Dot Com Boom

I finally caved and bought www.maggiedebarra.com!

Notes

For a long time on my About Me page, I had written “Maybe one day I’ll buy my own web domain and stop doing everything for free. But that day is not today.” Well, my friends, that day is today. Well this year really. I bit the bullet and bought www.maggiedebarra.com and www.maggiedebarra.ca! Using my fantastic computer skills, I even re-directed MaggiedeBarra.ca to MaggiedeBarra.com and I mapped my WordPress blog to MaggiedeBarra.com! Does this make sense to you? It does to me! I owe it all to my many hours spent back in high school hacking websites to copy and modify their code.

I really do enjoy the structure and style of WordPress and I am happy to continue using their publishing platform. I used GoDaddy as a host because Diggnation brainwashed me many years ago. In addition to these new matters, I even updated my Theme to give it a mini face lift!

What’s in a Name?

This blog has been Paper Clips for so long. Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra. It just makes sense to me. It sounds and feels so familiar! I couldn’t bear to change it. I did run through many other possible names (I wanted to call it In Medias Res back in third year, though I couldn’t seem to make it work…) but I kept coming back to this one. That or simply calling it MAGGIE DE BARRA, which sounds ever more pretentious and narcissistic than owning a website that is simply your first and last name dot com. And so, I will continue using Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra as my go-to until another name strikes me, or I get a cease and desist order!

To Blogue or Not to Blogue

I think one reason why I waited for so long is because, in addition to being extremely clumsy, I’m really shy! I am. With minor online exhibitionist tendencies in the form of public tweets and private instagram photos, but at the heart of it, I am shy.

I remember reading somewhere: It’s not personal branding, it’s just living your life online. And yes, my generation is doing just that. Your online presence is a mural, and every tweet, photo, and post is another brush stroke.

I thought for a long time that if I could hide behind maggiedebarra.wordpress.com it meant that I was projecting to the world that I was not really serious, that I could stop at any time, and that I’m simply indulging an odd, online hobby. But, attaching my name, and throwing a few dollars consideration at it, that means I am proclaiming, loudly: Hello, world! This is really me and I am serious. I am still shy, but I’m working on it.

Type-Casting

For a long time this website had been a “student life” blog, documenting my experiences as a college and university student between 2008-2012 (what a nice time capsule!). Since I am now a young, urban, working professional, it has really morphed into something totally unique. It is not a millennial blog, or a fashion+beauty blog, or a foodie blog, or a music blog. As much as I’d like it to be, it is not my dream Modern, Moderate Feminism Blog (#modfem). I write about my life and experiences and things that are interesting and important to me. I write a lot about Canada and Toronto because they are the centres of my universe.

One term that I have always loved is “hyper-local”. I came across this term when it was applied to a few Ottawa blogs back in university. They would cover all the local goings-on: restaurants, concerts, cafes, shops, and local politics. They weren’t exactly travel blogs, but they’d be worth checking out if you were going for a visit to learn all about the cool local spots.

And so, I think in 2015 I think I will try to write more about the people, places, and things I love, and to embrace the hyper-locality of it all!

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If You Aren’t Outraged, Then You Just Aren’t Paying Attention

Ignorance is Bliss.

Not Afraid

I understand, I think, for the first time why most people prefer those sugar-coated, mind-numbing movies and TV shows packed with celebrities and other pleasant things.

Watching the National last night, I realized that Peter Mansbridge and his guests were not discussing the possibility that this is our “new normal” – they were confirming the obvious. An over-used term, but still applicable. These recent attacks, homegrown and ruthless, in Ottawa, in Sydney, and now in Paris are horrific and terrifying, to me anyway. I feel like we are all at risk now. This is our normal, we of the post 9-11 generation. Which city will be next and when? London, Washington, Berlin, Rome, Tokyo? Toronto has been spared for now, but for how long?

I remember learning in journalism school that therapists and journalists have higher levels of something like secondary PTSD. While they may not be experiencing these events first-hand, their exposure to first-hand accounts on a regular basis can generate a wave of similar symptoms.

Watching all these news programs, reading these articles (some fantastically well-written, answering the questions I didn’t think to ask), following the chaos of Twitter – it can be exhausting. I found relief last night during the commercial breaks of the National, with previews for silly shows about space, animals, and consumer trends. It was like a dose of comfort before getting back in the ring when the program started again. I felt like a character in Brave New World, but it wasn’t taking hits of Soma that made me feel better, it was television. And with it, the promise of a familiar-but-novel distraction, spread to the masses to keep us somewhat entertained, but mostly chained to our couches, away from the news, newspapers, books, and somewhere out there, the truth.

Aftermath of the Ottawa Shooting

United we stand.

IMG_0034-0.JPG

This has been a hard week, one of the darkest I can remember in some time. I have felt every emotion in the book, soaring love and pride and crashing fear and grief.

Calling them terrorist attacks seems to be the easy way out, a simple news phrase that is thrown around in the media so carelessly. When I think of a terrorist attack, my mind pictures a foreign invader, attacking some other foreign country, but definitely not my own. What do you call it when a Canadian turns his anger on his own country? This doesn’t fit my description at all. What is a terrorist? Someone who terrorizes people, uses acts of violence to create fear in an innocent group of people? This week I was afraid, and very, very sad.

But there were some positive things to come out of this week. Many stories emerged from those who were at the War Memorial, or on Parliament Hill on Wednesday morning. We were further reminded of the stoic heroism and selfless courage of so many Canadians. The images yesterday, at the War Memorial, and along the Highway of Heroes, filled me with so much patriotism and pride. I feel content in the knowledge that I am not the only one feeling grief, but also reaffirming my love for Canada.

My family and friends are safe, and I am so grateful for that. Our country is mourning the loss of two of our soldiers, and when this sorrow has passed, our focus will turn to taking the needed steps to ensure this never happens again.

I have been so touched by the expressions of condolence and solidarity from people around the world. In a perfect world, we would never have to learn of them this way, but it is nice to know that we are not an island, and that our efforts to build and nurture foreign relations have not been in vain.

My words will never be enough. But, I have been comforted this week by listening to the radio and reading the reactions of Canadians all over the country. To those who are also hurting I say, I understand what you are feeling, and know that I share those feelings too.

I will leave you with the words of Jack Layton.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.

O Canada…

The True North Strong and Free.

Parliament Hill - May 2013

We are in unchartered territory and I don’t really know where to begin. A situation that is still ‘fluid and unfolding’. My beloved Ottawa, my home for four years, in lockdown and under attack. One of the longest days. Watching, listening, following along feeling helpless and horrified. And now, more than twelve hours later, we are still in the dark.

War Memorial - Nov 11 2009

My former journalism student instincts have never really gone away. I love Twitter, and I continually browse headlines during the day to keep an eye on things. It makes me feel like an adult to have a basic understanding of and ability to form a valid opinion on current events. I have taken to reading news on the CBC website, one, because it’s still free, and two, it seems mostly free from partisan bias. Around ten this morning I gave the CBC home page a quick browse, and felt my stomach plummet. Quickly pulling up Twitter, what followed was one of the darkest hours I’ve ever experienced, filled with misinformation, graphic and disturbing photos, and several first-hand accounts from Canadian politicians and journalists on the ground. This whole day has been surreal.

Parliament Hill - Nov 11 2009

I am lucky to follow some truly fascinating people. Their collective commentary during any major event, be it an awards show, the Olympics, any major breaking news, Ferguson in the last few weeks, and now today, is always on point. My carefully curated group of journalists, politicians, key contributors, and news makers, and those who they follow, are always witty and informative. After spending four years in Ottawa, I am following a lot of folks on Parliament Hill, and too many of them were caught up in this fray today. They provided terrifying and viscerally real accounts of what they saw and heard. For me, Twitter is not filler, it is often the most up-to-date and reliable source of breaking news, much more than cable tv or radio news. These people are on the ground and they take their jobs seriously.

Canada Day - 2012

I checked in with my friends who are still in Ottawa and who spent the day in lockdown (thankfully, they were all okay), and admired the quiet authority of Jim Watson, the Mayor of Ottawa, during the RCMP press conference. My news feed was overflowing, and I couldn’t refresh fast enough.

Canada Day - 2012

My Parliament Hill has a stray cat sanctuary, and free yoga on the front lawn, and concerts on Canada Day with accompanying light shows and fireworks. My Ottawa has a free skating rink running through the middle. My Ottawa is clean, beautiful, vibrant, and safe.

Parliament Hill - Gold Medal Celebration 2010

I had hoped that these foreign threats would never touch our shores, and now twice in one week, members of our armed forces have been singled out and murdered. We must watch in fear and feel helpless as our enemies walk through our front door. I feel flashbacks to the first few days of grade eight, when we came in from first recess with whispers of an attack. Where my teacher, Mr. Mele, sat at the only computer in the classroom trying to access CNN’s website. The computer was big, white, and clunky, and the internet was fledgling and slow. We couldn’t get beyond the homepage. We had no access to information and no updates and we were totally in the dark. When I got home from school, I sat in front of the TV in disbelief for hours, simultaneously mesmerized and horrified by the loop footage of the Twin Towers.

Today, I rushed home from work and have been watching television coverage for the past few hours. I am older, but still feel afraid. Unable to take my eyes away from the footage of my beloved Ottawa under attack.

Canada Day - 2011

I am of the generation called the Millennials. I am the post 9/11 generation. Raised on Harry Potter and MSN Messenger. Early adopters of new technology. Living under the looming threat of terrorism. You don’t have to tell us to ‘stay vigilant’. We get it. We’ve already had it for a long time. We’ve been maintaining constant vigilance since Moody warned us about the Death Eaters back in the day.

Doubting myself, wondering if my unfortunate heavy double dose of patriotism and sensationalism was causing me to overreact, I felt isolated and alone today. Nobody in my immediate vicinity seemed to know nor care about the situation unfolding in Ottawa. I feel like I need to divide the people and influencers in my life by our shared values. Today was an exercise in that. My close friends, and some fellow former journalism students on Twitter, shared my concerns and I felt comforted by their shared reactions.

I want nothing more right now than for Peter Mansbridge to fold the nation in his warm embrace and tell us all that we’re going to be okay, and that everything will soon be well.

Canadian Flag

❤ Ottawa ❤ Canada ❤ you too, Toronto

Tomorrow is another day, and we must remain the True North, Strong and Free.

Canada Day

* My apologies for disconnected and incomplete thoughts. Written after a stress-filled, anxiety-ridden, very emotional day, while flipping between CBC, CTV, Global, and TVO for six hours straight, heart aching, head pounding…

2013: A Year in Review

There are no walls but those we build ourselves.

2013 was a year of great personal growth and change. I feel that I have become a better person along the way, and I recognize that I have a long way to go.

Re: last year’s resolutions: I pushed my long run to 13 miles, just about the distance of a half marathon…; I did not get my driver’s licence…; I managed to make two trips to visit friends in other cities; I took many photos, read a decent number of books, and saw all the movies I wanted to see. I like to think of the resolutions as suggestions, and not rules.

Music

Freelance Whales, The Knocks, Passion Pit, Tame Impala, Alt-J,Whitebrow’s CD release party+ Church show, He’s my Brother, She’s my Sister, Vampire Weekend, the Arkells, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Girl Talk, Hot Chip, Phoenix, Beyonce, and Kanye West.

I didn’t see as many concerts as some past years, but, I consider myself lucky that I have seen just about every band that I could possibly imagine. I already have Jay-Z and Arcade Fire lined up for next year. Arcade Fire is really the last big band that I want to see, but have not yet had the chance to do so.

Passion Pit

I saw Passion Pit at Lollapalooza in 2012. Their show was in the early evening. It was their first show back since their brief hiatus. It was a lovely summer show. In February, I was lucky enough to see Passion Pit again in all their glory at the Kool Haus during the middle of a spectacular snow storm. Their show is made to be experienced indoors, with all of the lights and trappings.

Beyonce

All my dreams came true when I finally saw Beyonce live. We were the first show since the surprise release of her new album. Her voice was powerful, her dancing was sharp and energetic, and the girl power in the room was off the charts. I paid homage to her earlier in the year when I dressed as Beyonce in her single ladies video for Halloween. The costume did not go to waste, as I wore it again for the concert. We were the only people in the 300s to dress up. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Kanye WestKanye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me preface this next part by saying that I am Kanye West’s biggest fan. After postponing our show just over a month due to unforeseen technical difficulties, my sister and I were able to catch the last show of the Yeezus tour on December 23rd. We had amazing seats in the 100s, and it will be hard to enjoy a concert from any other seat going forward. His latest album was experimental, and while there were a few good songs, I felt it was mostly wanting.

Kanye punctuated his energetic, oldie but goodie songs with show stopping new songs. I mean literally show stopping, as he would cut all the music and talk for minutes at either end. His performance seemed lackluster to me, but I probably just didn’t get what he was going for. He seemed in disbelief at our response at times, as if we weren’t giving him enough energy, or singing along to the level he wanted. I feel like you should expect to receive the energy you give out, and seeing how he sang 3+ songs lying on the floor and talked for longer than he sang (including a 20+ minute rant about the Grammy’s), I left the ACC feeling really let down. He did bring out Drake for a few songs, which was awesome, and I think the crowd loved that more than the rest of the show.

I was hoping for an energetic performance like Eminem at Lolla in 2011, or the last two times I’ve seen Macklemore. Maybe Kanye thinks that he is already at the top of his game, so he doesn’t have to work for it anymore. Macklemore on the other hand is hungry, and as I was sitting in the ACC, I was wishing I was back at Echo Beach with Macklemore and crew as they shocked all of our senses with their magnificent show. Things to consider for the future…

Theatre

I was able to take in one musical and three plays this year. Cats at the Panasonic Theatre, and three shows in Stratford: Romeo and Juliet, the 3 Musketeers, and Othello.

Romeo and Juliet was exactly what you’d expect. The 3 Musketeers was swashbuckling and funny. My favourite has got to be Othello. The set design was innovative and all the actors were on point. The tension during the last scene was so powerful it gave me chills. I am really looking forward to next year’s season.

Sports

4 Jays games, 2 Leafs games, and 1 Rock game.

Halifax

I spent four days in Halifax in March. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at the Split Crow and I cooked my first Lobster.

Halifax

Ottawa

I celebrated the May24 weekend in Ottawa with a kayak and a hike.

Dow's Lake

Parliament

Tobermory

In June, we visited Georgian Bay and went cliff jumping in the Grotto. The water was freezing, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

Grotto

The O Course

My coworkers and I were crazy to sign up for the O Course. After a little training, we tackled a 45 minute boot camp work out, a ~7k run, and a ~2hr obstacle course. It was the most physically exhausting feats I’ve accomplished to date. In the first half of the course, during the run, I was in 5th place out of the women. By the time I reached the second half of the course with the major obstacles, I fell to 77th place! This race is no joke. I thought I was in decent shape but I was put in my place. I’d like everyone to experience this just once so that they can take themselves to their limit, and break through it.

Miscellaneous Adventures

Friday Night Live @ the Rom – The Mesopotamia Exhibit @ the ROM – The AGO – Parkinsons Super Walk – Canada Day at Turtle Castle and Burrits Rapids

Toronto Fashion Week

Fashion Week

Boat Cruisin (count the cranes!) + Winning a Limbo contest

Toronto

Birthday

Birthday Card

I am 25 years old. I am officially older than all of my favourite literary characters.

Ice Storm 2013

Ice Storm

On December 22, we woke up with no power and no heat. The whole city was covered in ice. I sent a tweet to Toronto Hydro late on the 23rd, and on the morning of Christmas Eve, we were shocked and surprised to hear the buzz of the power turning back on. I’ve never been so happy for a hot cup of tea before in my life.

That being said, it was nice to spend some unplugged time with my family. We played board games by candlelight for eight hours straight. We learned that our candlesticks burn for five hours.

Blackout

New Year’s Resolutions:

To continue in my transcendentalist spirit of self-reflection and self-improvement:

Read one book per month, plus whatever is on the docket for my book clubs.

See more movies and more live shows. I think I’d like to head to Osheaga this summer.

Visit one Toronto attraction/museum/exhibit per month.

Go to a Toronto FC game.

Run a Half Marathon!!! So ambitious, but it would be nice to say I’ve done it at least once.

G1? Maybe…

Delete Facebook. I have been trying to wean myself off Facebook for some time now. I think it is a waste of time and energy. I think now is the opportune time, before any more engagement rings or babies start showing up in my news feed.

And with that, I will give a fond farewell to 2013, and a hearty hello to 2014.

Ottawa: Unplugged

Getting back to basics in the Nation’s Capital.

I spent the weekend in Ottawa. It was great to visit my sister and a lot of friends who still live there. As the Duggars would say, I really enjoyed their fellowship.

The strangest thing about the weekend was how old-fashioned and low-tech it was! Lots of board games, some sweet tunes on the record player, cooking, baking and sharing food with each other, cat’s cradle (it’s coming back) and a whole lot of laughs and stories shared between us.

My favourite thing about Ottawa in the winter has got to be the Rideau Canal. We had perfect ice conditions on Sunday.

Rideau Canal

It really was a great weekend, and I’m still on cloud nine. I feel recharged and ready to get back to homework. It was just what I needed to help me get through school for another month until reading week.

 

Carleton University Flash Mob

Best students. Best campus community. Best school spirit. Best life.

I am an extremely proud Carleton University grad.

On February 15th about 400 Carleton students gathered on the Rideau Canal for a brilliant flash mob.

The flash mob was organized by Graeme Owens as part of the Blackberry Best Life contest. More info here. Donations are being accepted to the Ottawa Mission. To donate click here.

The story has been picked up by CTV news, the Globe and Mail, and even Premier Dalton McGuinty has been tweeting about it.

Good luck to Graeme! And a huge congrats to everyone who participated.

There is no Modern Romance

Well I was wrong. It never lasts.

Walking along Bank Street the other day I noticed something that really made me feel pretty sad. The Swap Box at Bank and Sunnyside is gone. I don’t know how long it’s been down.

It looked like this back in the glory days.

In the fall I wrote a feature piece about the Swap Boxes and street art in Ottawa. I was even lucky enough to interview the artist Elmaks.

Bank and Sunnyside is an important intersection for Carleton students. It stands out in my mind as a huge staple of my time in Ottawa. It took a while for me to warm up to Ottawa back in first year. Walking up Sunnyside from res, past Haven Books, to the Second Cup and the Chip Wagon, walking past the Mayfair and over the bridge into the Glebe… I’m not the only one who did these things. And the Swap Box was one of the things that really made my heart melt. It put Ottawa in my good books.

I never really contributed anything worthwhile. I only ever have bus transfers and bobby pins in my pockets, but I put them in anyway.

And now there is nothing left. I’m just sad that other Carleton students wont get a chance to experience this beautiful little piece of Ottawa.

(Title inspired by my current favourite song: Modern Romance by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Lyrics here.)

40 Years on the Canal

This is about the most “Canadian” that Ottawa can get.

Hopefully the weather will stop being so moody, and the Rideau Canal will open up again soon.

A Somber Celebration

Photos from the funeral prosession in honour of Ottawa police Constable Eric Czapnik.

Walking home after my class yesterday, I noticed a huge crowd of people gathered on the sidewalk. I was just in time to see the funeral procession on the way to Lansdowne. There were endless rows of Mounties, police officers and firefighters all in a row along Campus Avenue waiting to begin. Just the sight of all of these men and women was enough to make me tear up. I saw police officers from Perth, Toronto, Kingston, Barrie, Cornwall and way more than I can remember. It was so nice to see all of them out in support. I wish I was at Bank and Sunnyside because I hear that the kids from Hopewell Avenue Public School came out to line the sidewalks. It was just an all around sad and somber day remembering and celebrating a fallen hero.

I feel like my journalist hat is never off. You’re always on call, always on the clock, always on deadline. You can’t really escape it, no matter how hard you try.