True Patriot Love: My 2022 Team Canada Winter Olympics Anticipation Index

True Patriot Love: My 2022 Team Canada Winter Olympics Anticipation Index

I am searching for the literary device that might be big enough to convey exactly how much I love the Winter Olympics.

Some similes: My love for the Winter Olympics is as fervent as a hand over a heart during the opening notes of O Canada. As devoted as the athletes themselves are to their training regimens. As eternal as the final minutes of a hockey game can seem when your team is clinging to a one goal lead and the other team’s net is empty.

Some analogies: The Winter Olympics are like Christmas to me, except better, no offence intended to Jesus Christ, because they only come around once every four years. The Winter Olympics are like the Super Bowl to me, except better, no offence intended to Tom Brady, because the excitement lasts for two entire weeks.

I would make an attempt at a sonnet or a haiku, but poetry has never been a natural gift of mine, and also not enough words rhyme with “podium”. Anyway, my point has probably been made. The Winter Olympics are my favorite thing.

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2022 Anticipation Index

2022 Anticipation Index

January is traditionally the time for high hopes and grand plans and lofty ambitions. The time to be briefly convinced that all of the empty days unfurled before you hold nothing but promise, to most fully perceive the potential in this latest quirk of the Earth’s axial tilt. But the concept of anticipation hovers a little awkwardly around the edges of this particular New Year. It is, after all, somewhat complicated to feel true excitement for things that are question marks.

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Books I Loved In 2021

Books I Loved In 2021

I am an enthusiastic practitioner of the art of looking backwards, of cataloguing all of the things I have experienced for an archive nobody ever asked me for and making conscientious notes for a test I’ll never actually have to take. These habits only really serve me well one time of year, and thankfully that time is now, because it is Best Of season. All across the internet, and probably also between the pages of plenty unseen diaries, lists assessing the sundry offerings of 2021 are being compiled: the best memes, and the best tweets, and the best of everything else.

I come to you, predictably, with my list of Best Books. Except I feel uncomfortable with the word “best”, for fear of offending all of the many other deserving books I read this year, so instead I am going with the more explicitly subjective qualifier of “Books I Loved.” Love, of course, is always complicated, and so it means different things for different titles. Some of these books made me laugh and some of them made me cry and one of them made me cry because of all the laughing. I was educated, entertained, and enraged at various points during my reading year, which is I think all I can really ask from a bunch of words on a page.

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Dear Santa: My 2021 Pop Culture Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa: My 2021 Pop Culture Christmas Wish List

I’ve always been split on the concept of composing a wish list for Christmas.

On the one hand there’s no arguing against the ruthless efficiency of the practice; the guarantee against Christmas morning hopes being dashed through the snow. For the gift-giver, having a list to adhere to eliminates all kinds of stressful second guessing and streamlines the shopping process— in that sense, writing out a list of presents one yearns to receive could almost be viewed as an act of Christmas charity.

But something about the exercise has always struck me as vaguely mercenary, something that too starkly reveals the commercialized and capitalist bones of what is supposed to be a warmhearted exchange of goodwill. Sure, your expectations are met, but there is something lost in having set expectations at all, in reducing your loved ones to the role of glorified Amazon delivery worker.

As a child, I negotiated this paradox by rarely asking my parents for anything specific— trusting instead that my strong personal branding would guide them in the right direction, namely towards books and Barbies— but always helpfully itemizing things for Santa, who, I reasoned, had the added burden of a billion or so extra children to keep track of. I did always add the incredibly Canadian caveat that I would be happy with whatever Santa chose to bring me if, for any reason, he was unable to fulfill my wishes, which I hope my mother appreciated while committing her recidivist acts of mail fraud.

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Dust Off Your Highest Hopes: Revisiting RED (Taylor’s Version)

Dust Off Your Highest Hopes: Revisiting RED (Taylor’s Version)

When Red was originally released in 2012, it represented a tale of two Taylors. A crossroads moment in her career in which there seemed to be two clearly divergent routes her music might take. There was the one that wound through Laurel Canyon, blazed by the likes of Joni Mitchell and Carole King, that would have seen her become the Poet Laureate of hyper-articulate girls who feel too much (glimpsed in songs like Treacherous, Holy Ground, or State of Grace); or the more straightforward path which ended in uncontested global domination (foreshadowed by all tracks produced by Max Martin).

If you’ve paid attention to music at all over the past decade, you know which option she chose, and though it was not the one endorsed by Robert Frost, eventually Taylor’s three album journey through pop megastardom looped all the way back around, and she was able to wander down the alternative songwriter path after all with last year’s releases of folklore and evermore. Perhaps a singular career like Taylor’s was never going to be plotted out in neat lines, perhaps it would always need to involve detours and scenic routes and doubling back from dead ends. That might be exactly why retracing every step with her now as she endeavors to reclaim control over her old music is so much fun.

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Everything I Almost Wrote

Everything I Almost Wrote

What is the customary greeting you might expect from someone who has recently crawled out from under a rock? Or from someone who has washed ashore after many months of being adrift at sea? Or from someone who has finally awakened after a decade long slumber?

Whatever the appropriate words are (Hello again? Guess who? Well well well, I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me?) please consider them said, and please consider this post to be my bid for re-admittance amongst polite blogging society.

Because it has been, as they say, a minute. Here’s what nobody tells you when you start writing a personal blog: it is unbelievably easy to stop. Without an editor to be accountable to, without the pressures of deadlines or outside expectations, it is the simplest thing in the world to just … put off writing one of these old things until another day. And then another day. And another one, and so on, until you’ve accidentally taken a ~four month sabbatical and can’t figure out a discreet way to come back.

I suppose a good start would be to slip into using an active first person voice, instead of the cowardly and stylistically questionable blend of third and second that I’ve been employing thus far. I stopped writing for this blog, I ghosted this space like it was a Tinder match who repeatedly demonstrated an inability to distinguish between there/they’re/their. I have returned to it, bearing a humble handful of half-formed ideas with the vain hope that clearing my emotional and literal drafts will allow me to start this whole blogging enterprise anew.

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The Ten Best Pop Culture Moments of 2021 (A Midterm Report Card) 10-6

The Ten Best Pop Culture Moments of 2021 (A Midterm Report Card) 10-6

I’ll admit that I’m a little nervous about posting this one. Not because my summary of pop culture as it has unfolded in 2021 thus far promises to be shocking or even mildly controversial– I have zero fears that I’ll get cancelled over benignly declaring that Movies Are Good. No, my trepidation can be better traced back to what happened last year.

Less than 365 days ago, a much younger Ainsley– an Ainsley with considerably less trauma-induced wisdom but significantly better posture– attempted to write up the 2020 edition of this list. It wasn’t a terrible list. I stand by my exaltations when it comes to The Last Dance, and the fourth season of Insecure, and the albums released by Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, and Waxahatchee. Was it a blatant circumvention of the rules to include the 2019 film Little Women? Probably. Do I expect that many were baffled by my esteem for Sam Hunt’s Southside, an album that peaked at 5 on the Billboard 200 and barely made an impact with its true singles? It would be more baffling if they weren’t, to be honest. But overall, at the time I thought it was a valiant-enough, comprehensive-enough effort to account for what was great about a year that gave me very little to relish in.

Four days later, Taylor Swift released folklore.

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song of the summer 2021: June’s state of the race

song of the summer 2021: June’s state of the race

I’m not proud, but I have made it my habit to care deeply about things that don’t matter. Award shows, and professional sports, and the athletes who play said professional sports, and made-up turns of phrase designed just to irritate. Basically anything with stakes that are demonstrably, laughably low, but that somehow still manages to make my heart rate spike up and my fingers start flying furiously over a keyboard in an attempt to bully others into sharing my opinion. I promise I care about important things– like, say, climate change– too. I do. But putting that particular panic attack into words just doesn’t come as naturally as finding yet another useless perspective upon which I might stake my whole identity.

Perhaps nothing encapsulates this phenomenon better than my profound investment in the race to determine The Song of the Summer. Is this an important question? No. Is it a noble cause? Also no. Is it just a marketing gimmick ginned up by Billboard and the major record companies to boost their own sales? Chances are good. But despite knowing all of this, I have maintained a personal tradition of closely tracking each summer’s contenders, along with the overall state of the race, and bestowing the results with a significance that is frankly disproportionate and undue.

Often, The Song of the Summer is a song that I don’t even like all that much, chosen from amongst a group of songs that likewise would not top any kind of list if I was in charge. But my personal tastes are beside the point. To me, the quest to determine what wins the title is less about music than it is anthropology. Ubiquitous, popular things are always more interesting for what they say about the society that consumes them than for what they say about themselves, and the history of summer songs has plenty to tell us.

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Let People Like Things: Stories from the home front of the millennial wars

Let People Like Things: Stories from the home front of the millennial wars

You don’t need to be Sun Tzu to know that it’s never a good idea to start a war on two fronts, but somehow that’s the strategically ill-advised position that millennials have been backed into, while two battles are waged along generational lines: one against our elders, and another against the youths that aim to depose us.

For many years, that first conflict was the only one we had to worry about, and the antagonists were the same group I suppose every generation clashes with at some point: our parents. The Baby Boomers, perhaps you’ve heard of them. That bloated, hegemonic generation of former hippies turned stone-cold capitalists, who forged most western political and financial systems in their own consumptive image.

In recent decades, the Boomers grew fond of blaming millennials for “killing” entire industries and traditions (mid-priced restaurants, breakfast cereals, diamond engagement rings, among a long list of others); they called us soft and spoiled and self-centred, and linked these failings to a malevolence of so-called “participation trophies” (trophies, I’ll point out, that none of us asked for, and that the Boomers had taken it upon themselves to design and dole out); and they explained away our financial insolvency as the natural consequence of our love of brunch. We responded to these criticisms mostly by rolling our eyes, while also pointing to the tanked economy and ruined planet as evidence that their generation wasn’t all that great either.

But that song has been sung a thousand times by now, and though the quarrels continue, the antipathy has been slowly ebbing into apathy. Blah, we’re spoiled, blah, they’re selfish, etcetera etcetera infinity. Like a sports rivalry nobody else cares about (apparently the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings have a whole thing?) our disagreements have dissolved into comfortable, boring background noise.

:Gen Z has entered the chat:

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What Do We Even Want From The Oscars?

What Do We Even Want From The Oscars?

You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony took place a little more than a week ago. It was an event intended to honor a handful of beautiful films and moving performances; an event that had plenty of obstacles working against it; and an event that ultimately fell day-old-champagne kinds of flat. I’ve spent too much of my time this past week wondering why, and my thoughts on the subject will most likely come across as a bit unwieldy. Somewhat circuitous. Contradictory, disjointed, incoherent, even. And I would apologize for all of that, if it wasn’t such a fitting tribute to the 2021 Oscars themselves.

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