March 2, 2011

I’ve been unsubscribing to lots of things lately- boring RSS feeds, spammy Facebook groups, email newsletters. Kind of like a toddler who just learned the word “NO”.

Today I tried to unsubscribe from this one newsletter, and the site redirected me to this page:

Is that my email address?
Well how the f*** am I s******* to k***?

Guest Post: Andrea Peneycad’s Magico Magico

January 17, 2011

I tried to trick Peneycad into starting a blog by being all tricky, like “hey that thing that happened to you is funny, you should type it” and she did and then I was all tricky again, like “oh hey great story, why not start a blog and put that story on it” and she was like “no”. So basically she’s the one who tricked me, because look, I’m posting it here.

I was on the subway on Saturday night. It was around 10:30 – kind of a lull time, just before the going-out crowd, um, goes out. I was coming back from a baroque- concert-slash-gay-marriage-fashion-show that I saw with my aunt and my 91-year-old grandmother. But that is entirely another story.

At maybe St. George station, this guy about my age got on the subway. He was incredibly nonremarkable in every aspect except for that he had kind of searching eyes, which are entirely unusual (and entirely undesirable) eyes to see on the subway. The rest of us were playing our required roles of Weary Torontonians On The Subway Who Don’t Notice Anyone Around Them.

I half watched him choose a seat not too far away from me, next to some other guy I dutifully hadn’t noticed either. He then sat down with an exaggerated ‘aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,’ a sound which I can compare only to letting the air out of a bicycle tire. This guy was happy to be taking a load off and wanted us to know about it.

In that exact moment, the man who had been sitting on my same bank of 3 seats got off the subway, and our deflated bicycle tire gave us all a look like ‘golly, isn’t that just Murphy’s law that a better seat opens up right when I sit down, well, gee, I’ll just snag it, it seems like the only thing to do, wouldn’t you agree?’ We wouldn’t agree (or disagree), we were Not Playing. He got up and crossed to sit down next to me, leaving a seat between us.

I focussed on my subway activity of choice, which is to send text messages to my friends, which eventually send themselves when I get to ground level, but once again, ‘aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.’ This sealed the deal for me. I had to keep my eyes to myself; this guy was looking for some sort of conversation opener, and it wasn’t going to take much.

The next time I looked up, he was sort of clumsily shuffling through a deck of cards. Not in a ‘wow, I’d really better get these cards mixed up; look, all the jacks are together’ kind of way, but more of a ‘if I do this for long enough, someone will ask me if I do magic’ vibe. We’d just passed Christie station, which meant I was getting off in 4 stops.

It sort of flashed through my mind that I could make this guy’s night by asking him if he did magic. He was basically wearing a sign that said ‘Ask Me If I Do Magic (Hint: The Answer Is YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)’ but then I thought better of it, and right in the middle of deciding not to, I heard myself say resignedly ‘so. do you play poker, or do you do magic.’

Him: ‘Why, I do magic!’
(I swear, he threw in the ‘why’ at the beginning of the sentence.)

Me: ‘Ok. I’m getting off at Dundas West.’

Him: ‘I’m getting off at Lansdowne! What you see here is a completely normal deck of cards.’

He lifted his deck of cards up, which he was awkwardly holding, as if to prove that there WAS something fishy up with these cards. He kind of clumsily half- fanned through them, so I could vaguely see some writing on at least one corner of the cards. ‘What I plan to do, right before your very eyes, is erase these cards. So, first thing we nee–

He threw an ENORMOUS fireball into the air, then did some sort of awkward sleight-of- hand and, yup, he’d turned all the cards white. But who cares. I was still back at ‘WHOA. You just threw fire on the subway. Did you really just throw fire on the subway?’ Also, I was thinking how READY this guy actually was for me (and by ‘me’ I mean ‘anyone in the entire world’) to ask him about doing magic.

The other riders on the subway, god love ‘em, they were all playing their ‘I’m in Toronto, nothing’s gonna surprise me’ roles all the way to Oscar nominations. Not a blink or a raised eyebrow anywhere. Inspiring stuff.

With one stop till he needed to get off, I kind of expected that we were just gonna have the ‘thanks, that was neat’ ‘oh really? You really think so? Thanks a lot I have been working on it I am really into magic it’s not that easy you know thanks a lot’ conversation that happens after someone almost singes off your eyebrows, but he stuffed his hand into his pocket and pulled out 3 pieces of trick rope. Kleenex, receipts and instructions for other tricks came tumbling out too, but this guy didn’t care. He was on a mission.

‘I have in my hand 3 ropes. I’m the kind of guy who carries rope in his pocket, crazy eh?’

‘You certainly are prepared,’ I managed.

‘As you can see they’re all of differing lengths. I will now transform them to be the same length.’

He started doing some clumsy movements in his palm. ‘Next stop, Lansdowne Station’ came the recorded voice. He sped it up, and I kind of glanced away so he could hurry up with whatever secret moves he needed to do.

The subway rolled into the station, and he kind of threw the rope out of his hands ‘ and now you see they’re all the same length um bye!’ he grabbed his bag, stood up, and started scooping the receipts, tissue and the instruction card back into his pockets, sliding out the doors just as they were closing.

I laughed and laughed to myself. I tried to catch the eyes of the other passengers, but they weren’t having any of it.

Understandable, really.

– Andrea Peneycad doesn’t have her own blog.

PS, Here is an unrelated link.

Earthquake in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

June 23, 2010

Epicentre near Ottawa (just above centre on this map)

Ontario experienced an earthquake today at around 1:42 pm. My house (downtown Toronto, near College and Spadina) just shook for about 10 seconds.

I won’t lie, at first I thought my neighbours were indulging in a particularly vigorous bout of afternoon delight, but then I realized could feel and hear the whole house shaking, not to mention my own intestines. And my cats looked like their little eyes were gonna bug out. Woulda had to be a pretty mighty performance from Mr. Neighbour. So, earthquake. CRAZY!

More crazy? I decided blogging and twittering about it was more important than leaving the house.

This post got 1400 pageviews in under 10 minutes- clearly y’all felt it too.

UPDATE: I did some research for you!

The Canadian quake we just had affected Southern Ontario, parts of Quebec, and parts of New York State and Michigan. The epicentre seems to have been near Ottawa.

It registered about a 5.5 on the Richter scale, which ranks it as “moderate”. According to Wikipedia, this means it would be capable of causing major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions, but would cause only slight damage, if any, to well-designed buildings.

For comparison, the Nagasaki atom bomb caused a 5.0 quake (plus a buttload of radiation fallout and etc), and this year’s Haitian quake was a 7.0, which is fifty times stronger than what just totally made my guts crawl into my throat. (Here’s the Wikipedia page on the Richter scale).


Inside, crouch under a table or in a corner- away from exterior walls and windows. Cover your head with your arms. Wait.
Outside, go to open ground and hang out. Stay away from trees, buildings, streetlights, and electrical wires.
In a car, pull over and stay in the car. Try not to stop under overpasses, wires, buildings, trees, or utility poles.
Drink a stiff scotch, if available.

Dear Japan: Absolutely not.

December 8, 2009

But if I did this at home I'd be late.

This Japanese poster campaign is asking commuters not to do certain “annoying” things on the subway.

Here’s what I think is annoying on the subway:

Wearing knapsacks at rush hour


When two friends sit on either side of a stranger and talk over them.

Brushing hair when there’s a person sitting beside you (flake shower, grode)

Standing in the doorway, blithely blocking passengers from exiting. WHAT IS THAT.

Smoking crack into a napkin (I actually saw a guy do that on the TTC, just once. I was really confused about what he was doing until I told a more worldly friend, Hey, I saw a guy light up and inhale off something hidden in his hand, hold the smoke for about 40 seconds, then exhale into a Starbucks napkin, and what he exhaled smelled like sulphur, and my friend said, Uh, that was crack. Huh. Cracky McGuy was about 70 years old, nicely-dressed, not a tooth in his mouth. Summerhill Station. Who knew. Also, to be honest? Not really annoying, and actually quite fascinating.)


Here’s what I do NOT find annoying: Applying makeup. Why would that be annoying? A woman applying makeup has her elbows tucked into her ribs as they should be. She’s not flaking body parts onto anyone. She’s not being loud or getting in the way. If anything, she’s being entertaining and educational because I get to watch her make a painting of her own face, and also I get some tips on how to curl my lashes or whatever.

You know, if you curl them twice- once at the base, once halfway up- you don't get that crimpy look? True story. I learned it at Osgoode Station. And that person on the side giving her the stinkeye? That person is OUT OF LINE.

Subway Makeup Wimmin is going to arrive at her destination on time and looking polished. It’s a real boon to the workforce, actually. If anything applying makeup is practically a public service. She should be rewarded, not scorned. I salute you, Subway Makeup Wimmin.

So dear Japan: In response to your subway ad about not putting on makeup in transit: I respectfully reply, NO. I will NOT not put on makeup in transit. And you can’t not make me not do it.

However, Japan, those other things you asked commuters not to do? Totally fine. Especially this nonsense.


Via Copyranter, Via BoingBoing.

Google Street View is weird

October 8, 2009

Google Street View in my Toronto neighbourhood is up, so I took a little time to browse around my house. It’s a bit weird seeing this stuff on the internet. For instance, here’s my old bike:

street view bike

And I think this is Mojo sitting in the left side of my bedroom window. I can’t tell, it might just be sun-dapples, but it kind of looks like his white chest fur, too.

street view cat

A Facebook friend pointed out this lucky shot of some kind of steam problem in a driveway back in my home-borough of Etobicoke. I wish I could have driven past and hollered, Hot enough for ya, guys? Ha ha ha not really I don’t like getting my ass kicked for being obnoxious.

robinglade google streetview fire

And this is not exactly “internet awesome” but it’s definitely interesting: the Google Street View truck drove by the home of creepy California pedophile Phillip Garrido (the one who kept Jaycee Lee Dugard in some tents in his backyard from 1991 until August 2009). It looks like Garrido saw the Google truck cruise by his house and then, presumably worried his crime might be discovered, he got in his truck and followed the Google vehicle around the corner. His slow-mo pursuit was captured in a series of images by the truck he was following, and archived on the Google Street View of his neighbourhood. Here’s a video walking you through the shots. I wonder how many crimes GSV has inadvertently recorded?

Thanks to Emmanuel, Yohan, and Metafilter for the tips.

UPDATE: That van in Etobicoke was actually on fire! And BlogTO has a great roundup of funny Google Street View pics from Toronto.

Toronto Tornado

August 21, 2009

Tornado touchdowns were confirmed in Ontario during an insane storm late this afternoon (August 20 2009). I was shooting in a basement studio so I missed it, but I found this clip on YouTube. This is in Woodbridge (northwest Toronto, not too far from Islington & Steeles).
Here’s an article in the Globe– thanks to my mom for the tip.
Also, GAH.

Here’s a fantastic collection of Toronto tornado and storm photos and lots of videos on BlogTO.


July 25, 2009

I’m pretty sure I just saw a ghost.

Saturday night, 10:30 pm. I’m walking down a dark street in the middle of the city, in search of an evening coffee to fuel some writing work. It’s a busy street, but a stretch of it that’s kind of pedestrian unfriendly, all big hulking buildings with no storefronts or people, and it feels weirdly dark even though there are streetlights. But I’m a city girl and that kind of stuff never bugs me, this is Toronto and I’m a fast runner, so I don’t sweat it.

I’m walking fast, in a good mood, enjoying the warm humidity since the rain stopped a few hours ago. Ahead of me is what I take to be a goth/raver girl- maybe 5’3″, slumped shoulders and wide hips with very wide-leg shoe-eater crimson pants, black hoodie tied around her waist, and a rickety black umbrella.

I’m not paying her any attention, gaining on her fairly fast, and am about a yard behind her when she takes a sharp, screamy, gasping breath and suddenly spins on me in an unbelievably creepy, uncannily smooth and graceful move that makes her clothes kind of flare out around her like a spectre. The move is so weirdly fluid, so intense, and so totally unexpected that I actually yelp. And then she’s standing stock still, close enough to touch, staring me dead in the face with piercing, totally blank, glittering blue eyes. Not breathing. Barring my path. Not moving at all.

She’s in her mid 40s. Her face is kind of shiny and her eyes are very clear and pale. She has a bright red bindi dot drawn between her brows. She’s not moving, but her stare is unbelievably intense, and I’m caught in it like a rabbit hypnotized by a snake. She is definitely close enough to lunge for my neck, which I’m utterly certain she’s about to do. Her mouth is closed but I’m pretty sure it’s full of needle-sharp teeth and maybe a jaw that can unhinge when she pounces.

She’s clutching her black umbrella close on this rainless night, and a bundle of newspapers. She’s blocking the narrow sidewalk and hasn’t blinked yet, standing so still she’s like a statue. My heart is racing. And she’s still not moving. I seriously don’t think I’ve ever been so scared.

I gradually unfreeze and look at the papers- I can’t read the title but judging from the size, it’s either the Epoch Times or the Outreach, both of which are publications I tend to associate with people who are strange but usually harmless. Ok. She’s not a vampire or a werewolf, she’s just a strange lady and maybe my approaching footfalls scared her. Poor thing. I can normalize this situation.

ME: Hi.
HER: Stony, stock-still staring, silence.
ME: You startled me a little!
HER: Stony, stock-still staring, silence.
ME: You ok?
HER: Stony, stock-still staring, silence.
ME: Let’s just keep walking, ok? You first.
HER: Stony, stock-still staring, silence.
ME: We’re ok. Let’s go.
HER: Stony, stock-still staring, silence.
ME: Come on. OK. Time to move.
HER: Stony, stock-still staring, silence.
ME: (slightly authoritaitve) Hey. Let’s go. Come on, let’s walk.

She pauses so long I shake my head and look past her with the intent of passing her on the narrow sidewalk when suddenly she shrieks in another hissing breath and lunges towards me. She moves like a character in a horror movie, all sweeping grace and sharp sudden freezes. I yelp again. She opens a mouth with no teeth and slurs, “Buy a paper?”

I’m really annoyed now, partly at her for her aggressive posture and hugely at myself for actually being scared of a middle-aged woman three inches shorter than me, so I shake it off and walk briskly past her into the donut shop. My hands are actually shaking, and I’m not very easy to scare. She follows me in, of course, and makes a beeline for an empty table in the corner beside four laughing Korean teenagers. She takes another hissing breath and lunges at the table really dramatically, drops her newspaper bundle, and straightens up again to stand stock still. I marvel at the economy and grace of her creepy movements- I’ve never even seen a dancer move so precisely.

She sits and stares at the teenagers, who are about four feet away from her. None of them are facing her, but they should all be able to either see her in their periphery, or her reflection moving in the dark plate-glass window they’re facing. But they don’t seem to see her. She notices me looking at her and holds her umbrella out towards me like a shield for a sec, then points it at the teens. Again they ignore her. She puts down the umbrella and holds out a newspaper to the teens. I still can’t tell if they even see her- the rhythm of their conversation hasn’t seemed to change and they’re all laughing quite naturally.

I notice she’s wearing a Toronto Film Festival baseball cap from 2007. This kind of absurd detail makes me positive I’m not imagining the occurrence.

She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a tiny stuffed cat. The kind made of rabbit fur, the size of a bagel. She holds it out to the teens.


This is hard to describe, but the four teenagers kind of act the way people act in a movie, in the scene when the lead character is discovering he’s really a ghost. Like they don’t see her there but they register something slightly unpleasant in the spot where she’s standing, so they slightly avoid that spot.

She holds her ratty little hair-cat out towards one of the teens, should be in his peripheral vision, but he doesn’t move at all. She pokes him in the shoulder and he leans away from the poke slightly, but still chatting and laughing. I mean, they must be aware of her, but I’ve never seen teenagers play it so cool. Then she stands up and holds the mangy little toy beside his ear. NONE OF THE TEENAGERS REACT. I begin to think she must be invisible.

She puts the friggin cat ON THE KID’S SHOULDER and he doesn’t move, just keeps chatting. Even she’s amazed. I can see her body language change- now she and I are both wondering if she’s imaginary. This poor woman can’t get a normal reaction from anyone, even a teen with a mangy bagel fur cat (model # C97W, it appears) on his shoulder. Of course her grip on reality is loose- I can feel my own grip loosening and I’ve only known her for four minutes.

I look around the restaurant and nobody else seems to have noticed her. The cat is still perfectly balanced on the teenaged boy’s shoulder like a little dead hamster, and he takes a bite of his doughnut. She’s staring at him like, “But didn’t I just put a fur cat on this kid?” I realize that I may be the sole living person in this movie that can see the ghosts wandering around, and maybe I should leave before an army of them start following me, demanding favours and using me as a medium to make out with their wives while spinning pottery.

I order my coffee. I see a movement out of the corner of my eye: the teenager, without turning his head or pausing the conversation, casually takes the little cat off his shoulder, looking as nonchalant as though he’s just straightening his shirt, and places it in front of him on the table. Still none of them have reacted to the woman’s lurking presence directly beside them, and none of them look at the scruffy little scrap of rabbit fur on the table now. They don’t even look unnaturally stiff like they’re ignoring her, they just look like they’re having a nice night.

The woman is now in a predicament. She didn’t get any reaction from her creepy offering, but now she can’t get it back. She looks sort of confused and a little crestfallen, making small hissing noises while moving back and forth behind one of the boys with small, quick, precise steps, looking for a way to get her ragged kitty back but also not wanting to blow her Gothic mystique by speaking to the teens, who are still engaged in calm, happy chatter.

I wish wish wish I’d brought my camera, but since she’s clearly a ghost I’m pretty sure she’s not capturable in pixel format anyway. My heart hasn’t quite stopped pounding yet, but I brush out of the Tim Horton’s, licking the icing off my donut and kind of proud that I’ve just survived my first face-to-face with a poltergeist.

A timeline

June 10, 2009

MARCH 2009
Scott buys a carton of eggs.

JUNE 2009
Nicole thinks, “….expiration April 2009. Now is June 2009. But it’s like BARELY June. It’s been really cold outside. I guess I could look online to see when eggs expire, but actually, you hear about “rotten egg smell” so I guess I’ll know. Whatever, I’m being so North American. In Europe they don’t even keep eggs in the fridge. I’m sure these eggs will be totally fine. And delicious if I fry them sunny-side-up and put lots of pepper on them and put them on toasty English muffins so the yolk gets all runny.”

Nicole cuts some butter into a warm pan, where it melts and sizzles delightfully.

Nicole cracks an egg over pan.

Nicole wonders why pale snot-coloured water is leaking out of the cracked egg. It looks like the sediment at the bottom of a bottle of cheap concentrated orange juice. One that’s been open for two months or so. Maybe since about April 2009.

Nicole turns over the halves of the egg to see what’s inside. Oh, a bloody green and brown booger the size of an apricot.

Nicole is very unhappy.

Nicole needs to fill her lungs with air to maybe use on some swearing.

Nicole inhales.

Nicole learns that “rotten egg smell” is not a euphemism or myth.

Nicole notices that her hands are totally full of foul expired egg drippings.

Nicole begins a quiet chant of “oh no oh my aw gee oh no oh no oh no”

Nicole thinks fast. “An egg is smaller than a poo from like a really fat guy would be, right? And most toilets can probably handle a linebacker log, right?”

Nicole throws egg in toilet and flushes, hoping for the best.

Egg vanishes without complaint. Bathroom smells like a new and awful kind of fart.

Nicole muses that sulfur dioxide is not our friend.

Nicole is relieved and leisurely washes her hands.

Nicole realizes pan full of egg-snot is happily cooking away on stove.

Nicole observes that the drippings have congealed into a tiny snot omelette that smells like a pig’s ass.

Nicole cleans pan daintily amidst much pursing of lips and squinting of eyes and general unhappiness.

Nicole opens all windows and turns on all fans.

Nicole learns never to take a chance on an egg again.

Overheard in Toronto: “My Acting”

May 29, 2009

Overheard the following conversation tonight, on the subway. I was on my way home, from, ironically, an acting class.

FACT: The more times you use the word “acting” when you’re talking about your acting, the less likely it is that you’re a good actor. That’s just how it is.

“MY ACTING” a short play
transcribed from reality by Nicole Stamp

Two middle-aged people who are obviously not professional actors.
HIM: A very tall man in a jean jacket. Sort of oafish, scruffy, and loud.
HER: A fading Blanche Dubois-type blonde in overly dramatic clothing. Her hair is oddly askew.

HER: When I’m acting I sometimes feel self-conscious but it gets in the way of my acting so I try to just let it go.

HIM: Yeah, I really think that’s not a good way to feel when you’re acting.

HER: It really isn’t. It gets in the way of my acting. I have to just not think about it so I can act.

HIM: Yeah, I get that. I really need to, like, let loose and just be myself when I act.

HER: Yeah. So that scene you were acting in tonight, how was it?

HIM: I have to say, it was weird. It was weird. To be acting with her, acting like I’m her husband, I’m like, “but she’s married”. That makes it weird to act like I’m her husband.

HER: But you’re acting.

HIM: I know, but I’m acting like I’m her husband, right? If I’m her husband, listen, as a heterosexual male, acting or no acting, I’m gonna be doing SOMETHING, right?

HER: You mean kissing her?

HIM: Not exactly, more like–

HER: Lovemaking? Making love to her?

HIM: I mean like holding her hand or something!

HER: Well that’s OK!  You’re acting!

HIM: No! I mean she has a husband! And I’m acting like–

HER: But you’re acting!

HIM: I know I’m acting! That’s the point, my acting can make me get carried away when I’m acting!

HER: I think that’s ok.  When you’re acting.

HIM: Listen, you know Tim Allen?

HER: Uh-

HIM: From Tool Time?

HER: Well I know there is someone named Tim Allen. He does Santa.

HIM: Yeah, him. Well he acted in Tool Time, and on Tool Time, his wife was hot! I thought she was hot! That brunette who acted the role of his wife–

HER: Whose wife, yours? You’re married?

HIM: No. I mean Tim Allen’s wife on Tool Time.

HER: Oh, Tim Allen, yeah. Santa.

HIM: Well when he was acting on that show–

HER: On what show?

HIM: Tool Time.

And then I had to leave the subway and I almost cried, I was so sad to miss the magic. AMAZING.


UPDATE: “My Acting” has received its first off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-Broadway performance, in my friend Shannon’s living room. Click here to watch Shannon and Shannon acting “My Acting”.

Tiny Conversation.

December 12, 2008

Location: The passport office, 10 minutes to closing. I get in there just in time to renew my super-secret spy document, and as the pleasant lady stamps (ha!) my forms, I randomly recall that a dear childhood friend used to work at the passport office. Maybe this very passport office.

ME: Hey, did a guy named [HIM] used to work here?

PASSPORT LADY: Ha ha, actually, he sits right here beside me. I’ll grab him for you.

[moments later]

HIM: Hey long time no see. How are–


HIM: Oh, ha ha, yeah, I guess it’s been a while since we —


[He follows my gaze and touches the centre of his throat, where his shirt collar is almost-buttoned over a miniscule red pinpoint of a bruise.]

HIM: Oh this? This isn’t a hickey.

[He pulls his shirt collar all the way open, revealing a nectarine-sized purple passionwhopper on the side of his neck.]

HIM: THIS is a hickey.