Recently I performed at Raconteurs, a live storytelling event that happens monthly here in Toronto. I’ve performed at Raconteurs before, and as many of you know, lots of other Spoken Word events around the world like The Moth, Spark London, GRTTWaK, and Pressgang. I feel like these events bridge a nice gap between writing and performance. I don’t like to act much, I prefer to be vulnerable on the page, rather than on the stage, but Spoken Word and Live Storytelling are a nice way to meld the two.
I told a story about trying to become the Canadian Amélie with a little help from the Bunz Trading Zone. It’s a crazy story of trying to connect with other people — complete strangers, really — and all the foibles and follies therein. You can watch it below! Enjoy!
In this new year, I have lots of things on my plate! So many upcoming publications, performances, and more! I can’t wait to share the news with you. Even though 2016 was a dumpster fire for everyone, I made some huge advances in my career and I’m so pleased with the direction in which everything is going. Small positive steps everyday lead to big things!
Also, I have a new adventure on the horizon! On Valentine’s Day, I head to Helsingborg, Sweden for the first time! I’ve never been (even though I lived in Europe for years and years), so when a housesitting opportunity arose, so I had to take it. After Sweden, I’ll be swinging through London, Brussels, and Amsterdam to visit my friends (and celebrate my birfday! What a crazy 3 weeks this is going to be….), so if you’re in Helsingborg and want to show this wee Canadian lass around, hit me up!
As always, don’t forget to check out Christine Estima dot CALM (har har) to read all of my published articles, watch my performances, and check out my media coverage.
Last week I was fortunate enough to perform at Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, which is exactly what it sounds like. Diaries, letters, poems, stories, you name it… if it’s cringeworthy or bittersweet, they want it. And lemme tell ya, I GOTS IT. I read a diary entry from 20 years ago, written after I had just seen the soft-core film Red Shoe Diaries and it had blowwwwn my miiiiiind, maaaaaan. What followed can only be described as a brainjaculation.
You can watch my cringeworthy reading below. I hope you enjoy what a ding-dong I am.
Also, I just got word from the show’s producers that my reading has been included in their podcast! You can subscribe to their podcast on iTunes (like I have been for months!). But if not, you can listen to my specific episode here and fast forward to time index 20:30.
As many of you know, I have performed at a lot of live storytelling/Spoken Word events, and I really love doing it. It blends my two favourite things in life: storytelling, and being a ham. I’ve performed at The Moth in NYC (watch my performance here), Spark London in the UK (watch here), and Raconteurs (watchy watch). Each time it’s different and new and ephemeral, so I highly recommend you come out to an event if you haven’t already. This GRTTWaK event was SOLD OUT and packed, which made for such a great atmosphere on stage!
Shout out to Dan and Jenna for having me! And expect more live-storytelling performances in the future.
Don’t forget to check out the official Christine Estima dot com for more of my live performances and publications and more.
A couple nights ago, I took to the stage at Raconteurs, a live storytelling/spoken word event here in Toronto. Many of you will remember when I performed at Spark London in the UK two or three times. Since then, I developed a taste for live storytelling, probably because it feeds into my need to be a ham, and talk about myself. Womp womp.
Last month, I performed at The Moth in New York City. That experience was probably the most exhilaration storytelling event of my life. There was easily 400 people in the crowd, and the massive standing-O and cheerful roar of applause after I was done was so galvanizing and fulfilling. They’re sending me the video footage of that night, and soon Raconteurs will upload the footage of my story to their YouTube. so stay tuned, munchkins. I hope to do Spark London, The Moth, and Raconteurs again. I listen to all of their podcasts, and am glad to be featured on there too!
Live storytelling feels like an obvious step in my evolution. I double-majored Theatre and Creative Writing for my undergraduate degree. Live storytelling combines them both, you get the performative aspects and the audience pay-off, but also you get to employ the nuances of language and creative non-fiction. I can pretend I’m one of those actor-writer types like Ethan Hawke (who has also performed at The Moth, fyi).
Expect to see more of me on the storytelling stage, my dudes. Dudebros. Brojangles.
Okay I’ll stop now.
Photography by 1nspireinc
My beloved Berlin pianist Nils Frahm played a sold-out show in Toronto a few days ago, and I was lucky enough not only to grab a ticket, but after the first song Says, he invited us to sit on the stage with him, so I was literally sitting at his feet as he played, a mere metre away. This is the fifth time I’ve seen him live in just over a year, previously I’d seen him in Cologne, twice in Copenhagen, and also Berlin. When you watch him live, you become entranced by his fingers and his arm muscles which seem to be moving faster than your eyes or your camera lens can see. Notice in the pic above how my camera can’t even keep up with his hands. He plays three pianos at once and pulls this amazing orgasm face when he gets really into it.
You heard me.
Anyway, after the show, I told him it was my fifth time seeing him, and he was like, whaaaaaaaaaaaat? I told him I even saw him in that play he did in Copenhagen earlier this year. And he was like, you’re here now? I said I just returned a month ago, and he was like, you never said hello after the other shows! He was delightful and I was a total fan girl. He’s adorbs and I want to fold him up and take him with me everywhere in my pocket…. or something.
Anyway, enjoy my pics from the show. I WAS SO CLOSE, YOU GUYS.
The toilet brushes were the best part.
Otto Piene. RIP.
David and I went to the vernissage at the Neue Nationalgalerie and were blown away. It was thrilling. What a loss to the art world.
Nil Frahm playing on his custom made Una Corda piano at the Michelberger Hotel courtyard.
And then this happened, and we all collectively lost our shit.
This guy is on his cell phone?
Tom and his doggie Rocky.
This is called Brandenburger Tor as well… smaller but just as swell.
SOMEONE BREAK THE GLASS AND LET ME IN. This was on Schoenhauser Allee.
This is my pornography.
This is the Bendlerblock courtyard where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was assassinated by the Gestapo after his plot to kill Hitler failed on July 20, 1944.
The 70th anniversary just passed.
You did not bear the shame.
You bestowed the eternally vigilant symbol of change
by sacrificing your impassioned lives for freedom, justice and honor.
The spot where he was shot.
The Berliner Dom. It had just rained, so the platz was deserted. I sat on the steps of the church, pulled out my journal, and wrote. I had the entire Dom to myself… and, it seemed, the entire city.
The platz in front of the university.
This is the spot where the 1933 Nazi student book-burning took place. The plaque talks of all the kinds of writers whose works are lost, and then there’s a Heinrich Heine quote from 1820, which says, “This is only prologue: where they burn books, in the end they will also burn people.”
I photographed this 8 years ago too.
But what never seems to develop properly in photography is the empty library. Next to this plaque, in the ground, there is a window. When you look down through it, you see underground, empty bookshelf after empty bookshelf.
This church was bombed out during WWII and after the war they decided not to rebuilt it as a memento to the horrors of war. I photographed this 8 years ago when it didn’t have all that cubism shit all over it.
Berlin is so hungover.
What a great night, and what a great time to be in Germany. Last night the Brandenburg Gate exploded in cheers, fireworks, chants, spotlights, and an outpouring of joy. The night sky burned brighter than the day.
How often does a gal get to be in Germany when Germany wins the World Cup? An epic experience indeed. Last night I was a witness to history.
Berlin is a place that, beyond all reason and dark history, resurrects one’s soul.
Now if you’ll excuse me, the sun is shining, and the city awaits this little Canadian lass.
The 48 hour Neukölln arts fest is very much like Nuit Blanche in Toronto, except it lasts for 48 hours, and it’s not in the freezing cold. Berlin has always been known for its arts scene, and for welcoming artists from all across Europe into their embrace, so this was a perfect way to induct me into the wonderful German hipster dudebro artistic experience.
Obvi, I adored it.
I got drunk on it.
I ate that shit up.
First we found these artists who gave us a tutorial on how to make street art stencils. Of course, I plopped down to make a masterpiece. *cough*
This was a guerilla poetry space, where thousands of newspaper headlines were chopped up for us, and we got to fashion poetry… like one would fashion an anonymous ransom note! Or like refrigerator magnet poetry. Or like found poetry.
And so on.
This was ours. “I think to be seduced is the right solution.”
This was someone elses. The wall behind it said “Courage is…” so this poem finishes the sentence with “…unlikely to result in vaginal dryness.”
I’ll get my coat.
Courage is… “What was going on in the East German sky without us.”
Chris, there’s a giant frog with a cell phone growing out of your back.
Then this tenor emerged from his balcony and sang Nessun Dorma to all of us down below. It was the crowning moment of the fest, for me.
There were 1000 origami cranes. There was a pillow fort where we affixed our adult dreams to. There were shopping carts woven into a circle. There were art-convenience-stores. There were angel-birds. There was sunshine. There was FIFA. There was dancing and music.
There was Berlin.
**Unless bearing my watermark, all pics are copyright Moneim Eltohami.
In two days, on May 1st, I am leaving London permanently. I’ve been living here on-and-off for the past seven years, and it’s finally time to move on. I will spend a couple days in my old stompin’ grounds of Brussels (SO EXCITED) and Amsterdam (ZOMG), and then will spend about a month in Copenhagen before settling in Berlin in June. This route is almost the EXACT same route I took in 2006 when I was backpacking around Europe (I’m skipping Luxembourg… because, ew).
Anyway, I’ve had quite the journey here in London in the last year, and here are my greatest hits! These are experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else in the world. They are unique to London, are very London-centric, and I am all the more richer for having been a part of them:
#1 Obviously, being cast in a TV show
I beat out over 14,000 other applicants from across the UK to appear in the massively-popular documentary series First Dates on Channel 4. I was featured in the premiere episode which millions of people tuned in to see, and was also in the commercial advert for the show:
Read my blog post about my experience here!
But here’s something I haven’t really talked about on here… I was cast in a movie too. I can’t give you any details, but here’s a jolly photograph of me in full costume.
I had to sit in the makeup chair every day for an hour. That’s not a wig, it’s my hair. They curled it, teased it, sprayed it and pinned it, and then had to stitch that hat to my hair. Also, I had to be sewn into that dress. 16th century MADNESS.
When it comes out next year, I’ll let you know.
#2 Getting to climb atop the O2 Arena for free and singing Christmas carols with an entire choir at the summit!
Normally, the “Up at the O2” climb is a pretty expensive adventure activity, but I was asked to do it by the organizers of a social media website, so I got to climb to the summit for free! And the view of London from up there was spectacular! I felt like I was had literally just climbed on top of the world. I had to look down to see heaven. Read my blog post about that experience here!
#3 Speaking at the inaugural Best of Spark London live-storytelling event
(Up on stage at Spark London! I’m 3rd from the right.)
I was invited by the organizers of Spark London, a weekly event here in London where people tell true stories live in front of an audience, to speak at their very first Best of Spark London event! It was a huge honour and I was so glad to take part! You can listen to my story on their podcast of the night here. I’m the first speaker in the podcast, so you don’t have to scroll through the audio to find me! You can read my blog post about that event here.
#4 Seeing the London Symphony Orchestra perform live at Royal Albert Hall on New Years!
I won a contest (huzzah!), and was treated to tickets to see the amazing London Symphony Orchestra in concert as they performed the soundtrack to The Artist live as the film played in the background at the sumptuously-ornate institution of the Royal Albert Hall. Oh the things I get to do for free…. That crossed off three things on my bucket list: seeing the LSO in concert, attending a performance at the RAH, and doing something spectacular in London for New Years! Read my blog post about that incomparable experience here.
#5 Participating in the Inside/Out Project at Somerset House, and meeting street-art-superstar JR!
As you all know by now, street art is MY JAM. I love that shit. I eat that shit up. And I’ve been photographing the work of French artist-superstar JR for years around the world with his Inside-Out Project. So when I heard it was coming to Somerset House, I had to take part! I stood in line for 2 hours to get my photo taken, and it was then pasted down on the Somerset House grounds. When I noticed JR just chilling nearby, I went over, and we had a lovely chat. He was totally humble and cool!
Read my blog post about that experience here!
#6 Dining at the super-secret Gingerline nomadic restaurant!
Here’s something I haven’t talked about at all on here, because Gingerline is SO SUPER SECRETIVE that they ban you from talking about it on social media for at least a month after you have attended the experience. Well, I attended the Gingerline in February, so I think I’m good to go now.
So, last year I read on Londonist.com about the Gingerline, a dining experience that is so secretive, you don’t even really know what you get for the ticket price. All I knew was that they were fully booked for months, so I bought my ticket FIVE MONTHS in advance!
Here’s how it works: You buy a ticket, not knowing where the restaurant is or what you will experience when you get there. On the night of the event around 6pm, you have to make sure you are at one of the stations on the London Overground line (the name “Gingerline” refers to the Overground, as it is coloured ginger on the tube map). At 6pm, and not a minute before, they text you the location of the event. You have exactly one hour to hop on the Overground and get to the location, as they lock the doors at 7pm!
I got there on time, and this is what I walked in to…
This basement in a non-descript empty building in the Haggerston area had been transformed into a spaceship with super-sexy-1960s flight attendants with ginger hair from the planet Gingerline!
There was a huge piece of ginger root in that centre display there. APROPOS.
My table looked like a Star Trek console!
Nah, it’s where the flight attendants would inject you with ALCOHOL.
TV panels advised us of our “flight status” and ‘takeoff’ and “landing” hahahah.
They handed us our meals through the port-holes above our heads!
Here was the awesome menu!
And of course, the whole experience had to be seen through 3D glasses.
I met some awesome people there too!
This was their take on the in-flight safety manual!
LOL at “interphalangial.”
Of course we started a conga-line… which involved a lot of “slut-dropping.” If you don’t know what a “slut-drop” is … just … never you mind.
You go girl.
The artificial gravity unit was operational for me, thank fuck.
Yes, Intergalactic Ginger Mom.
Anyway, it was a great experience, and even though the tickets were £50, which is really too rich for my blood (and out of my budget, ahh!), I decided that even poor lasses like me deserve some kind of quality of life. So this was my one and only splurge for February. I can live with that, and I feel like I got my money’s worth! Highly-recommended if you love the thrill of a surprise!
So there you have it, munchkins! My wonderful life in London is coming to a close, but I know that my adventures in Copenhagen and Berlin will be just as wonderful and splendid and exciting. Because life is unpredictable . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are so many reasons to love London, but life is too short to spend it all in one place.
As one last parting glance at my London home, here is a short film that I made about London’s thrilling street art and graffiti scene.
I hope I never fucking see you again.
As I previously blogged, the second season of First Dates has come to an end, and the entire cast was on hand this past weekend to celebrate it in full-London style at Café de Paris in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. It was such a trip to have been cast in this television show. I found out recently that over 14,000 people applied to be on the show this year, and I was one of 50-some-odd people to make the final cast. That really is humbling. And also, a small source of pride:)
Here are some photos of me bonding with the rest of the cast from the omni-shambolic clusterfuck that was the all-night Wrap Party! In the above photo, it’s me and my harem of bearded men. Jonathan, Ralph, my date Paul, and Steve. I’m sure all of you have already seen my episode (the premiere episode, of course!), but if you want to see the rest of the series starring these lovely lads, be sure to watch them on 4oD!
Me and date Paul. You see, people? Despite what some audiences thought when they watched our date, Paul and I actually got on like gang-busters. We are great mates and we have nothing but love and high-fives for each other. I’m not gonna lie, throughout the wrap party, there may or may not have been some crotch-grabbing on our parts. YOU HEARD ME.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a party unless Paul and Steve rubbed their beards ALL UP IN MY GRILL.
Here’s Mo (who was also in the premiere episode with me) and Corinne, who was featured in 3 episodes and, memorably, was reduced to tears by the infamous Rajan. Mo is such a great guy, we had such a great time getting to know each other at the party. We’re both Middle Eastern so having this experience was important to us, to show that not all Arabs are terrorists! We can be LUVAS too, ya know. As for Corinne, there was a bit of drama at the party, which I won’t get into here, so that’s probably why in this and the below photo, she’s pulling quite odd and awkward faces.
Back to the party! There’s Chloe, who also was featured in the premiere episode with me. Remember her dog Bentley? Aw bless. The doggie stole the show.
And there’s Saniya. Who could ever forget her hilarious comment about Mo and, uh, spaghetti. I’m still not sure I understand it.
SNOGGING STEVE. My life is complete.
Sarah Jayne, as you’ll remember from the First Dates commercial, was looking for her Prince Charming. Jonathan, the Alan Carr doppleganger, was on the hunt for a more ‘seasoned’ lady. They were such fun at the party 🙂
And that’s a wrap, people! Thank you for watching and for your support! It was quite an unforgettable experience, and it reminded me that life is always full of surprises, as long as you keep allowing them in. There is never, ever, any excuse in this life to be bored. This chapter is closed. Onto the next!
And let me tell you, from what I’ve got planned, the next chapter in my life is going to be something else.
Just you wait.
So remember when I did that lil’ documentary series called First Dates? It aired last month, and the series is still on the airwaves until April. Well, once the show goes off the air, there will be Wrap Party here in London and you are invited. It will be at Café de Paris (between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square) on 12 April, and all the info you need to get on the list and into the par-tay is on the above poster. Most of the cast (including this wee Canadian lass) will be there, so join us in toasting our horrible, horrible flirting skills.
You’ll get to see more of my winning facial expressions like this:
… and this!
(in all honesty, this above facial expression is how i feel about dating in general, hahaha!)
There will be laughter…
…and if not, you’ll be at home on your laptop, wishing you join in on the par-tay.
You can get a taste of my horrible flirts in the commercial for the show, below. So come on down, London, and watch me buy things myself. See ya on the 12th.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve been asked by the lovely munchkins at Spark London to tell more stories from my fucktard life at this curated event of true stories stranger than fiction.
And donations to cure my trembling nerves can be sent via PayPal. Ack!
I can use all of this as research fodder for my academic lecture this summer, right?
I decided to perform another spoken word piece at Spark London tonight. The theme was “fame” so I thought I’d speak about a lil’ reality TV show I once was cast in. Enjoy!
You might remember the last time I did a spoken word piece: that was much more sombre and solemn. This is more upbeat, if a tad on the “how pathetic, but I can laugh at myself” side.
Lots of people came up to me afterwards to say how much they enjoyed my piece, and then the organizers of a curated spoken word event, also run by Spark London, invited me to speak at their next event! Which is so kind of them. Yay!
In addition, I have more good news to report! I have been invited to lecture at the 5th Global Conference on Storytelling, to be held in May in Lisbon, Portugal! This is really exciting because almost all of the other lecturers invited to this event are affiliated with a university (Professors or PhD researchers). I am unaffiliated, I’m just a gal who wrote an academic paper that the organizers enjoyed. So if any of you little munchkins are planning on being in Lisbon (and you should, Lisbon in the month of May is quite delightful), please do come and watch me flex my academic vernacular as far as it can stretch.
I’m debating whether I should fly to Lisbon, or just take the train . . . or . . . ACADEMIC ROAD TRIP!
So many projects are in the works . . . fellowships, funding, publications, and some top-secret stuff that I really want to share with all of you but I’m sworn to secrecy! Can’t wait for these projects to come to fruition and I can finally talk about them! But, in the meantime, I send you fanks for all the support, my delicious munchkins.
Life is unfolding the way it should. It’s a my-future’s-so-bright-I-gotta-wear-shades type dealie. You better stand back, cuz the woman I’m going to be is something fierce.
The wonderful people over at FUSAC treated me to the best New Years Eve gift I could have received: tickets to see The Artist Live in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra! I had never been to the RAH and I have always dreamed of seeing the LSO perform live, ever since I was a second-chair Viola in my high school’s symphony orchestra, so this was a thrilling delight. I have already seen The Artist, so I didn’t pay too much attention to the film. I kept staring the the Cellos (celli?) and the xylophones and the tubas and the Double Basses …. I just love watching hands in vibrato in unison. Even the way they plucked pizzicato was glorious. Above is a super short clip of them warming up (no photos allowed during the performance, naturally).
Royal Albert Hall is a huge concert venue, with several tiers, balconies, and ornate architecture, it was a feast for the eyes. Somehow, FUSAC got me seats in the 14th row on the mezzanine floor! Best seats in the house! I looked up how much tickets were, and was shocked at the prices. I love getting sweet cultural experiences for free!
As the orchestra took a bow, the composer of the film, who was actually there, Ludovic Bource, joined the conductor Ernst Van Tiel for an encore. It was the most memorable New Years I’ve had in years.
So 2014, eh? In a few months, this blog will be nine years old. I’m tenacious, if nothing else.
I’m not one for Resolutions or for End-of-year lists or Best-of’s. I have a lot to reflect on, but so much more to come my way.
All I’ll contribute to the reflective dialogue of the changing of the calender year is this:
Say what you will about me, but in my life, I have had every opportunity to be boring, and I never took it.
May that continue in 2014.