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Dawson College

Bollywood Thriller
At around 1 p.m. yesterday, my attention was diverted to breaking news on TV. A gunman (initial reports stated there were four) had barged into Dawson College in downtown Montreal and began shooting people with a semi-automatic rifle. One person was shot dead; 19 more are in critical condition at the hospital. The gunman, 25-year-old Kimveer Gill (later killed by police), wore army boots and a long black trenchcoat, reminiscent of the gunmen at the horrific Columbine school shootings years ago. It was said Kimveer played videogames on the internet that were modelled after these shootings as well. Who creates such games? I thought the Grand Theft Auto series was in poor taste. I don't know if we will ever know what was going on in this person's mind...clearly mental and probably social issues had taken their toll. I truly feel for the victims and their families.

My initial reaction was one that now shames me. This wasn't supposed to happen in Canada, I thought, this is supposed to happen in the U.S. Actually, it's not supposed to happen anywhere.

Snobbery

Bollywood Thriller
We are living in the age of consumerism. And with our obsession as a society to have the newest/smallest/biggest/shiniest/blingest goods on the block comes S-N-O-B-B-E-R-Y. In my opinion, the only one who could pull it off was Veronica Lodge. Sadly, her wink of comic irony lacks in human form.

Last week I was on ONTD looking at paparazzi pics of some silly starlet (I know, I seriously need to get a life!) and said starlet was jogging whilst wearing an iPod Shuffle. I was surprised at the number of "Ewwwww" comments directed at this device - and not at the starlet's withering frame.

"Can't she afford a real iPod?" questioned one poster, while another left their comment as simply "Shuffles are gross".

Perhaps I'm being a bit defensive because I'm the proud owner of an iPod Shuffle, but I don't see what the big deal is. It plays enough songs so that I only have to change them about once a month before I get bored (I never get bored of the "Monster Mash" though); it's small and blends into my exercise routine seamlessly; and, it's simple interface makes it easy for non-techies (such as myself). What is more important in this day and age: having an mp3 player that does the job OR having the most expensive model on the market just for bragging rights? I have yet to meet someone who's had a chance to listen to all 10,000 songs on the original.

And it goes beyond this...from family members inquiring when I'm going to trade in my "old" car to get a shiny new model (I drive a 2000 Honda that is far from being scrap metal) to well-intentioned but mentally vacant beauty shop employees informing me that my naturally auburn tresses are "so yesterday" (blondes are apparently hot right now), I can't escape this unfinishable race to keep up with the Jones. A race that I refuse to join mentally or financially. I choose instead to pass hot coffee to those jogging by...or perhaps I'll drive by in my paid-in-full Civic while my undamaged locks blow in the wind. Debt-free and truly free.

The Death of Steve Irwin

Bollywood Thriller
Most celebrity deaths don't affect me. Besides a passing "that's sad", I don't really emote because I don't really let these celluloid creations into my psyche other than for entertainment value. Aaron Spelling wasn't surprising and Kurt Cobain didn't really deserve my sympathy. But there have been others who's passing genuinely made me upset. And now I add to that short list, Steve Irwin.

Steve Irwin (aka "The Crocodile Hunter") died September 5 from a freak accident involving a sting ray. He was 44 years of age and left behind a wife and two small children. A compassionate animal-lover/conservationalist, Steve had a genuine, infectious zest for life. I've never subscribed to cable television, so my first introduction to him was at my grandfather's house. I was enthralled - ever the showman, Steve captivated my interest and made me want to learn more about the animals he was showcasing and what I could do to help them. Animal welfare has always been my cause of choice. Whenever I had the chance (on vacation, at a friend's house, etc.), I would be sure to tune into his program. Ex-boyfriends would joke that I was more interested in Steve than them...history has now proven their concern to be factual.

Over the past wo years, I haven't seen as much of Steve - after starting my own business, I don't have time for holidays anymore and with the little free time I have available, I sure as hell don't spend it watching TV. But he was someone whom I always felt was "there"...someone who contributed to and defined a part of my life which I will always remember (late teens/early 20s).

So...just like the death of Layne Staley symbolically signalled the end of my teen years as something gone forever, and the passing of Mr. Rogers signalled the end of a childhood that I will never regain (oh, how I wept at that one!), Steve Irwin's death signals the end of a period in which I was coming into my own and becoming the confident, passionate person I am today. I thank him for entertaining me, I especially thank him for educating me, and may he be at peace in whatever kingdom awaits us in the next life.

R.I.P. Steve - you will be missed.

***On a side note, I suggest anyone wishing to commemorate his life visit www.wwf.org (World Wildlife Fund) and symbolically adopt an animal. I am the proud "mama" of a wolf, tiger and panda. It's a great cause!***

Our Apathetic Society: A Rant

Bollywood Thriller
I need to vent because I'm tired of the apathetic society we now live in. I'm sure there are people out there who can leave the suburban bubble they live in for periods of time and get to know - and help - their neighbours, but I have not encountered this in years and fear these people are a dying breed. I can give you more than half a dozen examples of what I speak, but I will limit it to three...the most recent:

1) The neighborhood I live in (which 5 years ago could have been called a suburban utopia) has seen an increase in vandalism in recent years. A few months ago after our house was vandalised, my father went outside up a ladder to clean it up. As he was doing so, he was shot at with firecrackers while being vocally assaulted by a group of people with various swear words that you can't print in a public journal (even if it IS Livejournal). Several neighbours peered out their window, but then quickly shut their blinds not wishing to get involved. My father was fortunately alright.

2) Last fall, while taking my dog out for a pre-bedtime bathroom break, I was threatened by two youths who got off the bus at the stop next to my house. They told me they were going to kick me in the head and that it was in my best interests to go back in the house because they were going to "bitchslap" me up and down the street. My father, once again, heard the commotion and came outside to straighten the punks up. The neighbours, also having heard the commotion, peeked out the window to see what was going on and then went about their daily business...which apparently does not concern getting involved.

3) Last night at 3:30 a.m., a car crashed into a tree in front of my neighbour's lawn. My father rushed outside to see if the driver (the lone occupant) needed help...they were bleeding profusely. It appeared there was no airbag and their head went through the windshield. Again, several neighbours peered out their windows to see what all the commotion was about but then quickly shut the lights off and went back to bed. No one else came out to offer help or ensure that the person was alright. I can't say that no one other than us called 911, but it's not too far beyond my speculation.

It unnerves me to think that it may be me oneday with my car wrapped around a tree (or worse) and no one bothers to come to my aid. It turns out this particular person was driving drunk (and I have STRONG opinions regarding that), but I still think they deserve to have someone come to their aid. Hiding behind our curtains is not the way to better society. We need to see beyond our own fortress.

I've always thought about moving to the country, but have been hesitant because there wouldn't be anyone around in case of an emergency. Well...I'm just learning that living in the city is no different.

Things To Do Before I Retire

Bollywood Thriller
’ve been in the creative industry for a relatively short period of time (6 years professionally) and hope to be in it for the long haul. I can’t really see myself doing anything else, to tell you the truth - I’m not so mathematically-inclined, which rules out some of the more respected professions (that is not a jab at what we do, I just don’t see a pharmacist having to explain exactly what it is they do each year at family gatherings. Yes, I’m related to a pharmacist); and alternatively, if I’m ever seen handing you a mocha latté at Starbucks, I’ve lost the will to live.

There are many things I’d like to experience as I map out the next 40-odd years of my professional life. Some are ambitious, others quite simple. There are some I can’t print here and others which may inspire other people in the creative field. Here is my list of things to do before I retire:

* Learn How to Sell

I have no trouble helping my clients sell their products and services, but when it comes to cold calling and such, I feel as though I’ve just seen a ghost. I’ve been quite lucky thus far, getting the majority of my business through word-of-mouth, but realize that I cannot achieve my outlined goals by being the nerdy nearsighted girl I was in high school. It’s time for confidence…and contact lenses.

* Finish that Comic Book

I’m sure every creative has an ambitious project that they started but never completed. A novel, perhaps? Or that half-finished velvet painting of Elvis that is still sitting in your basement? For me, it is a comic. An avid reader of ‘Betty & Veronica’ in my pre-teen years, I always appreciated the art form. ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ later inspired me to put pen to paper and explore the dark side of my mind with no compromise. I began crafting a tale based on the adventures of a character I created named ‘Casta Veron’, a fiery redhead that could make mincemeat out of most men. The sketchbook that contains her story is around here somewhere…gathering cobwebs. I will complete it eventually. Putting it on this list will further nag me.

* Gain New Perspective (Part I - Cultural)

I’m pretty well-traveled North America-wise having had the opportunity to experience occasions as varied as window shopping on Rodeo Drive to stargazing next to an ancient Native American village in the wilds of the North-West. Throughout my journey in life, I want to further expand my cultural horizons and experience how the rest of the world sleeps, breathes, lives. I want to travel to Africa and witness the beauty of their wildlife up close, then stare in awe at the sheer majesty of the pyramids of Giza. I want to feel claustrophobic in Japan and be wowed by the cutting-edge culture of Harajuku. I want to eat real Italian pasta and drink green tea in China. I never want to stop gaining new perspectives as it can only enhance the work I create.

* Gain New Perspective (Part II – Technical)

As an illustrator, I have a distinct style. While it keeps me employed and has become my signature, I have always wanted to be able to draw like my idol M.C. Escher. Take a look at any of his works (my favorite is ‘Hand With Reflecting Sphere’) and you will be mesmerized. The man was a genius. I think everyone in the industry can benefit from trying a new technique that is foreign to them. If nothing else, you will gain a new skill; hopefully you will also gain another perspective.

* Keep on Truckin’

I hope that for the next 40-odd years I can maintain a healthy freelance career whilst working from home all hours of the day in my comfy sweatpants. George Costanza was onto something in that memorable Seinfeld episode (although mine aren’t made of velvet; I use that for my paintings of Elvis). I hope to be able to exploit the right-hand side of my brain for the rest of my professional career, seeing Oblada stay fresh while I grow gray. This is a wonderful profession requiring great talent and great responisbility – a different responsibility from dispensing Viagra. Which, don't get me wrong, is very respectable!

My Secret Garden

Bollywood Thriller
I've found it. A place so beautiful, a place so calming that it has become my zen spot. And lo-and-behold it is a 10 minute drive from my house and not many people know about it. If only I had known about it years earlier...but I cannot divulge the location of this secret place, for that would ruin the magic and allure for those who know of its mystery.

I visit this place everyday with my canine pal Reggie. The short trip to it is picturesque country tranquility. The only thing that ruins the moment are the sometimes impatient drivers who feel that gravel roads are a NASCAR racetrack. Most of the time though, these are people from the city who haven't learned how to properly relax and are always in a mad-rush to do nothing. As a public service announcement, I should share the location of this secret zen spot so that they too can calm their nerves and breathe easy...but I won't! A day at 10 Spa will do them just as well and won't infringe on my own happiness and seclusion.

When we arrive the parking lot is normally empty, save for the sunny days when there is maybe one or two other vehicles stationed (the parking lot can easily fit several dozen). Having an entire large park (oops - that may have been too big of a clue!) all to ourselves on any given afternoon is like having our own private oasis; a place where the city, and all of its stresses, are left behind. Being self-employed, I enjoy my daily jaunts to this oasis as they help clear my head and help me focus on what is really important. Ultimately what is important in life is love and happiness. It's amazing how a day of rushing to meet deadlines and cussing under your breath at the computer can make one forget that. But this "secret garden" helps me remember.

This place is also a source of inspiration. Over five years ago, I started writing/illustrating a graphic novel. At the time, I couldn't wait to get it done, eagerly anticipating a publishing, movie and merchandising deal after people read & viewed its genuis. However, college and then a full-time job getting my feet wet in the industry forced me to put my creation on the backburner. It wasn't until a a few weeks ago, after visiting my zen spot for the first time in a long time, that my creative fire really started burning again. I have now added to my tale, refined my characters and hope to at least self-publish in the Fall. My zen spot will also feature as the backdrop for part of the story. In appearance only...I'm still not going to namedrop it's location.

A few unscrupulous individuals, unfortunately, know the place of which I speak. Some days (mostly Mondays to correspond with weekend partying), I arrive to broken glass littering the parking lot; tire tracks cutting up the lush, green grass; and once, a picnic table that was singed straight down the middle. I guess true solitude cannot be found in the modern world (or it at least comes at a price - sharing it with people who don't want to find it, but rather hide in it). I just wish people were more respectful in it.

So between throwing tennis balls to Reg, hiking along the calm river trail while watching wildlife, or just sitting with my sketchbook taking in the scenery, this summer I will become one step closer to nature and one step closer to achieving zen. If you know where to look, you can find it too.

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Bollywood Thriller
maidenhell
maidenhell

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