That’s Enough Kim Kardashian. Truly, We’ve Seen Enough.

My Original Meme!

Apologies dear readers, if this visual made you choke on your morning Muesli, but someone needs to stop this maniac. I’m certain by now your news feed has been inundated with pictures of attention ho’ Kim Kardashian’s cover for Paper Magazine? What a demure flower she is.

REALLY, Kim Kardashian; we’ve seen enough of your lubed up booty. Knock it off, woman!

As most of you know, I normally employ a ZERO TOLERANCE Kim Kardashian policy—but this needs to be said:

I Don’t Speak Kardashian

I truly hope the above display of dripping DESPERATION comes back to haunt you in ways you are far too lobotomized to even recognize.

BLECH

I’m also *shocked* to see that the photographer was Jean-Paul Goude, the same genius who snapped the Grace Jones work of art masterpiece!?

Iconic Grace Jones Photo

Iconic Grace Jones Photo

Quelle downgrade for Monsieur Goude?!

We now return to our regular programming,

XOXO                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Pop Culture Rainman™

 

Viral Meme Fame…Can it Last?

Here at The Pop Culture Rainman we’re no strangers to the wondrous world of viral meme fame and infamy—we cover it quite a lot.

The snap that started it all…

The latest viral juggernaut is #AlexFromTarget—a baby-faced Target cashier who reached a viral ‘touchdown’ after his photo was posted to Tumblr and spread like wild-fire overnight via giddy tweenagers who thought he was…wait for it…a hottie.

How non illuminating?!

What’s interesting to note—is that Alex had no idea that his photo had even been taken, least of all splattered across the interwebs. Five days later Alex has an astounding 700k+ followers on his Twitter account, five fake accounts with impressive numbers, and he’s already been on the Ellen show!?

And for what I ask? What semblance of marketable talent does this 16-year-old from Texas have beyond being Beiber-esque cute? Can viral meme fame parlay itself into something real, profitable even? This idea gets even more interesting when said memee wasn’t actively courting any kind of attention to begin with?

This is a new frontier of accidental online fame.

I thought this was an insightful post made by @XmyheartMT via Twitter:

It’s clear that for Alex this was a positive outcome. I mean let’s face it…he was bagging diapers and light bulbs—hardly en route to becoming one of tomorrows change agents—and I say that with love.

He certainly wasn’t on Time Magazine’s 2014 most influential teens list, now was he? I say this ironically as I can’t believe how youth obsessed our culture has become that Time Magazine would post such nonsense. I also think their inclusion of nepotistic spawn like Jaden Smith + Kylie & Kendall is vomitous (I-n-f-l-u-e-n-t-I-a-l as they may be). In fact the whole idea of 20 under 20, or even 30 under 30 lists make me want to projectile vomit all over the universe.  

So, yes…Alex got to cut corners in making his way to the top of Twitter, whereas the rest of us have to SLAVE our way just to get to the middle.

But what if this apparent windfall went horribly wrong for Alex. What if it backfired? There are seemingly ZERO policies in place on what is acceptable when posting photos of others online and what could potentially be ILLEGAL?

The deluge of trending Subway snaps for the most part, are just plain hilarious. I don’t think this guy will be making a complaint that his privacy was compromised any time soon, however

But back on point…overnight viral meme ‘fame’ is not to be compared to YouTube/Blogger famedom where there are hundreds of both young and (horrors!) aged adults making incredible profits for their videos and burgeoning brands online. 

Unlike Alex from Target, these people have been curating content online for years and are considered bona fide digital stars who have earned their audiences attention. Another element that they all share is that they were EARLY ADOPTERS of blogging and or YouTube. In the litmus test of online fame— 9/10 times said ‘digerati’ stars were churning out content between the formative years of 2005 and 2007. Yes, there are a handful or pseudo over night success examples, but those are exceptions, certainly not the rule.

Digerati ‘all-stars’ Shane Dawson + Jenna Marbles

***

At this point, I think Alex from Target should cut his losses and get out of the faux fame game, it truly doesn’t suit him.

His 1st rookie mistake has been, uh…being himself. His tweets post windfall, actually have the ability to put you into a coma. Sure he’s ‘pretty‘ but the kid is no word architect and pens one yawnathon after the other. He really should consider a ghost tweeter.

Once the sheen of his accidental fame starts to wear thin and he realises that the height of his modeling career potential will be JC Penney catalog work, his window of opportunity will start to cave in on itself. He’s sitting on some PRIME number Twitter real estate however—can he actually sell his Twitter space? Is that even done?

***

Let’s examine a couple of unexpected online meme scenarios where said memee benefitted in a positive way from the exposure. Not surprisingly—it’s not a lengthy list.

First up is Sammy The Success Kid. At just 11 months old, Sammy became a popular internet meme after his mom posted this ‘random day at the beach’ to Flickr in 2007, without ANY inclination it would become an internet sensation.

It’s a fantastic photo and the spacing with some extra landscape to the right, adds to its character.

Original photo of Sammy innocently making Sand Castles

Original photo of Sammy at the beach…ridiculously adorable we concur! Copyright

The initial incarnation of Sammy’s online persona was based on an interpretation of his closed fist and precociously smug stare as Sammy the ‘Bully’ meme. The doctored photo below alluded to Sammy being a beach front bully and enemy to sand castles everywhere. It’s undeniably hilarious.  

Beware of Sammy the Sand Castle Kicking Bully...

Beware of Sammy the Sand Castle Kicking Bully…

Initially his mother Lainey Griner was horrified by how her baby was being portrayed, but thankfully in the most random of occurrences, Sammy morphed into the poster child (literally) of SUCCESS—in meme parlance

One of the many incarnation memes of Sammy the Success Kid!

One of the many incarnation memes of Sammy the Success Kid!

In a reframing of his persona, Sammy appears to be the originator of the sentiment ‘WINNING‘ without actually having to say it. He reminds me of an archetypal University football coach actually!

What followed after Griner finally reined in her rightful copyright ownership were a couple of offers from top name brands like Vitamin Water and Verizon.

Verizon Poster Child of Value + SAVINGS! YEAHHHH!

While I have no idea if the money was substantial enough that it changed their lives dramatically, it certainly must have been a nice feather in their caps and an all around positive experience, mais non? From what we hear Sammy is a regular 7-year-old doing the things that 7-year-olds-do.

Success Kid is all Growns Up!

Success Kid is all Growns Up!

He will occasionally appear in a split photo ‘where are they now update’, but from all accounts—his  online fame has run its course and his family has not tried to prolong any further promotion of their son. They fell in, and they got out before it became ‘weird’.

Who can forget Antoine Dodson?

 Well, obviously we have a rapist in Lincoln Park. He’s climbin’ in yo windows, he’s snatchin’ yo people up, tryin’ to raoe ’em. So ya’ll need to hide yo kids, hide yo wife, and hide yo husband cause they rapin’ everybody out here.” -Antoine Dodson.

His ghetto flamboyance courtesy of a news segment became a viral sensation, and the saying ‘Hide Yo Kids, Hide Yo Wife‘ became part of our collective pop culture lexicon. An auto-tuned music mash-up produced by the Gregory projects sold more than 250,000 copies on iTunes and proceeds eventually helped Dodson and his family move out of the Alabama projects. Dodson has appeared everywhere from George Lopez to the People’s Choice Awards, a cameo in Tyler Perry’s film A Madea Christmas, and even rang in NYE on Carson Daley’s Times Square telecast. Most recently he has a Kickstarter account to help start a reality show and most recently starred in a pay-per-view fight with the original intruder (ya right!?) who trued to rape his sister.

This obvi staged press video that breaks out into a ‘fight’ with Dodson taking a girly swing that a light breeze could exceed, seems like a major downgrade from his former press coverage. It feels rather 50 shades of desperate at this point. Was he able to parlay his online fame into something bigger? Absolutely. It’s almost 4 1/2 years later since the incident and Antoine Dodson still has an online presence and fan base. But is it something substantial? Can his windfall be stretched out any further?

In the wise words of Sweet Brown (who incidentally hasn’t received a penny to date for her video’s prevalent usage…)

Sweet Brown

Stay in school kids,

XOXO                                                                                                                                                                                                The Pop Culture Rainman

Dancing Boy Diva Brendan Jordan is the Meme of the YEAR!

 

The Many Faces of Brendan Jordan

The Many Faces of Brendan Jordan

What a difference 1 minute can make.

Just last week Brendan Jordan was just a regular—albeit fabulous, 15-year-old teenager from Las Vegas, and now he’s a bona fide internet dancing sensation.

On October 14th, Jordan rose to viral fame after he stole *OWNED* the spotlight from a local newscaster with 60 seconds of choreography to Lady Gaga’s Applause playing in the background.

Some are calling it a video-bomb—but this has SASS-BOMB written all over it.

Feast your eyes on Jordan’s glittery magic below.

Between his you bettah Werk, Werk, Werk posing and giving Face, Face Face—overnight the video went viral—attracting the attention of Lady Gaga who tweeted out these messages.

And this…

With 22k + fans and growing on his Twitter (courtesy, in part of many a Little Monster Gaga minion) Jordan is quickly becoming a strong voice for LGBT youth and the anti-bullying movement. His Twitter bio proudly states yes im a boy. yes im gay.—garnering him the online moniker #BabyGay.

In an interview with Today.com, Brendan said the whole ordeal was pretty spontaneous: “I just saw a camera and I did my thing,” he explained. “I was imagining myself as if I were Lady Gaga, and that no one could destroy me“.

In this unremitting climate of snack media—here-today-gone-tomorrow—only time will tell if Jordan can parlay his 15 minutes into something everlasting. I personally think he should get on the merch train ASAP—I would LOVE a Brendan Jordan ripped tank, a dancing bobble-head and a key chain!

Either way we will always have this FACE (which would indicate the swallowing of ones own vomit) and the meme of 2014 to look back on!

The Face of 2014

The meme FACE of 2014

Dance Like EVERYBODY is watching,

XOXO                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     The Pop Culture Rainman

PCR ‘Pop Up’ with What’s Trending’s Shira Lazar

 

Digerati Darlin' Shira Lazar

Digerati Darlin’ Shira Lazar

Digerati darlin’ Shira Lazar’s media dance card is truly something to marvel at.

An early adopter of web technology and platforms, Lazar has been fully immersed in online culture since 2004. In 2011 she was named one of Fast Company’s “Most Influential Women in Technology” and that’s just a thread of her overwhelming list of credentials. She speaks at conferences around the world (TEDx most recently) is a regular contributor on The Huffington Post and appears frequently on Bloomberg TV, CNN and Fox News Channel discussing Internet culture and digital trends.

Her daily interactive YouTube show What’s Trending, is head and shoulders above the competition—covering + curating the most viral content across the web. Part 24/7 news hub, part online talk show, her Emmy-nominated brand is a pop culture hot bed for trending personalities, videos, musical guests and celebrities alike. With a mammoth growth spurt since 2012, What’s Trending has had partnerships and syndication with mainstream publications like USA Today, Virgin America, iHeartRadio and Gas Station TV. On October 13th it was announced that Culture Machine, a digital video company will launch a What’s Trending net in India.

We tracked down the busy writer, producer and host in Los Angeles for an impromptu Pop Culture Rainman™ ‘Pop-Up’ Q+A.   

Pop Culture Rainman: I remember seeing you for the 1st time when you were a young student at Montreal’s St George’s High School. I was hired to choreograph scenes in the annual fashion show. My 1st thought when I saw you was, ‘who is this overly fashionable, cool kid?” You definitely exuded an ahead-of-the-curve *vibe*. Who were your style influences at such a young age, and how did Montreal play a part in that as well?

Shira Lazar: “I had a modern-day family with siblings that were 5-15 years older than me. It was a fun and diverse upbringing with so many different personalities around me. Fashion and style were always a [huge] thing in my household from step-sister and my step-mother who worked in fashion. Growing up in Montreal had a huge influence on my style and mentality—the overall chic and European influence!”

PCR: Tell me about your start as a writer and as a journalist. I truly think it should be the marrow of anyone who is in a creative field—to be able to write well

SL: “I guess I always looked at myself as a connector and storyteller. I’ve used new mediums to do what I love doing whether it be writing an article or blog, tweeting, interviewing someone on YouTube, or even for a TV broadcast. It happens that my ability and care for writing has only helped push me to a better product and has allowed me to create something special. I think this day in age you need to do it all.”

PCR: You attended Emerson University in Boston and majored in TV and Video Production. Tell me about what you learned in University (and your program) that prepared you for the real world? 

SL: “Emerson is very well-known for media and communications, as well as their extra curricular programs. It was also very small, so it was an intimate and hands on setting. I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t taken this path and gone to Emerson. They also have an LA internship program, which I participated in my last semester. I interned at The Ellen Degeneres Show and a local LA radio station. My first job and mentors came from that experience. The Emerson alumni community also has a strong presence in LA, so I’ve never felt alone here. It definitely set me up for a career not just gigs.”

Shira Lazar Receives Young Achievement Award from Emerson in 2014

Shira Lazar Receives Young Achievement Award from Emerson in 2014

PCR: Your early work leading up to whatstrending.com was largely web content based. You were really a pioneer in creating an entire brand which focussed around the web—and all of the opportunities and channels within that. How did you have the foresight to follow the thread of digital platforms when it was still in its infancy stage? What were your interests that brought you to this area of engagement?

SL: “I followed the thread of the web because it was the only path that was allowing me to do what I loved and work on my craft. I was still meeting and auditioning for high-profile traditional media jobs but I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. There were so many exciting things happening in digital and the people I was meeting were pioneers themselves—it was hard not to be inspired by the founders, platform and communities being built. Having come from a family of entrepreneurs, I was completely drawn to it and it happened that I had something to offer them too. What started off as a possible stepping stone, became my niche.  The digital game is constantly evolving, you need to have a curiosity and a spark in you to want to stay ahead of the curve.”

PCR: In 2011, you made the shift from a daily blog/vlog (On the Scene) to turning whatstrending.com into a television series—tell me about that experience.

SL: “In 2011, we launched with a traditional media partner [CBSNews.com] and we streamed on Ustream and Livestream as well as posted on demand clips up on YouTube—but at the time we weren’t programming for the YouTube specific audience. We were still first to really put out a broadcast quality live week then daily show for the digital generation. It got many awards and even an Emmy nomination but even that model now has changed. Audiences are more mobile now, we’ve transitioned towards shorter pieces of content and we tend to program content to each platform differently. What goes on our .com is different from what goes on YouTube VS Facebook and Twitter.”

PCR: This is a business that is rife with struggle and that demands perseverance.  Tell me what you have learned so far about being a public media figure? Tell me about a how you recovered or bounced back from obstacles and what it has taught you? (*NB: On September 9, 2011, someone at “What’s Trending” erroneously posted that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had died on the official “What’s Trending” Twitter account and it was soon trending. The tweet was removed shortly thereafter, with Lazar apologizing, saying Jobs death was “completely unconfirmed“. Later from her own Twitter account, Lazar apologized again for the inaccuracy. Hours after the first tweet was posted, CBSNews.com severed ties with “What’s Trending” and Lazar.)

SL: “Whenever I’ve been through dark times, the process I go through is I let myself *feel it* for a moment. Acknowledge the pain or emotion you have and then sit down and figure out actionable positive steps to move forward. For me, when What’s Trending went independent in 2011 we just put our heads down and worked our asses off. We left no stone unturned and hard work persevered. In the end, the story of that year wasn’t how we had split from a major network partner, but how we built our audience on our own and that was the new name of the game. I like seeing a problem or a gap and finding a solution and thinking big. Don’t sit and stare at what you don’t have, but what you do and move forward with that to build something bigger. That gratitude mixed in with committed hard work is what has helped me push forward. Also, you are never better than anyone. Be confident in who you are and own your power, but leave your ego at the door. Collaboration is key and not just taking from people but bringing value to them.”

PCR: American Apparel CEO Dov Charney is your step brother. Do you find yourself having to defend or protect him on a regular basis and how do you navigate that?

a *rare* interview between step-siblings in early 2008

a *rare* interview between step-siblings in early 2008

SL: “Surprisingly no, no one ever brings it up and they’re surprised when they find it out! I’m like it’s on my Wikipedia page! [Laughter] But seriously—he’s a brilliant pioneer that I’ve always looked up to. He’s the consummate entrepreneur—and at every point has hustled, never gives up, fights for what he believes in and continues to work with that bullish excitement like he’s just starting out. You have to admire that.” (*N.B. the above interview still  from LX TV was taken in 2008 and there was no mention in the interview that Charney and Lazar were step-siblings—way to keep it all covert + pro!)

PCR: Tell me why you think social media platforms for your brand are important and which ones do you use that are the most effective for your brand?  Also What are some tips on building ones online portfolio?

SL: “It really depends on who your audience is and what story you’re trying to tell. Instagram might be more visual and behind the scenes for us, vs Facebook where we also hit on the Facebook trends of the day. Figure out your audience, where they’re hanging out and program your social platform for them there. Follow people in the community, show love and don’t just broadcast your own stuff. Comment, RT and be part of the conversations.”

PCR: Is there a new tool, app, or social media platform that you really digging lately? 

Lazar is all about SnapChat

Lazar is all about SnapChat

SL: “Right now I’m fascinated with the Vine and Snapchat communities. A lot of people are trying to figure out the next Snapchat or private messaging app that will replace texting.”
 
PCR: Any new music that you are discovering?
SL: “I’m loving Kiesza (go Canada!) and also Fitz and the Tantrums”
Pop Rocks: Lazar Loves the Music of Calgary's Own Kiesza

Pop Rocks: Lazar Loves the Music of Calgary’s Own Kiesza

PCR: Best film of 2014 (so far?) 
SL:I haven’t seen them all yet, but I’m definitely a fan of Chef and the Fault in Our Stars!”
 
PCR: Fallon or Kimmel and why
SL: “That’s too hard! Fallon kills it [with his skits] on YouTube constantly, but I feel like Kimmel would be more fun to party with!”
 
PCR: Best celebrity interview ever?
SL: “Without question, Joan Rivers. Her work ethic was so awe-inspiring. I can’t believe she is no longer with us. I feel so honored to have spent an hour with her on stage.”

Joan Rovers + Shira Lazar at Internet Week NY 2013

PCR: Lastly, do you have a personal quote or maxim that you live by?

SL: “Spend less time being interesting and more time being interested in people and the world

***
XOXO
The Pop Culture Rainman™

Futuristic Geometric Nail Art, Now Trending

Nail Art is *still* alive and well, and impressively, quite adaptive in terms of constantly evolving. Why just back in the pre-fall, I was waxing poetic about the metallic nail color trend and lo’ + behold’ a new fad has emerged.

The latest and greatest is a pastiche of geometric + abstract shapes, with new takes on the half moon/reversed French. While some might argue that the geometric nail art trend has been around since 2012, I believe these following pictures to be freshly-squeezed modern expressions on the trend.

With the 60’s back in fashion for fall 2014, this first photo feels like a perfect retro fit.

Mod + Modern Geometry

Mod + Modern Geometry

I absolutely adore this next ‘lewk’. I love the folding of gold, to neutral— to bare nail. It reminds me of Fritz Lang’s futuristic dystopian film Metropolis—especially the original posters

Metropolis Nail Inspiration

Metropolis Nail Inspiration

 ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

Gilded Nails

Gilded Nails

This last set is a new take on the half moon/reversed French—its a half triangle, again, using the natural nail as part of the design. It’s quite Bond Girl don’t ya think? A Bond Girl with hot pink sex lasers beaming from her eye balls. Yes, I have an active imagination.

Half Triangle Reversed French. Sexy!

Half Triangle Reversed French. Sexy!

Let’s hope these designs are still wearable come Christmas falala fun-times—if not you know where to come a knockin‘ trendnistas! You can try Googling for DIY versions of the above, or try finding a Nail Art Studio in your area. In Toronto two places that can accommodate; Pinky`s Nails Studio + Tips Nail Bar.

Laser Cat

Laser Cats!

FYI This rainbow Laser Cat from SNL fame should not be mistaken for my Bond Girl pink sex lasers, which I made up. Just want to make sure your paying attention class!

Nailed It,

XOXO                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The Pop Culture Rainman

Phó Mania; All About the Vietnamese ‘It’ Dish…

In terms of pop culture, Phó —the Vietnamese noodle soup, is currently experiencing revival ‘IT‘ foodie stature.

In fact, this dish is so happening, that if Phó were an actor it would be Jennifer Lawrence.

If it were a model, it would soooo be Cara Delevingne

If it were a singer it would be that annoying troll-hobbit Ariana Grande—I long to take a weed whacker to that phony-tail of hers.

tumblr_n37vrg2z671ruraifo1_500

But before any more vocal confetti, first a brief history lesson!

Did you know, that Phó is strictly a staple breakfast offering in Vietnam, served with a black cup of coffee?

• While the word Phó appears to be pronounced ‘Faux‘—like a Kardashian, the correct elocution is actually ‘Fuh‘ (like Huh’)…Illuminating stuff, yes?

• Lastly, the word Phó refers to the actual rice noodles known as bánh phở and can come with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, vegetables or any combination thereof. 

***

My initial indoctrination into the cuisine happened in early 2014 via a friend after a yoga sesh. While I’ve certainly enjoyed many a oversized asian-inspired noodle soup during my life’s quilt, this was the 1st time I was mindfully trying Vietnamese Phó, ya dig?

Said friend brought me to Phó Rua Vang Golden Turtle on Ossington street in Toronto. On any day of the week, the place is packed to the gills with hipsters and foodies slurping down enormous bowls of soup and other yummy accompaniments. It is considered by and large the #1 eaterie for Phó in the downtown Toronto area. Other big draws are their famed deep-fried pork spring rolls (I don’t indulge in the swine) and their spicy satay chicken + lemon grass with vermicelli.

The instant you sit down at Golden Turtle you are sated with a steaming hot-pot of green tea. I order a vegetarian Phó soup and it comes to the table in the blink of an eyelash with a side plate of extras. The side plate at any Phó establishment are the add-ons that are integral to the heightened flavor of ones soup bowl.

*Insert Record Scratch Sound Here*

But before we go on, I must make a dramatic 360° turn to another restaurant I discovered, that trumps The Golden Turtle in terms of their Pho’ broth and over all presentation.

Back in the early spring I was having a conversation with a local restaurant owner and telling him all about my Phó obsession at Golden Turtle.

Yeah, it’s good, but there is so much better Phó around,” he said matter of factly.

But what do you mean” I said in disbelief? “It’s packed all the time, sometimes it’s impossible to get a table!”

Yeah, it’s packed, but do you notice that it’s strictly all non-asian clientele?”

He continued.

If you want good Phó, you should go where Vietnamese people go. Like down on College St. at Phó Linh—it’s incredibe.”

Where the Magic Happens: The Mother Ship, Phó Linh

Where the Magic Happens: The Mother Ship, Phó Linh

And just like that I became a convert overnight. My friends sage advice was some of the most potent, yet simplistic foodie-wisdom-for-the-ages. If you want the best of any cuisine, go where people from said cuisines background go to eat. Brilliant!

So, yes, IMHO, Phó Linh is *better* than the Golden Turtle in terms of the actual soup broth, veggies, tofu and add-ons. Did I mention I have a six day-a-week Phó habit that I have no intention of giving up?

Green Tea

Green Tea

Like the Golden Turtle, the peeps at Phó Linh bring a green tea to your table as soon as your booty hits the seat. In the summer its a cold green tea offering, in the fall/winter, hot. Because I am there so often, (I’m literally on an IV drip of the stuff) they no longer take my order and just give me an all-knowing nod as they hand a paper to the cook. It’s also important to note that Phó Linh is also PACKED to the gills with patrons–they’ve been around since the late 90’s!

Also I don’t want you coming. Seriously. This is not an advertorial. I don’t want it getting more popular. I’m totally serious about this. It’s such a little gem for me. I don’t want THE MAN, messing it up.

And…back to our story.

Important to note is the bric-a-brac of condiments nestled to my right; back tube (left) of hot sauce, (right) hoisin sauce, front right to left: pot au heaven (I made that up) a paste made of blended chili peppers, fish sauce (a Vietnamese mainstay) and finally shrimp sauce. Purists don’t believe in using condiments, but as you like is how I look at it!

Condiments A-Plenty

Condiments A-Plenty

In less than 10 minutes a steaming huge bowl of Vegetarian Phó soup with extra tofu, extra cripsy (my specific order) comes to the table with the side plate of extras that you heard about earlier in our story.

What comes next is a meditative ritual of spice placement that is really like an aromatic dance for me. I am never more ‘present‘ then when I’m going through the very pleasant rigmarole of preparing my Phó. The side plate bounty consists of (on bottom) crunchy bean sprouts, multi-leafed stock of THAI BASEL, it smells like a fragrant Saigon sunrise (I have no idea what that means), one piece of Culantro (not to be mistaken for Cilantro) but they are definitely related somewhere in the vine-lines of the Cilantro fam. Next is a mini crimson red chili pepper, and lastly a gorgeous wedge of lime goodness.

Side Plate 'Fixins

Side Plate ‘Fixins!

Quid Phó Pro

There are subtle rules of engagement when sitting down to a bowl of Phó. My process is as follows. I start with the plucking of the Thai Basel, one by one into my soup. Then I take the stalk of Culantro and break it up into pieces and spread it around the soup. My former amateur move was to stick the whole stalk of it in, until I observed how the initiated were doing it in the restaurant. I even received a nod of encouragement from a lovely Asian woman as I was doing it one day. Next I sprinkle in some bean sprouts, and finish off with a circular lime squeeze. The lime is so very essential to the over all TANG. I don’t use the mini hot pepper as I douse my Phó  in the mixed condiment chili paste as you will see shortly.

Next I take my ‘tools’—a soup spoon, and a pair of chop sticks. I mix the ingredients together with my soup spoon (there’s additional onions, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms bok choy, and a heaping of shallots and regular cilantro already in the soup.) I take my chop sticks and loosen the noodles underneath, and do a newly homogenized taste test. The picture doesn’t really do the presentation justice, (the veggies et al are hidden) but I wanted to take my own photos. Hear that Word Press Freshly Pressed panel?!! The photo that does do it justice is from the top of my story one taken from UrbanSpoon.com. It’s an exact replica and makes my mouth water just looking at it!

Phó Sweet Phó: A Thing of Beauty...

Phó Sweet Phó: A Thing of Beauty…

Lastly, I add some pot au heaven chili paste directly on my crispy pieces of tofu. The tofu, compared to the forgettable soft puff balls at Golden Turtle, are like tasty little firm mattresses! The broth at Phó Linh is a perfect blend of tastes, where comparatively the Golden Turtle broth is too salty and simply doesn’t have the same texture, aroma and quality.

So there you have it, I promise you I’m not this precious with any other meals, nor am I even remotely anal about other things in my life. I truly just enjoy the slow and mindful ritual of my warm and cozy solo Phó moments. Oh, yea, I like eating it alone. Company is not encouraged. No noise, no chatter.  Do you have certain meals that you like eating by yourself specifically? Please feel free to share your Phó stories with me!

Also, send money? This habit is getting expensive!

XOXO

The Pop Culture Rainman

Lounging at TIFF 2014

I unabashedly refer to the days that lead up to the annual Toronto Film Festival as the “Anxiety Broth that is TIFF prep.”

There are lists to get on, invites to RSVP for, films to attend, hair, make-up and outfits to prepare. I oftentimes find myself in the swampy trenches of being uncharacteristically needy and pandering to self-important publicists, handlers + wranglers; it’s an art form, really.

After 12 years attending the film festival, the foreboding agita and onerous pressure when attempting to cover this mammoth entity ceases to abate. Being that I am leashed up to my Twitter-feed 24/7, comes the constant realisation that I’m missing out on something, and trying to play catch up can be exhausting. One thing that was absent in my earliest days of TIFF was the cacophony of cellular noise, and in many ways I feel we’ve lost a sense of being present and in the moment. Technology giveth—that’s certain, but man does it ever taketh away.

But alas, this sounds all first world complainy. The truth is, once my footing is secure and smoke-signals are all approved, TIFF is never short of being an incredible experience.

What is always a saccharine-laced pleasure are the gifting lounges that I’m loyally invited to, where I become introduced to likeminded plebes, brands and important charitable causes. They are a welcomed balm from all the chaos, and oftentimes where the most valuable connections are made. While the film purists might disagree, I believe they are an essential component to the festival and a great boon for Canadian brands to get noticed on an international level. NKPR’s  IT LOUNGE curated by president Natasha Koifman is usually my first stop. It’s always a wonderful pastiche of intermingling with celebrities, models, athletes, media personalities, fellow journos, friends and strangers alike. It’s a vibrant social experience with an incredible live DJ, and incidentally where I do my best day-drinking.

It was here that I met pro Hockey Player (and Chris Hemsworth doppelgänger) Michael Kostka and got to try on the GOLD MEDAL of Olympic winner and Amazing Race Canada contestant Natalie Spooner! I also had the pleasure of bumping into the gorgeous gals from CTV’s The Social, and yes, I know I look like I gotta-go-tinkles in the photo below. 

 

 

Fetching Aren’t I?

I loved interacting with the brand reps from Davids Tea, Rudsak and Yogen Früz (all companies that originate from my hometown of Montreal no less!) Yogen Früz were promoting their Pink Velvet froyo, wherby 10% of the proceeds go to The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation from September to October, a cause that is close to my heart.

#SupportHealthyCups Campaign. Brilliant!

#SupportHealthyCups Campaign. Brilliant!

Despite it being a sweltering day and the pace inside the IT LOUNGE fast and furious, I dab on my newly procured calming Saje Wellness essential oils, take a deep breath and continue on with the days schedule.

Next up, I head over to the International Hotel on Front St. to check out The Tastemakers Lounge which celebrating its tenth year at the festival. Tastemakers is flawlessly run by Rock It Promotions Debra-Goldblatt and Divine Lab’s Leesa Butler, in incidentally was the 1st celebrity gifting suite to ever appear at TIFF.

Tastemakers is much more of a private enclave in a subdued suite, and I instantaneously take off my oppressive heels and sink into the plush carpet. “Tastemakers is an oasis and a respite for celebrities and media to get away from the craziness,” says Butler who escorts me around the suite personally. Like the IT LOUNGE there is an emphasis here on Canadian brands like Danier Leather, Sorel Boots, and Lush Cosmetics. Lush technically started in England, but had its first international store in Vancouver and continues to supply all 150 stores from its two cosmetic kitchens located there as well.

 

I can’t say enough about Lush Cosmetics. This is a company that truly cares about its eco-footprint, fights animal testing, buys their products ethically and gives back in on-going charitable campaigns.  At Tastemakers they were promoting their Charity Pot hand and body lotion, which helps support grassroots charities such as Girls Rock Camp Toronto.

While I could go on about the other lounges that pop up during the festival, the aforementioned are truly the Gold Standard when it comes to TIFF. I did enjoy a visit to the Variety Magazine Lounge at Holt Renfrew where I had a chat with Scott Speedman about how he was a terrible interview back in the day. He sheepishly admitted that he is much better today, and that it was just a matter of “shyness“. ‘Keep talking gorgeous…’ I think to myself as he tells me he doesn’t miss Toronto and loves living in L.A.—adding that “Toronto has come a long way though!”

"Keep Talking Gorgeous, Mamma's Listening..."

“Keep Talking Gorgeous, Mamma’s Listening…” ©Getty Image

I also saw Willem Dafoe there who is surprisingly hobbit-height for someone who is so commanding on the big screen.  Ethan Hawke also came by and he looked incredible with a great aura about him. It was a great way to spend an afternoon (and day-drink tequila) while hearing about a comedic celebrity who was in the day before who had everyone removed in the lounge to be alone. It was a surprising egocentricity (he didn’t want to be looked at?!) I had not expected to hear from this barely A-list star whose name will go unmentioned.

Alas, I don’t Talk out of Lounge.

XOXO                                                                                                                                                                                                           The Pop Culture Rainman™