ridiculous-ness: A Summary

This movie is composed of so many story lines I don't even know where to begin, so I think I'll begin with the beginning. The opening of the movie was actually really well done and made me think my expectations were too low for the movie. They weren't. The movie opens with light flickering against a stained glass window. At first, the viewer doesn't know what's going on, but then the camera zooms out and it becomes apparent that the building is on fire. A man, unconscious, is dragged through the building by firemen. Who is this man? What is this building? Why are we now looking at the snarling face of Ronnie (Miley Cyrus)?

 

Cue typical chick flick story-line one: Disgruntled rebel girl is forced to visit her father for the summer at his wicked beach house in Georgia. Her parents' divorce 6 years ago (she is now graduated from high school) really messed her up. She even smashed her dad's piano with a baseball bat (whoa!) and got busted for stealing. Ronnie isn't a bad girl without a cause though; she doesn't drink and never wants to be caught stealing again. Even though she got into Julliard for her amazing talent as a pianist - she didn't even need to apply; they've been stalking her since she was five - she won't go because she might make her father proud. How will she learn to get along with her father again? How will her family (her, her brother, Jonah, and father; Mom is home having fun times with her fiance) learn to be whole again? Perhaps through love...

 

Cue typical chick flick story-line two:  Ronnie is marching her little disgruntled self through the crowded beach. Lots of people smirk at her because she is obviously a rebel, dressed in dark colours, and not wearing a bikini. Then, out of nowhere, a volleyball playing jerk smashes into her and spills her milkshake all over her shirt. He offers to buy her a new shirt and bites his lip enticingly. Could this be love for Will (Liam Hemsworth)? Ronnie scrunches her face and does her best to look like a bag lady. Will goes back to finish winning at volleyball.

 

Ronnie finds some sea turtle eggs and tries to protect them from raccoons using a shopping cart (is it just me or is she taking the bag lady thing a step further?). She calls the aquarium to report the egg finding. While sitting in a cafe, Ronnie is spotted by her favourite stalker, Will. He's all smudgy with oil because, guess what, he's a mechanic! Wow. He must just be a jockhead and a gearhead then. He tries to apologize to Ronnie for the milkshake fiasco again. No dice. Then, who shows up at her house in a uniform from the aquarium? WILL! No way! He's an aquarium-volunteer, mechanic, champion volleyball player. Ronnie likes to sleep on the beach watching over the eggs and getting attacked by raccoons all night, and who comes creeping out of the night to keep her company? Will. Of course, Ronnie, who is smart, is reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Not only does Will comment on it, he quotes it. He then points out that it’s only a translation and says a few words of Russian. So he’s a Tolstoy reading, Russian speaking, volleyball winning aquarium volunteer/ mechanic. He seems perfect. And turns out he’s rich. It’s true love! But it seems like he might know something about the church burning down...

 

Not-so-typical story-line: This was actually done quite well. The church burned down while Ronnie’s dad, Steve (Greg Kinnear), was inside. People in town think it was arson and that Steve’s the arsonist. Steve has always had a profound connection with the church since he grew up in the town. He and Jonah (Bobby Coleman) are putting together a new stained glass window for the church, which is being restored. Steve still hangs around at the church even though he no longer plays piano there. When Ronnie confronts her dad about the rumours, he admits that he thinks he might have done it. He was there late and on some medication, so he can’t really remember what he was doing. Because of this, Steve is racked with guilt, and any time he doesn’t spend on the piano piece he’s composing, he spends on the church. Turns out it was the carnival fire-throwers after all!

 

Cue typical chick flick story line three: Ronnie’s only girl friend in the town, Blaze, is dating a jerk, Marcus. He hits on Ronnie, and Blaze gets mad. Blaze is super-sketchy and tries to frame Ronnie for shoplifting. Blaze leaves Marcus with Ronnie’s help, but he shows up at Will’s sister’s wedding, and he and Blaze make a super-sketchy scene and sketch out Will’s parents.

 

Back to romantic chick flick story line: The sea turtles hatch! Awesome! Will is practically living in the Millers front yard by this time even though he has a mansion to go home to. He comes in the door whenever anyone starts to get upset as if he was just waiting outside. The whole family and Will watch the sea turtles emerge from their sandy lair and struggle down the beach. Steve says he’s going to get another light. Everything is finally perfect, isn’t it?

 

No. Because Steve falls down coughing and can’t get up. He’s got lung cancer.

 

Cue typical chick flick story line four, but only if the chick flick is based off of a Nicolas Sparks book: Why does Nicolas Sparks need to romanticize cancer constantly? Anyway, it turns out the dad has lung cancer and is going to die. He wanted the kids to spend the summer with him so he could spend time with them before he goes. The medication he was on was for his cancer, but he went off of it before they came so he could be clear-headed around them. Everyone’s crying. Jonah has a hard time with it, since he’s so young, but continues to work on the stained glass window. Steve wants to spend his last weeks at home. He says bye to Jonah, but Ronnie decides to stay with her dad. She dumps Will when she finds out he knew who started the fire and spends the rest of her time there with her father. He’s been composing that song for her, and it’s up to her to finish it. Her father dies. She plays piano at the funeral in lieu of an eulogy, and Will shows up! They are in love again, and Ronnie is going to go to Julliard.

 

Major, Major, Major Problems:

 

Miley Cyrus’s Face:

I don’t know what happened to Miley Cyrus because I never thought she had a scrunched-up face with a pointy upper lip. I think it must have been a problem with direction or her acting or something because for some reason she felt she had to sneer 24/7. It was distracting. This sounds really mean, and I wasn't going to say anything, but other people had the same criticism. It was because she was trying to look tough.

 

Foreshadowing:

The cancer seemed to come out of nowhere. Originally when the dad says that he was on medication, you assume anti-depressants or something along those lines because everyone made such a big deal about how hard the divorce was for everyone. He has lung cancer, but he never seems to cough or have problems breathing or to be in pain at all. This could be fixed so easily with a little bit of foreshadowing: a cough, a wince, just one small moment of discomfort that would be similar to what someone dying of cancer would experience.

 

Make-Up and Cancer Believability

Most of the theatre was crying during the part where we find out the dad is dying of cancer, and I thought I might end up bawling myself considering I’ve had two family members die from different forms of cancer. I know what that period of waiting that Ronnie experiences with her father is like. But I ended up getting angry. The father looks healthy the whole time, and while the acting by Kinnear was decent towards the end, I really feel that some make-up to make the character look sicklier would have been beneficial. One of the people I experienced being sick with cancer battled it for quite some time, went into remission for three years, and then went on to try and fight. She was in pain throughout her whole body. While the father mentions that his hands hurt too much to play the piano, everyone is hugging him quite roughly, and less than a month before he goes to the hospital, he was going out to volleyball games. Most of the scenes of the last few weeks before he dies shows him in motion. Sometimes Ronnie has to help him walk, but he’ll stand up and be walking around like he’s fine. I really think more could have been done with the treatment of cancer in this movie. I ended up feeling the use of cancer in this movie was a cop-out. It was just a way to get people to cry since it’s so easy to relate to, rather than a realistic representation of a horrible, devastating illness. I don’t think cancer should be treated so lightly.

 

 So I would only rate this movie a 3.5 out of 10. I probably would have given it higher if it hadn’t been for all the cancer stuff. I wouldn’t recommend it even if you want to make fun of it because once everyone is crying all around you in the theatre, it becomes hard to do.

 

I hope you liked my review! Like always, send me your responses...agree? disagree? I’ll quote them all!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess

 

April 12, 2010.

 Date Night review! Reflections on Stopping Playing with the Band.

 

Hey everybody! How's it going?

 

I've been writing a new story lately. It's set in Burlington like "Christopher Plays the Blues", but plays around with the mythology of the place. I'm excited about it. What has been a bit difficult is that, in the Creative Writing program, most of the stories we write are about 15 pages, and I've been writing closer to 20 pages once my stories are revised. That's over 6000 words. Most journals and contests want 3500 words at most. Usually it's more like 2500 word pieces that are accepted, depending on the magazine. So this means I have to start writing stories 10 pages and under if I want to seriously try to get some stories out there this summer.

 

Lately I've been thinking about how much everything's changed since I left The Big Man Himself. When we first broke up, before the reunion, I felt a serious loss of identity. I channelled all the energy I once put into the band into my writing, which was always what I wanted to do as a career. Music is another way for me to express the words that are inside of me. Still, there is something wonderful about being in a focused band. So when we reunited, first I was resistant to the idea, then more enthusiastic. I was moving to Burlington though, and knew I couldn't keep driving back and forth. I wouldn't be able to afford it. Also, I wouldn't be able to focus on my writing as much. The strangest thing, though, was that when I broke away from the band, I avoided a lot of the things I used to love. I stopped going to music stores and buying C.D.s, stopped going to as many shows, stopped even listening to some of the bands I used to. It wasn't because I didn't like those things anymore; it was because I was trying to figure out who I was without having to rely on punk or ska. I think I've figured it out now. I'm going to see the Specials on the 19th!

 

Date Night: Perfect for, well, a date night.

 

So on Friday night, after a relatively rough week, my boyfriend and I decided to have a date night. I'm a big fan of going to the movies because I have a great time every time. Even if the movie is awful, I still have fun critiquing it and going out. David, my boyfriend, and I have a rating system for the trailers too. It's a blast. This date night, we decided to see Date Night

 

The premise behind Date Night is simple enough. Claire (Tina Fey) and Phil Foster (Steve Carell) from the suburbs in New Jersey have a local date night every week. After they find out one of the couples they hang out with is getting divorced as a result of a stagnant marriage, both Claire and Phil decide that this next date has to be something special. Without a reservation, they try to get a table at the exclusive Manhattan restaurant, Claw.

 

When they aren't able to get a table, Phil, who has a talent for concocting horrible plans, takes the reservation of the Tripplehorns. Turns out the Tripplehorns have stolen something from Joe Miletto, the local crime-lord, and now two of his goons think that the Fosters are the ones that have stolen it.  

 

What follows is some hilarious action-comedy with the Fosters running around New York. Tina Fey and Steve Carell worked amazingly together, and if they ever make another movie together, I’m going to see it for sure. Their ad-libbing was the high-light of the movie, witty and funny without ever going into the realm of disgusting humour. The Fosters were viable and lovable as a couple just looking to recapture some romance.

 

While I did love this movie overall, a few things kept it from becoming a comedic classic. Some of the action scenarios, like when the Audi the Fosters' are driving crashes into a taxi, are a little over done. One of the worst things that can happen during a comedy is that the joke goes on for too long, and the audience gets bored. This happened a few times during the movie. When the Fosters meet up with the “real” Tripplehorns, Taste (James Franco) and Whippit (Mila Kunis), the banter between the Taste and Whippit soon lost my attention. It was funny at first, but turned into drugged-out-couple-at-party-arguing-forever-about-stupid-things-you-don’t-care-about in a second. Due to these things, I’ll probably only rent the movie again and not buy it. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

 

So Date Night is a great movie to see if you’re on a date. Judging from the people beside me in the theater, the movie might not appeal as much to teens, but more for adults, especially those who’ve experienced long term relationships.

 

Some Response to my Shutter Island Review.

 

Last week, I said that if people had responses to any of the reviews, I’d feature them in an upcoming blog. Here’s a response to Shutter Island by reader and fellow writer Jeanette Raucci:

 

“I agree with most of what you said. My issue with the movie [was] once I learned the plot twist, it gave me a serious case of déjà vu. Ultimately, I was unimpressed because I felt like I've heard this story line before. Not sure if that’s because it was originally a well known book, but still. I cannot put my finger on it. I'm sure there's a book or movie out there with the same concept. Very disappointing.”

 

Keep the responses coming!

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess   

 

April 8, 2010.

 End of my Third Year of University. Review of Goodbye Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson. Acoustic Performances.

 

Hey everyone!

 

 Sorry I haven't written on here in a little bit. It's been hectic. Since I've last put up an entry, I've played two acoustic shows, rewritten my story "Christopher Plays the Blues", handed in my poetry portfolio, finished multiple essays, handed in a take-home exam, took an in-class exam, took an out of class exam, went to Ottawa, and turned 21. Wow! 

 

It's bittersweet being done my third year of university. I think I had a strong finish, so I feel proud of myself. At the same time, I'm sad to be done because this was the best year of university I've had. I'm finally doing what I've always wanted, and my profs, especially in the Creative Writing classes, have been phenomenal. I feel more confident about myself, both as a person, and as a writer. I'm also taking summer classes so it's not a real end to the mayhem of school.

 

The little group of the four of us that meet for breakfast have now imaginatively dubbed ourselves "The Breakfast Club, and I assure you, it's a 100% original name. I hope we'll get together to do some writing and editing over the summer. I've also been thinking about trying to run some poetry readings over the summer. I'd put them on the same way I use to put on shows. After performing acoustically with Ken and The Dead Skies, I thought about how good I am at memorizing song lyrics and wondered why I've never memorized my poems for a reading. So that may happen sometime over the summer.

 

Goodbye Chunky Rice Review

 

I love the graphic novel genre, especially the kind of graphic novels that Craig Thompson writes. I like the semi-autobiographical graphic novels, or realistic graphic novels. I find that graphic novels are the ultimate post-modern texts. They are fragmented, self-reflexive, often are not completely linear in story telling, and full of intertextuality. My favourite graphic novel in general is Blankets by Craig Thompson, so I've tried to read the other works he's released. Carnet de Voyage was a great travelogue, and I felt like it gave me a lot of insight into the life of a graphic novelist (which is important since my main character is a graphic novelist in Fill the Page with Colour).

 

Goodbye Chunky Rice is much shorter than the 600 page Blankets and was Craig Thompson's first graphic novel, sitting at about 125 pages. It won a Harvey Award, marking Craig Thompson as a graphic novelist to watch. The drawings have a very child-like quality about them, which, when I was first perusing the graphic novel section at the local bookstore, turned me off. At this time, I had not read any of Thompson's other work. Blankets drew me in much more because the depth and detail of the drawings, but if one takes the time to really get into Goodbye Chunky Rice the same skill and depth is there, just with a sense of innocence attached.

 

The story is about a "turtle boy" named Chunky Rice who decides he must leave the unnamed sea-side town he grew up in. His best friend Dandel, a deer mouse, is sad to see him go, but she knows he needs to find where he belongs. Dandel is halfheartedly invited along, but, to Chunky's dismay, she turns him down. Dandel feels a connection to the town and the beautiful seaside where she and Chunky spend their time together. Once Chunky leaves, however, she finds that these spaces no longer have the same effect on her and is overcome with loneliness. Dandel sets about collecting bottles to send Chunky messages into the sea.

 

The main story is also interwoven with the tale of two brothers, Solomon and Charles. Their relationship is plagued with problems as a result of their upbringing and worked into the story in a non-linear fashion. While Publisher's Weekly called Goodbye Chunky Rice a fable, I think this second story line is what saves the graphic novel from simplicity. It is dealt with subtly  and delicately, showing off Craig Thompson's ability to capture a story with gestures, scenes, and a few well placed words. What makes Thompson so captivating a graphic novelist is his strong talent in both art and writing.  

 

I highly recommend this text for anyone who is interested in graphic novels, art, or who wants a satisfying story about loneliness. Don't go into the graphic novel expecting something as complex asBlankets or Watchmen, but give it a try and you won't be disappointed.

 

A Note Regarding the Reviews

 

I've heard from a few people that they disagree with my Shutter Island review. If anyone has other opinions on the reviews, send me a comment (contact info is in About Me) and I'll quote your feedback in a later blog.     

 

I hope you all have a good rainy weather day. It's a good day to write!

 

Much respect,

 

Jess

 

 March 5, 2010.

 Review of Shutter Island (the movie adaptation). Total Spoilers. 

 

Hey everyone,

 

So I've actually read all the novels I have to read for this semester. I still have some science readings and short stories to edit, but now I'm finally free to read Tree of Smoke. I also have to read Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje. Someone from a class lent it to me. And I'm watching C.S.I. and drinking Dr. Pepper so life is looking pretty good.

 

Official Start of Shutter Island review! Don't read further if you don't want spoilers!

 

I finally saw Shutter Island on Tuesday, and I have to admit, I wasn't too excited to see it. The previews made it seem like a total horror flick, and as I've said before, I don't do well with scary movies. I'm not a screamer, but I am a gasper and a jumper. It's a bit embarrassing to have the people near you look at you like you're crazy. I always want to shout at them, "Come on! It's supposed to be scary! It's not ridiculous that I'm scared!" 

 

I hadn't read the book Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. My boyfriend's mom read it on her Kindle (I have one too), and the review she gave of it was only three words, "It was ok." Those three words also sum up my review of the movie. According to her, the movie did a good job of representing the book, but I rate the movie 6.5 out of 10. 

 

The cinematography was fairly well done, and the way camera filters were used to affect the colouring and tone of the scenes was great. As beautiful as the island was, I still felt like some parts were a little cheesy in terms of techniques. For instance, when Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and the Warden (Ted Levine) are driving in the car, the background is what is moving and obviously so. This could been seen as hinting to the viewer that what they are watching is a fabrication of Teddy/ Laeddis' mind. It actually  ends up coming off as amateur. It isn't nostalgic, it isn't clever, it just looks cheap.

 

The movie was more of a psychological thriller than a horror flick. Unfortunately, as soon as you know there is a twist, the movie is ruined. I was tipped off by my professor (we all screamed, 'Don't give it away!'), but now even the previews talk about "the great twist". If you know there is a twist, it's pretty easy to figure out that Teddy actually is a patient on Shutter Island. What is unexpected is how all the pieces fit together. I was going to do complete spoilers, but I won't give away all the details. 

 

It was a pretty good movie. I enjoyed watching it. It's worth spending the money on it if you just feel like going out to the movies, but it probably won't be one you'd want to rewatch. Some viewers beg to differ and think it's got some great work by Scorsese, but for me, it was mediocre.

 

Hope you enjoyed!

 

Jess

 

February 28, 2010.

 Fill The Page with Colour Rough Work. Tree of Smoke. 

Hey everyone!

Happy last day of February. Time to buy new bus passes and pay bills and all those things that come with the end of the month.

 

I've posted up my rough comics and graphic novel squares from Fill the Page with Colour (more info on the novel project is in About Me). So go on into Photos and check it out!

 

I had a major jam session with my brother, Ken Taylor, on Thursday. We're pretty much set for the acoustic show we're playing next Saturday, March 6th. All the money goes to MS, and all the canned goods go to the food bank. I'm pretty excited.

 

No reviews really to post. I'm going to see Shutter Island on Tuesday. I don't do well with scary movies, so we'll see what happens.

 

Also I got Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson for Valentine's Day. So once my school reading and paper writing slows down, I'll read it and post a review. I really liked Jesus' Son which is a short story cycle, but I haven't read any novels by him. A few of the Creative Writers at York and I met up and watched the movie version of Jesus' Son. It was all right, but it took out some things I really thought were important. If I hadn't read the book, though, I probably would have thought it was a great movie.

 

We really need to come up with a name for our little group. There is a group of about four of us from the program that are close friends and meet for breakfast. A couple other people come by as well. We're making up a fake group of poets and will make some poetry music videos soon, but we haven't named our actual group. It'd make it easier to talk about on here.

 

Anyway, have a good day, all right?

 

Much love and respect,

 

Jess 

 

 

February 19, 2010.

 More Artwork Added in Photos. Domain is working.

Hi!

So the domain is working perfectly now. I'm very happy about this. 

 

I added more artwork in the Photos section. You can now see what designs I've done for The Big Man Himself. I found that everything in there is pretty much done with felt tip drawing pens on paper. I didn't know how obsessed I was with that medium until now. I think it's because I used to be able to paint more (more space, more time), but using pens is fast and easy. Also, when doing designs that need to be simple for t-shirt printing presses, pen and ink works well.

 

I'll add some samples of the rough artwork for the graphic bits of my novel soon. Also video coming soon as well!

 

Much love and respect,

Jess

 

February 18, 2010. Again.

 Domain Purchased Already

Hi again!

I guess I got too excited because I purchased a domain address already. Check it out: www.jesstaywriter.com. It'll be up and working within the next 48 hours. Hooray!

 

Much love and respect,

Jess

 February 18, 2010.

 Welcome to my new website in transition!

Hey everyone,

Recently, I wanted to put together a portfolio website. This website is for me to talk about my current work, especially in writing, but also to get people aware of my other projects in art and music. About me is where you can find my official bio and current projects. 

 

I have been talking and working with Metal F Designs, who designed my old band, The Big Man Himself's, website. Come May 2010, I will have a fully functional, personally designed website with a .com domain address. For now, this is where people will be able to get the information on my career.

 

I will also use this site to blog about current projects, movie reviews, book reviews, art show reviews, concert reviews. Pretty much anything that falls into the line of one of my interests (all the Arts and Science) will somehow find its way into the blog. Enjoy!

 

Much love and respect,

Jess