Premature E-Publication

I accidentally hit “publish” on a blog post before it was ready this morning.

The whole experience was shocking, terrifying, embarrassing, and all sorts of other negative emotions ending in “ing”. Sort of like when you inadvertently hit “reply all” on an e-mail.

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A few years back, my roommate, who was also my coworker at the time, accidentally sent an e-mail intended for me to our entire company. That’s over 2,000 people in multiple offices around North America. Although the e-mail itself was relatively innocuous, I still came home to find her in bed, curled up in a ball of shame and self-loathing, wailing “I’ll never work in this town again!” into a pint of Haagen Dazs.

That’s sort of how I felt this morning. How could I possibly have sent this piece of nonsensical drivel to 1,592 inboxes? With one fell swoop, my carefully constructed curtain of thesaurus words, platitudes and strategically placed GIFs had been lifted – exposing me for the fraud I am deep down inside.

I was certain my short-lived career as a mediocre blogger was over.

The funny thing is, though, that before I even had a chance to mark the post “private” (which took me like 10 minutes, since I’m kind of a Luddite) I actually received a few “likes” and comments on it.

My first thought was that these benevolent commenters felt so sorry for my epic fail that they simply wanted to ensure I didn’t impale myself over any sharp objects in my apartment. However, it occurred to me later that perhaps they just hadn’t been reading that critically. Maybe they just identified with the overall subject matter of the post (which was about invasion of personal space), and didn’t care that much about my sloppy sentences or lack of hilarious GIFs.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here, is that we bloggers shouldn’t really be so hard on ourselves. While quality is important, it’s not the be all and end all. 99% of your readers don’t care about consistency of tenses and appropriate use of semi-colons; they just want material they can relate to.

……and maybe the occasional Paul Rudd dancing GIF:

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Question of the Day: Have you ever had a premature e-publication? How did you feel?

My Life Through Instagram

I haven’t been very inspired to write lately. Perhaps it’s because of my disillusionment/exhaustion/overwhelming desire to kill myself  general sense of malaise from trying to write a novel in 30 days.

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Or maybe it’s the fact that I was sick with the plague a dreadful cold/flu last week (yeah, in JUNE. THANKS GLOBAL WARMING).

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It actually got so bad that I called in sick to work for the first time in three years. I spent a solid 8 hours watching daytime TV, periodically spraying my throat with Chloraseptic in an effort to stave off the black lung (don’t question my methods) and drifting in and out of consciousness.

………….Lemme tell ya, Anderson Cooper fever dreams are one helluva drug.  

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Oh, and I also just joined a Bachelorette pool at work, so now I have to spend approximately 90% of my time trash-talking all of my colleagues. Drew for the win!

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Anyway, since I am still pretty low on f*cks to give, rather than write a real blog post, I thought I’d try a neat little idea I saw on another blog the other day –  a summary of my life  over the past few weeks through Instagram: 

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1. A sick manicure I got a few weeks ago. It took a ridiculously long time, but those damn little chevrons made me so happy every time I looked at them that it was worth it.

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2. A few weeks back, I received free tickets to the Canadian Opera Company’s performance of Salome at the Four Seasons Center. I was really excited because I had never been to the Opera before, and the whole thing just felt so civilized.

I stole this pic from my friend Lia who was with me and is a great grammer herself

I stole this pic from my friend Lia who is also a great grammer

The performance was in German, and I will admit that for the first 30 minutes, I had no effing clue what was going on. (Even though there were subtitles. I’m just that smart.) Seriously guys, I was beginning to think I was being punked. But then someone on stage got beheaded, and after that I was totally into it

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Afterwards we were given a backstage tour and got to look at all the props (not the decapitated head though. I asked) and see how they do all the high-tech stuff. It was bomb, and if I can ever afford to buy my own tickets, I will totally go back again. So probably never.

3. Starbucks Fail. I feel like I should have been more offended by this.

4. A replica of Peggy’s Cove erected in Toronto’s financial district a couple of weeks ago. I actually thought I was seeing a mirage on my way to work in the morning, but then was lured into the display by a charming Tourism Nova Scotia employee with a familiar accent (damn those hard “A”‘s. They get me every time). I was so entranced by the man in a kilt onstage teaching the awestruck crowd how to properly cook a lobster that I ended up being 20 minutes late for work. #WorthIt

5.  I’m usually not one of those people who instagrams their food (OK, I totally am) but my lunch yesterday from IQ Food Co. was just way too good not to capture. I mean…Sh*t is like a healthy food rainbow.

6. This past Saturday I attended the Field Trip Music Festival in Toronto. The festival  celebrated the 10 year anniversary of Canadian record label Arts & Crafts, and featured a ton of amazing Canadian (and international) artists like Broken Social Scene, Feist, Stars, Bloc Party,  Ra Ra Riot, etc. It was an amazing day filled with friends, music and laughter.

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……Except for a brief period where they ran out of beer. BLAME CANADA.

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7. My new favourite show, Family Tree on HBO. It’s written and directed by Christopher Guest (Best In Show,  This is Spinal Tap) and stars mah boo Chris O’Dowd (the hot cop from Bridesmaids). It’s dry, brilliantly written and hilarious and is cheering me up from my disappointment over the new season of Arrested Development. (I’m only on episode 5- does it get better??)

8. Yogurt is good for you, right? (Side note: Nanaimo bars as a topping?? OMG)

9. I went to check out the flowers at Alan Gardens (It’s my “Serenity Now” place) last weekend and stumbled across this Cactus convention, which apparently, is a thing. Guys, there were so many weird cacti!!

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I spent a good hour checking them all out, and talking to the cactus growers who themselves are just as interesting (speaking of Christopher Guest…). Moral of the story: when life hands you a Cactus, make friends with its grower? #BadParable.

Question of the Day: Do You Instagram?

If so, what’s your handle?For more of this groundbreaking photojournalism, follow me @breezyk1

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

What do a 10 lb box of condoms, a taxidermy owl and a life-size model of a human throat all have in common?

…………….No, not that, you filthy animals. 

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Well, maybe that. But also this: They are all the subject of hilarious essays in David Sedaris’ new book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.

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In this, his 7th collection of autobiographical essays and short stories, America’s greatest humorist (IMHO) takes us on a journey from a suburban Costco, to his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to feeding Kookaburas in the Australian bush- all with the cunning wit and sharp observations of a perpetual outsider.

owls2 A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Sedaris do a reading of this book here in Toronto. It was a bit of a surreal experience for me, because having read all of his books, I sort of felt like I knew him already. I could tell you intimate details about his family, his childhood, even about his days as a meth-addicted starving artist. I had the urge to blurt out “How’s Amy?” (his famous sister) at one point, but then I remembered that I don’t actually know her at all, and wisely refrained.   

Although I do think we could be besties.. don't you?

Although I do think we would be besties if given the chance.

He spoke for over an hour, reading several pieces from the book, as well as sharing anecdotes from his tour thus far. He was witty, sharp, and incredibly gracious and welcoming of his fans – except for the fact that he had a very strict no picture policy. Luckily, I am a master sweet-talker who no man (even a gay one) can say no to, so I was able to superimpose my head onto some random man’s body convince him to take this one with me:

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I think it’s a framer.

Anywhoo- back to the review.

Longtime fans of Sedaris might find Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls a bit of a departure from his earlier works. Whereas Naked and Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim focused primarily on his childhood and coming of age tales; this collection delves more into his current, adult life and day-to-day encounters. If you’re open to it, this can be a refreshing change. We learn a lot more about his relationship with his partner Hugh in this collection, as well as receive an unexpected glimpse into his writing process with an essay on the diary he has kept since 1977. He also shares hilarious, cutting observations of the people in line with him at the Airport and Starbucks that are laugh-out-loud funny, and make you wish he was your best friend in real life.

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Throughout it all, you get a sense of what makes him tick; a behind the scenes look at the grown-up David Sedaris. 

Interspersed throughout the book are several pieces of short fiction, which Sedaris explains were written to be recited by teenagers at forensics competitions. Some are comic monologues; others are biting satires of right-wing ideals. I have to admit, these pieces were not my favourite. I found them too far afield from his regular style, and a bit too political for my liking.

That being said, overall, I still thought this book was great- perfect for a plane ride, a Friday night in, or a weekend at the cottage.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh, and has felt like an outsider once or twice in their life.

On that note, the winner of my David Sedaris book giveaway IS: (drumroll please, assistant:)

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Ross!  E-mail me at thecamellife@gmail.com with your address to claim your prize!

(And just to be clear, anyone else is free to e-mail me at that address too. You know, if you wanna like, talk about the new season of Arrested Development, or who Desiree should pick on The Bachelorette. Whatever really. I’m basically just very lonely. )

Question of the Day: Who, in your opinion, is the funniest writer? 

Started From The Bottom Now We’re Here

So I was perusing my Instagram feed the other day, marveling at Rihanna’s tattoos and wishing I had Jessica Alba’s life:

I mean.. seriousky

I mean.. seriously

when suddenly, this spiffy little WordPress notification popped up on my screen:

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I was like:

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Followed by:

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When I started this blog back in September, 2011, I never thought I would convince over 1,000 spambots and members of my immediate family   people to subscribe to my nonsense, but somehow, it happened.

….Ok, that’s a complete lie. I totally expected this sh*t to go viral and catapult me into superstardom. I’m talking book deal, my own sitcom, frequent media appearances, plus a line of highly successful licensed merchandise. 

BreezyK bobblehead anyone?

BreezyK bobblehead anyone?

I would of course, also become besties with Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham.

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What can I say? I watch too much TV.  

Anyway, since none of this has happened (YET),  I guess I’ll have to settle for you people.

I could tell you how much all of your likes, clicks and comments have meant to me over the past 18 months, but talk is cheap – so instead, I’mma put my money where my mouth is and say thanks with a

GIVEAWAY!

Since I have been going  through a bit of a “literature phase” lately and subjecting all of you to my unsolicited book reviews and misguided novel-writing attempts, I figured it was only fitting to give away a (wait for it…) book!

Intellectual Dachshund says: Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.

Intellectual Dachshund says: Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.

That’s right folks, one lucky reader will receive a copy of the book I’m currently reading:

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris 

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Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is the newest collection of essays from New York Times bestselling author (and my idol) David Sedaris.

Here is a brief description from his website because, honestly, it’s way too early for me to try to write my own:

From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new book of essays taking his readers on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler’s experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist’s shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten.

Basically, I want to be David Sedaris when I grow up. His book Naked was actually the inspiration for my starting a blog in the first place.  

IT ALL COMES FULL CIRCLE, FOLKS!

Anyway, in order to win, all you have to do is leave a comment below answering this question of the day:

What is the best book you’ve read so far in 2013?

You can also get an extra entry by either liking the Camel Life on Facebook or following me on Twitter. (I promise I’m only marginally annoying). 

*Contest only open to residents of Canada and the U.S. and Closes Tuesday, May 28th at 12:00pm EST.  

Good luck! 

Love,

BreezyK and Drizzy 

P.S. Don’t forget to vote for me for Funniest Blog in the indie chicks 2013 badass blogging awards!

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So, How You Comin’ On That Novel?

You may recall that back at the beginning of May, I announced that I was planning to write a novel in 30 days.

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Well, since no one asked it’s the official halfway point, I figured I’d give a little update on how it’s been going.

So far, I’ve written approximately 22,500 words. That’s roughly 45% of the 50,000 word target, or, about 1,500 words per day.

Not bad, right? Except that it’s all total and complete garbage. 

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Guys, I’m not kidding. The stench of rotten manuscript wafting from my minimized items right now is almost too much for me to handle. I call it “Eau de Broken Dreams and Misguided Aspirations”

The thing is full of plot holes, it’s totally unbelievable, and I currently have four different characters named Sergei. But that’s OK. The goal of this exercise is simply to get my words on paper- not to fuss with silly things like grammar, sentence structure and plotline.

….Right?

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I won’t lie, it’s been pretty painful so far. I kind of want to kill myself/ throw my computer out the window/ eat 10 lbs of chocolate/ run away and never come back. But like a phoenix from the ash, out of my misery rise a few key lessons to be learned from all of this. Like…..  

 Writing Fiction Is Hard

Sometimes, I feel like the entire right side of my brain has been completely inactive for the past 10 years. Sure, I use it occasionally to write blog posts, but for the most part, it just sits there, dormant, letting its domineering evil stepbrothers logic and rational thought do all the work.

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Writing a novel feels like grabbing the creative side of my brain with both hands, shaking it violently and waking it the hell up. As expected, for the first few days, ol’ righty remained slow, lethargic and low-functioning – sort of like me before I’ve had my coffee in the morning. 

But eventually it came around. Sort of. I’m still dealing with the giant hurdle of coming up with 50,000 words of original material in a ridiculously short period of time.  

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Writing Fiction Is Fun!

(Did I convince you with that exclamation point? No? I didn’t really convince myself, either.)

Once you get past the fact that novel-writing is destroying much of your will to live, there are actually a few good things. Writing can be really fun when you’re not inhibited by pesky little parameters like “truth” and “accuracy”. Plus, it’s sort of cool to live vicariously through your characters. My main character is smart, sassy, and tells people off all the time- something I wish I could do more often.  

Plus, no matter how much it sucked, I still feel like this whenever I get my daily words in:

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You’re Going to Run Out Of Ideas.. and That’s Where the Ninjas Come In

No matter how hard I tried, I still found it tough to come up with the recommended 1,667 words a day. I Googled some suggestions, and discovered something called a “Plot Ninja”.

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plot ninja is something you drop into the plot whenever you are at a loss for ideas. Traditionally, this has taken the form of actual ninjas who come crashing into the scene, disrupting things, but it can really be anything you want. My plot Ninja so far has been my main character going for drinks with her best friend. She’s pretty much an alcoholic at this point, but it’s also resulted in a few interesting scenes that never would have ended up in the plot otherwise.

When In Doubt.. Make it up

Another thing I didn’t anticipate was how much research was involved in novelling. Part of my story takes place in Russia, and the first few days, I spent hours Googling everything from typical Russian surnames to what year the Kremlin was built. Eventually, I decided to either leave what I didn’t know blank, or just make something up and go back and fix it later. Currently, the characters in my story consume only caviar, drink an excessive amount of vodka, and wear fur hats everywhere. That’s accurate, right?

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Be Prepared To Hate Your Life

Not to be a Deborah K. Downer, but I have to admit that it’s extremely mentally and physically draining to write this much every day while working full-time, trying to do blog posts, keep up with my 52 book challenge and actually maintain a social life.

…………..Yes, I realize I did this all to myself, and yes I would like some cheese with that whine.

Dawson knows

Only Dawson understands me

So to recap -  my first 15 days of Novelling: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I don’t know what comes after that.

Question of the Day: Have you ever written a novel?

…..Any tips to keep me from strangling myself with my computer cord?

P.S.  I nominated myself  was nominated for Funniest Blog in the 2013 Badass Blogging Awards! I would love you long time if you’d please take a second and go vote for me!

http://theindiechicks.com/badass-blog-awards-vote-for-your-favorite-bloggers/

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Liars, Drinkers And Eternal Optimists: Books I Read In April

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Oh, hello.

I didn’t see you come in.

Intellectual Dachshund and I were just about to review some of the books I read in April. Won’t you stay and join us?

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You will? Fantastic! Isn’t that right Intellectual Dachshund?

Reading nurtures the soul, and an enlightened friend brings it solace.

Reading nurtures the soul, and an enlightened friend brings it solace.

Aah my erudite little creature. So pithy! So delightful! Now, let’s get started, shall we?

Everything Is Perfect When You’re A Liar

by Kelly Oxford

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Only two years ago, Kelly Oxford was an unknown, Canadian stay-at-home mom with a dream of becoming a writer. Now, she has a best-selling book, a  sold screenplay and a TV pilot. 

How did she do it? She be tweetin’ y’all.

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Her hilarious tweets caught the attention of comedians and Hollywood celebs, and soon she amassed over 500,000 followers.  Can you say ca-ching in 140 characters or less?

Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar  is Oxford’s collection of personal essays that cover everything from her awkward childhood, to her brief teenage modeling career, to being David Copperfield’s private guest in Las Vegas. 

Each story is engaging, well-written and hilarious. You never feel like she’s reaching for her jokes, or trying too hard. It’s almost like the funny just comes out of her naturally, an unintended side effect of her storytelling.

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This is exactly the type of book I would like to write someday;  and for that I give it:

4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

The Rum Diary

by Hunter S. Thompson

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The Rum Diary tells the story of Paul Kemp, a 30-year-old journalist who moves to San Juan, Puerto Rico in the late 1950’s to work for an English language newspaper. When Paul is introduced to rest of the newspaper staff – a veritable motley crew of has-beens, misanthropes and never-weres-  he quickly gets swept into a world of hard-drinking, girlfriend-stealing, bar brawling, and of course, the occasional news story.

(You might also be familiar with the 2011 movie based on the book starring Johnny Depp)

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If it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a plotline involved here, that’s because there isn’t. It’s really just some drunk-ass dudes wandering around a tropical paradise, eating hamburgers and causing disturbances. It’s awesome.

This book had me hooked from the very beginning. With it’s crisp prose and quoteable one-liners, I had a hard time putting it down. It reminded me of On the Road, but with more paragraphs, and punctuation.

Even though I’m not a wayward journalist with a drinking problem (officially), I found I could really identify with Paul and his feelings of aimlessness in Puerto Rico. I feel like that here in Toronto sometimes. I have no real roots here, no family, and sometimes I feel like I’m just wandering from place to place like some tiny, insignificant tumbleweed.

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Anyhoo, since this is a book review and not a junior high journal entry, let’s get to the ratings shall we?

I give it: 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds 

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

Favourite Line: “It gave me a strange feeling, and the rest of that night I didn’t say much, but merely sat there and drank, trying to decide if I was getting older and wiser, or just plain old.”

Candide

by Voltaire 

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What the whaaaaat? BreezyK reading Voltaire? Don’t worry-  there is a reasonable explanation for all of this. Back in the fall when I took my Humor writing course, the instructor recommended this book as being one of the best humor pieces ever written. I finally got around to reading it a couple of weeks ago, and I’m glad I did.

The book centers around Candide, an enthusiastic young man brought up in the home of a wealthy Baron. Candide was taught by his tutor Pangloss to believe that no matter what happens ‘all is for the best’. Things, however, take a turn for the worse when the Baron throws Candide out after discovering his love for the Baron’s daughter, Cundegonde. Candide then sets out on a series of misadventures all across Europe, Asia and South America, experiencing one unfortunate series of events after another: earthquakes, syphilis, robberies, knaves, you name it – all the while testing Candide’s eternal optimism.

I found this book refreshing and hilarious – it satirizes everything from love, to money, to religion. It’s also a complete seminar in pithiness. Despite the fact that each chapter is about 3 pages long, so much happens in each one of them. This is a great read if you get bored easily and like short books (it’s only about 90 pages, which actually makes it a novella, but who’s counting). Then, when you’re done, you can feel superior to other people by saying you’ve read Voltaire. Win Win!

I give it (you guessed it) 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds:

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

 

Question of the Day: What book or movie do you quote constantly?

For me, it’s Zoolander. I’m hoping to change that.

So I’m Writing a Novel.

This month, I’m going to write a novel.

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50,000 words. 30 days. Let’s do this.

Why? Because I’m a masochist. A really bored masochist.

Other reasons include:

  • I’m perpetually dissatisfied.
  • Gretchen Rubin did it in The Happiness Project.
  • I have no experience writing fiction whatsoever, and I figure this is a good place to start.
  • I like a challenge.
  • I get to brag about it and feel superior to other people.
  • Because it’s really original and no one has ever done it before.
  • Because my goal of reading 52 books in one year doesn’t keep me in my house alone enough already. (I want to make really, extra sure I die alone.)

I recognize that National Novel Writing Month (or “NaNoWriMo” as the cool kids call it) is still 6 months away, but as I always say, rules were made to be broken!

…..Actually, I never say this. I really just want all the spotlight without having to share it with any of you b*tches.

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Did I mention I’m also really bored?

I would tell you what my novel is going to be about, but it’s totally progressive and original and I don’t want anyone to steal my idea. Just kidding, I actually have no idea what it’s going to be about, except that it will be loosely based on my own life. And there might be a Russian spy element involved.

Not like this. Well, maybe like this.

Not like this. Well, maybe like this.

At the suggestion of my hetero-life model Gretchen Rubin, I picked up the book “No Plot, No Problem” by Chris Baty: an ultimate “low-stress, high -velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days”.

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The book starts by providing a number of tips and tricks to help you prepare for the launch of your novel; from time-saving techniques, to research and outlines, to how to set up the perfect workspace.

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Since I believe goals are best achieved when they involve no structure or planning whatsoever, I chose to do none of these things. Well, except for the part where I’m supposed to tell everyone I’m writing a novel so they will hold me accountable.

Hey everyone! I’m writing a novel! Hold me accountable, k? No, really. I expect all of you to shame me and ask me “how’s that novel coming along ?” on a regular basis.

Kind of like this:

Actually, exactly like that. And then I will rate you on your Stewie impression.

The other piece of advice I took from the book was to develop my Two “Magna Cartas”.

The first Magna Carta is a list of all the things that, to you, make a good novel. This can be anything from overall themes, to character traits, to magical unicorns. The aim of this list is to show what you “know” and appreciate as a reader, and to act as a guide for what to include in your own novel.

Here is the list I came up with:

  • Humor
  • Romance
I'm a girl, what can I say

I’m a girl, what can I say

  • Serendipitous encounters
  • Short, digestible chapters
  • Quote-worthy prose
  • Plot twists (doesn’t need to be M. Night Shyamalan or anything, but I like being surprised)
  • Vulnerable characters
  • Urban settings
  • Music and/or other pop culture references
  • Animals (I’ve never read a book about pandas, but I think that might be pretty cool)

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Magna Carta II is just the opposite- a list of things that bore or depress you in a novel. These should be avoided in your story at all costs.

My list:

  • Death
  • Vampires/Unicorns/other forms of magical creatures
I blame this

I blame this

  • Stream of consciousness writing
  • Misanthropic characters
  • Overuse of a thesaurus
  • Unhappy endings
  • Long chapters

So basically, I should write an uplifting romantic comedy about pandas with multiple plot twists, easy words and short chapters.

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Sounds like a bestseller to me!

Wish me luck!

Question of the Day: What, to you, makes a good novel?

Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking

Do you often let calls go through to voicemail? Enjoy one-on-one conversations as opposed to group activities? Dislike conflict? Prefer working alone rather than in a team? 

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, then you my friend, are probably an introvert.

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The good news is, you’re not alone. According to Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, at least 1/3 of the people we know are introverts.

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Including me.

Yes- I know it  may come as a surprise, given how hilarious, effervescent and engaging  I am on my blog- but don’t let that purple wig fool you. On the inside, I’m just a scared little panda. 

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I prefer listening to talking, find it easier to express myself in writing, and to the disappointment of my throngs of friends and admirers, often prefer to stay home, read a book and be by myself on a Saturday night.

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Cain’s book explores the idea that in today’s society, introverts are chronically undervalued. By praising extroversion above almost all else, we fail to capitalize on the special and unique skills introverts possess, like focus, innovation, creativity, work ethic, thoughtfulness, and observation. 

Cain explains how over the past 100 years, Western culture has become obsessed with the idea of personality. “The Extrovert Ideal” now permeates almost everything we do: from offices designed in open concepts to inspire “Groupthink” and “brainstorming sessions”, to classrooms arranged in “pods”,  to the success of such books as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” .

If only all open concept offices had Don Draper in them.

If only all open concept offices had Don Draper in them.

Introversion has become a form of pathology – a personality trait that needs to be “fixed”. We encourage children who are introverted to “come out of their shells”, rather than focusing on what they can bring to the table. Cain points to evidence that our “extrovert ideal” can actually be harmful in business, and lobbies for change.

I decided to read this book after a friend showed me Cain’s 2012 TED Talk on the same subject. It received over 4 million YouTube hits and helped start what is now known as “The Quiet Revolution”.

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The book is exhaustively researched: Cain spent almost 7 years wading through literature and scientific studies, as well as conducting her own “field research”. She went to a Tony Robbins leadership conference, spent a week at Harvard Business School, shadowed Asian American high school students, interviewed psychologists and prominent business people, attended a retreat for the highly sensitive and observed an Evangelical Christian leadership conference. 

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I found this book fascinating, and it really resonated with me on a lot of levels. Before becoming a writer, Cain was a corporate lawyer on Wall Street, and discusses the difficulty of being an introvert in a profession dominated by big personalities. As a young lawyer, I can relate. I am constantly attending business development and networking seminars where we are encouraged to hand out business cards like Halloween candy.

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“Follow up with everyone you meet!” they say. “Introduce yourself to the Managing partner in the elevator!”. As an introvert, this can feel overwhelming. You worry you will be left behind by all of your gregarious, outgoing contemporaries who fluently speak the language of schmooze.

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Cain, however, explains how she put her skills as an introvert to work for her. By being the most prepared person in the room and using her skills of listening and observation, she became a highly successful negotiator, eventually founding her own consulting business. 

Another point Cain explored that I found interesting was the “internet paradox”: introverts are much more likely to express intimate details about themselves on the internet, to total strangers- often things their friends or family would be surprised to learn about them. 

This definitely rings true with me. As cheesy as it is to say, I feel like when I started blogging, I found my voice. It was like suddenly, my personality was more tangible to those around me. I felt understood. 

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This is overly dramatic but you catch my drift.

You should definitely read this book if you are an introvert, or have introverts in your life. (if you’re curious whether you are an introvert, you can take Cain’s quiz here) .I will say, the book can be a little heavy on the scientific mumbo jumbo- so if you don’t want to deal with all that independent/dependent variable noise, then you can always just watch the TED Talk instead.

I give it: 4.2/5 Intellectual Dachshunds 

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

Question of the Day: Are You An Introvert, or an Extrovert?

When Did Vowels Stop Being Cool?

As I was perusing my iTunes the other day, I noticed a bit of a disturbing trend.

…No, I am not referring to my extensive collection of Phil Collins albums. There is nothing weird nor disturbing about loving an 80′s singer/songwriter with the voice of an angel.

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What I’m actually talking about is the alarming number of bands who are dropping vowels from their names like one of Clooney’s girlfriends post awards season.

I mean...don't worry Stacy .I'm sure it'll be different this time around!

Don’t worry Stacy. I’m sure he’ll change for you.

MDNASeriously:

MGMT

CVRCHES

HRVRD

MSTRKRFT

Even Madonna has started going by “MDNA” recently.

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At first I assumed that vowels were just another casualty in the endless pursuit of the ultimate ironic band name (“Dale Earnhardt Jr.Jr.” and “Com Truise” anyone?);but after a little research, I discovered this trend was actually part of a wider phenomenon known as “disemvowelling”.

“Disemvowelling” (besides just being a really great pun) is the art of rewriting a piece of alphabetic text with all of the vowel letters removed. According to Wikipedia, It was first developed in 2002 as a way to limit unwanted comments on internet sites. The technique would strip the vowels from offensive comments, rendering them harder to read and sending a message about appropriate conduct. Disemvowelling later went on to become a common feature of SMS text language.

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Disemvowelling has been experiencing a bit of a heyday as of late with the resurgence of minimalist branding- a form of advertising where designers strip away all the fluff and keep the only important things.

Starbucks Logo

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Sorry for making you all crave nutella.

If you live in an urban centre, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of this lately. I feel like every time I turn around there’s a new restaurant in Toronto called “MRKT” something or other which
seats about 5 people and is furnished with exposed lightbulbs and metal stools.

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But it’s not just the bougie places- even the low brow brands are getting involved:

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I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, I find it sort of gimmicky and annoying. It makes your band/restaurant/product something I never want to say out loud for fear of messing it up- like all that fancy sh*t on restaurant menus.

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Part of me also sees it as yet another erosion of the English language. Is it really necessary to sacrifice spelling and grammar at the expense of making an impact? .

Plus, all of this has the potential of putting Vanna out of a job, and quite frankly, I think we should all be a little more concerned about that.

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I was all set to write an entire post hating-on this, until I discussed it with a musician friend of mine who suggested that this trend makes sense, given that the English language itself is inherently limiting. There are a finite number of words, and ways you can say them. Creative types understand this innately, and try to supplement what can’t be said through music, art and other mediums. Creating new words or ideas by dropping vowels, adding numbers, or spelling things uniquely is just another way to stretch the boundaries of language to do something meaningful.

It’s a good theory in principle- but at the same time, I have a hard time believing that’s what N’SYNC had in mind:

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Who knows though. They were the voice of a generation.

Question of the Day: Disemvowelling: Yay or Nay?

Love Lessons From My Childhood Pen Pal

I got a letter in the mail the other day. It was a bit of an unexpected thrill, considering my mailbox is usually filled with nothing but Domino’s pizza flyers. (Which, don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate.) 

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While reading it, I was reminded of a time in my life when letters weren’t quite so infrequent.

………. Cue the flashback (you knew it was coming)

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The year was 1995: I was 9 years old, bookish, and heavy into Blossom Hats and The Babysitter’s Club. I was teetering on the verge of what would soon become my five-year “awkward phase”, but didn’t know it yet. Life was good.

It was also the year I made my first Pen Pal.

*Not me or my dog.

*Not me or my dog.

I acquired my Pen Pal through somewhat unusual circumstances. My father, the son of Croatian immigrants, liked to keep ties with his Eastern European heritage. This manifested itself mostly in three ways: cooking obscene amounts of cabbage, hoarding things, and subscribing to a Croatian newsletter called  Zajedničar. 

Zajedničar, as I recall it, was a bizarre publication filled with ads for life insurance, way too many consonants, and people in weird costumes playing Tamburitzas.

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 I never paid much attention to it until one day, my dad showed me an ad offering a PenPal service connecting Croatian children across North America.  

Now this was something I could get down with. The opportunity to correspond with a real live girl in another country? Sign me up!

I immediately submitted my information to the magazine, and a few weeks later, received my first letter.  It was from a girl named Jessica in Erie, Pennsylvania. She was 10 years old, and loved Barbies, gymnastics and stickers- in that order.  She even sent me her school photo, in which she was wearing one of those Western bolo shirts that were popular at the time.

This was the best I could do on Google images. In reality, she looked nothing like this.

This was the best I could do on Google images. She actually looked nothing like this.

Her long, sandy blond hair was tied into a side braid with a fluffy white scrunchie on the end, and she accessorized with dangly troll earrings, gummy bracelets and a toothpaste-commercial smile.

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To me, she was impossibly cool.

I immediately began crafting my response. Besides just telling her my entire life story, I also spent hours researching her hobbies and interests in order to prove what a thoughtful and conscientious Pen Pal I could be. I even had my dad pull out the atlas to show me where Erie was on the map. 

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I was certain she would be impressed by such informational gems as:

Did you know your town is named after a lake??!”; and 

I heard toothpaste is great for removing sticker residue!” 

We corresponded for the next few months, sending letters as well as other totems of our respective 90’s childhoods: stickers, colorful erasers, POGS, temporary tattoos.We never spoke a single word about Croatia, but that was OK. 

Eventually, things kind of fizzled out. Ok, I’m lying. Jessica just straight-up stopped writing to me. I don’t really know what happened. I mean, maybe I was a little overzealous in my pursuits- spending hours drafting elaborate letters, consulting atlases and whatnot. And maybe I should’ve seen this one coming when my 10-page anthologies met with only a few measly paragraphs in response. “Maybe she’s busy practicing her tumbling,” my mother would say. But deep down, I knew the score. 

While being blown-off so coldly hurt at the time, in a way I’m thankful, because it probably prevented me from becoming a full-on stage 5 clinger in future romantic relationships.  

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Now I’m just incredibly closed-off and distant. I think it’s working out pretty well for me.

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So thank you, Jessica, for teaching me that there is such a thing as coming on way too strong. I  hope you finally found that Sailor Moon sticker sheet you were looking for, and that somewhere, out there, you and your side braid are tumbling off into the sunset.

Question of the Day: Did You Have A Pen Pal Growing Up?