Saturday, February 28, 2004

101 Things to do in 1001 Days

After much deliberation, I have finalized THE LIST. Here goes nothing! In no particular order (except maybe the more important stuff is at the beginning)....

1. Paint a picture for my mom. [COMPLETE! Happy Birthday! March 2, 2005]
2. Take an oil painting class.
3. Draw a cartoon.
4. Finish comic book.
5. Print and frame comic book, put it on the wall.
6. Show it off to friends.
7. Learn how to upload web pages to the web.
8. Learn Dreamweaver or Flash.
9. Take a french refresher course.
10. Take an entire roll of film of outdoor shots in winter. [COMPLETE! Ooooo, snowy. Easter, 2005]
11. See an Ottawa Senators playoff game.
12. See Jamiroquai in concert.
13. See one of the “The” bands: The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, or The White Stripes.
14. See an outdoor festival concert. Get trashed at the beer tent.
15. See a live taping of a TV show (preferably Daily Show with Jon Stewart)
16. And not a crappy one, either (NewRO is clearly out).
17. Visit Canada’s Wonderland.
18. Visit Fort York.
19. Visit Quebec City and see Citadel.
20. Check out the Canada & the World Pavilion [COMPLETE! Canada deserves better. September, 2004]
21. Write 30 blog entries in 40 days. [COMPLETE! Count 'em up if you don't believe me. Feb 23 - April 2, 2004]
22. Do it without ever writing exclusively about music, movies, or television. [COMPLETE! Cheated a bit, but I'm fine with that. Feb 23 - April 2, 2004]
23. Submit an article to a local newspaper.
24. Visit Washington D.C. [COMPLETE! Been there, have a pic of the White House. April 16-19, 2004]
25. Visit Europe. [COMPLETE! Well, sorta. Thailand was much more ambitious. May 5-20, 2005]
26. Go south in the winter.
27. Swim in a body of water other than a lake, river, or the Atlantic Ocean (gulfs or seas count fine). [COMPLETE! Gulf of Thailand, came complete with turquoise water and coconut trees. May, 2005]
28. Fly in a four-seater plane.
29. Drive a motorboat or a jet-ski.
30. Test-drive a sportscar.
31. Fix up bike and go trail riding.
32. Lose *mumble mumble* pounds.
33. Read a Shakespearean play, one I haven’t read before.
34. Memorize a soliloquy.
35. Complete a project using my new jigsaw.
36. Complete a project using my new circular saw.
37. Adamantly try to convince someone of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.
38. Sell something, anything, for more than $10.
39. Fly a kite.
40. Get a mole removed.
41. Play golf with Mr. Mike Blue Jeans.
42. Figure out what people see in it.
43. Learn how to tie my shoes properly. [COMPLETE! So totally did it on my own, too. March 12, 2004]
44. Stop using “bunny-ears.”
45. Learn how to tie a tie without using a “How to Tie a Tie” picture guide.
46. Stop feeling embarrassed about my unexplainable challenges with any kind of recognizable knot other than wreath knot.
47. Write an email to esthero to tell her that I think her music is cool without sounding too much like a slobbering fanboy.
48. Enlarge one of my photographs to a size larger than 8x12.
49. Send a care package to a friend overseas. [COMPLETE! Hayden and other goodies invade Scotland. July 1, 2004]
50. Do something unbelievably selfish.
51. Do something unbelievably selfless.
52. Learn a useful new word. Use it in a sentence. [COMPLETE! Deliquesce...mmmm, melty. March 4, 2004]
53. Start physiotherapy on my knee. [Obsolete! Knee needs surgery now. October, 2004]
54. Keep at it until it gets better or until they tell me I need surgery. [COMPLETE, in a way! See above. October, 2004]
55. Take or find some pictures of myself. I barely have any. [COMPLETE! Black & white is always the way to go. Ongoing, early 2005]
56. Get an unsolicited phone call from a friend I haven’t seen in two years or more (this one’s up to you guys, outta my hands) [COMPLETE! Hi Mish! Fall, 2004]
57. Eat a burger with four patties. Hold the cheese because it’s too fatty. [COMPLETE! Double Big Mac, followed by four hours of stomach cramps. March 13, 2004]
58. Call someone “fatty.” Mean it as a compliment.
59. Wear a Superman cape in public. Be proud about it.
60. Buy a wide-angle lens for my camera. Test it in Gatineau Park.
61. Go snorkeling. [COMPLETE! Lookit all the coral! May, 2005]
62. Watch all three Lord of the Rings movies in order in a day. [COMPLETE! Sooo long. October, 2004]
63. Do something nice for someone. NEVER admit to doing it. [COMPLETE! Or is it? Sometime, 2005]
64. Finish up a job or a contract. Get more than a handshake for it. (Another one that’s outta my hands) [COMPLETE! It wasn't a gold watch, but it might have been more valuable: friendship. Gah! Cheesy! April 23, 2004]
65. Cheer for someone else’s team because it makes them happy.
66. Play Lord of the Rings Risk for only the second time, ever.
67. Change a tire on a car so I can learn how.
68. Get to know one of my stepbrothers better. Away from my dad, when they’re not on such good behavior. [COMPLETE! Not sure I liked what I saw. December, 2004]
69. Get a job that I like. REALLY like. Something creative is a must. [COMPLETE! Project Manager. February, 2005]
70. Put my scanner to better use. [COMPLETE! Pics a-plenty. February, 2005]
71. Get my own website where I can post something other than just text. I will accept any and all gifts of web space. Please, give generously.
72. Make a friend who drinks and lives within walking distance.
73. Even better, all of the above, but with a car and willing to be DD every once in a while.
74. Get paid for my design work. [COMPLETE! Fall, 2004]
75. Adopt an exotic animal and visit it regularly.
76. Print labels for collection of slimline CD/R jewel cases.
77. Get a henna tattoo. Get a real one, if I like it.
78. Move closer to downtown. [COMPLETE! So close to downtown, I can spit at it out my dining room window. August 15, 2004]
79. Try rollerblading.
80. Spend more time outdoors. [COMPLETE! Sunburns to prove it. May, 2005]
81. Patch things up with a lost friend. [COMPLETE! Sometimes you have to do the dirty work. April 29, 2004]
82. Watch less re-runs on TV. [COMPLETE! The Simpsons don't count. July 10, 2004]
83. Re-Read Homer’s “The Illiad.” Skim over the never-ending lists.
84. Watch “Troy.” Point out inaccuracies to anyone who’ll listen. [COMPLETE! Not even worth a rant. Sometime in May, 2004]
85. Re-take First Aid training. [COMPLETE! Why can't I remember basic CPR? March, 2005]
86. Try a new ethnic food. [COMPLETE! El Savadoran. It was greasy. April 18, 2004]
87. Try a new chain restaurant. [COMPLETE! I think?]
88. Buy a new computer. Consider buying a Mac. [COMPLETE! No Mac this time. September 14, 2004]
89. Play with a monkey. Try to get him to play a pan flute.
90. Go on a bar crawl.
91. Help organize and attend a reunion of university friends.
92. Try oysters. [COMPLETE! Tasty, don't forget the horseradish and hot sauce. September 1, 2004]
93. BBQ every night for a week.
94. Spend a whole night out at a martini bar. [COMPLETE! Helsinki, followed by randomness. April 30, 2004]
95. Go for a Boyz night out in downtown Montreal.
96. Get British citizenship.
97. Get British passport.
98. Officially add mother’s maiden name as a middle name
99. Settle up transcript bill with university
100. Buy Lego Millennium Falcon
101. Avoid reading any more spoilers for Star Wars Epsiode III. This one might be the hardest of all… [COMPLETE! Palpatine vs. Yoda! Cool! May 24, 2005]

Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Burn Baby, Burn

Two nights in a row, I've been up burning the midnight oil, as it were.

Wondering where this phrase came from (and procrastinatng), I dredged up this part of a poem by Frances Quarles in 1635:

"We spend our midday sweat, our midnight oil; 
We tire the night in thought, the day in toil"

Nice quote. It goes back to the days when instead of flicking on a switch, people squeezed wads of whale blubber into cans and sparked it up. And back in those days, lamp oil didn't come cheap. If you were up all night burning it, you werre either a shameless moneybags or a reckless idiot; the latter of which still applies to yours truly, here in the 21st Century.

But personally, I can't help but think of a fiery Peter Garrett running around in circles. Maybe that's what happened to all his hair?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Further Refinement

If you're jumping on now, this post might make more sense if you read the one that preceded it, "North America is Boring."

I've been talking with a few people since I wrote my post yesterday. Sometimes it helps to let ideas flow freely onto a page, and sometimes it helps even more to go back and refine those ideas a little bit.

Okay, so the first comment I was hearing is the chicken-and-the-egg phenomenon. As in, the connection between travel and an emotional and spiritual growth following that travel IS a factor and is important for very many people, but what's more important is that personality seems to be a determining factor. The people who travel to exotic lands and make the most out of it are the kinds of people who are looking for adventure. At the same time, there are plenty of people who travel (for work or whatever) who HATE it, who are much happier at home where things are simple and predictable and comfortable. So really, it depends on what kind of person you are. I happen to be one of those people who NEEDS to travel. I know I'm not the only one, but upon further reflection, I realize that there are other kinds of people out there.

Further, you can become complacent and atrophy anywhere in the world if you never go out and do anything. You could be in the most wonderful, beautiful, exotic place in the world and waste all your time playing video games and sleeping. It all depends on how you spend your time and how you exercise your opportunities that's important. If you let yourself be bored in one place, chances are that only moving where you live isn't enough. Sure, things will be new and exciting for a while, but you'll soon slip into your old patterns in no time flat. But also, making a blanket statement that nobody has a problem with patterns and cookie cutter lives outside of North America simply isn't true. You'll find people like that living in every country of the world, I'm sure. Or so I'm told.

Another comment was that travel isn't a solution. And after thinking about that, I think I agree with it, even though I don't have a frame of reference. The idea here is that after going and living in a foreign land, when you get back to Canada you've changed and grown as a person but everything here has stayed exactly the same. I've been told that there's a culture shock that lasts for several months after returning, where travelers lament their return and many immediately head back out again. I've experienced this phenomenon through some of my friends who have returned in the last few years, including my friend Charlie, who can't seem to stay in the country for longer than six months anymore, and my friend Mr. Mike Blue Jeans, who upon returning from Scotland took several months to find Canadian girls attractive again.

But travel is important and can be a life-enhancing experience. I guess I see it now more as part of a big puzzle, a single piece of a greater picture that I need it to be. I need to do more in less time.

My friend Sara directed me to another weblog after reading my post. I should have kept the link, but the gist of it was that the author was venting about how angry it made him when people said they were bored. And despite the (possibly poorly chosen) title of my blog entry yesterday (I couldn't resist the sensationalism), I couldn't help but agree.

The gist of the argument is that life is very short. 80 years of life is a number that is easy to grasp. If you broke down the number of days and used people to represent them, it would fill a large hockey arena. That's a number that you can grasp, that you can process visually (or so this person argues). The idea is that there's way too much to do in life to ever be bored. There's too much beauty to see, too much music to enjoy, and too many things that we can learn, and experience and enjoy.

And I think that's entirely true. In the past, I remember I have gotten angry with people when they said they were bored, especially if they have too much time on their hands. And that's because I don't feel that I have enough time on my hands to do what I want; time is an opportunity. But at the same time, I don't think that my thoughts yesterday overtly stated that I was bored. I think they state that I am reasonably happy and have plenty to do (too much, really), but I don't feel complete.

Stacey and Sara's advice is that I need to enjoy my life here more, that there are things that I can do to make it richer in my very own backyard. And I think that's true, to an extent. I think I would need to talk to another person who feels the way I do who hasn't traveled outside of North America to be sure (both of them have had that opportunity). It all goes back to frame of reference, for me. I think that traveling, and especially living, abroad is just one of those experiences that my life will never be complete without. But that doesn't mean that in the meantime I can't see what I can do about finding new things to do right here at home.

Anyway, one of tools that have popped up to help people with this sort of thing is a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. I'm not sure where the idea came from, but I know that a bunch of people have tried them, with various levels of success. The idea is that you put things on the list that are attainable, but still always wanted to try, then as you do them (you should be on a schedule to do one ever 10 days or so), you cross them off the list. Flying to the moon would be a bad choice, no matter how cool that would be. Painting a picture is a good one, especially since I've been procrastinating about that since high school.

I think I'm going to try it. I haven't framed what I want to put on it yet, but you can guarantee that travel will be on there.

Monday, February 23, 2004

North America is Boring

"What keeps me from writing?" I often ask myself. "Why is it that I have this wonderful opportunity, this electronic freedom to publish whatever & whenever I want with no boundaries and restrictions, and I can't think of a single thing that will hold the interest of someone for longer than ten seconds?"

Is it me? Is my life boring? I don't think this is necessarily true, I have a wide variety of interests and I always have something to do. Is it my job? Well, yes, in a way, in that it sucks up a big chunk of my time (and my soul) and makes me not want to sit in front of a computer all evening long. But that's too simple. Is it that I don't party enough? I guess a lot of stories come from wild and crazy nights out with friends. But I do go out, not as much as I really want and not in the grand style that I did during university, but I think I still have plenty of opportunities to party and fun people to party with (those that remain, given the black hole effect that Toronto seems to have on the young people of this country). But really, even then, the stories generated by these events tend to follow a pattern or fit a mould.

Let me give you an example. This past weekend, I was at a party at my friend Sean's place. It was sort of a last-minute thing, but a bunch of the old high school crew made it out. We had a great time, met some cool people who work with Sean and some of his girlfriend's friends. We spent the night talking about movies and music and sports and booze. Although I drove over, they talked me into staying over the night so I could do some shots with them. We pulled out some JD and some tequila and a wide variety of other toxins, challenged each other in that macho "I can drink more than you" kind of way.

One guy, Steve, kept upping the ante by pouring terrible shots and trying to pass them off as something else. Like, a shot of vodka which he passed off as peach schnapps, or the strange milky white one that he brought out of the kitchen. We convinced him he should drink his invention that time. He never did tell us what he put in it. Anyway, everyone got hammered, especially that guy Steve, who had to have someone help him put on his boots. Moments after leaving, his step brother came back into the house to proudly proclaim that Steve had fallen face-first in the puddle at the end of the driveway.

Anyway, that's the detailed account. The simple story is we sat around, talked about movies, music, and sports, everyone drank a bunch, we had a laugh at the plastered guy, then everyone went home. Maybe it's me, but it seems like that's the way pretty much every party goes down. Which is fine, because it was fun, but it doesn't make for the greatest writing. In the end, I can't help but thinking that here in North America, we happily live cookie-cutter lives and follow pre-set paths like a bunch of blind worker ants. The routine is so heavily ingrained in us that we don't even notice that it's a routine, and may even love everything about the routine, depending on what kind of person you are.

And it goes deeper. Once you get to a certain point in age, there are expectations that are set for us. We should buy a house and a car. We should stop going out as much, because we're just too old for that now. It's too late to follow our dreams, better settle for the cubicle and a cold beer after work.

So where am I going with this? I wish I knew. All I know is that people who are living outside of North America don't seem to have these kinds of problems. My buddy Matt's blog has been awesome, because it seems like him and his girlfriend are always out exploring Scotland or trying something new or just sucking in life experiences. A lot of the people I know have had similar experiences, at least at some point in their lives, where they did the same and became better people for it, no matter whether they moved to Prague, or Tokyo, or Jerusalem, or South Africa. Even my girlfriend Stacey spent a year in Wales and still talks about how profound an influence it has had on her life. Is making this connection overly simplifying the matter? Maybe, but I wouldn't know without a frame of reference.

But regardless, where does that leave me? Well, feeling like I'm missing out, big time. And it's not that my life is all that unhappy, because it isn't. In most respects, I have already achieved something close to a North American ideal. But there's a big chunk missing, and I think it's keeping me from fully enjoying what I've got.

The solution might seem simple. "Get off your ass and buy a plane ticket! Go out there and make it happen!" I think I've told myself that one just as many times as I've heard it from others. But something's holding me back, and that confuses me all the more. Other than the most obvious thing, of course: money, and not enough of it.

So is it fair to blame North American culture on a lack of blog updates? Probably not. I suppose all along I could've done what I have in the past, and what so many of my fellow bloggers continue to do in the name of disciplined writing: spend most of my time talking about movies, and music, and sports, and drunken nights out with tha boyz. Beat my personal interests in pop-culture into the ground with a stick. Proclaim loudly why I liked or didn't like the latest blockbuster or video game. Poke fun at anything I can get an angle on or pitch a witticism for. But a few months ago, I just got tired of that.

As I said before, that kind of blogging isn't necessarily a bad thing. It makes lots of people happy, and that's great. And because of that, I'll probably start being disciplined about it. I expect that everyone hits a snag like this at some point or another, and hopefully some understand and support me for it. I continue to support others who are struggling with the same, at the very least. And maybe one day I'll throw off the shackles of North American life and find out for myself what else is out there.

Speaking of which, it looks like Irish rock band Ash is releasing a new album. Expect "Meltdown" in stores soon (sooner in the UK than here, though, I'd bet). Check out a track listing and other details here. Also, for those of you in the Ottawa area, it looks like Metric will be playing the Babylon nightclub on March 2nd, with a show in Toronto shortly after at the Phoenix. Check out Metric's website for more info.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the longest five-sentence update I have ever written.