The winter blues call for a drink

Here are 10 tunes to thaw the ever-encroaching ice and snow

The winter blues call for a drink

1. “Let It Play” by lilcobaine

Don’t try to deny it, we have all been drunk and missed that person. It’s just… complicated. This is that emo rap, the Lil Peep-esque track that starts playing and subsequently makes you miss them at 2:17 am. You’re not hungover yet, but if you’re about to text your ex, you probably will be tomorrow. You pull out your phone and open your messages. It’s cuffing season, so it’s up to you to hit send on that “shawty come through” message. Please note the music video is not family-friendly.

2. “Moodna, Once With Grace” by Gus Dapperton

Okay, so maybe things didn’t work out with your crush at the house party last night. You wake up, hungover and lovesick, unable to tell which of the two is the cause of the pit in your stomach. Reaching for your phone on your nightstand, you scroll through last night’s activity. Oh yeah, you Shazam-ed that song. You hit “play” and the vaguely familiar guitar and synth fill your bedroom.

3. “Only Trying 2 Tell U” by Puma Blue

Caressed by a sweet falsetto and a slow melody, this sweet jazz tune may be your remedy for that big headache of yours. This is a slow and steady track that makes you feel like you are caught in a memory. It’s bittersweet, yet ever so repeatable.

4. “Flirting in Space” by Brad Stank

This smooth jam will make you want to sink into your bed as your headache is slowly eased. It’s for those cozy moments where your bed is at its most tempting, enticing you with a fluffy duvet and a warm pillow, and although your head is pounding, your mind is currently being transported into space by way of Brad Stank’s smooth guitar and dreamy synth.

5. “Downers” by Greentea Peng

Sometimes you just need some tough love — or maybe just some chicken soup for your R&B soul. Greentea Peng delivers an omnipresent perspective on taking downers and drowning out the world around us. Heartfelt and powerfully delivered, her live performance in a COLORS show is especially impressive.

6. “Bounce Back” by Big Sean

This one may be an oldie, but it is definitely a goldie. Big Sean’s track is supported with motivating lyrics and a catchy beat to help you bounce back from taking an L last night. This track is for the hungover hustler whose mantra is work hard, play hard. After a night of partying, you best believe they will be grinding it out the next day.

7. “Different State of Mind” by Kid Bloom

This track has a dream-pop sound to autopilot your mind down a stream of consciousness. Where will it take you? Maybe you’ll sink right into your bed? You’ll just have to listen to find out.

8. “Time” by Sebastian Mikael

You wake up hungover in the morning after a wild Saturday night party next to your bae. This song gives you all the imagery of a perfect Sunday. It’s smooth, sensual, and loving. Sunny side up eggs, unmade beds, and nothing but time to spend with that special someone. On a cute note, the artist filmed the music video with his girlfriend.

9. “Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune (a Modular Reflection)” by Ann Annie

This song is a prime example of déjà-vu. It is obviously something everyone has heard before. This cover of the famous piece has been completely transformed via soft synths and a harp-like melody. Though digital, the familiar notes still exude an overwhelming feeling of tranquility to the listener.

10. “Mint Jams” by Casiopea

This wildcard album is for the person who needs something upbeat, funky, and easy to listen to. Casiopea is a Japanese jazz fusion band,  and this song is from is their 1982, perfectly named, Mint Jams album. The music is like a more chill and complex version of old-school Sonic the Hedgehog music that is being emitted from your Gameboy Advance.

But does it spark joy? Slow fashion in a high-paced world

How you can squeeze yourself and your ethics into a nice pair of jeans

But does it spark joy? Slow fashion in a high-paced world

There are few things that spark more joy in my life than fashion. It’s been my passion, identity, and therapy. I live for the next piece of clothing that I can get my hands on, roam malls until my feet ache, and follow every fashion show with an unrelenting dedication. I saw my future in an episode of Sex and The City when Carrie Bradshaw realized that she had no money because she spent it all on shoes.

However, as fashion month and the Global Climate Strikes intersected in September, it seems necessary to look at the everyday practice of shopping in order to better understand its impact on the environment.

Like many markers of climate destruction, the fashion industry saw a major boom after World War II. Advancements in technology meant that brands could use synthetic fabrics, efficient factory lines, and outsourced labour for mass production.

The expansion of the global middle class, which has only risen since the advent of the twenty-first century, created a captive market to buy these clothes, fuelling both the economic growth and pollutive nature of fashion brands. According to a 2018 article from Nature Climate Change, textile production now emits 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year — more than international flights and maritime shipping.

The main culprit of this crisis is fast fashion, which is the equivalent to fast food in the moral hierarchy — meaning it barely scrapes the barrel of decency. Large clothing brands, like H&M and Zara, seek capital above all by ensuring that you buy new pieces every season, and they don’t care about the negative effects of this consumption pattern. Actually, they count on you brushing your hands through racks of clothing while disregarding the negative effects.

Slow fashion is designed to help you consume mindfully in response to fast fashion. It’s epitomized by the ‘capsule wardrobe’ — the idea that closets should contain timeless pieces with a limited amount of seasonal variation. The assumption is that the lack of sustainability comes from overconsumption, and that clothing is overconsumed.

I’m not in a position to prescribe the capsule wardrobe. I currently have 222 pieces of clothing in my closet — without counting dirty items, undergarments, socks, winter apparel, shoes, bags, jewelry, and the pieces at my childhood home. It’s foreign to me how a person could own less and still get dressed in the morning.

That being said, our world is on fire. And this scientific reality forces us to consider how to tackle the climate crisis within the parameters of our social reality — what we can give up, for the ability to change our lifestyle intersects with a host of other social justice issues, making it so that certain populations actually can’t give up everything.

Since it would be absurd to ask low-income families to invest in more expensive, higher quality clothing without trade-offs, and we remain far away from eco-conscious brands becoming accessible options, it is the responsibility of wealthy consumers and nations to make sacrifices for change.

I can’t incentivize slow fashion because I’m not a policy expert. What I can do is appeal to shopaholics, like myself, who have the means to alter their consumption patterns.

We must build a relationship with clothing that emphasizes how fashion expresses personal identity and cultural values, not material wealth relative to others. This can enable a balance between sustainable behaviour and human culture. So before you buy that next item, consider whether it’s absolutely necessary, where the clothes originate, and whether there are better alternatives.

I don’t want to throw your favourite French army jacket into a dump with half-eaten McDonald’s burgers. Slow fashion doesn’t have to mean purge and abstain. I only ask to break the awing hypnosis induced every time you enter a store. Stop dragging your hands through that endless array of clothing and take the initiative to resolve your dangerous shopping habits.

This can include prioritizing brands with an ethical, eco-conscious mandate; Marie-Kondo-ing your closet in minimalist terms. Shopping vintage, upcycling, or looking for clothing with non-synthetic, organic ingredients are also admirable efforts.

However you approach slow fashion, just try to crack the surface, because once you have your footing, everyone can move forward.

WTF is weather amnesia and how can art explain it?

On your way back from office hours, pop into an interdisciplinary and intergenerational art exhibit at the Jackman Humanities Building

WTF is weather amnesia and how can art explain it?

Weather Amnesia is an art exhibit on the top floor of the Jackman Humanities Building currently showcasing work by modern and classical artists at the intersection of science and artistic expression. The pieces are arranged on walls and bookshelves of the 10th-floor lounge and seminar room, more decor than formal gallery.

“We are very easy to forget — to deny the abundant evidence of changing environment,” said Yuluo Wei in an interview with The Varsity. She is the curator of Weather Amnesia and a Master of Visual Studies in Curatorial Studies student at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. Wei is critical of our modern indoor lives, especially in the urban environment, and she hopes this exhibit creates dialogue toward an awareness of our surroundings, toward noticing the weather.

In a 1922 oil painting by Graham Noble Norwell, sketches of a classical snowy Canadian landscape, ice over a lake, and a silver birch are grouped together. Around a corner hangs Lisa Hirmer’s photo series tracking the melting of snow in a test tube. Though both artists incorporate snow into their pieces, their artworks provide a stark example of the evolution of art from classical to modern times.

Another work includes a hygrothermograph, an analog measurement tool that reports temperature and humidity. A tablet with a live bird migration map is in another. A watercolour collage of a bird from a museum collection, by Florence Vale. Blocks of timber cut into a model of the Jackman Humanities Building. Abstract shapes in a big square inked in 1979, inspired by a Canadian winter.

There are two contemporary Canadian artists featured in the gallery. Lisa Hirmer has two pieces, the second being “Watching, White Ibis,” a letter to the migratory white ibis. Tania Kitchell has two pieces, one named “Weather Observations,” a diary of comments and measurements of weather by a lake. The other is Occupy, composed of 3D-printed plants that are invasive or alien to the arctic. The printed plants are not a perfect ratio to the living counterpart — for any visiting arctic plant experts.

To me, the title Weather Amnesia is a reminder; I personally don’t remember my elementary-school snow days, but my parents sometimes remark that there’s less snow falling nowadays. Kids in the 1990s must have had more snow than me, and I had more snow than the kids now. The oil painting is a quintessential Canadian snowy landscape, and older generations may relate to this more. Newcomers and youth may relate more to the six frames of melting snow. The printed plants are another guilty reminder; I barely recognize three out of the many species, save the dandelions and clovers.

But can you spot the Canadian Thistle, the Blue Eyed Grass? I think we all need this reminder lest we forget that the urban lifestyle we live is, for most of history, abnormal.

The artwork can leave viewers with important questions, but a block of wood labelled as laminated timber may not have as much face-value significance to the theme of the exhibit. The Quayside project, run by Sidewalk Labs, alongside University of Toronto’s own Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport, will both have wooden skyscrapers made of the same laminated timber, a simple but high-tech building material.

Construction of these structures is fast, less noisy, and has no harmful chemical by-products. The sculpture of the Jackman Building was first modelled on a computer, and buildings have the same process but at a bigger scale.

Weather Amnesia will run Monday–Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm until June 26, 2020. It’s free and open to the public, but the seminar room space, a third of the exhibition, is sometimes booked for events.

Overlooked: Anne with an E

From a children’s classic to a Netflix original, literature’s favourite Canadian redhead finally reaches our favourite procrastination tools

Overlooked: <em>Anne with an E</em>

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, set in Prince Edward Island, is about a unique orphan who wins the hearts of siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.

The book is treasured not only by Canadians, but by people all around the world. I remember growing up and falling in love with Anne’s flamboyant personality.

I laughed when she got into trouble for dyeing her hair green and adored the love-hate relationship between Anne and Gilbert Blythe. Over the years, there have been many television adaptations of this series, however, Netflix and CBC’s diamond-in-the-rough Anne with an E offers a fresh new perspective on Montgomery’s beloved novels.

Despite being renewed for a third season, the show is still vastly underappreciated. The first season offers us a look into Anne’s life before she arrives at Green Gables and sets a grim mood to the show.

Anne copes with post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks, which reveal the trauma she has endured at the hands of her previous foster parents. Although this adaption is different from the previous light-hearted depictions of Anne, it sheds light on the challenges that children in the foster care system face.

The second season delves into other important topics, such as racism, homophobia, and misogyny. We are introduced to the show’s first Black character Sebastian ‘Bash’ (Dalmar Abuzeid), who Gilbert befriends while working on a ship together. We get to see Gilbert develop into a fully fleshed-out character who has a life beyond being Anne’s love interest.

At the same time, we see Gilbert learn what it means to be an ally to Bash against the racism he faces. Queerness is examined through the role of Diana Barry’s aunt Josephine who had a partner called ‘Aunt Gertrude.’ Aunt Josephine holds a queer-friendly party which sets the scene for Diana Barry, Anne’s closest friend, to grapple with her feelings about her aunt’s sexuality. The show also flirts with feminism by introducing the new teacher, Miss Stacy, who breaks gender norms by being single and wearing pants.

Anne with an E dives into our cherished novel and updates the classic tale with vibrant new characters and themes. The show does not shy away from exploring painful topics which is what sets it apart from previous adaptations.

Theatre review: Hart House’s The Rocky Horror Show

A timeless classic hits one of Toronto's favourite stages

Theatre review: Hart House’s <em>The Rocky Horror Show</em>

She brushed past me, wearing half a black sparkly bra and half a gold glitter dress. She was clearly wearing a wig — impossibly thick, black, and curly — and when I looked at her heels, my feet ached for her. She would be going on stage any minute, but right now, she was walking down the aisles, laughing with the crowd before the sold-out performance.

Welcome to The Rocky Horror Show.

Nowadays, in a world of RuPauls, the idea of men in drag seems like just another Friday night binge. But when The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a cult-classic musical by Richard O’Brien, was released in 1973, the sight of Dr. Frank-N-Furter declaring himself to be a “sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania” would have been enough to make more than a few jaws drop in theatres.

The story follows the chaste and clean-cut couple of Brad and Janet as they get engaged, then stranded when their car breaks down in a storm. They go to Frank-N-Furter’s castle, where they’re greeted by other Transylvanians who pull the couple into their web of sexuality and debauchery.

There’s a lot of lingerie. And fishnets. And platform heels. And in Jennifer Walls’ Hart House production — just in case the original costumes weren’t camp enough for you — the lingerie glows in the dark too.

Minutes before the show began, I became acutely aware of how out-of-place I was and how much I wished I had a feather boa. Though most of the audience dressed normally, I paid most attention to those who followed the show’s website’s suggestion to “dress to impress” and partake in the spectacle.

The woman to my left wore black Mary Jane high heels with rainbow-striped knee-high socks. The girl two seats to the right of me had on fingerless leather gloves. I was wearing a black cardigan and jeans.

I felt like such a Janet.

From the first number “Science Fiction/Double Feature” alone, it was clear that Walls didn’t limit her actors’ space. Rather, she told them to use the whole auditorium as their stage. She made clever use of the background actors called the “phantoms,” who filled the aisles and cheered to the song, riling up the crowd. They were one of my favourite parts of the show. I could call them transformative, but that would be an understatement.

As the subtly manic Brad, played by Will Mackenzie, proposed to a frustratingly clueless Janet, played by Katie Miller, the phantoms hovered behind the cutout church prop, jumping out with jazz hands.

In a sense, they were the set itself. Arms became windshield wipers. Bodies became doors. Thighs became the holster for a particularly bold penis-shaped water gun — don’t ask, you have to see it for yourself.

The Rocky Horror Show is acclaimed for its blatant disregard for anything within the sphere of ‘normal.’ Normal is drab. Normal is a word that deserves a sparkly silver stiletto to the head. But Walls didn’t just lean into the insanity of the storyline; she threw herself in, full-force.

Strobe lights showed off the glow-in-the-dark lingerie. When Frank-N-Furter, played by Chris Tsujiuchi, spoke, phantoms collapsed to the ground and shook in ecstasy. We found out that Brad wore strawberry boxers.

However, my biggest dissatisfaction is that, greedily, I wanted more.

Tsujiuchi embodied the nonchalant confidence of Frank-N-Furter exceptionally well, but there were moments where I wish he drew out the audacious snap of his character more. He tended to stay in the realm of dry humour, but that left an unsatisfied craving for the uninhibited sexuality and boldness of Frank-N-Furter. I wanted more self-indulgent vivacity, more of a saunter in his performance.

The show was strongest when it did what it does best: shatter the fourth wall in a self-aware fashion. And it did so glamorously.

As Columbia, played brilliantly by Becka Jay, went manic in a tap-dance frenzy during “Time Warp,” she screamed, “Look at me! Are you not entertained?”

Some questions you don’t need answered.

In true Rocky fashion, audience members were also encouraged to yell at the stage. I had never seen anything like it. During the storm, Janet yelled to Brad, “I’m coming with you!”

Somebody from the audience yelled back, “For the first time in your life!”

Sure, I could also dive into some of the deeper themes of the show here. The oppression and reclamation of sexuality, like when Brad and Janet took off more clothing as the show went on, until Janet ended in a bra and underwear and Brad stunned us in a sheer pink robe.

Or maybe I could talk about the celebration of being the other, of being unique, irreverent, and from Transylvania. But out of all the running gags, the one that’s the hardest to forget, the one that had the most spunk, was all the penises.

Props, of course. But nonetheless, it was like The Stag Shop was a silent partner. Dildos encircled the top of the control panel that built Rocky. Laser guns had mushroom tips. Because at the end of the day, yes, this was a ‘very professional production.’ The actors were all exceptionally trained, nobody missed a beat in comedic timing, and the dances were all snappily choreographed. But behind all of that, this was sheer, unadulterated entertainment at its core. And everybody on stage made sure you knew it.

Out of everything though, my favourite memory remains when the show ended and the cast all took their bows to a standing ovation. But as if our absurd campy experience wasn’t enough, the next thing we knew Tsujiuchi was asking us if we wanted to do the Time Warp again, and who were we to say no?

So the music queued up and we danced, albeit awkwardly with a limited range of movement, but together. I laughed with every pelvic thrust, every jump to the left, every step to the right. And even when we stepped out of the theatre into the cool, quiet night, I was still grinning like an idiot.

Because at the end of the day, you can say whatever you want about The Rocky Horror Show. But you can’t say that it wasn’t pure fucking fun.

Let’s get baked: from gluten to glucose and everything in between

The top 15 Toronto bakeries to get your daily carb intake

Let’s get baked: from gluten to glucose and everything in between

From delicious French breads to buttery croissants, soft decadent cookies, and tart fruit  pies, there is something for everyone when it comes to baked goods.

Bakeries are perhaps the true backbone of the Toronto dessert scene because of their sheer diversity and quantity. For those who prefer savoury treats, there are plenty of options here for you too.

Toronto is packed full of specialty dessert shops, from cookie shops and cupcake boutiques to Japanese cheesecake cafés — as good as the likes of Craig’s Cookies, Prairie Girl, and Uncle Tetsu are, specialty stores like this are left off this bakery list.

However, this list includes places that are bakeries in the traditional sense; places where you walk in and are immediately surrounded by tonnes of delicious baked treats arranged tantalisingly in front of you: tarts, pies, breads, cookies, croissants — you name it!

Here is a list of the top 15 bakeries, mostly in the downtown area and a couple just outside Toronto proper — yes, this is a condensed list. They are worth the trek, especially before it starts to snow.

Le Gourmand Café, Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West

Honestly, they must put something extra in their chocolate chip cookies, because wow.

Bakerbots Baking, Bloorcourt Village

Go on the weekend. You’ll find a much greater selection, including fancy tarts! It has the same owners as Bang Bang Ice Cream and Bakery, so you know you’re in for delicious baked goods and tasty ice cream if you’re in the mood.

Blackbird Baking Co., Kensington Market

Bread, bread, and more delicious bread, with a side of flaky croissants and seasonal tarts. Try their chocolate cork.

Butter Baker, Bay Steet and Dundas Street West

Cookies, cakes, and pastries galore! If you are an ice cream fan, they also have delicious soft serve.

Mabel’s Bakery, Multiple locations, Queen  Street West

Mabel’s is on here because whenever I am going on a dessert crawl of almost any sort, Mabel’s is always featured, from pies to cupcakes to cookies.

Nadège Patisserie, Multiple locations, Queen Street West

Who doesn’t love a good French pastry? Sometimes you just need a delicious macaron.

The Tempered Room, Parkdale

Very cute, and has croissants. They are so buttery and delicious. Any croissant with almonds or chocolate is to die for.

Forno Cultura, King Street West

Italian party galore! Sweet and savoury pastries in an aesthetically pleasing and bustling bakery.

Sanremo Bakery, Etobicoke

An Italian bakery that does it all — for those in the west end of town, you have to try it. Doughnuts, traditional italian desserts, cakes: if you can name it, they’ve got it.

Bake Shoppe, Ossington Avenue and College Street

Hip and  sleek with Drake cookies — literally, cookies with celebrities like Drake and Snoop Dogg. Also, ruffle marshmallow squares? Yes, please!

Rosselle Desserts, Corktown and Queen West

Canelés, canelés, canelés is all I have to say. But their other goods are also amazing.

Mashion Bakery, Spadina Avenue and Baldwin Street

One-dollar pork buns and rolls? We’ll take 10.

Bobette and Belle, multiple locations

A bakery for any special occasion. They have absolutely everything, and you can even stop by the store for a snack.

Lamanna’s Bakery, Scarborough

For those willing to make a trek or those at UTSC, check out this bakery. It will not disappoint; from pizza to cannolis, it has it all.

Almond Butterfly Harbord  Street and Spadina Avenue

Gluten-free everything! It is delicious, even for those without a gluten intolerance.

Book Club: Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things

Both familiar and separate, Roy highlights the restricted life of South Asian women

Book Club: Arundhati Roy’s <em>The God of Small Things</em>

Having been educated in a postcolonial British school, the works of Western writers, from Kipling to Dickens to Twain, dominated my academics. It was only after coming to U of T to pursue an English degree that I realized how this limited syllabus of works had restricted my worldview.

So I began a journey to read more diverse authors, beginning with Arundhati Roy’s phenomenal novel The God of Small Things, widely considered a staple of South Asian literature.

The novel follows Esthappen and Rahel, twins living with a multi-generational family, made up of their doting, conflicted mother Ammu; their half-English, half-Indian cousin Sophie Mol; and great aunt Baby Kochamma, who is set on making sure everyone is as unhappy as her. Set against the backdrop of Kerala, a state in southern India, the novel explores how the lives in a family can be complexly changed from one inexplicable instance.

Readers are given both present and past perspectives: in the present, the twins are grown up and return to their childhood home after multiple tragedies have rocked the household. In the past, we follow the events that come after the arrival of Sophie Mol and how the characters’ actions influence the future.

This unique plot, which is coupled with stunning prose, may be why Roy became an overnight sensation around the world and went on to win the 1997 Man Booker Prize with this novel.

The world of The God of Small Things is quite removed from mine, but startlingly familiar. Examples of similarities are endless: the jibes that Ammu receives for being a free spirit rather than succumb to the restrained behaviour that is expected from South Asian women; the special treatment that Sophie gets for being part-English and for being so much more sophisticated than the twins; and the way the twins are forced to memorize Shakespeare and Dickens because a knowledge of English correlates with intelligence in a postcolonial society.

Readers of this book will find that it does not matter whether you can predict what will happen or receive a spoiler. The nature of its complex, intertwining plot is just one of the aspects that makes this work a masterpiece, as readers are also given astoundingly visual imagery and prose that almost reads like poetry. I found myself rereading and highlighting entire passages because of how beautifully they were written.

If readers are looking for any author for inspiration, they should not look further than Roy. The God of Small Things is witty, thought-provoking, and should definitely be the next book on your list.

Why cutsleeve are the next band you should fangirl about

Cutsleeve: unapologetically female, queer, and Asian

Why cutsleeve are the next band you should fangirl about

It’s 2:00 pm on a Sunday. I’m speed walking through Alexandra Park, feeling anxious and a little wired because I’m both late for my interview and I just took a Prozac. I find the five-piece band cutsleeve at a picnic table by the skate park, after initially mistaking a group of teenage boys for them. The spot was chosen because it’s close to the band’s practice space at the Rehearsal Factory — and because I didn’t think we could find a coffee shop with a table for six people.

The first thing I notice is how they’re all wearing darker colours, like punk rock vampires. I’m immediately intimidated. One after another, they introduce themselves: drummer Lian McMillan, lead guitarist Hannah Winters, bassist Hillary Fong, lead vocalist and keyboardist Chanel Fu, and rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist Amanda Wong.

Finding inspiration from artists such as Paramore, Le Tigre, Moaning Lisa, and Wolf Alice, cutsleeve describes themselves as alternative rock but clarified that they’re “still trying to find [their] sound.” Moreover, even though cutsleeve’s members are all indisputably talented in their own right, their personal backgrounds in music are still diverse. Their experiences vary from the classically-trained McMillan to the self-taught Winters, who says she got her start at 14 when her dad bought her a guitar for Christmas.

“I’d sit in my room after school, just going through the pages, playing those old songs like ‘On Top of Old Smokey,’” she said, “and I felt like I had a Joan Jett moment where I was like ‘I don’t want to play these nursery rhymes, I want to play rock ‘n’ roll.’”

Evidently, the girls of cutsleeve are a self-possessed and badass group of young women. As such, they have an appropriately badass name, the origin of which, I soon discovered, has its roots in an East-Asian legend.

“I found out about this Chinese folklore story,” Fong explains, “about an emperor who was sleeping with a partner, and he wanted to wake up and get water or whatever — you know, go to the washroom, self-care.” At that they all laugh, and, smiling, Fong goes on to explain how the emperor noticed his lover sleeping on the sleeve of his robe, and, not wanting to awaken him, cut the sleeve.

“It became a euphemism for queerness,” she says, “and it’s just a reminder that queerness is always in our history, no matter what.”

And this is a history that is important to cutsleeve, since their music stems from their shared experiences of being queer and Asian in Toronto. They are all familiar with alienation from the white male bands that dominate the Toronto music scene.

As McMillan explains, “When I was playing with guys specifically, especially white guys, I just felt super alienated and intimidated, and a lot of imposter syndrome, so I specifically went out seeking these lovely people.” She motions to her bandmates, “especially queer people as well, because that’s been a really big part of my life, and I was like, I don’t really know that many queer Asians and I need to go find them, and now I think I know every single one.”

If you’ve got durian eyes / I’m tired of being fetishized

“Once you find a few you find them all,” Winters said, laughing.

This message that queer people have always been  — and continue to be — an integral part of both the East-Asian and punk community is something that the members of cutsleeve find important to convey in their music. Moreover, cutsleeve uses their music as a tool to express their discomfort with discriminatory behaviour toward them. For example, their songs “Durian Eyes” and “Yellow Fever” address the fetishization of Asian women.

It seems as if being East-Asian and queer is the perfect double-whammy of fetishization.

“The key lyric [in “Durian Eyes”] is ‘If you’ve got durian eyes / I’m tired of being fetishized,’” says Amanda, a testament that holds true for many East-Asian and queer women, myself included.

I remember the anime-loving white guys who told me they only like Asian girls — one of whom pointed to a Japanese schoolgirl outfit in a store window and said, “Damn, you’d look good in that!” — and the guys who yelled, “Yo, you give head?” at me on the street, and after I responded that I did but “not to men,” yelled back: “I like that! Get over here.” It seems as if being East-Asian and queer is the perfect double-whammy of fetishization.

cutsleeve satirizes the objectification of East-Asian women specifically in their song “Yellow Fever,” the chorus of which goes: “Yellow fever / yellow fever / the doctor diagnosed her with yellow fever / and I don’t think I can be the cure for her.”

As McMillan explains, this song was more about “dating expectations and being fetishized and just kind of noticing a pattern in terms of people’s dating history… like when I’ve hung out with my guy friends and I’ll be like ‘who’s the new girl you’re talking to?’ and I’ll just notice a pattern. I mean, I’m not going to say anything, but… you’ve got yellow fever.” McMillan continued, “When you want to take an East-Asian studies class at school, and you go in and it’s just filled with white guys like trying to like, you know…” She trails off, but we all know exactly what she means.

However, it would be wrong to presume that cutsleeve’s music is just a reaction to prejudice, as it is also an exploration of identity. As Wong explains, “Durian Eyes” was inspired by a friend’s art installation of a giant durian, and that song came together through their multiple perspectives and shared feelings of being lost in the Asian diaspora.

“It’s kind of like you’re in this in-between place,” says Wong, “where you’re not technically from here [or] there, and it’s just kind of like trying to figure out who you are around expectations that the world from both sides have on you, but that’s not necessarily indicative of who you are.”

This refusal to be defined by stereotypes is what makes cutsleeve a truly unique and valuable new addition to the Toronto music scene. By committing to the ownership of their identities, they are making space for queer East-Asians in Toronto, like myself and many of us here at U of T.