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The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, Yayoi Kusama

Last week, I had the chance to check out Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. These tickets had been hard to come by; my opportunity to attend was only thanks to a good friend at work. Otherwise, I was always 492,915th in the queue every time a new block of tickets were released online.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Kusama’s work and Torontonians have spent months eagerly awaiting the exhibit’s grand opening. I had only ever spied Kusama’s work from the lucky few who had visited The Broad in Los Angeles and shared their mystifying images of The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away on Instagram. More than anything, I wanted to know if standing in the middle of a dark room surrounded by what really seems like an infinite number of twinkling lights would be as magical a feeling as I’d imagined. (Spoiler alert: it was.)

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Our timed entry to the exhibit was late on a Friday afternoon, but you are guaranteed to wait 15 to 20 to 30 minutes in line for each infinity room, regardless of the time and day of week you went. Once inside, you’ll have 20-30 seconds. Most rooms only accept groups of 3 at a time (never just one person), so get ready for a single-rider-style line and to make new friends for about 30 seconds at each room.

This is my only criticism of the exhibit, which has absolutely nothing to do with the exhibit or the AGO, and has everything to do with the power of PR and buzz-worthy art. 30 seconds is not enough time to truly absorb a piece of work. I envy the AGO employees who have almost certainly snuck into the rooms after closing and spent more than a minute in each one.

My recommendation is to carve out at least 3 hours to experience the exhibit in full – this includes the infinity rooms and assorted art pieces hung on the walls throughout the experience. Plus, once you’re in, you’re in until closing. If there’s a room you really love and you’re not in a rush to leave, why not line up again to experience the room once more?

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Still, when you’re in good company, the waits never feel too arduous. And the exhibit provides small snippets to read and quotes to ponder over as you stand in line, learning about Kusama’s life, her inspirations, and her complicated relationship with sex (read: fear of). My friends and I were surprised by the amount of phallic imagery in Kusama’s work (granted, this was only a surprise because we hadn’t done much research prior to the trip). It did bring to the forefront that everybody’s relationship with sex is different. And we thought “tubers” was a funny word.

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Phalli’s Field, Yayoi Kusama

My favourite rooms were definitely the dark cosmic ones, which literally transport you into space and onto a different plane. I could feel my soul expanding beyond the reaches of the room and into the deep depths of the mirrors. The real sense of endlessness was freeing.

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Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, Yayoi Kusama

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Life (Repetitive Vision), Yayoi Kusama

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Love Forever, Yayoi Kusama

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Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots, Yayoi Kusama

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Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots, Yayoi Kusama

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At the end, you’ll have a chance to make your own mark on an infinity room. Each guest is given a sheet of polka dot stickers and you have free reign to stick them anywhere you’d like. You can even sit on the dotted furniture. As someone who’s always compelled to touch things in museums, this room really tickled my fancy.

DSC08832-2The Obliteration Room, Yayoi Kusama

Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit is on at the AGO until May 27th, 2018. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets, it’s worth the fantasmic pop art stimulation to the senses.

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Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them {film & screenplay}
★★★★☆
Release Date: November 18, 2016

It’s been nearly two decades since I first became a Harry Potter fan – almost twenty years of sleepless nights spent reading and rereading, theories, fanfiction, midnight book releases, midnight movie releases, Ron/Hermione vs. Harry/Hermione, themed parties, memorabilia, message boards, Pottermore, more fanfiction, the view of Hogwarts at Universal Studios, Mugglenet, UK movie premiere livestreams, film sets at Leavesden Studios, and friends with whom bonds were forged because of a mutual love of the fandom.

When Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was released, it felt like a part of my soul had died, like someone had killed one of my horcruxes. It was the end of an era. Although the stories and magic would live on in each of us, we’d reached the end of days. We had to learn to move on.

But then J.K. Rowling pulled a “jk jk (rowling)” on us and gave us Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

There’s a sacred moment at the start of every Harry Potter movie, the moment when “Hedwig’s Theme” plays as the audience floats into the large Warner Brothers logo. Up until that point, I hadn’t been physically or mentally prepared for what was to come. But that opening sequence simultaneously gave me an out-of-body experience and grounded me into the present. We were finally getting another Potterverse film.

Fantastic Beasts is the gift we thought we deserved when we waited in line to pick up a copy of The Cursed Child. It is so clearly a pure J.K. Rowling classic; its story and characters have been brought to life by an author who has the extraordinary talent of building a rich, complex world that we mere mortals would die to live in.

[Minor spoilers below]

The movie introduces the canon of a magical USA and the often-romanced decade of New York City during the Prohibition. J.K. vividly paints us a living mural of this undiscovered part of the wizarding world: wizard life in the city, the government, wizard and muggle relations, the fashion. Goblins run the banks here, too. Gigglewater is a thing.

But, of course, the fantastic beasts are the central stem of the movie. J.K. and the post-production team brought to life so many of the unique creatures we’ve only read and fantasized about. In doing so, the movie was also about the preservation and care of animals and nature. From the hilariously sassy Niffler to the mythical Thunderbird to the Erumpent in heat, these beasts served as a fun, aww-inducing lens into the expansive wizarding world.

Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander brilliantly, making him your new favourite Hufflepuff (RIP Cedric). Shy, unassuming, a little awkward, but always with a heart of gold, you can’t help but fall in love with the magizoologist. Eddie’s talent is obvious in his seemingly effortless ability to live and breathe as Newt in an environment that is 90% CGI.

Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein is the shining star in this film. Although Queenie embodies the flirty female archetype, she is not two-dimensional. As a practiced Legilimens, she proves herself to be incredibly intelligent with a mastery of the skill. She isn’t shallow, and at no point does she become a damsel in distress, though her personality type usually falls victim to the trope. In fact, she is the most level-headed and brave of our group of four. We don’t know which Ilvermorny house Queenie was sorted into, but I’d guess she was a Thunderbird. The soul, the adventurer. Queenie is a testament to J.K.’s ability to create whole, three-dimensional characters, regardless of their gender.

The film has the difficult challenge of balancing a number of plotlines, and for some, it proved to be too complex for what could have been a standalone movie. The Grindelwald tie-in did feel a bit strange in the context of Newt’s story. That the two would collide, despite Grindelwald’s rise in America during the time, felt a bit contrived. But there are some theories in play that might explain things. Was Grindelwald obsessed with the obscurus because Ariana was one? What is Dumbledore’s true relationship with Newt? Will Leta Lestrange play a pivotal role to connect the characters? Only time will tell.

I’m looking forward to peeling back the layers on Newt Scamander, to explore his surprising relationship with a Lestrange, to see more beasts. I want to know how powerful families like the Shaws come into play and the unravelling of wizard/muggle relations. I can’t wait for more Queenie. And I hope the five-film franchise gifts us with the Grindelwald and Dumbledore duel to end all duels.

As a fan, I had always hoped that any new material J.K. gave us would be about the Marauders. But Fantastic Beasts manages to fill the hole I’d had in my soul for the last five years (and it helps to blur the memory of The Cursed Child). Perhaps the greatest element of Fantastic Beasts goes beyond the film and the new characters and creatures we’ve been introduced to. What fills my heart with a surge of overwhelming joy is knowing the fandom that shaped my childhood and young adulthood lives on. That there is still more mystery to be discovered, more friendships to be formed, more magic to be experienced.

Did you see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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My brother moved away to university on Labour Day and it’s also his first time living on his own. To show him how proud of a sister I am, I took him to Fan Expo Canada for what I was hoping would be a day he’d never forget. I’m pretty sure I nailed it.

We’re both extremely huge fans of The Walking Dead. When the show is back on October 12th, I’m going to find it supremely disappointing that we won’t be able to watch it live together – which we usually did every Sunday night, followed by an hour of laughs while watching The Talking Dead.

So when I found out that I could get us passes to Fan Expo through work, and that there’d be TWD celebrities in attendance, I knew that it was something we’d have to experience together. Not only did we end up getting to attend the Q&A panel, for which five of the actors attended, we even got to meet some of them, including a pre-purchased photo op with Norman Reedus. Yes, it was truly amazing.

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I’m a little (a lot) behind on posting the day-by-day recaps of my Paris & London trip, but all for a good reason – I swear! Well, maybe not. Work has been extremely busy, leaving me feeling rather drained at the end of each day and unable to muster up the energy to edit all of my photos and write an essay-worth of narrative for each post. But I’ve been trying to recharge over the last few days and we’re getting back into the swing of things with a feature on my fantastic time at Fan Expo Canada over Labour Day weekend.

For anyone unaware, Fan Expo Canada is pretty much like Toronto’s version of Comic Con. Thousands of comic book, sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming fans flock to the Toronto Metro Convention Centre for a 4-day celebration of all things geeky/nerdy. While I didn’t dress up, this is also the main event for all of the cosplayers in the city and surrounding GTA. This year, I was lucky enough to score passes to attend through work, and was more than psyched to check it out.

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Summer BBQ with Kyle

Something mysterious happens when you make a sweeping declaration that there is absolutely nothing going on in your life. Almost overnight, everything seems to start up again and, before you know it, it’s several months later and you’re really not sure where any of that time has gone.

That’s what my choice of blame is when it comes to the question of why I haven’t blogged since 2014 rolled around. The truth is time seemed to have stopped for me when the new year came. Nothing new was happening for me, the holiday frenzy was over, and we were left in the dead cold of winter. But like I said, something happened, and I’ll take you through a recap of my last eight months. By the power of some magical force, it’s been pretty exciting. (Spoilers: it involves a career change, meeting my idol, taking lessons in my spare time, and traveling!)

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