adventures in the far east β€” of canada!

Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Last night solved some minor mysteries

In st. john's on June 28, 2009 at 1:31 pm

(Note: please read the previous post for context.)

Now that Karen’s cleared out the room, some minor mysteries have been solved that no one really thought much of (and in my case, certainly wouldn’t garner a mention here):

Where was the tomato knife?
Missing for 10 days (Karen’s estimate), she found they’d kept it in the room to cut hash.

What drugs were present?
Hash for certain (and a makeshift bong), ecstasy, and probably…

Why was Adrian always kinda snuffling or snorting absently?
Cocaine.

Why was Adrian’s finger cut a few days back?
I asked her about it; she said it they broke a mug. I didn’t go any further, but Karen was none too pleased to find two of her Guinness mugs smashed to bits downstairs.

Why was there a picture hung so low in the room?
Putting it aside, Karen found a kicked-in hole (destructive, weren’t they)!

Why were the girls always screaming at each other (or so it sounded) downstairs?
A note left by Adrian to Sam was found, a snippy break up and contention over groceries. They were on, and off, and on, and off…

Why was there a pile of cigarette butts outside the window downstairs?
Only significant because Sam always came to the main floor to smoke out the steps leading down to the yard. Well, it was whenever Adrian had snuck in, and trying to remain undetected, took her own smoking breaks outside the window…never bothering to clear out the pile of evidence.

Will I get another roommate?
I have no idea. I actually hope so–I know Karen’s a little tight on money, but right now she’s a little too frustrated. I advised someone like me–as in, since she usually rents to students, recent grads or immigrants, or people new to St. John’s, she should stick to that. Lacking any existing connections to local happenings or groups good or bad, we’re far less likely to be trouble; Sam was native to the city.

What happens now?
Sam’s pile of belongings and food are piled by the front door. We await her, or someone for her to pick it all up. Awkward! a social worker to come pick it all up.

Drama you don’t see everyday…

In st. john's on June 28, 2009 at 2:32 am

Long story short: tonight, the other rent-ee at the house was taken away by a policewoman, along with her girlfriend (I did not assume such a relationship), her father, and his girlfriend for not only violating the terms of the rent-ee’s probation, but also for using illicit drugs.

Huh. That certainly doesn’t happen every day, eh?

To get into partial details, the rent-ee being on probation was only discovered like…a little less than a week ago. She was supervised by an electronic thing (bracelet? Anklet?) that made sure she was home at certain hours (allowing for things like school, of course), otherwise social workers would come calling. That actually explained something I’d noticed–using the phone here, every so often, you hear this weird sound, and then clicks as if someone was listening–it was the device transmitting through the phone, which it does regularly.

Anywho, before anyone gets any whacked ideas–no, rent-ee’s offence was nothing serious at all, but it’s a case that is either you did it or you didn’t–the low severity is not important.

Prior to this event, Karen was already getting frustrated at rent-ee’s “friend” always being present (for my visitors–NOT a problem at all, she assures me, unless you act like the following:) giving her attitude, being very loud, noisy, and messy with the kitchen, and on top of all this sleeping over even when she laid down a 10 pm limit (as such long visits violate rent-ee’s probationary restrictions). It came to a head a few days back when Karen scolded them, and the friend stayed away for a couple of days…

And then she came back, via the window downstairs “covertly”–it was discovered once, because as ever, she was being noisy.

Tonight, 3 people snuck in, and practically had a quiet little party downstairs. The phone kept ringing, and Karen, picking it up when it was actually already answered, accidentally heard mention of drugs.

That, as they say, was the last straw.

Us three (Karen, Tracy, and I) talked about it quietly–it was hard to believe, as Sam was always quiet, polite, and unassuming–but such nerve! On probation, has expressed fear of going to jail, and yet still had the audacity to “secretly” host her “friend”, father, and his girlfriend in her room through the back to do drugs. What are you thinking?

So they would not suspect anything and so as not to freak out the street, Karen requested an unmarked police car, so we sat around finishing up dinner, watching TV, and chatting a little amongst ourselves as we waited, as law enforcement needed one of these vehicles to return before they could come visit.

A policelady came, she saw, and she tested them–positively for various drugs. Probationary infringement and crime all in one! They were taken away, the friend gave haughty attitude, and the father was a mix of anger and disbelief. Later, Karen went through the room and found plenty of empty beer bottles, and a drawer containing some drug materials and remnants.

Karen was relieved–it just so happened Sam only paid for 2 weeks in the house so far, and as I’ve said, Karen’s been irritated for a bit now with the situation. But no one assumed it was this serious.

Our biggest concern is that the father may return and vandalize the car or something. He is deathly afraid of Taz, the dog, however (from an encounter we had earlier, when I just couldn’t calm Taz down at all, and she kept howling and snapping at him–strange behaviour, given that she got used to me pretty much as soon as I stepped in that first day); he implored me to take Taz away before she took him down. When I retrieved his daughter for him, I found he had let himself out, away from the dog. This, despite when he was led away by the police, he declared if the dog was by the front, he’d kill it (his girlfriend smartly shushed him–let’s not add uttering threats to their list of problems, eh?). Bold words, but I had the special knowledge that he was scared of the dog.

Anyway, the house is quiet again, and there is no more tension in the air. Let’s hope it stays that way!

The weather is gross

In internship, st. john's on June 25, 2009 at 11:59 pm

…I’ve had plenty of opportunity to take pics of the agency, but I refuse to while it’s still gloomy. The place is quite nice when it’s all sunlit.

Anyway, the weather lately–it’s kinda terrible, I’m not used to this. It’s quite warm at around 20, but it’s raining, and the humidity makes everything sticky. I’m always wondering whether I should wear a coat–it’s raining after all–but it’s too warm for one, and after a few minutes, it’s not just the air that’s sticky…

Granted, I’ve been in Vancouver a lot, and it’s quite common there, too. I guess the difference is, in St. John’s, I’m pretty much walking everywhere. Oh, and those hills again, they work up a sweat easy.

Was at the gym today, and after rowing, I tried to run. But my calf kept twitching ominously, and in mid-stride, it snagged a little, and I immediately stopped. Thankfully, it did not seize up all the way; has that ever happened to you before? It’s a nasty thing…I did it once swimming, I was tired, but I was doing my laps anyway, and after a roll and kick off from the wall, my right calf seized up. Cue thrashing, and much pain you can do little about, as the muscle feels clenched as hard as a fist, completely out of your control (that’s the strangest thing) and unable to loosen up. I limped out, was directed to stretch it out (eventually the out-of-body feeling of the vise grip loosens), but afterwards, still had to limp around for a week or two.

I realized what it was. Every day, walking to and from work with such inclines, you can start to feel the lactic acid at the end of it. It hasn’t gotten proper time to recover, and so when I tried to run… Rowing, I determined, is much safer right now…

At work, I’ve suddenly got a lot more things to do! It’s all terribly exciting, and I now have the opportunity to wrack my brains for different things whenever I encounter a block for one project. I will be getting my first bi-weekly pay cheque tomorrow!

Other than that, I’m terribly excited that a friend is coming to visit me in August. Possibly TWO, even! πŸ˜€ Can’t wait!

The worst things about St. John’s

In st. john's on June 23, 2009 at 12:18 am

I’m just about 2 weeks in, but it has already been filled with a lot of traveling about, grocery shopping, eating, sightseeing, getting lost, etc.–in other words, not a bad experience of the city so far. This is especially true when you have to walk everywhere.

Anyway, yes, this blog has been thus far filled with “OOH, this is cool!” and “BEST __________ EVER!” type sentiments (predominantly), and it’s dawned on me that I may be painting a false picture of life in this city. I need to communicate some honest criticisms and negatives regarding life on The Rock.

Here we go.

The Roads
Are pretty much uniformly horrible. You don’t know how bad it is, until you’ve experienced a city on a grid–like Calgary. Even Ruth, the house’s owner I unexpectedly met recently, observed this, and only after having gone to Edmonton driving a friend’s car somewhere. She thought she wouldn’t be able to do it–the heightened anxiety of driving a friend’s car, and an unfamiliar city. But she marveled it was easy as anything, because of the way the city is organized (apparently much of Edmonton is also gridded).

Here, roads are haphazard; when my brother was still here with the rented car…yikes. Tons of unmarked or unlabelled streets, tons of one-way, traffic lights sometimes not where you would expect them (off to a side), and uneven or potholed pavement.

Roads here double back, randomly converge, or change too quickly–you turn onto a street, and like 100 meters afterward, you’ll run into a triangular island unless you decide left or right pretty quickly.

Driver Mindset
You assume that passengers have the right of way, and they should.

Now, understand that it is mostly alright–but there are definitely more cars and drivers in St. John’s that don’t seem to look out for people! I find it’s best to dart across streets when there’s no cars; even when you use a marked crosswalk, everyone sorta hesitantly steps on, and wait until the cars slow. Mostly, anywhere else drivers are far more aware and willing to stop for pedestrians. I’m not saying they’re crazy and I’ll be hit–it’s just that I’ve noticed I have to be more careful and conscious crossing the street.

However, it is unacceptable to strand an elderly couple on a crosswalk, because no one wants to stop–which I have seen happen once, which is a shame.

Steepness
The angle at which a lot of the roads go towards downtown is downright ridiculous. Walking these hills are frankly a pain–not because it winds me (not really as a runner), but you feel the strain in places because you’re bracing from falling forward, or fighting to climb–your shins feel damaged after a while!

And seriously, I shudder to consider the consequences of stumbling and tripping down….

The Wind
The place is not cold, in fact it is milder than Calgary throughout the year. But one thing disguises this fact: their wind, which is often very strong, and makes it quite chilly.

HST
I mentioned this before, and said it was the combination of 5% GST and 8% PST–but it’s more than that. People at work told me that they do this also so it can be applied pretty much everywhere–some things anywhere else you can buy free of PST, but here HST is applied on everything.

Shopping
I don’t mind this too much, but let’s face it–you don’t go to St. John’s to shop. The variety is much lower, and you can’t find some things here at all that’s everywhere in a bigger city.

…that’s all I can think of, for now…

But here’s a fun fact…only in St. John’s can you find some stop signs at 4-way intersections labelled “All Way.” In fact, you know that insurance commercial–Grey Power, I think? You know, the one that goes, “You don’t drive like her, so why do you have to pay insurance like her?” or something, and this lady’s having an exaggerated attack of road rage (“C’mon already!” and muttering something as she flails her head crazily in the car).

Anyway, when you see that commercial in St. John’s, the 4-way intersection they stop at–has been modified to say “All Way”! There are still some 4-Way Stop signs here, but I thought it was crazy to go to such lengths to change it!…

My Basilica pics, and Sunday: I’ve never felt so helpless (plus local lingo!)

In accent, food, lingo, st. john's on June 22, 2009 at 3:03 am

*As in my brother’s pics…I absolutely adore the stain glass figures in this style. The people have such a look to them…they don’t look overly decorated (like the fanciest stained glass windows lining the top of the Basilica), but they remind me of the work of confident illustrators, as they feature well-applied exaggeration of form and a cleanliness of line.

After the gym I mentioned before, this is really really the end of my Saturday, now! Actually wait–when I got home from the gym, I was surprised to be greeted by Ruth. Ruth is the lady who actually owns the house, who is only there periodically, as she works mostly in Halifax, and was vacationing in BC; she wasn’t due back for another 2 weeks at least. Due to a mix-up on her part with flight tickets, she was in St. John’s for a night, and back off to Halifax the next morning.

Anyway, another lovely lady! I offered to cook something for her as she was so tired off the flight so recently and I was about to start cooking my own dinner, and there was a bit of confusion back and forth: she hadn’t checked their (Karen’s and hers and Tracy’s) fridge to see what was there yet for me to prepare, but I was talking about stuff from my own stash. It was no big deal, because I planned to grocery shop Sunday anyway. Realizing the charity, she told me only something I didn’t have to take long to prepare–so the last of my pasta it was! I love to share, and particularly to feed people just because with no strings attached. After bringing the sauce back up to a boil, I quickly served it while I made my own meal, a lovely piece of steak I set to marinate earlier in the day. She loved it, and we had a lively chat. πŸ™‚

Alright, Sunday for reals now–what an ordeal…

Walked to Dominion (this region’s Superstore; elsewhere in Canada, it is also Loblaw’s), 20 minutes away. Made a list (checked it twice), brought 4 cloth bags, it was a nice day again.

Initial confusion: shopping carts. This Dominion had a second floor, and you got your cart on the bottom. There were escalators up, but surely you can’t put the cart on the escalator!

Introducing the cartveyor. I kid you not; I did not understand what that contraption was, so I was confused. The little sign crossed out the cart and people, but I realized later it meant, “Do not ride with the cart up, just let the cart go by itself.” It was so…weird. You roll your empty cart onto the cartveyor (yes, it was called that), and then you take the people escalator up right beside it! I looked for an elevator first (fruitless), because that’s the only reference point I had…

Anyway, got the cart up eventually with me, and found out that I unknowingly came to Dominion on a No Tax promotion! Newfoundland has something called an HST–Harmonized Sales Tax. That’s fancy talk for, “We combine the GST with the provincial tax.” It’s at 13%, so the PST is really 8%–steep stuff coming from Alberta, the land of no PST. So I took advantage of it and bought more than I planned to–it was cheap, and the variety was good, and I always buy groceries for a long term (long being a few weeks).

After I finished (and down about $100), I confidently took the cartveyor and escalator down. Weeeeee!

Here comes the ordeal. Stowing the cart, I retrieved the cloth bags–4 of them, bulging, and each a few kilograms (one item in a bag, a package of chicken, was already over 1 kg). No car, too cheap for a bus (and no knowledge of the bus routes anyway, and the buses here run hourly or so), and home is 20 minutes away. Taxi out of the question, that’s even more expensive!

And it was later in the afternoon–it got warmer. All in all, it took longer than 20 to get home, and I’ve never felt so helpless! It may sound silly to you that my most helpless moment was this, lugging home way too many groceries in hot weather. But truly–I was going at a crawl, the bulging bags kept almost bumping into my feet and nearly tripping me, when I kicked them it was heavy enough for the whole bag to twist my arm a little, and I’m not kidding when I say I was soaked through with sweat in the heat. People say that a lot, but really. At a few points, I stopped to rest and wipe my face–we’re talking really wet, like streams; it didn’t even feel sticky anymore, there was so much it became water.

I’m not a big sweater. Even when I run, I don’t really. Other guys I see, with those puddles on their chest, under their arms and down their backs after a run–that’s always puzzled me. I run harder than most of them–genetically, I’m just not much of a sweater. Not today, I felt bathed when I got home, my mind was despairing, and I was going to collapse. I HATE THE HEAT, I thought, and, Oh, to have a car…

That’s even considering how frightening the roads are here…

But I did get home, finally. Ugh, that was horrible (and if you thought about it–no, I couldn’t get Karen to drive me, and I think she would’ve. She was out of town for the weekend).

ANYWAY…I made a big communal pot of cream of broccoli soup (delicious), and Karen came back later in the evening, and gave me some truly brilliant Atlantic crab from her trip. It was already cooked, I just needed to reheat it–and you’ve already heard my lobster praise. Well…the crab praise is much the same. Condensed: HUMONGOUS. I said the Atlantic lobster was big, but not particularly bigger, but Atlantic crab is quite massive. SWEET–oh so very sweet and meaty, their legs yield thick sticks of perfectly whole meat. And again, more intensely flavoured–crab times 1.5, and also a little saltier. Awesome.

Over dinner, I was chatting with another rentee, Sam and her friend. They’re both from around here, and we got to talking accents…

I apparently have an accent, so Sam claims! Well, I guess I would, if they talk with their accent (in my point of view)! I observed the whole “bot/but” “whot/what” thing to them, and she agreed, and I suggested then that the way I speak is flatter (“but”–the UT sound, rather than an airier OT sound, that pronounces like “aught”), while they speak…almost a little…higher or “rounder” in tone. It’s hard to explain.

Then her friend gave me some local lingo! πŸ™‚ And it’s catchy–the more I say it, the more it rolls off the tongue. It may stick….

“What’re ya at?”
=What are ya at?
=What are you at?

It’s a strange one, no? I told them, “It sounds like you should be saying, ‘Where are ya at,’ which makes sense; because if you break it down, ‘What are ya at’ makes no logical sense whatsoever.”

That’s not the point, they still say it haha. It means simply, “How do you do?” or “How are you/ya?” You say it really fast–there’s barely a pause between “ya” and “at.” It sounds like “What-er ya-at?” It’s a friendly greeting or inquiry.

“What’re ya at by?”
=What are ya at by?
=What are you at by?

Again, if you looked at each part and together, there is no logical sense of meaning whatsoever, but it’s still used. It’s just a beat behind “What’re ya at?” by a single word, so it’s also real fast–but this is used negatively. It’s something you exclaim, or say in frustration or sarcasm, and it would mean something like, “What are you doing?” or “What are you thinking?” (emphasis mine to convey that it is not a question, but an exasperated expression), or tell someone they’re being pissy.***

***UPDATE: my intern buddy was puzzled by this, and explained it differently. She says it’s like “What are ya at?”, only “by” is a stand-in forΒ man,Β dude, orguy. She did not agree with the negative connotation, but admitted yes, you could say it in such a way to make it hostile, but that’s like everything else.Β So, it’s essentially “What’s up, man?” or “How are ya, man?” (She tells me that in Ontario, everyone uses “guy” forΒ man orΒ dude–“What’s up, guy?”). She also gave me:

“Luh!” (or is it “Le”?)
=Look!

Very simply, it’s an even shorter way to call attention to something–someone may, for example, see something, point at it, and exclaim, “Luh luh!” (We don’t know how to spell it; it rhymes with “duh,” though). It’s equivalent is “Look look!” It needn’t be so urgent, (one “Luh” may be adequate), but that’s what it’s used for.

Fascinating, eh?? And “eh” is still common, no matter where in Canada. πŸ™‚

Now you know how to respond if someone (or me…) throws such a phrase your way!

The Rooms, and I check out the Basilica firsthand, too!

In culture, st. john's on June 22, 2009 at 1:45 am

Today, after a glorious sleep-in, I went to check out The Rooms, which were pretty cool!

I didn’t go with my brother–not sure how interested he was–but it’s a truly gorgeous, multi-level art gallery and museum. There’s also The Archives, the province’s hoard of historical documents, artifacts, etc that would be a researcher’s dream (if they’re into the area), and requires a separate membership to access. I didn’t go to that, but there was more than enough to see at The Rooms.

I took the time to read most of every display there. Everyone is guilty of typical museum behaviour (myself included): stroll around slowly, glance at stuff, ignore the text, move on, and declare at the end, “I saw it!” But I had time to kill today, so spent that time being absorbed by the incredible history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, I’ll acknowledge again that the province is often the butt of many jokes, and until you come here and see it yourself, you may not understand why it upsets some Newfoundlanders–obviously, it’s because they’ve got some things going for them, and it needs to be experienced to be understood.

The Rooms is one such place–it is so classy and cultured! Even against places like Ontario and Quebec, this province has got a lot of history, being one of the first places permanently settled by the early pioneers, and it was home to an impressive roster of native peoples. The artifacts collected there, from toys to beautiful jewelry, letters and early photographs–there is a real sense of age. There was an impressive depth of exploration as well, beginning with the early explorers and settlers, how they lived, the various Native peoples, the trade and interaction between them (not all bloody!), how the different cultures learned and taught each other, and then later on in more modern days, the province’s critical role during times of war.

Unfortunately, there are strict rules about photography; only the public places and one museum inside were camera-okay. By public places, I mean the building itself, and so I took a lot of that, but I was comforted by the fact that the place is very photogenic! I also went crazy with the one exhibit I could photograph in, their “wildlife of Newfoundland” stuff. What this all means is, although there may be many pictures here, it is but a small portion of what you can see, so you should come visit! πŸ™‚

There was an awesome exhibit I just ached to snap some shots of–boats (I entertained thoughts of it, but there was a security person patrolling…).

Anyway, the boats–I found it way more interesting than it sounds, as it covered what must have been almost a dozen Native groups, how they built their ships, materials they used, the procedure (many of which are still known and, having been preserved, still practiced on occasion by tribesmen), what it was best suited for (inland water? Ocean?), their engineering features (such as their shape, from the bottom to the hull), and so on. There was also a section for the European ships, and accounts from sailors and explorers keen to observe and learn from the indigenous peoples, marveling at certain details or Native craftsmanship. For example, I think it was the Inuit who created the kayak, and the speed and easy maneuverability of such craft remains with us today, only constructed now with light but highly durable fiber glass. Kayaking is a lot of fun, and yes, they are indeed very precise and smooth. In summary, it was uncommonly absorbing with all these long ships all over the place (my only beef: they used the font Papyrus, set in giant. NOOOOooo!).

The wildlife exhibit is just as it sounds: the animals you can find on land and sea in and around Newfoundland and Labrador. Still really well done, and they had a giant squid!! Check out the photo dump below:

*You know how the place is called The Rooms? In those starred pictures, do you see the boxy pictures laid out in a grid, set into the wall? Well, that is what gave the place its name–it is a piece of architecture unique to Newfoundland and Labrador! Years ago (does it still happen, I wonder?), fishing villages had such a communal building called such, where families could go and smoke, salt, and store their fish. By recreating these, The Rooms is acknowledging ties to the past, but the place’s obvious modern style is in reference to the future and moving forward.

**Puffins are cute, but make horrid sounds…

For lunch, I went to their cafe on the top floor. Fantastic views of the city, and the food wasn’t bad, either. Duckworth/Water restaurants are much better, but that’s a high bar to set–but it was good! Not something to write home about, but good.

After The Rooms closed, I decided to see the Basilica of St. John’s for myself, as it was literally just down the street. You readers have already seen much of it from my brother’s pictures, so I’ll just add a few more. Later in the church I was caught in an evening liturgy, so I felt a little intrusive, but I continued taking pics nonetheless.

The place smelled funny, sorta like old library. And old people. Hmm….the combination of the two, actually! Anyway, I’m convinced that my brother missed some things in the Basilica, because I didn’t see it in his photos! For one thing, I’m pretty sure he didn’t go into the Marian Chapel (it wasn’t in use, so I turned on all its lights and took photos), and for another, most of my pics are better, anyway. πŸ˜‰

Those images will be in the next post’s gridded gallery (one gallery per post). But that concludes my Saturday (well, later I went to MUN–Memorial University, a rather well-respected university–to exercise, but how much do you want to know about that?).

My week at Target Marketing

In internship, st. john's on June 20, 2009 at 1:57 am

In a word, it was wonderful.

Very simply, this is pretty much exactly what I want to be doing. Well…there are just a few things I miss, but apparently I’ll get some of that, too.

From the beginning: myself and the copywriting intern were welcomed with open arms. The people at Target are all such good people; they’ll take the time to stop by my desk and ask how I’m doing, whether I need help, and already, both of us interns feel like we’re contributing, and can talk openly with everyone.

The copywriting grad I’m with is a lovely person. She’s a year older, and good at what she does, and has a lot of enthusiasm; I hope she thinks the same of me, and that we don’t let each other down. She grew up in the province and lived a while in St. John’s before moving to Toronto for a bit, so she’s very familiar with the area, which is actually a little bit of a shame. To tell you the truth, I was hoping to get another non-native, and it’d be the perfect excuse to explore the city together, and hang out some to team build. As it is, she already has a deep network of friends here, knows pretty much everything about the town, and so, there goes my little idea. She’s still great though, of course.

Monday was a little boring–most of the day was spent in various meetings so we could learn how the place was run, straight from the mouths of each department. The agency is bright, casual (as all creative companies are), and open, and actually, it reminds me a lot of STEM, the place I interned at last summer. But Monday was fairly uneventful, as we didn’t have much to do.

Tuesday and Wednesday also had meetings, although not as much, and they started us on a brief. I was afraid that I’d lost some of it having not done any ideation in a while, but I quickly fell right back into it, and knocked out idea after idea for guerilla, print, and even a radio spot with, as ever, a trusted Sharpie. It felt good.

Now here’s where I am both immensely relieved and amazed and a little sad, too. The positive feelings, because, oh my goodness, this is how it’s supposed to be–in college, we of course had to do it all. We may get a short brief, but we would have to do extensive research on our own, research what ideas have already been done so there’s no danger of accidentally copying anything, come up with a ton of ideas, generate a ton of headlines and body copy if needed, settle on the best ideas and text, make rough comps to critique, shoot the final ourselves / set up a time-consuming photo shoot / find that rare and perfect stock and internet imagery, Photoshop it all ourselves, lay it out in InDesign, and then print it. Yeah, as many of you know, our design school education was brutal and very demanding, hence our major lack of sleep.

But now…someone does the research for me. If I ask them to, they’ll look into anything more specifically and give it to me. They look up what’s already been done for me. My fellow intern is writing headlines and copy for me (or maybe later, the other copywriters). In the future, whatever idea the team or the lead art director (for me, a guy named Dax, which is awesome, because when I heard his name my first thought was, “That’s a good font!”) chooses, the production team will Photoshop and lay it out, and even make rough comps if I require. They’ll also print proofs for creative, and another department altogether secures the budgetary stuff, where the ad will run, its submission, etc. OH MY GOSH, that is such a brilliant feeling–that I can just sit there and knock out ideas, and not have to worry about any of that! My intern buddy was similarly amazed, and we often catch ourselves discussing too much into technicalities (such as “Where is it going to run? How do we distribute it?”) that we no longer have to worry about!

But then, the sad part–I’m going to miss the production stuff. I like Photoshopping, and InDesign layout, and typography! 😦 On Thursday, production did a crash course to the different departments about such things as DPI/PPI, bleeds, trim sizes, colour modes (RGB, CMYK, Lab), file formats, and so on (because other departments–though not usually creative because we work so closely with them–were often confused with their terminology and requirements), and I felt super ahead and smart haha.

I am assured, however, that when things are getting closer to being done, I can be involved in production anyway, especially since I told them I can. Yay!

Anyway, early on we already feel we’re helping. The research package was over a 100 pages, but was excellent and detailed, and I came up with about 16 pages of ideas before our first presentation. The other intern and I were anxious about how we were doing; we observed to each other that we knew we could do it from a schooling point of view and be good enough, but how about now? How does our work now stand up in an advertising agency? Is it good enough?

The presentation went very well. I had a few similar ideas to what the creatives already did earlier before I started, which is encouraging because to me, it affirms a little that I can think at their level even if it’s just been done. They were really impressed by the output, and after some feedback, I’ve now got 26 pages of Sharpie squibs (ad lingo for rough sketches). Believe me, as you keep going, it gets harder, and the possibilities narrow and ideas more slowly arrive; every page can typically have from 1 to 4 ideas or variations for me. Now I eagerly await our next meeting!

The other intern and I are working extra hard, because we told each other “Wouldn’t it be so awesome if one of our ideas/headlines makes it to the final stage?” And of course, it would! That’d be a great early accomplishment, because obviously we are striving to make a lasting impression. Already, they are preparing more briefs for us, so we can multitask and not get stuck trying to think of even more for the current project–as I said, it gets hard!

Friday was a nice short day–every Friday, 9-10 am, everyone is encouraged to expand their minds–to read a book, keep current with pop culture or current events, whatever. How cool is that? And then Media had arranged for the company to see Pixar’s Up together at 12:55 pm, so we pretty much finished the day at noon. They paid for the tickets, the snacks, and afterwards, they got us all drinks at a bar before the day ended–I got home a little over 3:30 pm.

Up was amazing–it was touching and original. Go see it!

A few facts:

  • Target has about 40 people.
  • Advertising agencies actually do a bunch of free work, so there are little restrictions–this is pretty much solely done to seek awards.
  • St. John’s and Target is hosting the ICE awards for the first time this September, an event that’s always been in Halifax. They’re this region’s advertising awards, like Calgary’s Anvils.
  • We were told a hilarious story involving our HR manager, Gaye, and how one of the production guys was hired 8 years ago. He’s from Yugoslavia, at the time knew very little English, and walked into the office and boldly stated, “I want a job.” It actually got him an interview with HR, and he was slightly taken aback when he met with her when she shook his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Gaye.” πŸ˜€ He admitted later to thinking, “Wow, people are really open here!”
  • The guy/girl ratio here is kinda ridiculous–probably like 10/90. Most of the men are in production, and I’m 1 of 3 in creative. When we met everyone, it was weird to realize just how outnumbered we were! As a result, there is a lot of talk while I work about shopping, shoes, and clothing. ARGH!
  • I now regularly use a Mac, because I’ve been provided with one.
  • Apparently, I am one of very few people who can draw! Having been surrounded by very talented illustrators in college, you forget even the worst of us do pretty well. They really like my squibs, and told me I “have a gift”–if only they knew! I am told that Dax, meanwhile, has trouble enough trying to do stick figures haha.

I will be taking pictures of the company soon, because they said it’d be okay.

The Basilica of St. John the Baptist…and LOBSTER!

In food, internship, st. john's on June 19, 2009 at 12:53 am

On Monday, my first day of work, my brother went off to see the basilica himself, and to buy me even more groceries. I have so much food right now, and I dunno when I’ll get to it; when I cook, I cook in batches. Right now, I’m working through a load of pasta and sauce I made all at once early on, and I’ve successfully used it for lunch this whole week (including tomorrow). I still have one more portion left, I guess for Saturday…

I keep thinking it’s boring, but then I eat it. Forgive the boast, but it’s delicious. πŸ™‚ Shrimp, carrots, mushrooms, pollack, and miso in a light cream base. A small mound of carrots and an apple as well. Cereal for a quick breakfast–by the way, Kashi’s Probiotic cereal is so tasty! All my favourite cereals are quite low in sugar and high in fiber, so it sounds bland, but that one’s amazing…

Anyway, the Basilica first. I don’t know much about it other than it’s the centre of Catholicism in the province and an icon, but Wikipedia does a good summary of things:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_St._John_the_Baptist

And a dump of some of my brother’s pictures. They’re quite beautiful…I plan to go there myself some time when I have the time.

After work, we went to have a real seafood dinner at Blue On Water, a fine dining establishment. It was classy and modern inside, and located on Water Street–that’s what the “On Water” part of their name comes from–the same street Target Marketing is located along. Talking to Karen, it seems it’s Water Street and Duckworth Street that’s known to be the nicest, and where most of the restaurants are located. They’re right beside each other, and as all “good” roads tend to be in St. John’s, they run perpendicular to the slope (so it doesn’t threaten to pitch you forward or back), so they’re relatively level across.

I’d forgotten about restaurants here, and their tendency to give free food, so I was surprised by a basket of bread, and olive oil and vinegar to dip it. A fairly average freebie, because while it’s lovely, it’s not special–Chianti’s in Calgary does the same.

Anyway, my brother ordered us both some bubbly and knocked glasses, wishing me the beginning and endurance of a long career. πŸ™‚

Then we ordered. Well, what can be said? Fantastic food, as always. But my bias is always towards exotic ethnic food, so while the eats there were top-notch, I’d generally go to a Japanese, Thai, or Indian place first. Again, just preference, but for a fine dining place, it was impressive.

We ordered pretty much all seafood; him a smoked seafood chowder (had just about every kind of sea creature), and I had a broth-ier one, and it was stacked up with mussels, prawn (!!! as always over here–UNRIVALED prawns!), fish, and so on. Very tasty, very crisp (I hate mushy seafood), very fresh.

This is the sort of place it was: we were initially disappointed at the menu because there was no lobster! But the waiter listed it off as part of the specials–one lobster plus a steak with mashed potatoes, or minust the steak and TWO lobsters–and said it’s not on the menu because if they can’t get lobster fresh, they won’t serve it! You won’t find frozen knock-offs here…

We planned it out. We wanted to eat more seafood, and maybe try something Newfoundland-ish. So as an appetizer, a local delicacy, cod tongues! We determined that my brother would get the double lobster, give me one, and I’d get a cod main (the body, not just the tongues this time) and pass him half.

Cod tongues are good! They were lightly fried, served with some custom tartar sauce on the side, peppered, and a lemon wedge. To make sure we tried it all, we: ate it plain; ate it with tartar sauce; squeezed lemon over it and tried it; and had it with lemon and the sauce. It was good all ways–it just tasted like fish, but much softer, almost gooey (but not gross), but very buttery. My cod filet was tasty as well–restaurants in St. John’s really knows how to prepare seafood so it’s not overcooked or too raw, but just right–very tender, with very fine, moist fibers. It came draped over a fine risoto, with a nuanced, herb-infused, chunky tomato sauce. Excellent.

But the real story is of course, the lobster. After all the hype…

YES. It is indeed better than Pacific lobster! It is a popular thing, in fact, for visitors to the Maritimes to fly back home with a box of Atlantic lobsters, iced and packed for them from wherever shop they bought it from as a piece of carry-on luggage. One of my teachers does this whenever she visits Halifax, and when she wants it bad enough, you can have it shipped over and you pick it up at your hometown airport. My brother got 7, and my family had it Tuesday night for dinner, and my visiting aunt, a longtime Vancouverite, confirmed Atlantic lobster’s superiority.

What makes it better? It is quite quantifiable. They’re big, for one–not much huger, but big nonetheless. They taste much more strongly of lobster–imagine the taste of lobster as you know it (probably from the Pacific), and intensify it. Mmmm. The flesh is far crisper–it almost pushes back, so it is never mushy, but so meaty! And its fat and juices taste richer, more buttery. Buy females; they’re bigger than males, and may have roe in them. Over here, lobsters typically sell for $5 or $6 a pound, depending on where you go!

Just thinking about them lobsters is making me hungry! Best seafood I’ve had, plain or with their brilliant melted garlic butter they provide…

Anyway, Karen told us why seafood places aren’t the natural top places here–obviously, because it’s so common. Locals typically will not go to such fine dining places to eat lobster, as it’s expensive, considering they can buy it themselves so much more cheaply; it’s more common for newcomers like us. An apt observation, but no regrets whatsoever…

Well, I will be finishing up my first week at Target today! Fridays seem to be soft days–I’ll be looking forward to watching Pixar’s Up in the afternoon as a company outing, and then maybe get some drinks and go home! My next post will be to summarize my time so far at Target, be sure to look for it.

Johnson Geo Centre

In st. john's on June 18, 2009 at 1:01 am

This place made rocks interesting.

From the outside, it looks like the tiniest little place. I saw it on our first day when we were at Signal Hill, and remarked on it, but Karen told me most of it is underground, with like over a kilometer of walkable displays. She said they were very impressive, and largely (all?) funded by the place’s namesake rich guy.

It was indeed impressive…the exhibits were very nicely done (their font was Meta!), and my brother and I loved the stuff in the gift shop. Things there were very nicely priced–they were selling some sciency stuff, some novelties, some semi-precious stones, crystals, etc. Drumheller in Alberta does the same–you know, those rocks broken open to show the purple or white crystals, flat pieces of agate, and so on. But from what I recall, Drumheller tries to rob you…

The Geo Centre not only profiles Newfoundland, apparently the place with the most diverse rock formations and some of the oldest stones in Canada, it begins by lightly exploring such things as planets, stars, and galaxies. It was way better done than the somewhat childish Science Centre in Calgary, and while they didn’t have dinosaurs, their exploration of minerals, glaciers, and such things was much better than Drumheller’s.

There’s not a lot to say (it’s something that needs to be experienced and learned firsthand from the exhibits), but let’s begin outside.

Geo Centre sign

Geo Centre sign

Geo Centre, deceptively small

Geo Centre, deceptively small

Outside were two sculptures of dogs, and here is where began The Day of Learning. There is a breed of dog called the Newfoundland dog. Not terribly brilliant, but here comes the moment–the Labrador was bred from this stock. Newfoundland and Labrador–and Newfoundland produced the Labrador Retriever! It all just kinda came crashing home. Duh! Who doesn’t know those loyal, playful, happy dogs? Strangely pleased, I happily sat atop the Labrador Retriever like it was my trusty steed. My brother scoffed that I chose to ride the Labrador, being now a resident of Newfoundland, but I scoffed at him because mine was the better dog. πŸ™‚

Wish you could really do this

Wish you could really do this

Brother on Newfoundland dog

Brother on Newfoundland dog

Inside the deceptively small Geo Centre–a small cafe, gift shop, reception, coat room, elevator down–and a giant globe! It was like Universal Studios, minus a lot of films.

Wireframe world

Wireframe world

Downstairs is the exhibit about our some celestial wonders with the solar system was displayed fantastically above.

The solar system

The solar system

Ahem...

Ahem...

Early in the exhibit, there is something rather profound in the way the museum chose to show something. Very cool way to illustrate the scale. I urge you to click into the next three pictures to see just what I mean…

Click for a better look...

Click for a better look...

See it full size!

See it full size!

Scale comparison

Scale comparison

Haha, I thought the next picture would be a nice call out to the Albertans…

The Rockies

The Rockies

Labradorite is neat and shiny, but only when it catches the light… To my knowledge, there is no Newfoundlandite, or whatever.

Shiny!

Shiny!

Not shiny

Not shiny

Describing Pangea, and how it split up into the continents over many millions of years. And I thought the line of globes was cute; each earth had a red dot of where St. John’s was. Through millions of years, it was mostly in the sea, but at one point it was inland and not an island at all!

Pangea

Pangea

Brief exploration of human evolution, before it moved on to focus on the migration of humanity from Africa to various places, and then to the area of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Different humanoid skulls

Different humanoid skulls

There was a lot of iceberg stuff as well, but having got pictures of a real one, fake recreations just would not do. There were two other separate exhibits, one about oil–its properties, how it is extracted, that sorta stuff. The province is experiencing a sort of boom with an offshore oil rig, you see. I thought it wouldn’t be interesting coming from oil-rich Calgary, but their displays, as you can see, were stellar again. With the rig, I also had fun taking pictures of the mini people on it, and beyond that, those photos show just how detailed the model is…

Oil tanker, bow

Oil tanker, bow

Oil tanker, stern

Oil tanker, stern

Oil rig

Oil rig

Another view of the rig

Another view of the rig

Mini guy

Mini guy

Mini dude

Mini dude

Mini workmen!

Mini workmen!

And the other exhibit was, interestingly, all about the Titanic. Not only did they have a bunch of the old relics from the ship, they also had some of the original movie props, and things signed by people like James Cameron, or artists who depicted the ship. I initially was skeptical of the whole thing, but as I got to reading some of it, it was again very well done, and so dramatic–it was a tone and approach I didn’t expect. They gave ship specs and all that, but they also uncovered a lot of the lies and atrocities, revealing sad truths. For example, sure you knew there weren’t enough lifeboats for all the guests–but I was astounded to find out how many seats were empty. They were usually less than half full, and those that managed to get on generally did not try to rescue those dying around them in the sea. There was one passage…I think a lady recounted hearing the screams and calls for help all around their lifeboat, imploring someone to please just save one life, and how no one on the ship dared do nothing. They coped by “convincing themselves they were not friends or relatives” or something. Yikes.

Or how they discriminated against third class passengers, who were mostly poor or immigrants. They were locked in on their lowest of the passenger floors as the ship flooded, and few escaped. Also incredible is the documentation of just how many warnings the Titanic crew ignored, and how incompetently they acted, and how an older man gave up his seat on a lifeboat, how his wife refused to leave him and declared that she’d “follow him into eternity” and did. Harrowing stuff…

As ever, there were gorgeous models built. Another sad but intriguing fact: the Titanic’s four smokestacks? One was fake…they constructed a dummy, because all these other ships they were trying to best had three! Ego could be said to be the biggest factor that would ultimately sink the Titanic.

For the ruined models, it was difficult to take photos of in that weird but awesome light. Still, it’s an impressive sight.

The Titanic, whole

The Titanic, whole

Titanic model

Titanic model

Titanic detail, port side

Titanic detail, port side

Titanic detail, starboard side

Titanic detail, starboard side

That more or less wraps up the best parts of the Geo Centre! A lot of it was great, but I’ve put up a few too many photos for today…

I had also wanted to check out the Basilica of St. John’s in the city, but when we went, it was closed. It was Sunday then, so I was disappointed because I couldn’t see it, as I began working Monday. Well, I was excited about that, though.

My broher went on his own Monday, took some lovely pics, and after work, we celebrated my first day at Target with a last dinner at Blue on Water before he left Tuesday morning. We were determined to eat some solid seafood, and so we did…

But that, and the Basilica imagery, will be for tomorrow!

The Irish Loop, pt. 2

In culture, food, st. john's on June 17, 2009 at 2:11 am

First off…can anyone (everyone…?) tell me whether they can see the pictures in “The Irish Loop, pt. 1”? I mean, besides the grid of clickable photos–how about the individual ones before and after that? I ask because sometimes I see them myself, and sometimes I don’t. It makes me cry inside.

Anyone, to conclude…

I Don’t Remember Where This Was
…but it was cool. I will have to ask my brother (he’s returned to Calgary now, since early Tuesday morning), and hopefully I can correct this…

I guess I have a thing for rocks, particularly if they’re in the sea, and the waves crash upon them. It’s like…I dunno, almost like an innate attraction, like how everyone is entranced by campfires, and can contentedly stare into one for a long time. Or is it maybe just me when it comes to waves?

Well anyway, one place we saw before Trepassey (I believe….) was this very rugged coastline. It had a placard and such, and explained that it wrecked a great many ships, and advised that should we hike a certain road in one of the upcoming towns, people can find a shipwreck that’s still there at the end of it. How cool is that? I have no idea to what extent it is wrecked or whole because we didn’t travel that path (it was getting late), but I’d like to go back some day.

Rocky coast

Rocky coast

More rocks

More rocks

Even more rocks

Even more rocks

Sea critters on the rocks

Sea critters on the rocks

between Trepassey and St. Vincent
We didn’t find much at Trepassey, but it was more interesting to see what lay between that community and St. Vincent–the barren lands!

Yes, this is the area I mentioned was once used to simulate moonwalks. I couldn’t believe my eyes…we were traveling from such richly forested and lush areas, I was honestly skeptical about the whole thing. “How can this give way to something that looks like the moon?” I said.

Well, it happened surprisingly quickly. There were trees, and then…they got shorter and shorter (I mean it–a person was taller than these pines), and they all grew sharply leaning away from the direction of the wind (a strange sight, indeed) before they disappeared altogether. Then there were shrubs, and even those vanished, and only ground-hugging lichen and rocks remained. It was absolutely eerie–as the vegetation thinned, we could see in the car the temperature dropping gradually, 1 at a time. It was in the low teens, but when we were in the thick of the barren lands, it was like 8 degrees or so.

It was dim, and felt so empty. Here and there was the rare house, and I thought, “Who would live in a place so bleak?” For all I know, they could be abandoned, but I think at least one had a car by it. Truly, it was a weird feeling, having emerged from such thick flora. I don’t believe in it, but I fancied it would not be a bad depiction of the Biblical limbo.

This area on either side of the Loop was like this (going south away from St. John’s, and then as the trip completed, heading back northwards). One placard in the barrens going back to St. John’s said you could potentially see the most southernmost herd of caribou, who typically live further up north. They eat a ton of lichen, and this place had plenty–so from this, I think it’s a reasonable inference that the land past the treeline in Canada’s Arctic would look similar, and we’ve learned so.

As a plains-dweller…you think the plains or Saskatchewan especially is flat? This area gave flat a whole new meaning! Despite being otherworldly and bizarre, I found it very interesting. The area is also called the Maritime Barrens if you want to look it up further.

Maritime barrens

Maritime barrens

Welcome to the moon

Welcome to the moon

St. Vincent
If I’m not mistaken, this is where we saw a lighthouse. It was fairly high up, and the rocks below (again) were fantastic, and the waves especially crashy! You can’t appreciate the height from the picture, but those rocks were a good ways down.

Nowadays, lighthouses don’t have to be attended by a person 24/7, but the station had a very nearby house with the government (signs warned that it was illegal to enter or mess with lighthouses without granted authority) that undoubtedly housed a “guard” if you will, in case something screws up. Anyway, we took pictures quickly and left, because there was also a warning that its fog horn may sound unexpectedly, and it’s volume is high enough to be dangerous. And as it were, it was getting foggy fast, so we wanted to be away from the thing before it was deemed foggy enough to switch on!

Especially crashy

Especially crashy

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

Riverhead and Salmonier
…unfortunately, by the time we left the lighthouse, it was very, VERY foggy. Like, could see only about 5-8 meters ahead of the car kind of foggy, so what could you see anyway? It was also getting pretty late, and we wanted to get back to St. John’s and catch a late dinner. So we skipped Riverhead. Further out, the fog cleared a lot by the time we reached Salmonier, but the park’s gates were shut, anyway, so even if we wanted to….

That concluded our Irish Loop adventure. Arriving back in St. John’s at about 9 pm, we decided to eat at St. John’s #1 restaurant–the Indian place, India Gate!

India Gate
Lemme start with a brief description of what I think of Indian food. I like it. Generally, however, I think it is often too strong, and so boldly flavoured that they’re sort of one-hit wonders–tasty, but straightforward and lacking subtlety. Plus, it’s often very spicy. Not that I mind that, but it’s another thing to distract from really tasting Indian food. But I like it, I visit places in Calgary every now and then.

But India Gate was pure awesome. OH–and it seems to be the thing in St. John’s restaurants to give some sort of free appetizer. As I mentioned, free miso soup for all customers. Here, we were surprised by a basket of very thinly baked things, almost like giant tortilla chips but spiced with Indian spices, accompanied by a lovely chutney and…carrot cubes. I thought that was stupid, but when you eat one…it’s like a mini flavour explosion. These carrots were still crisp, but were marinated very dynamically; together with the “chips” and chutney, it just sung.

What IS it about St. John’s? I’ve never been in a city with such consistent good eats! Duckworth and Water Street are a foodie’s dream destination!

I’m not saying this stuff just because of its rating. Actually, going in, I was skeptical. As the top restaurant, it better be pretty ridiculously awesome. And it was. All that stuff I said about Indian food, they did right here.

We tried a number of things–fish curry (halibut), curry prawns in almond sauce, a lamb curry, and sorta a roasted platter with fish, prawns, peppers, lamb, chicken, and onions. In that order: we could not believe the fish curry! Fish are so light-flavoured, I fully expected it to be lost, but their halibut was so sweet and tender. You could taste it, and the subtle curry as well. The prawns–and as a general aside, every time we’ve had prawns in St. John’s, they’ve been like this–are similarly unbelievable. I’m not kidding–the side of it was nearly as big as the side of my fist, thumb-side. And the edge–my brother and I cut it in half, and the two portions were still thicker than any prawn we’ve had! The texture is exceedingly crisp and juicy–what a treat. The sauce with almonds was to die for–very spicy, but wonderfully offset by a honey sweetness, making for a very nutty, fragrant flavour. The roast platter was all delicious–Indian meats to me are typically way too dried out (tandoori chicken, for example, but even those not done in a tandoori oven), but these were all juicy and perfectly seasoned. Bell peppers have never tasted better, and there were more prawns….

There is no better way to describe India Gate’s flavour than: it was Indian food, with Thai brilliance. I’ve always much preferred Thai curry for their amazing depth of flavour and range, but have never until then experienced something similar with Indian curry. Fantastic.

And as another Thai connection…my favourite Thai place in Calgary, the Rose Garden, is, as you know if you’ve gone, decorated to the max with cultural artifacts and art. It’s like you’ve entered a temple. This place had a similar thing going for the interior, but with Indian culture. Not as much (that would be hard to do) as the Rose Garden, but still all very beautiful and eclectic.

Overall, my personal bias and preference is still for sushi and Japanese food, but India Gate is hands down the best Indian food I’ve ever had. That night, I was so full I could burst! What a day…

The next day I’ll write up is Sunday, Johnson’s Geo Centre, another fantastic attraction. And then more work impressions, stories, and the last restaurant my brother and I dined in on The Rock (as the province is called), Blue on Water. SEAFOOD! πŸ™‚