Book Club: Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

A brilliant collection of essays on millennial existence

Book Club: <em>Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion</em> by Jia Tolentino

Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror is much more than a bundle of 4,000-word papers. I never thought to purchase additional essays on top of the stapled New Yorker magazines that arrive at my doorstep weekly; but giving Tolentino’s breakout novel a read was easily one of the best decisions I made last month. Commentary on topics that are so relevant alongside writing so concise is as hard to come across as snow in July.

For the unfamiliar, Tolentino is a staff writer on pop culture at The New Yorker. Her labelling as the “Joan Didion of our time” by Vulture is apt; she speaks on seemingly mundane things like gifs and “cursed energy” on the internet with an impossibly great deal of insight and conviction.

Tolentino acts as the omniscient eye on behalf of us drooling app-addicted adult-babies. She reminds us of what we are doing and what it all means. Though she seldom proposes solutions for the problems she explores, her works by no means are inconclusive. The theme of her every article — and in this case, her every essay — suffices as a conclusion in and of itself.

For instance, one of Trick Mirror’s chapters in “The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams” is on the presentation of wealthy scammers in the media. Though it has been made clear by the likes of Netflix and HBO that Fyre Fest founder Billy MacFarland and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes were both unethical and deceitful, I had never regarded them as scammers.

I do believe, however, that they manipulated the public’s beliefs to pursue lofty goals while neglecting transparency. Yet, this practice is not unique to scammers; similar techniques were and are used by revered masterminds like Larry Ellison of Oracle and Elon Musk of Tesla.

Even Uber, the ride-hailing app everyone has come to hate but still habitually use, was populated by software engineers, executives, and managers whose paychecks depended on scamming. They secretly ran Greyball: a software tool that allowed them to deny service to officials in cities where they were illegally operating Uber vehicles. If the practice of deceit and unethical practices made one a scammer, then it seems that most — if not all — of Silicon Valley is run by scammers.

Tolentino encourages readers to reconsider who and what is a scam, then bluntly concludes: “The choice of this era is to be destroyed or to morally compromise ourselves in order to be functional — to be wrecked, or to be functional for reasons that contribute to the wreck.”

In sum, her collection of essays is strung together by the theme of the digital age, which carries along subthemes like capitalism, religion, and feminism. She is able to speak critically on popular ideas without brashly offending anyone — a skill I still struggle to hone.

She calls out the hypocrisy supporting marketable feminism by asking how we can have She-EOs and no federally-mandated child care. She calls herself out on the share of scams she practiced to get where she is today. At the start of her journalism career, she rode on the capitalistic wave of feminism to break from writing wealthy high schoolers’ college essays: another scam.

Tolentino’s gripping commentary on the state of Western life in the twenty-first century is woven together with personal anecdotes and current news. The essays stand to help us transcend one step closer to her level of enlightenment, to push us to analyze popular practice more critically.

Independent thinking is priceless, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to do in digital spaces where unpopular opinions are attacked and censored. Tolentino reminds readers of how to formulate arguments against conventional thinking, as well as how such arguments can bear logical and valuable insights. She speaks with no hidden agenda.

The bundle of essays she offers us proves her competence in crystal-clear thinking and writing. If you’re a fan of her witty work in The New Yorker, be sure to add Tolentino’s Trick Mirror to your reading list. Get ready to have your woes articulated into essays so clever that they would knock the socks off of even your toughest teaching assistant.

Getting paid to set up dates I’m never going to go on

Let’s talk about sex, dating profiles, and catfishing

Getting paid to set up dates I’m never going to go on

I started to work as a dating ghostwriter about three months ago after trying and failing to secure a job as a journalist at a major media outlet. I wanted to keep writing, so I settled for anything. For the past few months, I’ve been conjuring profiles for clients I have never met and chatting to their matches.

Every night, I squeeze wafts of romance from my fingers to my laptop keyboard as I reply to messages, and focus on the commission I’ll receive if I get the two to agree to meet one another — even just once. Three years ago, when I ghostwrote college applications for cash, I thought my bar couldn’t sink any lower. Clearly, I was wrong.

Over time, I’ve started to grasp that all the jobs I’ve taken during my miserable writing career were no different to that of a salesperson. Although what we’ve got in the back of our trunk may vary in appearance, they share the same consecrated destiny of being sold.

While a traditional salesperson sells to their clients, a dating ghostwriter sells their clients. Due to them being downright boring and self-centred, with a breadth of self-contradicting hypocrisy that is too hard to miss, our clients need to be sold, and I should only be glad that there is no return policy. Whether they are to be kept or discarded, it’s no longer my business.

Having set my conscience straight, I still struggled with my sales record. One of my very few successes involved adultery. The match to my client was a married woman who couldn’t decide whether or not to leave her husband.

“Why did you marry him?” I asked. She didn’t reply until a day later, confessing that like many women, she was desperate when she entered her marriage. She was 37, and had been single for three years. While she was single, she had been to weddings where the brides were younger than her sister’s kids. The ticking clock gnawed at the core of her self-esteem, and she was grateful when the husband, who didn’t seem to care much about her baggage, came along.

He liked her for who she was. He tolerated her when she threw a tantrum. He didn’t like to be outdoors and neither did she. They seemed to be a perfect match. But there has never been a day where she could close her eyes with a smile of certainty that the man at the end of the aisle was the right one. She signed the certificate that bonded her to this man without ever being content, and that’s why she kept on looking.

“He is nothing like I have ever imagined for a husband,“ she wrote. “Does that make me a bad person?”

I looked down at my phone and wondered how much a therapist makes an hour. Probably more than me. Tilting my head as I glimpsed over at my boyfriend snoring next to me, I thought about the great loves I had and then lost, the possibilities I squandered, and the secrets buried by the passing of time. But no matter how many layers have been laid over the top, the lament that our past hums still sends shockwaves that get us every time. 

So I made something up. I told her: “You know how people always try their clothes on in the fitting room before they decide whether they should bleed cash on them? Well, we believe that what’s fitting must be the best — sound reasoning. But I know a woman who always buys clothes that fit her ideal, hangs them in the bedroom where she can see them every day, and reminds herself that’s the body she will work for. Your husband fits you now, but you aren’t the person you want to be when you’re with him. That’s why you keep looking. It doesn’t make you a bad person.”

She asked me if the woman who bought unfit clothes was my ex. I shrugged and planted the fictional character on my mother.

I have no idea what happened on their first date, or to their marriage, but I did get my commission.

In most cases, I chat to charm. I fish for the weakness in my matches and pamper it. Sometimes it works, a lot of times it doesn’t, and I keep telling myself that most writers make ends meet by ghostwriting these days. Either ghosting someone’s profile or memoir, we sell our authorship, and we often sell it cheap. But what isn’t to be sold in the world that we know anyway? And wherever there is a need, there is a market, right?

I remember the big dream I had for myself when I was a kid to be some writing hotshot and laugh. I laugh so hard that I nearly choke on the last sip of my latest bottle of gin. 

It’s no wonder writers drink.

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.

Five podcasts to make your commute more bearable

Learn the secrets of life from the comfort of your subway car

Five podcasts to make your commute more bearable

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any broodingly intellectual commuter must be in want of a podcast to contemplate while flexing Airpods and staring out the train window. Or maybe not, but either way, podcasts can satiate the need to fill your brain with something other than Father of the Bride for the zillionth time, or strangers’ subway conversations.

Finding the right podcast can be a trying task; the perfect piece must combine a compelling subject, a tolerable voice, and a binge-worthy collection of episodes, so I’ve saved you some of the guesswork and highlighted a few of my favourites.

1. Revisionist History

Revisionist History, brought to you by U of T alum Malcolm Gladwell, is an authoritative dive into the unknown sides of familiar institutions, figures, and events. Though Gladwell introduces the podcast as a series of reinterpretations of the past, it is also equally a catalogue of his personal obsessions.

The podcast analyzes everything from Jesuits, to golf, to the evolution of McDonalds’ French fries with equal appeal and the pith of Gladwell’s numerous bestsellers.

The most entertaining segment of the podcast may be the endings, as Gladwell unravels the stories in full form and guides you to his central idea like it’s the innermost piece of a Russian doll you unpacked together. He can spectacularly and stealthily make a point; in several episodes, Gladwell shakes his head at Donald Trump without even saying his name — he has the good sense to let you get there yourself.

2. Great Moments in Weed History

Journalists David Bienenstock and Abdullah Saeed apply a quirky and unexpected lens to the past as they trek into humanity’s 10,000-odd year relationship with cannabis. The pair cover one historical cannabis moment every episode, with Bienenstock acting as the all-knowing storyteller and Saeed as the comedic audience that Bienenstock guides along.

They deliver both the standard weed tales — the origins of four-twenty and Cheech and Chong — and the surprising bits on cannabis’ often hidden role in the past we think we know. From Jesus to Maya Angelou, no figure is safe.

Each story is interspersed with their own annecdotes and the tangents of genuine friendship, as well as the necessary pauses to ‘roll one up.’ Regardless, rest assured that the podcast is more than just stoner fare — Bienenstock and Saeed enjoy destigmatizing cannabis and history equally as much as they like smoke.

3. Someone Knows Something

We all know true crime is overdone — this is where Someone Knows Something comes in. Away from the done-before, CBC Radio and our host David Ridgen investigate the mysterious Canadian crimes that no willing — or living — voice can elucidate for us.

This is the crux of the podcast — someone must know something, but their silence has let disappearances persist as haunting and seemingly unexplainable events. Ridgen chooses cases whose explanations remain clouded amongst numerous theories, each equally questionable.

He manages to make these cases so deeply personal that you will mourn and search for answers along with his main subjects — the families struggling for decades without closure. The first two seasons are the show’s best, though they are not for the faint of heart.

4. Modern Love

Yes, you’ve heard of this a thousand times. But that’s because this podcast is a collection of some of the most genuine, personal stories about relationships you’ll ever hear. You can choose from an arsenal of eloquent, heart-warming episodes, and hear an array of celebrity voices reading essays chosen by The New York Times.

5. Nothing Much Happens

Less of a podcast and more a collection of self-described adult bedtime stories, Nothing Much Happens is meant to guide you to sleep through simple short stories from Kathryn Nicolai. Her vivid descriptions and soothing yoga-teacher-esque voice will quickly make you feel cozy and relaxed — a good avenue to peace when struggling with anxiety or insomnia.

Adulting 101: So you think you can launder?

There is a correct way to do your laundry and you’re definitely doing it wrong

Adulting 101:  So you think  you can launder?

Do any of us really know how to do laundry?

Last Sunday, I pulled out my new white shirt from the washer and it was stained pink — just a massive, in-your-face blotch on my shirt a day before an interview.

How could this happen to me?

I’ve been doing laundry for the past four years, and now it turns out that after all this time I’ve been doing it all wrong.

If you’re anything like me, you probably take a pile of dirty clothes, shove them into the washing machine, throw in detergent, pick both the cycle and temperature based on absolutely no logic, and then let the beautiful pièce de résistance do its magic.

Well, if you can relate to the above, then this is for you. And to those of you rolling your eyes, good for you. You’re nailin’ adulting. Love that — but I can’t relate.

After the last astronomical disaster, I finally went ahead and did some research. I typed “how to do laundry” on Google, and there it was: a long, verbose list of articles claiming to know the secret to doing laundry perfectly. There was an entire page dedicated to whites, a different one for knitwear, another one for colours — each with their own list of instructions.

But don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details of each of them. I know we’re all busy U of T students, which only gives us time to skim through online readings before getting back to our actual readings.

So, I’ve compiled a brief list of things that’ll help you preserve your Canada Goose jackets, woolen sweaters, and your white shirts for a little longer — or, at least, until after the interview.

1. Do not mix your whites with colours. Come on, don’t do it!

I know that we’re all lazy and that nobody wants to do two cycles, but mixing really ruins your garms. Even if there’s no colour leak, the materials for the two are usually quite different and your whites will get damaged.

2. Best way to load a washing machine? Use the Palm Rule

You need to give your clothes enough space to tumble and spin. If you overload the washer, then your clothes won’t get washed properly. On the other hand, if its not loaded enough, then you’re wasting water. Hence, the palm trick! Place your hand in the drum, and if your hand fits between your clothes and the wall of the drum, then you have the perfect load size.

3. Know your laundry symbols

You know those tiny white clothing labels that are sewn on the inside of your clothes and have all these fancy shapes that are practically incomprehensible? Yes, those! They are important. Some clothes can’t be washed with bleach, some need to be washed with cold water, and some shouldn’t be washed at all! Knowing these could really save your clothes from damage.

4. Now, about your knitwear — this is important to know because we live in a freezer for eight months

First, it’s never a good idea to wash your wool clothes often. Every time you wash them, a little more damage is done to the fibres. If you can’t eat a burrito right and end up spilling sauce on your sweaters, just clean the stain using bleach or stain remover, but please, remember to first check if you’re allowed to use bleach. Secondly, if you want to wash ‘unstructured’ wool pieces, like sweaters, blankets, and scarves, wash them on a delicate cycle in the washer. Always use cool water and gentle detergent; otherwise, it will shrink.

5. A little more complicated advice on the type of wash cycle, but stay with me…

Try using normal or regular cycle for whites, sheets, towels, undergarments, and socks. Always use a permanent-press cycle for jeans, non-cotton items, knits, and polyesters, and a delicate cycle for wool, silk, and other fragile garments. Great, you finally know what the permanent-press cycle is used for!

6. A few things that you should never, ever put in the dryer

Silk, lace, activewear, and pantyhose — now you know why your tights get torn so quickly! Also: those dryer sheets? They can actually be bad for your health. According to a few doctors, they might even be bad for your skin. So, even if you don’t take anything away from this article — and continue to shove all your clothes into one load, or take your laundry back to your parents house every two weeks — you can at least save money on those dryer sheets!

What’s it like having an IUD?

Let’s talk about sex, birth control, and how to become a work of art

What’s it like having an IUD?

I love having my copper Intrauterine device (IUD).

As an individual who does not like the idea of having hormones added to their body, but does want the highest level of protection during sex — it was the perfect option.

If you don’t know, an IUD is a small, T-shaped device with two hanging strings, that you can get inserted into your uterus. Yup, sounds terrifying. At least, that’s what was running through my brain while I sat fidgeting in the waiting room for 40 minutes.

When I was considering getting the copper IUD, there was a major downside. It increases period cramps and flow, and is typically recommended for people who have lighter menstruation cycles.

But hey, I already had a painkiller prescription for my cramps: you know, the type of pain where you have to imagine you’re a Viking warrior with a stab wound — those menstrual cramps. Fun.

My doctor’s response to my IUD request was something along the lines of, “Are you sure? Let me give you another prescription too, just in case.” This naturally made me more apprehensive of the procedure, but I knew that any hormonal option would impact me more than extra cramps.

I also knew that I could get my IUD taken out anytime after its insertion — the myth that you’re trapped with it for the next five years is not true. It is, of course, better to wait two months and see how your body adjusts, but after that, do whatever you want! Now, having had my IUD for a year, my cramps have remained exactly the same.

People often hold on to what’s conventional and I’m grateful to have access to any method of birth control around me at all, but I also know that I should have the final choice over what goes into my body.

What works for one person might not be what’s right for someone else. That is to say, my experience is just one story. When I was growing up, no one taught me about any options beyond abstinence and the pill. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about other forms of contraception, like the IUD.

When I finally got into the insertion room, my doctor was nowhere in sight. After 20 minutes of staring at the harsh fluorescent lights, eyes roving over cheap ceiling tiles with my back pressed into the operation table, I heard a knock at the door. She came in to tell me that they were waiting for the instruments to cool down from their time in the dishwasher, which gave me a whole host of visuals that I didn’t ask for.

When she returned, she placed a little plastic tool inside of me that held the area open, sprayed an antiseptic down there, then talked me through the insertion cramps. I’m endeavouring to be nothing but honest and informative — and maybe, just maybe, slightly entertaining.

Afterward, I rated the pain of having the IUD placed inside of me as a seven out of 10. This may seem like an arbitrary detail, but I want it out there for any person trying to decide what they want to do to have a fun, safe sex life. I’ve had enough friends ask me about it and then decide to get one themselves, that I wanted to share with a bigger audience.

I didn’t have any cramps after the operation was done. I even went to a party that night.

However, some people have reported experiencing pain afterward, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. You don’t feel the IUD itself inside of you at all. You don’t beep going through airport security or anything like that either. Although, I do like to think that the fact that it’s up there makes me a cyborg.

I made the customary second appointment to have my thread checked a few months later. The threads allow the doctor to ensure that the IUD is sitting correctly in your reproductive system. My IUD is soft and high enough in your cervix that it shouldn’t be noticeable. It also curls up with time into a practically non-existent little ball.

Like birth control pills, for a reason that I don’t understand, the copper IUD has a name. Only instead of sounding like something a kid would name their Barbie doll, it’s called the Mona Lisa.

So, if you do decide to go ahead and get one, keep in mind that you are officially a work of art.

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.