why i own a pair of high school musical socks

Because occasionally something seems like a good idea at the time…

In 2008, my sister, Bri, and I were backpacking around Europe. We were in the town of Maastricht when, like most stinky travellers, we found that our backpacks were nothing more than cesspools of filthy clothing desperately in need of a good detergent-ridden throw-down.

We decided that since we were  heading onto Paris Disneyland next, for our three day vacation-from-a-vacation, this would be the perfect place to do laundry. I mean, Disneyland is Disneyland. Everything there is sparkling and pristine, so clean and perfect it’s almost a vision of a dystopian future. Surely, they should have laundry services, right?

As it turns out, our hotel was the only one in the theme park to have its laundry machine out of service.

Thus, we thought we’d do what we’d been doing all this time, and clean our clothes in the sink and tub and let them hang dry.

But we were stupid. We washed everything. All socks, all undies. Everything.

Naturally, the next morning, “everything” was still sopping wet. We briefly panicked. We wrung our little fingers and shook our little heads in disbelief. This lack of dryness was problematic and unprecedented. Damn French humidity.*

Then Bri had an idea.

Since this was the day we had the early morning passes, we would simply take our wet socks and knickers and hold them out to the fresh air whilst riding Space Mountain over and over again. Surely, the rush of air passing by as we repeatedly endured this rollercoaster would render our undergarments dry in no time, right?


Again, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Whether or not this was because we had spent a lot of time in airport bathrooms with the heavy-duty handdryers and thus had too much faith in the power of… air, remains to be seen.

So we boarded the ride–the sole riders at something like seven am–and Bri unpacked the pairs of wet socks we had in a small plastic bag, handed them to me, and tucked the empty plastic bag between the seats. Holding the wet socks out the sides of the car, where they dangled like limp, dead fish, I–somehow–still thought this was a good idea.

Then the ride launched us.

We shot out ahead.

The plastic bag whipped instantly past our heads, blown back into oblivion.

To make a long story short… it didn’t work.

The socks were still wetter than hell.

As we exited the ride, we instantly realized how stupid we were. I said to Bri, ‘I don’t know what’s worse, that you came up with this idea, or that I thought it was brilliant!’

We laughed ourselves sick at our stupidity.

As the day wore on, things got uncomfortable. If you’re ever curious what it’s like to wander Disneyland going commando, it’s not pleasant. You kind of feel like a pervert.

So, we gave in and decided to buy new socks and gonch. But things are expensive in Disneyland, and we were poor travellers. We had to buy the cheapest socks they had.

And thus, that is why I own a pair of High School Musical socks.

*I have no idea if France is actually more humid than the rest of Europe. I doubt it is, but I was annoyed, so thus, in typical English fashion, I blamed the French.

EDIT (August 1, 2013): I indeed found a picture of said High School Musical socks, taken the day they were purchased. I submit the following as proof of the story:
high school musical socks

to quote or not to quote

There’s some kind of weird po-mo pastiche education to be garnered from quotations. It’s as if we get this window in the soul of the speaker, but really, to be cynical, what we are getting is a quaint aphorism devoid of context. For instance, you hear people quote Polonius’s “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” advice to Laertes from Hamlet all the time, but you never really sense that they’ve thought at all about Polonius’s character here and what a farce he can be. Anyway, with that note, here are some quotes on writing that I happened across through the blessings of the Google God, and only because I completely identify with them, context or not.

Get Started

  • “The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.”
    (William Goldman)
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”
    (Paul Rudnick)
  • “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
    (Mary Heaton Vorse)
  • “One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. I have spent many months on a first paragraph, and once I get it, the rest just comes out very easily.”
    (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  • “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
    (Mark Twain)


Capture Ideas

  • “I carry a notebook with me everywhere. But that’s only the first step. Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”
    (Sue Grafton)
  • “In writing, there is first a creating stage–a time you look for ideas, you explore, you cast around for what you want to say. Like the first phase of building, this creating stage is full of possibilities.”
    (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • “Actually ideas are everywhere. It’s the paperwork, that is, sitting down and thinking them into a coherent story, trying to find just the right words, that can and usually does get to be labor.”
    (Fred Saberhagen)
  • “Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written.”
    (Walter Benjamin)
  • “I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen–whether I’m working on a brief passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book–it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has no place.”
    (Jeffery Deaver)


Cope with the Badness

  • “We can’t be as good as we’d want to, so the question then becomes, how do we cope with our own badness?”
    (Nick Hornby)
  • “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
    (Octavia Butler)
  • “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
    (Anna Quindlen)
  • “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
    (Margaret Atwood)
  • “Don’t get it right, just get it written.”
    (James Thurber)
  • “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'”
    (Maya Angelou)
  • “I think writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys long enough, sooner or later something will come out.”
    (Roy Blount, Jr.)
  • “Lower your standards and keep writing.”
    (William Stafford)


Establish a Routine

  • “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
    (William Faulkner)
  • “And I’m a slow writer: five, six hundred words is a good day. That’s the reason it took me 20 years to write those million and a half words of the Civil War.”
    (Shelby Foote)
  • “I set myself 600 words a day as a minimum output, regardless of the weather, my state of mind or if I’m sick or well.”
    (Arthur Hailey)
  • “All through my career I’ve written 1,000 words a day–even if I’ve got a hangover. You’ve got to discipline yourself if you’re professional. There’s no other way.”
    (J.G. Ballard)
  • “I write 2,000 words a day when I write. It sometimes takes three hours, it sometimes takes five.”
    (Nicholas Sparks)
  • “I have to get into a sort of zone. It has something to do with an inability to concentrate, which is the absolute bottom line of writing.”
    (Stephen Fry)
  • “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
    (Barbara Kingsolver)



  • “If you want to write, write it. That’s the first rule.”
    (Robert Parker)
  • “My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline.”
    (Mary Garden)
  • “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining–researching–talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
    (E. L. Doctorow)
  • “If you are a genius, you’ll make your own rules, but if not–and the odds are against it–go to your desk, no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper–write.”
    (J. B. Priestly)
  • “To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.”
    (Gertrude Stein)
  • “The writer’s duty is to keep on writing.”
    (William Styron)
  • “Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.”
    (Daniel Pinkwater)

Compiled by Richard Nordquist

lower your standards and keep writing

(quote by William Stafford)

It’s a running joke amongst my family members that during some kind of family get-together, whenever something goes down which I will one day recount to a therapist, I’m getting my best material. I think the general consensus is that while they giggle and spill their drinks, and I sit there staring with some look of profound horror/disbelief splashed across my face, I’m “writing.”

This is true.

Only I’m usually far too traumatized to actually write about it.

Recently, I’ve decided that since I am too poor to afford therapy, I will have to write about it. Thus, expect a lot more stories about my family up here. There’s a good draw, I’ll be honest.

“We can’t be as good as we’d want to, so the question then becomes, how do we cope with our own badness?”
(Nick Hornby)

the lost pom-pom: a depressing christmas yarn (pun intended)

I thought I’d share a story of my tortured childhood. I have no idea how this is relevant, but while I spent an hour of the taxpayers dime decorating a Christmas tree, a memory rose to the surface of my bubbling, festering stew of a mind.

In grade five we got to do what most elementary school kids do around the holiday season: waste the better part of our young days making crappy Christmas decorations out of things like popsicle sticks and macaroni. For some reason, this year, we were charged with making pom-poms… presumably to function as tree ornaments.

We were politely ordered to bring in different colours of yarn to make a festive addition to each of our snot-nosed holiday households. Red and green were the colours of choice, perhaps white or even gold were acceptable.

However, for me, a festive pom-pom was not to be.

Mom insisted that it was wasteful, and not to mention an incovenient thorn in her already overstressed side, to go out to the store to buy new yarn when we already had some at home. Stuffing the hand-knit sweater leftovers into my grubby little child hands, she promptly told me to make do or shut up. What she actually said was probably less harsh, but this is how the “victim” tells the story.

This sounds reasonable, right? I mean, waste not and all that…. She was simply being “green,” right?

Of course, but kids don’t get that crap. All I understood was that I had to make my pom-pom ornament out of MAGENTA, TURQUOISE and BLACK yarn.  It was so, so, so nineties.

On the festive scale, this is somewhere near those horrible yuppies on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

But I was determined in my little childish heart of hearts that I would not let my ugly-as-fuck pom-pom ruin Christmas. In fact, I was adamant that I would make Christmas ABOUT my ugly-as-fuck pom-pom.

It was displayed front and centre on the tree, right between Mom’s Elvis ornament and the one Bri and I pulled out of Rice Crispies box.

Mom hated it.

She kept trying to move it to the back of the tree. But I kept finding it, and moving it back.

Every year, we went through this struggle.

Every year, the ugly-as-fuck pom-pom danced around the tree: back to front, front to back. It was Ginger and Fred, all December long.

But then one Christmas, Mom outsmarted me.

I guess she either A)  had enough once and for all, B) had a few too many Christmas mojitos,  C)had finally come up with a brilliant plan, or  D) all of the above.

See, we have cats. There’s a rule in our house that you keep any ornaments you don’t want broken at least a foot from the bottom of the tree.  This rule was conceived after Christmas 1995, when an ornament with a lot of tinsel inside was broken open and eaten by one of the little purring lovelies. I guess Dad can only handle pulling so much tinsel out of a cat butt before he lays down the law.

This was where Mom discovered the perfect way to sabotage the pom-pom.

See, a pom-pom hanging front and centre, from the bottom of the tree is nothing more than a very, very, very, very tempting cat toy. I’m still convinced she also rubbed cat nip on it, too, you know, just to get the little bleeders foaming at the mouth for their next hit.  

It was so simple. Ingenious really. I should compliment her on it, but I’m still bitter.

I entered the living room like one imagines refugees return to their bombed-out homes. There were small fragments of magenta here, turquoise there. Bits of half-digested black yarn were coughed up all over the couch. It looked like a bomb full of everything nineties exploded in the living room, spraying magenta, black and turquoise shrapnel over everything.

I was distraught. And in that deeply depressing way someone in their mid late twenties definitely should not be. And as I realized this, it made me even more distraught. It is a horrible, vicious cycle.

Thanks, Mom.

Mom: 1    Ashleigh: 0

death is a star / no country for old men

I love (almost) everything about The Clash, and this is one of my favourites:

I was listening to it, and being the English lit student I have been, I took a closer look at the lyrics.

Which happen to be:

And I was gripped by that deadly phantom
I followed him through hard jungles
As he stalked through the back lots
Strangling through the night shades

The thief of life
Moved onwards and outwards to love

In a one stop only motel
A storm bangs on the cheapest room
The phantom slips in to spill blood
Even on the sweetest honeymoon

The killer of love
Caught the last late Niagara bus

By chance or escaping from misery
By suddeness or in answer to pain
Smoking in the dark cinema
You could see the bad go down again

And the clouds are high in Spanish mountains
A ford roars through the night full of rain.

The killer’s blood flows
But he loads his gun again

Make a grown man cry like a girl
To see the guns dying at sunset

In vain lovers claim
that they never have met.

The hauntingly beautiful poetry, coupled with fantastic atmosphere of the music make me think of this:

Which really is its own kind of cinematic poetry.

I don’t really know where I’m going with all of this, but there’s something exquisite and abstract connecting this all in my brain. Perhaps later I will attempt to explain it and extrapolate out my thoughts into some kind of essay connecting Cinema, the American West, and (Post-)Punk Rock. There seems some kind of a loose potential; underneath each of those points is a strange undercurrent of the ideologies of masculine identity, violence, and Frontierism, and both The Clash and the Coens seems to be making some kind of deconstructive/self-reflexive statement on that.

Hmm…. indeed. Do I smell a potential thesis regarding punk rock and auteur cinema? Perhaps somehow related to the auteurs / punks having reached maturity? Oh well… so much abstract that now I need to read a bunch of web comics to bring my brain back to some semblance of normalcy.