Cultural Swag

Once in a while we get to enjoy a little perk or two courtesy of D’s work. He’s got connections, man. He recently came into a package of V.I.P. tickets to the newest exhibit at The ROM (pronounced like CD-ROM), otherwise known as The Royal Ontario Museum. Fun, right? We live in this wonderful city with all kinds of interesting things to do, but so rarely do we actually do any of those things. We were pretty excited to take advantage of an opportunity to spend a day exploring the museum.

As per our chums over at Wikipedia, the ROM was established in 1912 and opened the doors to the public in 1914. It’s one of the largest museums in North America, home to an extensive collection of fossils, minerals, art, and artifacts. It’s a veritable hive of knowledge.

This is how a museum should look

This is how a museum should look

The only thing I dislike about the ROM is the horrendous renovation that was made to  the front entrance back in 2007. It’s called The Crystal and it’s this enormous, oddly shaped mass of aluminum and glass that juts out of the building at an arrogant angle. I did not take any pictures of it, because frankly, it isn’t worth the effort. But if you’re interested in checking it out you can do a quick google and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It is a total eyesore. It just doesn’t feel right, and I hate it. Unfortunately though, you have to use that entrance to get in. Puke.

On Saturday afternoon we made the trek to the museum. A burst water main at Bloor/Yonge station meant we had to take the long way around to get there, but we didn’t mind. It meant we got to get off at Museum station, my favourite of all the subway stations. If I had to guess, I’d say that Museum station has experienced the fewest instances of hobo piss compared to all of the other stations. It just seems like it commands more respect than all of the others. It’s special, and deserves to be appreciated.

It makes me feel adventurous!

It makes me feel all adventurous

And it’s cool because it’s got all these great fake statues and ancient looking columns lining the platform. When I walk along the Museum station platform I like to pretend that I’m on a grand adventure, exploring some previously undiscovered pharaoh’s tomb and looking for forgotten treasures. This little bout of pretend really helped me get in the right mindset for a day at the museum.

You wouldn't dare piss on something as special looking as this, would you?

You wouldn’t dare piss on something as special looking as this, would you?

We had tickets for all of the regular exhibits as well as the latest one called Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World. It was cool, but it was way too crowded. We could barely see anything because all of the displays had people totally surrounding them. Seemed like everyone and their uncle wanted to check out old Mesopotamia last Saturday. The other problem we had is that we’re both short. And I’m a shover too, but I do try not to be quite so quick to shove when I’m out at nice classy joints like the ROM. Instead, I politely skimmed my eyes over whatever it was that I could possibly see while gliding through the exhibit fairly quickly. It was hot and sticky with all those people crammed in there, I just wanted to get out already. We actually enjoyed that exhibit least of all, ranking it last place overall compared to everything else we saw. The best part of any museum is clearly the dinosaurs!

Dinosaurs!

View from up above the main foyer

Everyone loves dinosaurs. They’re big and awesome and exciting. Playing Jurassic Park when we were kids was always super fun. What’s not to love? The best part of the displays are the renderings beside each skeleton that tell you which parts of the display are actual fossils and which parts are recreations.

Chompy!

Chompy!

Scary fish dinosaur

Scary fish dinosaur

Obviously I had to get some shots of the T-Rex

Obviously I had to get some shots of the T-Rex

It was really fun trying to fit that tusk in the frame while a bunch of people kept walking in front of my shot

It was really fun trying to fit that tusk in the frame while a bunch of people kept walking in front of my shot

Thankfully we didn’t experience any sort of sit-com type scenario where one of us sneezed and accidentally knocked over a T-Rex in front of a bunch of dumbfounded onlookers. I was a little bit worried that something like that could happen, I’m not gunna lie. I mean, it happened in pretty much every T.V. show that ever did an episode involving a museum so it seemed like the odds were high.

D liked the dinosaurs a lot too, but he said that his favourite part overall was the rock and mineral displays. We spent a lot of time exploring that section too. It’s fun to learn about all of the amazing treasures that are created naturally within our wacky little planet’s core.

There were tons of shelves of minerals

There were tons of shelves of minerals to look at just like this one

mouthy mineral

Hey, wanna grab some lunch? I’m starving!

In the natural history section there’s also this really cool place called The Bat Cave. It’s this long and winding dark corridor with all of these caves carved into the walls and fake bats floating around inside. As you walk through the darkened cave you can hear recorded bat sounds for a truly immersive experience. Even though it was hella dark in the bat cave, I was able to use the flash to get a few decent pictures.

One of many exciting crevices in the Bat Cave

One of many exciting crevices in the Bat Cave

pretending to scale the bat cave walls, naturally

Pretending to scale the bat cave walls in my head, naturally

I’ve always loved bats. Some of that love can probably be attributed to my fascination with Batman that started at a young age, but mostly I just think they’re cool. If it was feasible to keep a bat as a pet, I probably would. Freaky people keep snakes and tarantulas as pets right, so what would be so different about having a pet bat? If you could keep it in a special cage and feed it and care for it and love it just like you would a hamster that would be so awesome. For now though, I guess I’ll just have to content myself with the little carved bat statue I bought at the ROM gift shop on my way out.

Neither of us had been to the ROM in a really long time. At least 15 years or more for D, and probably 8 or 9 since my last trip. I loved spending the afternoon walking around the museum with D, just taking in one of the great wonders of our city. It was fun, holding hands and making our own hushed little jokes about dinosaur bones. I’m glad we had the opportunity to shake up our routine and do something different. We should make more of an effort to take advantage of all the incredible things our city has to offer more often. Maybe we will.

But then again, sitting around in our sweatpants watching football later that night was pretty great too. I can have it both ways if I want to.

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Outside the Lines

I have an artistic streak. It’s not a wide one by any means, but it’s there. Not to brag or anything, but I took art classes all through high school. Passed ’em and everything. And I was known to colour a real mean book back in the day. My friend The Magpie gave me some grief about this a few weeks ago. Said it wasn’t really believable that I could be artistic. I took umbrage to that. Then I proved her wrong by designing a killer logo for her blog, which you can see here on her site. Yep, that badass little magpie is my creation!

The artistic muscle just doesn’t get flexed as much as it used to, which is a shame because I shouldn’t be letting it get all rusty and shitty like the rest of my muscles. I did a watercolour of Jodi Foster for an assignment in high school, which this girl in my class later called “seductive” during the class critique. I could do that again, probably. All I need are the supplies and an idea!

But I might also be getting ahead of myself. Baby steps. You don’t just get up and run a marathon after years of outstanding achievements in laziness have atrophied your body. You have to wheeze your way up the stairs instead of taking the elevator for a few weeks. Then do some calf raises when you’re forced to stand on the subway on your way to work. Then take your first tentative jog around the block in the blackness of night because glaring bright sunlight and the gazes of a hundred hateful pedestrians aren’t very kind to your chubby cantaloupe legs.

Stick with it long enough though, and even the shittiest muscles will tighten up nicely. Isn’t that how the old saying goes? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s an old runners saying.

That’s what I’m hoping will happen for me. I’ll take a few baby steps, do some paint-by-numbering, and before you know it I’ll be right back to seducing the mysterious and sexually ambivalent girls of my art classes prior with my astonishing works of genius. But just, like, a friendly seduction. I don’t want to turn my whole life upside-down.

Sometime late last year, The Magpie was telling me about this cool paint-by-numbers kit she got with really awesome designs. A cat wearing a fancy coat carrying a fish purse, an old hippie man getting on a cable car in San Francisco. Cool stuff like that. I remembered how much fun I used to have doing paint-by-numbers as a kid and promptly rushed out to get some myself. I got a miniature one with some badass dinosaurs on it that I thought was going to be a real piece of cake. A couple of strokes in and I realized that this was going to take a lot of patience. Which is something I don’t possess in abundance. Also, it was looking hella shitty right out of the gate, so I just kind of gave up on it.

A couple of weeks later, I had to go to the craft store in my hood because I needed supplies for our awesome Halloween costumes. I strode purposefully down the aisle with the paint-by-numbers, just to see what was up. It was there that I found something even better than paint-by-numbers. Something even more lazy and indulgent. Pencil-crayon-by-numbers!

And it just so happened that it was another miniature scene with badass dinosaurs. Fuck yeah, this is my lucky day!

mini dino craft

Excited, I shelled out a whooping $2.99 and raced home to get started on my colouring adventure. When I got home though, I realized what bullshit those teeny tiny pencil crayons they supply you with are. Holy shit, they’re smaller and skinnier than my pinkie finger. And look at how small the fucking thing is compared to a real pencil crayon! I almost want my money back. Almost.

small pencil

small pencil 2

small pencil 3

And don’t even try to tell me that the pencils crayons are so small because I’m doing an activity for children. It clearly states on the packaging that this activity is suitable for anyone ages 8 to 88. They could have at least given out pencil crayons halfway between normal and Oompa Loompa sized ones. Oh well, just another of many great “you-get-what-you-paid-for” moments in my life. But I ploughed ahead with them anyway, despite the functionally impossible size.

ages 8 to 88

The road map to completion that they give you is even crazier. Holy shit, this is an intricate design for such a small-scale craft! And some of the tinier crevices don’t even have the recommended colour guides written on them. How am I supposed to know which colours to mash together in that tenth of a space?

crazy road map

road map

I started off dutifully enough, trying to follow the directions as precisely as possible. And it was coming along nicely too. I’m not going to seduce anyone with this piece, but I’m cool with that. At least I’ve accomplished more here than I did with the paint-by-number version.

About halfway done, and for some inexplicable reason, this little project of mine got stowed away in a desk drawer. Promptly forgotten about for a while, gathering drawer dust. It was starting to look like these dinosaurs were headed the way of extinction just like the paint-by-numbers ancestors that came before them.

But then all of a sudden, one night when D was out, I got this urge to finish what I’d started. I dug the dinosaurs out of the desk drawer and got to colouring. This time was different though. This time I was going to do it my way, guidelines and suggested colours be damned! No matter how hard I tried, I knew it wasn’t going to look anything like the picture on the package. So fuck it, I’m taking over creative control of this bitch!

The artistic streak had awoken from its slumber at long last. I coloured with abandon, and let myself get lost in the process. Before I knew it, D was home and I had a masterfully coloured dinosaur scene to show for my time spent alone.

finished

final product

Needless to say, he was quite taken by my work. I hadn’t intended for it to be so emotionally overpowering, but I’ve since learned that you just can’t stop the bubbling over of intense emotion that results from viewing this spectacularly coloured dinosaur scene. It makes me want to high-kick something. Hiii yaaaa!

I forgot how good it feels to create something. It doesn’t even have to be anything good. Just create something, anything at all, and you will feel good about yourself. You can look scrutiny right in its shrivelled old face and say “frig you, man!”

Indulge your creativity! Let your imagination soar! Live your passions!

Colour some fantastically rad miniature dinosaurs and display them proudly on the wall beside your desk at work for all to see! Because you refuse to be labelled incapable of anything that you know you’re truly capable of. You’re capable and your can-do attitude will never fail you if you trust in it.

But you’ll probably do a few more of these pencil crayon dealies before you move on to conquering the current art scene, just to be safe.