Saturday, 21 September 2013

Cake Can Get You Pretty Far...

A conversation that Alan and I had while cleaning out his apartment and packing him up to move into my house:

JORDAN: Are we tossing this pan? [Holding up a bent, sorry-looking square tin baking pan]

ALAN: Errr....well, I guess we can.

JORDAN: Why the hesitation? It's a mess.

ALAN: That pan has been with me a long time.

JORDAN: And you're...sentimentally attached to it?

ALAN: Well, yeah...I've baked a lot of cakes in it.


ALAN: For girls. That pan got me a lot of...girls.

JORDAN: So this is basically your sex pan.

ALAN: Shhhhyeah. [Silly grin.]

JORDAN: You used to bake cakes for girls, and they'd put out.

ALAN: Yeah.

JORDAN: How good was the cake???

ALAN: I make great cake in that pan.

JORDAN lobs pan into garbage pile, then stands there in silence. A moment later, she fishes the pan out of the garbage and puts it into the packing box.

ALAN: We're keeping it?

JORDAN: Yes. I think I deserve sex cake, too.

ALAN: ...Okey dokey.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Harvest Food Show: joyous bellies and locally-made happiness

This September saw the first-ever Harvest Food and Drink Show, put on by the geniuses behind the
Wheatless Sweetness: the best brownies maybe ever.
biannual Handmade Harvest Craft Show, and I was lucky enough to attend. It’s been over a week yet I haven’t stopped raving about it, and if you were there then you’re probably still raving, too.

Almonte Ontario’s Agricultural Hall was festooned with food-theme decorations and filled with dozens of local food and drink makers from around the Ottawa Valley; for six glorious hours the Hall was filled with the aromas of pulled pork, micro-brewed beer, and buttercream icing. Admission got you in the door with $5.00 in tickets that could be traded for cups of wine and buns full of meat, and most vendors had some wares on site for immediate purchase and take-home.

I was in heaven.

My favourites for the show were as follows:

You don’t have to be lactose intolerant or vegan to love this fake cheese, as was obvious from the droves of people purchasing blocks to take home. Of course, when they sold out of their sundried tomato flavour, this was a grave injustice to those of us who are indeed lactose-phobic; but nonetheless, these guys stole the show in my opinion. Mad Faux makes fake cheese out of cashews—how this is done I do not know, but I can tell you it’s a food miracle. Their three flavours were all delicious: the sundried tomato and basil was outstanding and flavourful, while the smoked gouda was remarkably close to the real thing…and the brie was soft and mild, almost more like a chevre. I took some of the brie home and melted it over a plate of pasta and roasted veggies, then ate some more for a snack on toast with a bit of vanilla-pear jam. Amazing.

You can order their cheese online and pick it up weekly at Auntie Loo’s bake shop as long as you’re in Ottawa, so be sure to check out their site and get ordering, people. Vegan or not, bring this to a dinner party or lay it out for noshing with wine. It’ll be a hit.
Mad Faux Cheese: my new best friend.

The Merry Dairy is an awesome food truck, peddling icy wares all across the Ottawa area and she’s even got GPS so you can follow her around town. Marlene makes frozen custard by hand—an icecream-style treat with egg yolk in the recipe, creamier and more indulgent than any other frozen dairy treat you’re gonna find out there. It was great to see them on site, and what’s wonderful about this truck is that you can find her all over the place, so no one has to miss out. Though her treats are so good, I suggest you follow her truck on the website and just become a travelling groupie.

This was my first time meeting these two lovely ladies, and their product was really awesome. The Sensitive Oat makes granola from scratch that’s totally dairy-free, amongst other things. They’re currently working on a nut-free recipe for those who have that miserable allergy. Their signature flavour is ‘french toast’, with a healthy dose of cinnamon; I took home a box and I’ve been eating it on top of my yogurt in the morning. Aside from making a tasty product, they’re also genuinely sweet ladies. Check ‘em out.

I didn’t have a lot of room left to sample all their wares, but we munched on a bit of Wheatless Sweetness’ brownies, and I wanted to roll myself in the whole pan. Sweet, rich, fudgy, and dense, these brownies were everything a brownie should be—additionally, gluten-free for those who fear the wheat.

Don’s provided pulled pork sliders. I don’t know what else to write here because I can’t express drooling sounds over a keyboard. The meat was saucy but not soaked, tender but not mushy; I went back twice and consequently had to nibble my way through the desserts.

I won't even bother telling you how awesome this little confectionary company is...because I already blogged about it here. Suffice it to say, you need to try the honey comb (honey-based sponge toffee.)

There were some lovely beverage producers, as well: for example, Ashton Brewing Company, Harwood Estate Vineyards, Broadhead Brewing, and Rockway Winery got people feeling warm and tingly, while Equator Coffee sobered them up before sending them out into the brisk September afternoon. Local standards like Auntie Loo’s treats and the incomparable Koko Chocolates were there too; I made stops at both.

The official vendors' list

The show was weighted a bit heavily towards desserts and sweets, but this was their first year and I think word will spread quickly about how awesome it was received by the attendees. I hope to see more of our local meat producers coming out next year, and maybe some veggie farmers or soups to take home….mmmmmm….

Overall, the show was lovely. We spent about $15 total on food tickets and left with full bellies…and I won’t even tell you how much I spent on stuff to take home. But it was a great little afternoon date, and I will be there next year with a cooler for all the goodies I plan to bring back with me!
Sweet Secrets--not so secret!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Star Wars in Ottawa: Identities Exhibit Fun

Well, since my boyfriend Alan most closely resembles a Wookie, and my best friend MJ called dibs on being Han Solo years ago, I guess my sass and penchant for odd hair-dos makes me a ringer for Princess Leia. And so off we went--Han, Chewie, and Leia--to the Star Wars Identities exhibit here in Ottawa last weekend.

I didn't know what to expect from this show, and frankly it didn't really matter: MJ is a lifelong Star Wars fanatic, so even if the exhibit was simply 200 props piled in the middle of the floor, we were going to take her to see it and she was going to love every minute of it. The girl knows things that no one but Lucas should know; I can ask her about any character in the Mos Eisley cantina, and she will give me their name, their dog's name, and the mailing address. I'm not joking when I say, this exhibit would be a 'win' no matter what was there.

To my delight, however, it was much more than just props in boxes. The whole show had a spin on 'nature vs. nurture', genetics, and innate vs. learned behaviours. The show starts off with each visitor choosing a Star Wars species and naming their character, and as we walked through the show, we assigned those characters back stories, home planets, professions, and personality traits. An earpiece allowed each of us to hear the audio tracks to various animations detailing how our own human identities are formed, citing examples from the Star Wars saga. Pretty cool stuff, indeed.

The props were really great, too. I enjoyed that there were a lot of concept sketches and random funny scribbles by the production team, all with explanations posted to share the 'inside jokes' with you. As a travelling exhibit, the setup was quite simple--no X-Wings hanging from the ceiling or life-sized dioramas to walk through--but the artifacts were all in pristine condition and displayed in crystal-clear cases. It made me even more certain than ever that Jedi robes should totally be the next fashion trend.

And how did MJ like it? She wandered through with giant wide eyes, taking photos of everything, even items from the newest three movies (which she generally hates, like all genuine old school Star Wars fans). She loved the interactivity of getting to build your own character, choosing traits and back stories and saving them all on the supplied magic wrist band, which later presented you with a projection of your completed Star Wars character.

This is a girl who, every time the opening notes of the Star Wars theme song roar through the speakers on her TV, smiles like a fiend and conducts the orchestra. So, other than wanting to actually wear some of the costumes, I think MJ was about the happiest little geek in all the universe. And even I--with much more a Star Trek upbringing--was mesmerized by the impeccable props and super cool interactive character-building displays.

I recommend you head down to the show, which is continuing on at the Canada Aviation & Space Museum until October 14 2013. Whatever your age, whatever you geek level, you will emerge with a new Star Wars identity to call your own.

Monday, 9 September 2013

An Open Letter to DC Comics on Homophobia & Heroes

An open letter to DC Comics on Homophobia & Heroes
credit: Adam Tupper

To: DC Comics
From: Jordan Danger, President of Capital Geek Girls

Dear DC Comics execs and editors,

I am heartily concerned over learning the recent news that several creative minds have left your projects after institutionally-sanctioned homophobia has been affecting their work. This year’s debacle with Orson Scott Card and his outspoken homophobic beliefs was enough of an alarm bell for me regarding your sensitivity to GLBTTQ issues—it took creatives leaving the team, and a giant online petition before you took Card off the Superman series—but now I hear that you’re also refusing to let Batwoman (Kate) marry her sweetheart Maggie. Top this all off with the suspicious and untimely death of the Golden Age Green Lantern’s male lover, and we’ve got a pattern forming. So I’m writing you this letter. Hey, there.

Surely you understand that the comic book world is in enough upheaval after the casting of a certain Ben Affleck as the next Batman was just recently announced, and that nerves are indeed on edge. It seems like maybe this would be the time to give people a bit of what they want, don’t you think? And what people want is for Batwoman and Maggie to be allowed to marry.

DC seems to be (accidentally, I hope) sending a repetitive message that you are not very gay-friendly, and that’s a serious concern for me and many other fans. I don’t understand how a company that promotes superheroes could be comfortable with abetting discrimination against a minority group of any sort, let alone one that would totally support your superheroes’ proclivity for rock-hard abs and public displays of lycra. I don’t remember ever seeing Wonder Woman ignore a man’s pleas for help once he’d been identified as ‘light in the loafers’; I do, however, remember seeing her at the Ottawa Pride Parade in all her 6’2” glory, and only the barest hint of an Adam’s Apple.
Clearly the gay community has embraced your work, DC; so why haven’t you embraced us back?

Well, DC, I just can’t rationalize it for you. I think you’re going to have to come clean: there’s a streak of dark, poisonous homophobia running through your veins. Okay, that’s bad news. But maybe I have a solution.

Bring me in to help you.

Meet with me, give me a year, and we’ll convert your whole team to rainbow flag-waving allies. (Does the word ‘convert’ make you nervous, boys? Oops, sorry.)

I, Jordan Danger, am a longstanding, award-winning GLBTTQ activist and sexual health educator. I joined various committees and youth groups when I was in my teens, and spent countless hours educating parents, teachers, counsellors, doctors, and other professionals on the GLBTTQ community. We taught them acceptance—that we’re just like you, and we deserve representation, too. I have hundreds and hundreds of hours doing this kind of work, and I once even stood at the front of a Muslim youth group for over an hour defending my very existence, so I think I could handle your staff meetings.
credit: Adam Tupper

I’m not even joking: bring me in and we’ll get your whole team on board. Before you know it, you’ll have a company that’s popular, respectful, and actually abides by the values of the heroes you create. We’ll start from the top down, and I promise I’ll be gentle. You can ask me anything ‘cause I’ve heard it all—if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how lesbians ‘do it’, I’d have a nice summer home in San Fran, let me tell you. You cannot offend me in your quest to learn and grow. The only thing offensive right now is your ignorance and uneducated bias.

I see your recent actions for what they are: you are shining a batsignal into the sky, begging for help. Well, let’s have a chat. I may not be the hero you want, but I’m the hero you need.

And if we can get you back on track, I think you can be the creators of the heroes we want, too.



Thursday, 5 September 2013

First World Problems: Why that term is harmful

Let’s have a chat about the phrase, “First world problems”.

I hate the term.

“First world problems” is a term that I learned a couple years ago, I suppose; it generally is accepted to mean, “The problems of privileged people from first world nations who are complaining about things that, when put into the perspective of third-world citizens’ issues, are insignificant.”

“Mom and Dad will only pay for me to have a compact car after high school and I really wanted a sports car.”

“My Starbucks latte was totally made with the wrong syrup.”

“I’m stressed out because I can’t afford that limited edition Batman lamp with Bruce Timm signature!”

Okay, so I get it: people whine about a lot of things that are actually pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme of life. But this term really drives me nuts, and I dislike how people bandy it about, using it to shut people up when they’re talking about their problems. It occurred to me recently, when my boyfriend (of all people) used the term to shut me up, that this could be a simple matter of perspective and knowledge. Let’s look at something together:


credit: wikipedia

This is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In a nutshell, the psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs back in 1943. It basically said that, as a person’s basic needs are met, s/he will move on to different types of needs and concerns. For instance, once Joey’s need for food and shelter is met, he’s going to find himself seeking companionship…then something to do with his time where he’ll excel…then maybe he’ll take up a hobby...then maybe he'll start becoming involved in local politics or volunteering.

Generally speaking, this is the basis of why we have counsellors for unhappy people. When I worked at a drop-in centre for homeless teens, I spent a lot of time meeting the most basic of needs—food, water, sleep—for kids who were at their lowest point. But it wasn’t long before those same kids, now warm and fed and rested, were heard whining about needing a cel phone. Is this because they’re suffering from “first world problems” syndrome? Or is it perhaps because the next tier on Maslow’s scale shows that family is important—and that a cel phone may be the way that a homeless kid stranded in Ottawa talks to his aunt out in Halifax?


You can use Maslow’s pyramid to determine the wellbeing and functioning of an entire culture. Why do we have agriculture? Because people were warm and well fed, and had familial groups to support them, while they dreamt up new ideas like plows and seed storage. Because our ancestors had the luxury of worrying about “first world problems”, you are now sitting in a chair, enjoying a wheat beer and eating a sandwich. If everyone who worried about “first world problems” was told to button their lip, we’d be awfully short on MRI machines, power plants, polio vaccines, and airplanes.

You can measure a culture’s wellbeing by the number of its citizens who have the time to worry about “first world problems”. The more people whose major concerns in a day are high up the scale, the higher the likelihood that that culture is a developed nation. You'll also notice that it's only at the upper rungs of the pyramid that a person starts to worry about morality and ethics--meaning that, if we didn't get to a level of wellbeing and security that makes us "first worlders", we probably wouldn't have the mindshare to worry about the other, less fortunate people on earth.


What I think people might actually mean when they’re condemning people for having “first world problems” is that they’re being selfish, and the assumption is that the complainer doesn’t have any thought for his fellow humans who don’t even have, say, a cel phone to accidentally drop in the toilet and then mourn for. I suppose that’s true, but I can imagine that even Bono occasionally gets annoyed that his socks get eaten by the dryer; I bet Bill Gates occasionally returns a macchiato for being too sweet. And both these men together have done more for their fellow humans than most of us could ever do in our lifetimes. Combined.
Bill Gates has donated over $28 Billion to his foundation;
he still likely gets annoyed when he's cut off in traffic.
I find the “first world problem” phrase to be terminally negative. It implies that you’re somehow sinful for having concerns above the bottom rung of Maslow’s pyramid. If I live in Bangladesh and I’m worried about getting a job after the collapse of my Joe Fresh sweatshop, does that make me a whiner compared to the man in Angola who’s worried about finding food? Of course it doesn’t.

Human problems are nuanced, highly subjective, and cannot be judged by the outsider. Otherwise, when I’d been a practicing counsellor, I would have only been working on food and shelter concerns, not listening to hours of people agonizing over choosing a religion, passing college exams, leaving bad boyfriends, and hearing voices. Never, in the course of a session, did I stop the person in distress, put up a hand, and say, “Wow, that sure sounds like some first world problems.”


I think what people really are trying to say is, “Be grateful”. And I’m totally cool with that message. When I’m complaining that I lost my job and don’t know what’ll happen next, I do eventually calm down and remember that I’m grateful to live in a country where I can cohabitate with a male roommate to help pay the mortgage, and that our country offers employment insurance. Again, though, it’ll be about how you present it: if I was talking with a person in similar distress, I think I would offer a hug, sympathize with the crisis, and say simply, “Remember your gratitudes. They’ll keep you grounded.”

I’m suggesting we all stop damning each other for having “first world problems”, and instead let’s work on supporting each other—wherever we live, and whatever we worry about.
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