Bad Boy Gauguin

Quelle shock!

Paul Gauguin was a dreadful man who made some beautiful art. That’s the present take on him. In his craving for fame and fulfillment he dumped his family, bullied his friends, ripped off ideas and lied about his past. His book “Noa Noa,” which he advertised as an account of his life in Tahiti, was largely fantasy, mostly plagiarized.”

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Images of Japan

I've been going through some older images that I never got around to posting online and have added a few new ones to my Japan Flickr Album. How can it already be three months since I left Japan?

This one is my favorites:

Look at all those happy tourists getting their photos taken in front of the Buddha!

And this next one is dedicated to all my Canadian friends and family who are currently in the dredges of -30 degree Celsius weather. By the end of February, it feels like you can't possibly make it through another week of hibernation. I remember it well. But spring is coming, and with it months of this kind of loveliness to look forward to:


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To All The Dogs I've Loved Before

I grew up in a home where we always had dogs. I never entirely related to those kids who were always begging for a puppy, because the existence of dogs as part of our every day lives was just natural to me. What do you mean you don't have a dog? How can you not have a dog?

When I was born, there were two dogs in the family. A ridiculously clownish and overweight black short-haired Dachshund named Elsa and her best friend, a small (but not teacup) buttery yellow short-haired Chihuahua named Gaby. Gaby was also overweight, due in part to her favorite food - smarties. 

Those were different times. There were none of the dire warnings about feeding your dog chocolate and there was no such thing as the Dog Whisperer, dog spas or luxury doggie clothing. Despite this lack of pampering, our dogs were very much considered part of the family - fat, drooling siblings who loved unconditionally and who would never really grow up. 

Although I was too young to remember, my grandmother loves to tell me the story of how Elsa adopted me on the day I came home from the hospital. On that cold February day over thirty years ago, I was sleeping in my car seat and my mom put me on the floor near the radiator - I'm from Saskatchewan, which is mind numbingly cold in the winter. When she came back a few minutes later, the fat Dachshund was laying next to me, her big head resting on my lap. Pretty much from that day forward, Elsa never left my side and would growl and bar her teeth at anyone who tried to get near me, immediate family included. 

Every birthday was celebrated with a Safeway chocolate cake and the dogs were no exception. I can still picture Elsa sitting on a chair next to the kitchen table propped up on her hind legs like a gopher, a party hat on her head, waiting for her bit of cake. My childhood stories are all woven up with memories of the dogs. Gaby and the bright red cloth she loved to chase around and around, Elsa trying to dig up badger holes on our walks - her snout tar black from the dirt, Elsa hiding in the basement whenever there was a thunder storm or fireworks - me opening the door to see only the whites of her eyes as she sat in the darkness, her black coat making her almost invisible. Sometimes I would sit with her while we waited for the storm to pass. 

The really horrible truth about integrating pets into your life like this is that they live such short lives. They feel as close as human beings, but their expiration date is a decade, maybe 15 years if you are really lucky. And as your years inch by slowly, theirs fast forwards until they are no longer the siblings and children you once thought of them as, but rather these little old creatures with legs that barely work, missing teeth and glossy white eyes that barely see anymore. 

Elsa died when I was five and I can remember the terrible shock of it. Some people don't remember their childhood, but mine comes to me in still images that are incredibly clear. She had been chronically ill and my grandmother decided we needed to put her to sleep. I was sent off to my mother's house for the weekend, having said goodbye to Elsa one last time. It was summer and I wandered around Gladmar, a low income housing tenement that had a bit of the community feeling of Sesame Street, sobbing. I remember passing a man who was working on his motorcycle who said, "Those are some pretty big tears for such a little girl." 

"Mmmm-my dddd-dog dddddied," I barely managed to snort, gasping. My heart felt truly broken and at the time, I don't think I could really imagine what it would take for the world to ever be okay again. 

Gaby died a few years later, her time with us crossing with that of another dog we had named Lady - a miniature poodle we'd rescued from some people down the block who were neglecting her. All of these animals are gone now, all buried in a pet cemetery located beneath a katakana tree in the yard at our summer cottage at Regina Beach. To this day, if I see a nice stone laying on the ground, I sometimes pick it up and send it to my grandmother so she can add it to the collection of rocks that mark the graves of the pets we loved so much. 

I am writing this because yesterday I found out that my grandparent's 14 year old tiny poodle Janie died. She had been sick for a long time and it was no surprise to hear the news but still incredibly sad. We got Janie the summer after I graduated from high school and I think for my grandparents, who were now living with only each other, she came to represent the children and grandchildren that had moved out into the world. My grandfather in particular adored her. This rather gruff man could now be seen walking his obscenely tiny dog around the neighborhood in her pink jumper, at meals he would talk to her and feed her scraps off his own plate. 

Now in their late seventies, I doubt my grandparents will ever get another dog. They would be too afraid that it wouldn't be properly cared for if anything ever happened to them. 

When I think back on my life, the animals that have been a part of our family feel as central to my memories as the people. They were my best friends, they protected me and showed concern whenever I cried, they were always waiting excitedly for me when I came home and they taught me an incredible lesson about loss and risk. When you decide to get a dog you know, almost certainly, that it will die long before you will and that you will have to watch it age and care for it when it is ill. But most of us decide to go ahead anyway because it's worth it. It's cheesy, but I think love always is. 

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New Template

Things have changed around here a little bit. The template is new and I'm proud to say that I did it all by myself - no easy feat given my limited HTML skillz.

In addition to the makeover, I've also added a few items to the menu to help pull out some of the themes that tend to come up here again and again: Marketing/Web Think, Photography and Stuff I Like. Those pages are still pretty ugly and way too long, so that's on my future to do list. I've also added a link to my professional Portfolio site have have put a few new things in the Book Shop.

Lastly, I've updated my About page. It's a little bit less long winded. Just a little though.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes last week.


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Birthday Party

Tomorrow is my birthday so I made this mix as a celebratory gift to you lovely people. I hope you'll have a listen, a fancy cocktail and bust a move - even if it's only in spirit. I'll be in Chiang Mai, Thailand enjoying the sunshine.

Thanks to all the friends, family, supporters and clients who have made this year - one that started off a little rough - so absolutely wonderful. I am one lucky gal.


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Oh No You Dint Pepsi!

Can we chat about the new Pepsi 'skinny' can that was just launched as part of New York Fashion week?

In the past few years Pepsi has been trying to differentiate itself from Coke (who we all know is eeevil) by doing nice things like the Pepsi Refresh Project. Yeah okay, like when McDonald's is the official sponsor of the Olympic games there is something a little bit disingenuous about this, but even so the effort has seen millions of dollars go into the hands of people working at community level to make a difference in their cities and towns. Big companies are almost always going to have a public image, publicity-driven motive for doing these kinds of things, but that's generally something most consumers are willing to overlook if the results are good.

The slogan for the Refresh Project is: "This year what will you refresh?" Well Pepsi, for starters:
  • I would like to see more realistic looking body types (male and female) in the fashion and entertainment industry so the rest of us aren't continually bombarded by the ridiculous notion that our ability to disappear when turning sideways is more important than our health. 
  • I would like healthy, fresh food to be as readily available and affordable to low income communities as sugar and chemical laden convenience options that have become the cornerstone of the Western diet.
  • I would like the FDA to actually ban products like Aspartame that have been demonstrated to cause brain tumors in rats and were only approved for human consumption in the first place because of shady back room deals.
  • I would like you to fire the horribly confused executive who thought to create the 'Skinny Can' and launch it during a cornerstone event for an industry in which women regularly starve themselves (many have died) to fit this odd ideal that is meant to make us want to buy clothes (and drink zero calorie drinks apparently). 
  • I would like you to revisit the content strategy that made you think it was okay to use terms like 'Get the Skinny' and the assertion that this idiotic PR stunt has anything to do with the "celebration of beautiful, confident women." 'Get the skinny' is so cliche that it hurts, never mind the hypocrisy and falseness of the message.
I can only imagine how much money Pepsi spends on marketing and on employing clever people to build their brand. And I wonder, who their target audience is for this campaign? What mass demographic of your consumers are you trying to speak to with this?

Is Pepsi getting attention for this? Yes. Is it the kind of attention that will endear them to their consumers or help to move their brand forward - further differentiating them from the Coke monster? No.

What the eff Pepsi? This campaign is like bad plastic surgery. It just makes you look ... weird.

Image Credits: Pepsi Can from Grist, Skeletor Model from Hanistan, Donatella Versace from Pictures Chat

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Thailand Photos

More pictures on Flickr.

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Photos from Vietnam

I've posted more on Flickr, but these are the best ones.

They turned out a lot better than I was expecting. I really disliked Vietnam: the grey skies, the chaos on the street, the honking, the scammers ... The photos make it look much nicer than was my experience. It's strange how the memory of a place sometimes doesn't connect with the experience.

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Three Little Birds

I am not a reggae fan but this song has been with me all week. Though I probably hadn't heard it in months, maybe years since looking for it on Youtube today, it is the first thing that pops into my head when I wake up in the morning lately. Bob Marley , what are you doing in my head?

On a related note, the day before yesterday a bird took a crap on my face. We were walking down the street in Cha-am around noon and out of nowhere I had oozing green warm splatter running down the side of my head. Luckily the little bugger missed my hair. Anyhow, according to my Twitter buddies, somehow a bird crapping on your face is meant to foretell good luck.

Three little birds + bird crap + Twitter = obviously a good omen? Yes, I realize the connection is tenuous and none of it really 'means' anything, but I'm prepared to suspend my disbelief for awhile and believe the ghost of Marley knows a little something that I'm not privy to yet.

And yes. I know that makes me a little crazy. Chalk it up to mild sun stroke.

Also. Tomorrow is our last day in Cha-am. On Tuesday morning we are catching a bus at some ungodly hour of the morning to take us north to Chiang Mai. I've enjoyed the mellow vibe by the sea, but I'm ready to move on to somewhere with amenities and hopefully a swimming pool because I'm afraid of jelly fish.

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Chiang Mai or Koh Samui?

We're still holed up in Cha-am, taking in the sea every day and enjoying cooking in our little kitchen. No word on whether the US visa will come through yet, so at the moment we're just enjoying paradise, reading, writing and catching up on some client work. Lurvely.

Cha-am is a pretty basic little place - fairly sleepy - but the sea is warm and only about a two minute walk from our flat. Our rental is up on Monday and then we're thinking of heading to either Koh Samui or Chiang Mai where we'll look to rent a place for a few weeks to a month. We've been offered a small house on Koh Samui for $350 for a month, excluding internet and electricity. There also appears to be a lot of properties available in Chiang Mai though, so we're a bit torn on whether we should head North or South.

Koh Samui is an island so it means beaches and swimming. But the rental isn't super cheap, I don't know how fast the Internet will be (kind of necessary in our line of work), I'm not certain how modern the amenities in the house will be, and from what I can tell there isn't a lot of public transport on the island. Still, paradise.

Chiang Mai is a big city in the North and its supposed to be lovely - in the way Northern Laos was lovely only with more modern conveniences. There seems to be reams of apartments and houses for rent there at fairly reasonable rates and it all looks very modern and comfortable. There's also a lot of wildlife around the Northern region - elephants and monkeys - and generally I think it's a bit less touristy because no ocean (positive and negative).

What would you do?

Images: Koh Samui from Photographs-Asia and Chiang Mai from Wikipedia.

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