Buying presents for parents is hard. Like, trying-to-decide-what-to-watch-on-Netflix hard. Like, 2048-hard. Like, Ryan-Reynolds’-body hard.

(May or may not have spent too much time picking a shirtless Ryan Reynolds picture.)

(May or may not have spent too much time picking a shirtless Ryan Reynolds picture.)

While buying presents for parents is hard, it’s always worth it when you find the perfect gift. Perfect gifts in general always feel like a lightning-bolt to the head, and you just know. After seeing different “childhood photo recreations” on my perpetually repetitive Facebook newsfeed, I couldn’t stop thinking about how hysterical some of my childhood photos are, and how hard my mother would a) laugh, and b) cry… well, I couldn’t resist. My amazing mother retired from CIBC after 38 years, and even though she said no presents, who ever listens to their mother? (Truth: I do. Just not this weekend). She’s the most supportive, generous, kind person and making her cry-laugh through a dozen photos is the least I can do to make her as happy as she’s made me.

I got back to Windsor on Wednesday morning, and spent the next five days scrambling and lying (pooooooorly) to try and get to the different locations, people, and items in the pictures. I’m pretty proud of the result, and can’t wait to recreate the recreations 20 years from now. Love you mama.

Homemade Dixie cups? Check.

Homemade Dixie cups? Check.

Thankfully, we only moved houses once.

Thankfully, we only moved houses once.

Guess whose shirt is actually a pair of tights?

Guess whose shirt is actually a pair of tights?

19 years later (and Jenn looks the same).

19 years later (and Jenn looks the same).

Just wait for the blooper reel.

Just wait for the blooper reel.

Two bite brownies, chocolate sauce, strawberry jam, and green food coloring. Creativity, man.

Two bite brownies, chocolate sauce, strawberry jam, and green food coloring. Creativity, man.

We even found a boat.

We’re on a boat.

Born to ride.

Born to ride.

Half-inflated water wings because no way are those getting past my wrists otherwise.

Half-inflated water wings because no way are those getting past my wrists otherwise. Other than that though, nothing’s really changed.

The MOST coached photo, for sure. "LEFT ARM! OTHER LEFT!"

The MOST coached photo, for sure. “LEFT ARM! OTHER LEFT!”

Propped on a pillow, balanced under a garment rack serving as the backdrop, laying across a chair and a bowflex machine.

Cheeky baby.

One of my favourite pictures ever.

Personal verdict: flawless.

Twenty years later.

Twenty years later. Again, look forward to the blooper reel.

Finalement.

Finalement.

I don’t know if it’s a joking-is-easier-than-acknowledging-something-uncomfortable thing or what, but I’m a little scared of people lately.

intervention

Several times in the past week, I’ve shared a story of street stalkers, bar creeps, and cat callers to a different person or group of people, and received very different reactions from each. One thing that scared me, however, was the general response from my male friends.

“What are we supposed to do?”
“What do you expect?”
“Well, that’s what you get for being a hot girl”

are you fucking kidding me

Now, I’m friends with good people. I associate myself with people I respect and enjoy, and these sentences without context seem pretty severe and unkind (to me at least, but apparently I’m in the minority here), whether purposefully or accidentally.

But seriously?

“What are we supposed to do?” WALK THE FUCK BY. You can check someone out and think all the nasty things you want, but are you so uncontrollably motivated by aggression that you can’t keep it to yourself? You don’t know what else has happened that day, that week, or over their life, and there’s no reason to push a stranger’s buttons.

“What do you expect?” This one is almost my favorite. What do I expect? This seems like women should expect men to be inconsolably unpleasant and degrading, captives to their testosterone and nothing more, and that you’ve accepted this as well, and that’s about the saddest thing for the future that I’ve ever heard.

“Well, that’s what you get for being hot…” Yeah? We’re going down this road? This feels like dangerous territory, entering into slut shaming and “asking for it.” One thing I will say is that nobody deserves to feel any shame for calling people out. Control and free will are nothing to be ashamed of. This is not any sort of request to watch what you say around women; changing relationships and walking on eggshells isn’t a solution. The point that needs to be acknowledged is that it shouldn’t be a reflex to slut-shame in the first place.

STOP

Nobody understands being a woman and you don’t have to, you just have to understand how to be a decent human person to the rest of your species. A good start would be to replace the offhand twistedly backhand compliment remarks with ANYTHING ELSE. There are less insulting ways of trying to compliment a girl than telling her she’s worth a stalk or a rape.

By calling people out on offhand reactions that aren’t okay, even just once, a thought is instilled in the mind of the uninformed, and a step is taken in the right direction.

Rather than teaching your kids not to go out late at night for fear of rapists and muggers and crazies (oh my), teach them that people shouldn’t attack people at any time of day. Teach them respect, for both men and women and personal humanity. Raising a new generation of genuinely good people, even if it’s just in your own family line, could change the world.

 im just sayin

Be happy, be free,

Sydney

With all these “100 Things” and basic How-To live your life articles floating around the internet, I figured I’d put one of my own out there.

1. Go tanning.

Tan on the roof, on the beach, on the patio at lunch, everywhere, at all costs. Say NO to sunscreen and hats, and YES to bronzing beachside. Get some wrinkles on that skin. Oil up.

tanning gif

2. Eat a shit ton of food. And don’t stop.

Pizza, cheesecake, and coffee galore (not a food, shut up I don’t care) is the way to go. You know you love food, and food loves you too. While there may be some slight disagreements along the way, you and food go way back. Why would you turn away a friend that has helped you survive life thusfar? Maybe you shouldn’t have pizza every single day of your life. Maybe. But didn’t “they” decide pizza was a vegetable earlier this year? Pizza earned your trust and deserves it. Ain’t nobody got time for some list to come in and soil the beautiful relationship between me and my pizza.

eating chandler full

3. Have lots and lots of sex.

Good sex, bad sex, drunk sex, sober sex. You can have it all. While responsibility and stupidity should always be taken into consideration, the moral of the story is that sex is good for you. It teaches you self awareness and confidence. Ignore what people tell you about “your number” and enjoy your prime. Indulge while you can.

friends with benefits

4. Spend money.

spend money

Get used to it. And good at it. This is basically unavoidable whether you want to look 60 at 30, 90 at 60, 20 at 30, etc etc etc.

5. Watch television.

Different kinds of television. Strain your eyes. Self-heat the couch. Subscribe to Netflix. Seriously, why television gets a bad rep is beyond me. There is so much intelligent and crazy television available to the world right now, from HBO to SHO, AMC and back again, and to lump all reality TV or “trash TV” into one unintelligible category is ignorant and assuming. Television has become more immersive than ever before and deserves some props.

tv gif

6. Make friends. And enemies. And try not to judge them.

Hopefully they’ll try not to judge you too.

omg not judging

7. Make excuses.

And get good at that, too.

girls do you realize

8. Never assume ANYTHING is an end-all-be-all.

Nothing is as one-dimensional as a list. An extreme advocate of lists myself, I hate to admit it, but it’s often a use of sweeping generalization, and shouldn’t be taken completely at face value. However, when the list is a horror story of subjective and offensive “rules for life” slathered in sexism and assumption, it deserves to be called out.

welcome to real world.

9. Stop reading articles on the Internet for life advice.

Nobody should be living according to a set of ridiculous guidelines that were written to gain web traffic. Hypocritical, sure, but I’m not writing to put you down. I like my snooze button, and I’m not going to stop using it because it’s on a list of things “every twenty-something” should realize.

Sure, not everything on these lists is total bullshit. “Drink lots of water” is great advice.  But when it’s preceded by a statement like “It is morally wrong to be obese,” it’s hard not to call bullshit and get offended. You don’t need to live in New York, time is not an illusion, you don’t need to want what you can’t have, and you don’t need to listen to infuriating bullshit like “If you sleep around with a lot of people, then you are a whore.” Statements like “They stopped making good music in the 90s” come from a closed mind, a mind that will never know true comfort or satisfaction. Living by a set of preconceived notions like “being smarter does make you the better person” and “you don’t have ADD” isn’t living at all.

Every twenty-something should realize they have their own way of living life, and if you can wake up, get ready, and get to where you’ve got to be with a snooze button, there’s not a pretentious list on the planet that can tell you to do otherwise. Facebook, oily pizza, casual sex, blasting headphones, maxed out credit cards, giant tattoos, hashtags, love bites, drugs, bullshit, cell phones, depression, euphoria, family, friends, fake I love you’s, oral sex, free cake, mistakes, dirty sex, yoga, violence, high expectations, crap food, and cheap liquor are where experience is born and life is lived. Fuck the rest.

After a day of first-world torture and #problems, it can be hard to stay a sane, normal person. Here are 20 different ways to handle a bad day. They are most definitely not all recommended. Side effects are likely. We’ll begin with a classic.

1. Drinking! See also: Girls Night Out.

raven margarita

2. Willingly accept rebellion into your life. Take a walk on the wild side.

do not touch

3. Read a book. Or a magazine. Or an article online. For gods sake, read SOMETHING!

jlaw ummmm

4. Angry-break things. Tear shit up. Throw down. Hitting things feels good, and admitting that is the first step of the road to recovery.

angry bang angry table flip

5. Florence.

6. Dance it out.

dance underwear

big booty

BREAK IT DOWN

7. Bitch about it. And not in a classy way. In a way that not even yourself respects. Without justification, without reason, without having to answer to anyone. Sometimes you need a few moments where your words have no one to answer to except the universe.

annoyed like

girls shosh 4

8. Music therapy. Life’s a song, and sometimes it sucks dick.

listen to sad songs

9. Rise above. You are better than this bad day. Flip your hair, strut your stuff, and make tomorrow a real, real good day.

bitch im flawless

hairflip fierce bey

10. Just lose it. (Also: shaking your face like this feels way better than you’d expect it to.)

computer spaz

11. Watch cat videos. Or cat GIFs. Or Anna Kendrick GIFs. Or ideally, Anna Kendrick cat GIFs.

anna kendrick kitty

12. Eat your feelings. ALL of the feelings.

hungry

chocolatemakeseverythingbetter

13. Smile and nod. Smile. And. Nod.

smile and nod

14. JUST CLOSE YOUR EYES, BREATHE, AND THINK OF FIGHT CLUB.

fight club quote

15. Exercise. It’s gooood for you.

fwb on bed

16. Full-screen the GIF below. Maybe make it your background. Laptop, phone, everything. I suggest adding a sound loop, but that’s just me.

complimentchan

17. JGL.

18. Do something about it. If every day is a bad day, something’s off.

greeys

19. Admit the truth and accept it as a part of you.

i am not a successful adult

who cares im awesome

Definitely go with Kat Dennings on this one. On most ones, actually.

Follow me on Twitter @sydney_neilson.

At first you’re like,

girls night

But then you remember,

shots

So you round up the friends that made the cut,

adventure

And you get ready. It takes ages, not because you’re indecisive, but because you have SO many clothes, and they all suck.

nothing to wear

By the time everyone shows up, your outfit frustrations have been downed by the pre-drink, and IT’S GO TIME.

body is ready

moderation

supposed to bring

Upon arrival at the bar,

STAY ALIVE

As an all-girl troupe, you bitches stick together. Work together to fend off unwanted attention,

battling guys

And celebrate with colorful shots. Or tequila.

shots drinking

Class will be demonstrated (as usual),

jason segel

And ultimately, five topics will be discussed.

more wine

1) Work,

Where you can freely rant about The Work Bitch without the elephant/manager in the room. You are your own unreliable narrator, recounting your combative exploits to the world, without anyone really noticing any plot holes or exaggerations on your part. All the girls have to do is agree, pitch in some betchy sidebars, and wait your turn. Unless of course, this is a work girls night, in which case ALL cards are on the table, right next to the double shot glasses . Tread carefully.

drink everytime bitch

 

2) Men,

Girls talk about guys and sex JUST AS MUCH as guys talk about girls and sex. It’s just different.

BLAH BLAH BLAH

3) Bitches, girly shit, and self-acknowledgement.

Girls talk about girly shit. Honestly, there’s a lot of shit to cover. Stereotypically bitching about hair, makeup, periods, men, bitches, skin, shoes, clothes, shaving, and any of the other thirty thousand things that fall under the kind-of-misogynistic-but-relatively-justified topics of girly conversation. Realistically though, if a man had to hook a cage onto his chest every morning, squeeze and squish into the crap we wear on a daily basis (all the OPTIONS), and deal with monthly cramps and bleeding and baby scares, I’M SURE HE WOULD BITCH A BIT TOO BECAUSE IT’S A PRETTY DECENT SIZED ASPECT OF LIFE AS A GIRL SO QUIT JUDGING AND TAKE A DRINK.

raven margarita good

 

Plus, acknowledging your decent into stereotypical GIRLSNIGHT! just makes it that much more beautiful. “Guys, we’re totally like a less-awkward Girls, only with like three Jessas and a Shosh. And like, a little bit classier.” I’d watch that.

4) Sex,

You know that one friend that’s like, really, really open about talking graphically and specifically about her sexcapades? She may get the ball rolling, but at girls night, it’s the surprise shares from your shier friends that make the memories. Those off-hand comments shouted juuuuust a little too loudly across the bar will make you closer than you ever expected. No judging!

vagina depressed

5) Food.

Have you ever listened to drunk girls talk about food?

think of your butteating gifAll it takes is an order of mozzarella sticks to turn a group of martini-ed ladies into a horde of ravenous vultures. Suck it up and order something, you’re drinking most of your calories anyway.

BUT FOODWe’ll be brutally honest,

emotionally slutty

And we are free to bitch and moan about #girlproblems without #brotips.

ribbons are hard

There might be dancing,

BREAK IT DOWN

And friendly banter,

drink it force

And the next morning, as usual…

morning survived

 

More girly guilty pleasures? Click here.

Follow me on Twitter here!

Gatsby, what Gatsby?

As the movie began, there was no telling where it was going. Unless, you know, you read the book in tenth grade like half of the English-speaking world did (or read a Sparknotes summary online like the other half)…but nonetheless, it was the film’s stylistic intelligence that was unpredictable. It had the cinematic masterpiece quality that Luhrmann has perfected through his theatrical musical films like Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet, translated beautifully into an amalgamation of culture, sex, and hope that is The Great Gatsby.

gatsby nyc

The cinematography is pretty damn flawless, from the white-curtained introduction of Daisy Buchanan to the practiced presentation of Gatsby himself. The book was followed to a tee, for the most part, and translated shockingly well onscreen. The National Post called it “less a movie than an event,” and – without taking away from my respect and enjoyment of the film – that’s exactly right. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby over three years, from 1922-1925. Luhrmann has been working on his production for roughly five years now, and the world has been waiting.

gatsby houseCall it “computer-generated whoosh” if you must, but its looks are pretty fucking epic. And underneath all of that, the novel stands tall. Much of the dialogue comes straight from Fitzgerald in 1925, and while I could have done without the fluffy skywriting sequences from Carraway’s alcoholic future, it wasn’t a bad way to lay out the movie. While much of the opening half of the movie is rushed brilliance and forced flow, its crazy atmosphere sucks you in.

gatsby dancing

Carey Mulligan’s dewy, soft complexion and gentle stature set up Daisy perfectly. Last played by Mia Farrow in 1974, Daisy is one of those controversial characters that stirs up a lot of conflict. Luhrmann cites Daisy Buchanan as “a kind of social supernova; she’s so attractive and dazzling, and she makes you feel as if you’re the only person in the world… In everybody’s mind they have a Daisy Buchanan. It’s like Scarlett O’Hara, how touchy a subject that is. I think of Scarlett as being this precious child star who’s been a star all her life, and that’s true about Daisy.” Luhrmann calls the Gatsby-Daisy relationship “one of those chemically dangerous relationships,” and there’s no better way to put it.

gatsby daisy1 gatsby daisy2
During the (long) audition process for the role, Leo, the fountain of all modern wisdom, said “Daisy has got to be a kind of hothouse flower, something that Gatsby has never encountered before, such that he feels and obsession to protect her.” Carey Mulligan does just that. She enamours you with her innocence and docile geniality, and wraps you up in her creamy speech.

gastby daisy smoking

Her voice is a major part of her character, described in Fitzgerald’s novel as “low, thrilling,” “exhilarating,” full of “fluctuating, feverish warmth,” and “full of money.” Speaking of full of money, she’s also married to the talented and delicious Marcus Mumford.

gatsby mumford
LOOK HOW PRECIOUS. Their children will be phenomenally ahead of our time.

gatsby mumford mini2 gatsby mumford mini1

Leo DiCaprio’s Gatsby was even better than I expected. He had perfect timing, an incredible measure of Gatsby’s delicate control and internal servitude, and was seriously fucking awesome. Granted, he’s pretty much got the world’s respect behind him before he even walks onscreen, but his Jay Gatz speaks for itself as well. You can feel the delusion, reminiscent of his tortured characters in Inception and Shutter Island, a balance of crazed obsession and classy-as-fuck confidence. Gatsby is a measured, detailed man of expectation, and DiCaprio is the same. He “burrows deep into the role, loosing the obsession at the heart of Fitzgerald’s tale; beneath Gatsby’s smooth exterior roil the same tightly wound furies that hounded DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes in The Aviator.

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about [Gatsby], some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability, which is dignified under the name of “creative temperament”- it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”

gatsby

It had the grandeur that you expect from Luhrmann’s musical past, the expansive, wide-angle, 3-D takeover that brings the film to life. If you liked Moulin Rouge, you’ll likely enjoy TGG. Bright, vivacious, and never lacking in depth, the setting and lush atmosphere worked  perfectly to set the scene. The introductions to Tom and Jordan felt observed and far-away, like you were watching a piece of theatre, rather than cinema. Luhrmann explains his decision to make the film in 3D in the May 2013 issue of Vogue. After seeing a screening of Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder, what struck him:

“…wasn’t that things come out of the screen, it was watching Grace Kelly move in space where the camera wasn’t moving. It was much more like the theater. It brought power to the performance. The actor was more in-control of the drama. The camera didn’t have to generate energy. It blew my mind… the real special effect in Gastby could be watching some of the finest actors in the world doing a ten-page scene in a room in the Plaza Hotel. That could be a visual effect.”

This was the first (and most epic) adaptation of Gatsby in several decades, and the book has often been dubbed “unfilmable.” Literature learned lessons from Gatsby, and continue to ’til this day. Film might be able to learn something too.

gatsby cinema

While the Jay-Z produced soundtrack may have taken some people out of the roaring Twenties zone they were in, I thought it was balanced perfectly. With big, power voices from Lana Del Rey, Florence, and Queen Bey, the power-pop side of the soundtrack shone. While “Young and Beautiful” might have finished the film as a slightly overused motif theme for Gaisy (looool), the jazzy mash-ups from Will.I.Am, Fergie, and Kid Koala kept it fresh and entertaining.

Leo was sublime, and Mulligan balanced beauty and carelessness as only Daisy Buchanan can. Jay and Daisy were casted to perfection, but I still can’t help but feel awkward about Tobey Maguire. Maybe it’s because even in 3-D, he has no visible lips. Maybe it’s because he’s Peter Parker. Either way, it took me out of the scene and I felt genuinely uncomfortable with his Carraway at parts. He just didn’t fit.

haters gonna hate poppins

“Baz felt very strongly that the book’s nature was quintessentially modern, that the twenties was the time when everybody came to grips with the twentieth century,” said his wife, Oscar-winning costume designer Catherine Martin. Luhrmann takes that modernity to a new level with this visually-laden piece of work, and it deserves some respect. Five years, people. That’s time for like five babies. Or six. Or something.

A sick soundtrack, incredibly strong performances, and a decent rendition of a great American novel on the big screen… just go see it. It’s fancy and fun and exciting; you know you’re curious. 3-D or not, I seriously recommend catching this green light before it goes out.

Sure, it sounds dramatic. Anything that “changes your life” is going to sound dramatic, honestly, because it is dramatic. You’re changing your life. Everything is different now.

epiphany omg

From the second you picked it up, you knew it was different. It flowed differently, it read to you. You couldn’t read fast enough, and as the pages flew by, you didn’t have a choice. You read it with feverish excitement, fierce engagement, and ferocity. You couldn’t wait to get to the end, but you can’t imagine it ending. And what happens after? The story just worked, and whether you were reading from a downtown subway car or under your bedsheets ’til dawn, it didn’t matter. You read breathlessly, with fervour, hanging off of each syllable, using the chapter breaks to catch your breath. You are a slave to this novel, mind, body, and soul, and there’s no use fighting it. It will steal your time, money, and brainpower, and you will accept it wholeheartedly.

book gif

The story envelops you as no story has since you were a child. The author knows exactly what you need; but how can they know you so well? This book will become a filter on your life, affecting everything you think and feel for all of time. You will feverishly seek out everything the author has ever written. The book came at the time that you needed it most. It’s not like it was the first book you’ve ever read, but this one had something different. Something memorable. Like your first pet, you feel a sense of commitment and maternal fondness that only grew with time. Like your first love, you feel an overwhelming sense of adoration and intimacy that takes you by surprise. Like your first time having GOOD sex, you can’t believe what you’ve been missing. Like your first time living on your own, the freedom is astonishing. You’ll wonder how you lived with so many rules for so long, and how you never noticed.

bookoutwindowgood

Books don’t talk back. They won’t use up all of your internet bandwidth, and they want nothing more than to be enjoyed. They seek no electricity, no nourishment, and they will never, ever ask you for your Wi-Fi password. They’ll never run out of batteries, and never ask of anything in return.

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
-Mark Twain

I’ve always felt that everything written is co-related. A major part of writing as a youth and young adult comes from what you write in school. We’re taught essay structure and planning. We’re taught to balance arguments and lead strong, life lessons that passed most of us by because we were too busy hating high school English (compulsory English means 80% of the kids don’t want to be there, and the other 20% weren’t ballsy enough to fuel a decent academic environment). State your point, elaborate with your three arguments, and restate your point by the end. If the essay is good, you’ll understand their points. If the essay is great, those points will affect your course of thought. A great novel does the same. It changes your perception. It takes you out of your world and into another, one with ideas and frivolities and dangers that open your mind.

im ready

You will remember this book more than 99% of your high school, 80% of your first year of post-sec, and much of your childhood. It will find times to make you laugh, cry, and ironically show up when you need it most. It will torture you, punch you in the face, and throw you down an elevator shaft, only to meet you at the bottom with another swift kick in the teeth. And when you’re finished, it’s like the first day of summer. Where do you start next?

dita read

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
-George R.R. Martin

If you’re lucky, this book will start an inevitable change in your life, and you will unleash upon yourself the mind-blowing abilities of what it’s like to really be a lover of books. You will read so many stories of different places and people and times that your memories and your books will become entwined. You will become overcome with historical wanderlust, and you will begin to judge people on their taste in books (or lack thereof). As the digital revolution progresses, there will always be a small, nagging fear in the back of your mind that they will stop printing books altogether, but you quell that thought with another stockpile purchase from Chapters whenever it arises. You will learn that there is a right timing for everything in life, especially books. You will catch yourself buying a second copy of your favourite book so you can freely wear out the first one without guilt. You will fall in love with books in a way that changes everything else in your life and makes falling in real love even more extraordinary. Welcome to Crazy, we love it here.

1jim carrey

“Do not pity the dead, pity the living, and above all those who respond “I don’t read,” to the question “What’s your favorite book?”