Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Does this actually appeal to people?

Bursting with 3,109** breath strips **minimum number in this tube

Its interesting how in the past couple of years, the variety of toothpaste available has increased dramatically. Rather than basic minty toothpaste being marketed by several brands, there are now many flavours and varieties. While still quite affordable today, it seems that toothpaste will soon become a designer item, with more expensive brands marketing lavish flavours.

I can see the appeal of different flavours of toothpaste, since toothpaste does have a fairly strong flavour (at least the mainstream concotions, sweetened with saccharin do), and teethbrushing is done frequently. It seems that companies are trying to find new ways to market their brand, either through claims to whiten, strengthen enamel, prevent cavities, etc. (all of which are reasonable things to expect), but also it seems that more frivolous marketing techniques are being used. For example, I purchased a variety pack of items a couple months ago, which came with a lot of products at a very reasonable price. I recently started using the toothpaste that came with the pack. This Colgate MaxFresh toothpaste is 'infused with Dissovable Mini Breath Strips'. In my experience, my teeth always feel clean and my breath fresh after I brush my teeth. I don't really feel the need to find to find ways to make my teeth cleaning experience more 'minty' and 'fresh', but somehow current marketing techniques are trying to press this idea further. It doesn't really make sense to me to put breath strips in toothpaste. I mean, breathstrips are designed for people who want fresh breath when they are out and can't (more realistic to say don't want to, or can't be bothered to) brush their teeth. This is a less effective way to freshen your breath when you may not be able to brush your teeth. So why is this new variation on the breath mint being added to toothpaste? It is completely unneccessary, and I would find it hard to believe that it actually would improve the quality of the toothpaste. The label also sports many terms and claims trying to prove its superiority in breath freshening ability, such as "Experience a Whole New Dimension of Freshness", "WITH 50% MORE BREATH STRIPS", and my favourite, the jumbled collection of words that seem more to me like they are advertising an action movie:

To me, infusing already minty toothpaste with breathstrips seems as unnecessary as adding coffee flavour to coffee. Also, the fact that this toothpaste now has 50% more breathstrips tells me that they first came out with toothpaste that contained breathstrips, and either people for some reason didn't think there were enough of the little minty strips, or Colgate just needed to find something to market their product further and took it upon themselves to improve it.

So I will stop my annoying cynicism here, but will explain why I am so critical. I find a lot of ads actually make me less inclined to purchase a product, because the ad is so rediculous, and I don't know how they could think it would possibly appeal to me. I don't understand how it could appeal to anyone, quite frankly. I also think that the state of humanity in general is greatly underestimated most of the time, and we allow ourselves to be lowered to a less civil and intelligent level. Lets give people the credit they deserve, and address them as they deserve. Assuming that everyone has bought into mindless entertainment, is apathetic and has pre-determined values is an insult to humanity.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

some amazing songs

1. Old Man - Neil Young
I've loved this song since I was a kid, I remember the first time I heard it, my brother was driving and he was talking about it. It's still one of my favourite songs today, its just so incredibly beautiful. The guitar is beautiful, his voice is beautiful, the lyrics are beautiful. Everything about this song is perfect, and it makes me feel at peace.
2. Needle and the Damage Done - Neil Young
This is a sad song about the damaging affects that cocaine can have on one's life, yet it resonates differently with me. This gentle song brings me back to earlier years and leaves me feeling content and slightly sentimental.
3. Save Me - Aimee Mann
Quietly desperate, pretty, sad, dark, intricately simple. This song was featured in the film Magnolia, a strange but interesting movie which Aimee provided most of the soundtrack for, and her music was absolutely perfect for the film. Also listen to Wise Up (very melancholy) and Aimee's cover of One, which was used for the opening of the film. They couldn't have found a better peice for it.
4. Comptine d'une Autre ete - Yann Tiersen (sorry I couldn't put the accents in on ete)
Gorgeous, sweet, sad. This piano peice was featured in the film Amelie. His music really captured the feeling of the film (or perhaps that feeling wouldn't have been complete in the first place without his music). I can feel Amelie's sweet personality, her joy and sorrow, and the streets of France when I listen to this soundtrack. Also listen to La Valse d'Amelie, a magical and light peice which makes me feel terribly sad and happy and the same time, La Noyee, Les Jours Tristes, and La Valse des Monstres (all from the soundtrack). Other good songs by Yann are Le Demarche and La Plage, plus so many others. He is incredibly so just listen to him.

5. Roman Candle - Elliot Smith
I love this entire album, I used to addictively listen to it constantly (which is extremely rare for me, I never overplay music). It is heartbreaking, sincere, dark, and touching. Surprisingly, this used to be one of my favourite songs to sing along to. Condor Ave is my favourite song on the album, but I love every song. This was Elliot's first album and was also served as my introduction to him. It's completely honest and consistently mournful, yet carries an air of hope with it.
6. Who Killed Amanda Palmer - Amanda Palmer
I didn't feel like picking a song so please just listen to all of them. Amanda is an incredibly accomplished musician for such a young age, I saw her play live a couple weeks ago and it was the best concert I'd ever been to. She had a theatre troup travelling with her and they put on an incredible show, not to sound lame but it was pure art. Her songs are dark, sorrowful, playful, and wise. She made a series of videos that conceptually go in order to tell the story of her songs. You can watch them at
Amanda was in a great band called the Dresden Dolls, check them out too!

There are so many more songs that I would like to share, but I need to go to bed. I'll continue this list later.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Last Christmas I got to pick out a plant as a gift from my Aunt, and I chose an orchid. It was in bloom when we bought it , and still is. Orchids generally bloom about once a year, or just whenever they feel like it, but for some reason this amazing orchid that I have has been in bloom non stop since I got it (which was a year ago). As soon as the last flower on it dies, within one day another flower will bloom, and then a few more. It generally has three flowers in bloom at all times, and I think this is its fourth cycle of flowers.

This summer while I was driving home from Quebec, we stopped at an orchid nursery. The large greenhouse was in a couple's backyard, and the neighbours thought they were selling pot, so they had an open house. It was amazing to see the variety of orchids they had there, and the amount of care they put into them. Some varieties have to be soaked in water every day, and the plants don't bloom until they are over 20 years old. I saw one black lady slipper type orchid that is a hybrid between paph. macabre and paph. wardii, or 'black mask' and 'smooth chocolate.' I honestly thought it was the most sinister looking flower I had ever seen, but my Mom started talking about how cool it was. It was pretty incredible looking, and of all the orchids we saw it appealed to me the most. We bought one that hadn't yet bloomed, and it might be a couple years before it does, I don't really know. When it does bloom, I will post pictures.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Problem with Axe

I just watched the video at and was surprised that Axe is getting away with such distasteful advertising. First of all, the ad reinforces gender stereotypes while humourizing sexual agression, assault, and injury. Last time I checked, those crimes were no laughing matter, but as soon as the act is performed by an attractive female, it is no longer deemed offensive. Terrible acts of sexual violence occur every day, mostly towards women. Turning the situation around does not take away the horrific aspect of such crimes, it just reminds us of them.

First of all, it gives the definition of a 'nice' girl as law-abiding and cookie baking. While cookie baking is an innocent enough activity, used in this context it seems to support the image of a 'timid homemaker' who is submissive to male gender-ideals. Maybe 'naughty' girls like to bake cookies too. Somehow these women (deans list students included) lose all sense of dignity and self control and completely throw themselves at men wearing axe products. They are now deemed 'naughty' and 'wayward,' and need to be rehabilitated. So the ads are basically saying that this is not acceptable female behaviour, but we are using it to sell our product; men want women to be so attracted to them that they lose all self control. I also don't find the man in the coma, happy as he may look, to be particularly funny. Any image of an injured human being isn't funny in my mind, especially when they are displayed in a way that would be exploitive if it were a real life situation.

This video, as well as all Axe television ads, takes the way sex and attraction are used in advertising to a whole new level. They portray women as lustful lunatics, whose only force is their sexuality. The concepts of naughty and nice are manifested through sexual inequalities, and are subjective definitions. Axe portrays them in the most stereotypical forms, and presents the two extremes as black and white, rather than a palette of shades of grey. A woman can be intelligent, attractive, a feminist, a great baker, and be comfortable enough with her sexuality to make the first move and go after what she wants. Just not in the world of Axe. I'm sick of seeing bullshit like this that is a disgrace to men and women and everything imbetween as human beings.

On another note, have you seen any of the progressive Dove ads? Check out evolution, onslaught, and pro-age. Within themselves, I appreciate these videos, but they are an ad campaign, used to sell products. The company decided to take a risk and try something different, which is great, to see if it sells. This isn't advocacy or activism, its advertising. And there isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, we just have to recognize it for what it is, and not leave Dove unquestioned just because they have some good ads. Dove is a huge corporation, and doesn't care about its consumers. Their products contain chemicals that are known carcinogens. They can get away with this, since the affect of carcinogenic cosmetics is not a well known risk, and many companies include such ingredients in their products. My point is that if Dove actually cared about women, it would make all its products 100% safe. Search Dove on Environmental Working Group's chemical database if you would like to learn more about this ( Dove also tests on animals, which wouldn't be necessary if they weren't using questionable ingredients in the first place, and still isn't necessary even if they do. So why did I start ranting on about Dove when my post is supposed to be about Axe? Because Dove and Axe are both owned by Unilever. So two companies with drastically different approaches to advertising are owned by the same company. I'm not necessarily asking you to boycott Dove, but I think their connection to Axe is something we should call them on (Unilever and Axe should be contaced as well). As for Axe, buying their product is telling them that their advertising is working, regardless as to whether you have actually seen their ads or not. So unless you don't consider their tactics to be an insult to the human race, look for another company to buy from. Better yet, stay clear of overpowering bodysprays in the first place. People need to breathe.

Going back to the site, I just realized that I veiwed the U.S. video. The Canadian version is actually less offensive, but this doesn't change the fact that the U.S. version still exists. Its interesting that ads are catered to us diffently than to the U.S.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Urban Herbivore

I was at U of T this afternoon for a panel, so I decided to go to my favourite place in the world afterwards..Kensingon Market. I didn't recognize the area where I was at U of T, but decided to just start walking randomly in the direction that felt right, not really having any clue whether I was walking in the right direction, but not really caring since I wasn't in a rush. I later turned onto College, since I knew that bordered on the Market, but still wasn't sure if I was headed in the right direction. Then I started to recognize things, and before I knew it I was there!

The first time I ever went to KM was with a bunch of friends from highschool on my birthday, and I remember we went into this cool Chinese gift store on the way there, but I haven't seen the store since. Well today I noticed it and went in, it felt cool to be back in the same place from a couple years ago. It was kind of nice go there by myself, since I could leisurely spend the day doing whatever I wanted. I bought a couple of Christmas gifts for my family, wandered through store upon store, bought a few groceries and some new kinds of tea, and had dinner at Urban Herbivore.

Urban Herbivore is one of my favourite restaurants, located on the corner of Augusta and Oxford. It is bright and clean inside, with wooden counters and stools to sit at, ferns hanging from the ceiling, and it even has a green roof. The menu is small but healthy. Salads are incredible, you chose which greens you want and then get to select six toppings. Choices are endless with both raw and cooked ingredients of all kinds. Be prepared to have the tastiest salad of your life! They always have some meal of the day (chili, rice bowl, etc.), and have several sandwiches to chose from. Even though I should try something different, I always order the BBQ tofu sandwich, because it is just so incredibly good. I'm not a huge sandwich person, but this sandwich is most definately an exception. I may not be entirely correct here, but I think the sandwich consists of bbqued tofu (of course) on a grilled herbed bun which seems to be homemade, topped with sprouts, tahini, olive spread, pesto, and spinach. The tofu has great flavour and texture, I suggest trying it even if you don't generally like tofu. They also make fresh juices and serve organic teas and fair trade coffee, and sell homade muffins, cookies and banana bread (all vegan). Resusable dishes are used for eat in, and take out containers and utensils are biodegradable. They sell soups and sauces to take home, a large container of pesto is only $3 and is delicious. My Mom bought some once and we were eating it by the spoonful and made an incredible pizza with pesto sauce. I picked up some more today, it fell out of my bag and the container smashed on the sidewalk, but I managed to carry it on the bus and subway without too much leaking out and transfered it to another container when I got home.
Just to warn you, as I mentioned the seating consists of counters and stools, which are comfortable to use as a place so sit and take a meal break or meet a friend, but I probably wouldn't go there for a birthday or formal meal to meet a bunch of people. I give Urban Herbivore five stars for taste, health, sustainability, atmosphere and style.


I never get around to blogging about things until well after they have passed, but anyway, better late then never I suppose.

My birthday was about three weeks ago, and I had a wonderful several days with my family, and shared some nice meals. My parents are amazing and made me some delicious vegan cakes!

Pictured below is a carrot cake that my stepmom made me. It was soo moist and delicious! I think it was the first time I have had carrot cake since I've been vegan. I pixelated my name just to be silly, but after all this is the internet, so I guess its better to be safe. I can still tell what is says though.

My Mom made me the cake with the raspberries. It is vanilla lemon almond flavoured cake with jam in the middle and frosting and raspberries on top. Believe it or not, the raspberries were actually fresh from our backyard, despite the fact that its November. The flavour of the cake was incredible and I loved the thick texture.

So this may not be the most interesting blog to read, but I was quite excited about my cakes since I don't eat cake all that often, and thought it was quite nice that my parents made them for me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

School of the Americas

Last week I went to Georgia for the School of the Americas protest. It was an incredible experience in so many ways. The energy at the protest site is amazing, everyone is so passionate and peaceful. It was truly inspiring to see so many people (20,000) of all ages speaking out against U.S. foreign policy. There were many older people, well into their 80s, still fighting for peace and justice. Everyone was super friendly, and it was great to see so many people that have kept activism with them throughout their entire lives.

On Sat there was basically a festival at the protest site, with speakers and musicians performing all day long, free vegan food from Food Not Bombs, and tables set up by organizations, faith groups and alternative companies. The Puppetistas did an amazing performance, which anyone could participate in. They had a large puppet (which I think was 28ft tall), with words like Empire and rape on it. It was moving slowly and making eerie noises, while people on stilts around it hissed at and chased people. It paraded down the road, and behind it came people with flags that said 'winds of change', then people with signs that said women power, worker power, spirit power, and first nations power. When they all got to the front stage and came together, they brought down the empire puppet, which slowly collapsed and fell to the ground, and everyone was dancing and celebrating. It was very moving, and was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.
Sunday was the actual protest, starting with speakers in the morning. People dressed in black and carrying cardboard coffins led the funeral procession, followed by 20,000 protesters, most of whom were holding a cross bearing the name of a person murdered by an SOA graduate. People on the stage would sing out the name and age of a victim, and we would all hold up our crosses and sing 'presente', meaning that they are here with us. It was very beautiful and moving. I was amazed at how angelic the voices sounded, how so many people singing together sounded so in tune. When we arrived at the fence that is blocking off the SOA / WHINSEC, we put our crosses in the fence. After I arrived at the fence I sat down on the grass, closed my eyes and listening to the rest of the names being called out. WHINSEC kept blaring out warnings that you will be arrested if you cross the fence, what the penalties are, etc. while the names were being called out. I thought it was incredibly disrespectful that they would blast their message over a memorial service, especially since all of us were already well aware of the consequences of crossing the line.

Once the last person's name was called out, the people on the stage started talking about all the positive changes that are happening in the world. The puppetistas did another amazing performance, and there was a 'celebration of life' with everyone dancing. We danced and marched down the streets, onto the main road and through residential areas as well, singing chants and cheering. There was so much life and energy in the group that it is difficult to capture in words.
I met so many great people this weekend. Not only was the protest amazing, but the road trip to get there was tons of fun, getting to know people in our caravan, and staying at hotels (with eight people in a single room!)


I shouldn't assume that you know what the SOA is, so I'll give you a bit of background information here. The School of the Americas is a military school in the U.S. that trains Latin American soldiers. Many graduates of this school have gone on to commit human rights violations, including the massacre at El Mozote, where basically all of El Mozote and surrounding villages were massacred, killing a total of 767 people (many of which were children); the massacre of 43 people in Segovia Columbia; and the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. The SOA denies responsbility for the actions of their graduates, but you can not let murder go ignored an unquestioned. The SOA denies teaching methods that would lead to human rights violations, but torture manuals were actually found at the SOA.

The SOA 'closed down', and the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation opened in the same location TWO WEEKS LATER. This is the same school, still training Latin American soldiers, but with a different name. It takes a long time to plan a school, write the courses, find teachers, etc., and it is far to large of a coincidence that an entirely different school would open right after the SOA closed, with similar goals and many of the same instructors. I attended a presentation and panel at WHINSEC with an open mind, willing to hear what they had to say, but was not convinced at all. The entire presentation was glossed over and not substantive, they keep bringing up the same simple arguments over and over and refuse to admit that the school
should in any way be held responsible for crimes committed by its graduates. WHINSEC is supporting Plan Columbia, a very irresponible way of dealing with the U.S. drug trade by aerial spraying coca plants in Columbia, devastating local families and the environment. Plan Columbia is a good film to watch if you would like to learn more about this.

I gave a very brief synopsis of the school, but please check the School of the Americas Watch website out at for more detailed information.