Discovering ASMR

When I was a child, my female friends and I went through a stage where we would play criss-cross applesauce with each other. If you’ve never heard of the game, it involves tracing your hands across your partner’s back in a manner that produces a tingly feeling on nape of the neck. Though we eventually grew out of it, as I got older I noticed that certain sounds—usually those associated with cleaning—would produce a very similar feeling, although slightly different: The sensation would often extend to the back of my head.

I didn’t think much of it until I was in my late teens. 

This video from Gentlewhispering received over 4 million views in 2013

At the convenience store where I worked, once every month or so an older gentleman would come in to examine our stock of chewing tobacco. He would  say hello, and produce a little feather duster from his suitcase. He then whisked the circular plastic tobacco canisters, randomly checking some of them for freshness. As he shuffled through them, they would make a clicking noise. The routine always sent a relaxing and pleasurable pulse up through the neck and into the back of my head.

Although I knew it wasn’t a sexual feeling, and I am perfectly secure with my sexuality, I still never bothered to tell anybody about it. It was embarrassing.

Fast-forward to last year, when I was looking for relaxation videos on Youtube to help me get past a bout of insomnia. After wading through a series of repetitive meditation videos, I found a video from vlogger Gentlewhispering, entitled Relaxing Physical Therapist Visit. In the video, an attractive woman with a lovely voice role-plays as a health care employee, bringing the viewer through the first-person experience of getting a check-up. The video gave me that familiar tingly feeling, though I still found it weird. I visited her profile page, where I was introduced to the term ASMR. This stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

ASMR is a new term, and the validity of it is still contested. The online ASMR community has grown considerably in the last few years, and a remarkable number of vloggers have turned up on Youtube, making videos that claim to trigger one’s ASMR. Other popular ASMRtists include ASMRrequests, Heather Feather, and VisualSounds1. Common triggers include tapping, whispering, and rubbing noises. Although it is said that not everybody experiences it, I don’t feel strange about it anymore. And I sleep like a polar bear. 

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Kristopher Bras is a 35 year old Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, he enjoys playing the guitar and viewing independent films. Some of his strongest influences are Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and Chuck Klosterman. He still listens to the same punk rock bands that he enjoyed in 1995. Kristopher is frequently sighted at Ottawa Senators games.
Twitter / Mavericks / Punkottawa

The Perfect Bookstore

 

Last Friday, in honour of my blog’s tagline, I spent my afternoon exploring indie bookstores looking for a new locale to write about. Later on, I stepped off of the bus on Elgin Street just as the sun went down. People had begun to file into the pubs and eateries that lined the street, and I was looking for a cup of coffee. That was when I noticed Perfect Books.  

I was greeted at the door by Cortez.  He motioned me inside, and urged me to stay awhile.

“Keep me company, buy a book.”

After some light chit-chat, I browsed the store. All the right names jumped off of the shelves at me; Chuck Klosterman, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, my Applied Storytelling professor Nadine McInnis. I returned to Cortez, with a book in hand. Cortez is the sort of pal you wish you could meet all the time: friendly, wise, knowledgeable. Cool. I asked him,

“What is the advantage of being an independent bookstore in today’s book market?” His response was succinct.

“We have a choice.”

Large chain bookstores (Cortez calls them box stores—I learned a new term) restrict the titles that their stores carry. Upper management (head office) has complete control over which books ship to the stores.

I tried to relate. “They might as well be selling coffee."

He smiled. “Yes. Exactly.”

 Cortez.

Cortez.

At Perfect Books, staff members can suggest a book for the store to carry, so word of mouth matters. Cortez pointed out several cards that lined the shelves. As a requirement, staff members must be avid readers. They then contribute to the store by writing concise reviews to accompany books on the shelf. It’s a nice personal touch, superior to the “Staff Pick” stickers that box stores use.

Perfect Books also stocks books from self-published local authors. Their consignment program is cheap, and the authors autograph a large number of copies for the store to keep on hand.

Many independent bookstores in Ottawa have closed in the last few years. Will Perfect Books survive? Cortez is optimistic.

“You’re here, aren’t you?” he said, pointing to the book I put down on the counter. He picked it up, ruffled the pages, and sniffed at it. “Nothing beats that smell, when they’re right out of the box. People are always going to want to have them.”

What can I say? The guy speaks my language. I’ll be back.

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Kristopher Bras is a 35 year old Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, he enjoys playing the guitar and viewing independent films. Some of his strongest influences are Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and Chuck Klosterman. He still listens to the same punk rock bands that he enjoyed in 1995. Kristopher is frequently sighted at Ottawa Senators games.
Twitter / Mavericks / Punkottawa

 

Nerd Heaven and Christmas Gifts

 When Marvel began publishing a comic book adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series in 2007, I couldn’t resist. It was an easy thing to walk into the Comic Book Shoppe every month or so and toss out a few donuts to catch up on the series. Soon, that buck-or-two-every-now-and-then turned into a hundred-dollar-a-month habit as the majority of DC's line-up made their way onto my monthly purchase list. When I went back to school, cash constraints forced me to sacrifice the continuity of my comic book collection. Although I can’t afford to give the Comic Book Shoppe much business lately, I can give them one of my blog posts. I’m not aware of any corporate comic book stores, but my favourite comic store still deserves mention as a successful indie business.

With two locations in the Ottawa area, The Comic Book Shoppe is a nerd’s (my) paradise. Every corner of the store is crammed with comics, action figures, table-top games, card games, rule books, and superhero statues. Every shelf documents a different stage of my life: the small child with every DC figure; the comic book collecting teen; the paranoid mid-twenties Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast gaming out his Saturday afternoons in a friend’s smoke-polluted basement. Although I can’t afford to spend the cash that I used to, I still stop by every other month to pick up a comic or two.

 Xian shows new employee Katie the ropes

Xian shows new employee Katie the ropes

The staff has changed a bit in the last few years, but they are always friendly and full of lore. Anybody who has seen the AMC reality show Comic Book Men would recognize the atmosphere and banter. They all have their favourite comics, and unless the store is swamped, relish the opportunity to talk about them. The relationship isn’t one sided, though. When I had a subscription, they would often slip new titles into my folder behind the counter if they thought I might be interested. Some of these made it through the checkout with me, some of them didn’t. A selling tactic, certainly, but I appreciated the thought—quite often, their predictions were spot on.

With the Christmas season looming, The Comic Book Shoppe is a must-stop. They have several gift options, including pre-wrapped grab bags and gift cards. Last year, the store helped me knock four names off of my shopping list in half an hour. If you’re reading this Mom, take notes. That’s 1400 Clyde Avenue. Phone number 613-228…

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Kristopher Bras is a 35 year old Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, he enjoys playing the guitar and viewing independent films. Some of his strongest influences are Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and Chuck Klosterman. He still listens to the same punk rock bands that he enjoyed in 1995. Kristopher is frequently sighted at Ottawa Senators games.
Twitter / Mavericks / Punkottawa

 

On Punk Rock and Where to Find it

 Legendary punk band 88 Fingers Louie draw a crowd at Mavericks during their 2010 reunion tour.

Legendary punk band 88 Fingers Louie draw a crowd at Mavericks during their 2010 reunion tour.

There are many small music venues in Ottawa, and I’ve had great experiences in most of them. I’ll always remember Zaphod Beeblebrox fondly as the place where I saw the Nobodys for the first time, back in 1998. The first show I saw at the Babylon was massive: d.b.s, Pezz, All the Answers, Endgame and Layaway Plan all fit into a gorgeous July, 1999 evening. Other memories aside, (Digger at the Liquid Monkey) my favourite venue in Ottawa is Mavericks.

Located on Rideau St. in downtown Ottawa, Mavericks hosts local bands and small to mid-size touring acts. I started showing up at the venue shortly after I moved to Ottawa in 2004, far more frequently toward the end of the decade. I’ve had some great nights in this place; many of the ticket stubs are stuck to the walls of my room or collecting in shoe boxes. The bar has hosted rockers like Danko Jones, melodic hardcore acts like A Wilhelm Scream, and multiple appearances from Vancouver pop-punks Gob. Some of my favourite local bands that have played the venue frequently are Doll, the Raw Raw Riot, Finders Keepers, and the disbanded Contrabandit.

Consisting of a small stage, a bar, and a merch table, Mavericks gives music fans the chance to get dangerously close to their favourite bands. Those not used to long evenings standing in front of a stage with a beer in your hand, beware: although the bar boasts a bit more room than many local venues, no seating is available. 

While most of the shows I attend are at Mavericks, Café Defcuf is a wonderful companion venue. Right above Mavericks, Defcuf is a small, charming club. The stage is only a foot off of the floor, and bands are often known to leave the stage to jam with their local following. I saw the criminally underrated band Coliseum here, with local act Crusades opening. It was a small show, but stands as one of my favourites of 2013.

Have a look at upcoming events on the Mavericks website.

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Kristopher Bras is a Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, he enjoys playing the guitar and viewing independent films. Some of his strongest influences are Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and Chuck Klosterman. He still listens to the same punk rock bands that he enjoyed in 1995, and is frequently sighted at Ottawa Senators games. 
Twitter / Mavericks / Punkottawa

 

On Cinephilia and Local Remedies

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Major theatre chains can be a nightmare for dedicated cinephiles. Multiplexes are full of screaming children, most of the films are poorly written, and the steep prices at the ticket booth and concession counters make video piracy honourable. Not all of the films are terrible though, and I do stop in occasionally. But when I want a truly memorable movie-going experience, I head to the Mayfair theatre.

   
The Mayfair Theatre, on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South,  opened its doors in 1932 and is the longest-serving cinema in the city. I stumbled upon it one beautiful, breezy May evening a few years ago when the weird Will Ferrell Spanish-language film Casa De Mi Padre came to town, a movie that I had given up on ever seeing in a theatre. The Spanish-style internal architecture of the building complemented the dialogue of the film to create a terrific and unique atmosphere. I fell in love with the place immediately. I kept going back. I'm ashamed of the fact that it took me seven years of Ottawa life to discover the place. That said, I couldn't have picked a better month to begin attending.

Over the course of the following summer I was treated to an assortment of independent, documentary, and Canadian films that were avoided by major theatre chains. It was a terrific lineup, including Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about the most prestigious sushi chef on the planet; Footnote, an Oscar nominated foreign language comedy; and Bernie, a black comedy about a murderous funeral director. The exposure to quality film reinvigorated my faith in the entertainment medium. 

The Mayfair offers loyal customers a financial advantage, providing a yearly membership for 10 dollars. Members may then view any movie for an easy six bucks. When you consider the steep ticket prices of the mainstream chains, investing in a membership is an easy decision. They also apply the standard half-price Tuesday discount the large theatres have. You heard it here: quiet theatre, charming atmosphere, better films, and lower prices. View the schedule on their website regularly for monthly film info.

 

 

krisprofile.jpg

Kristopher Bras is a Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, he enjoys playing the guitar and viewing independent films. Some of his strongest influences are Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and Chuck Klosterman. He still listens to the same punk rock bands that he enjoyed in 1995, and is frequently sighted at Ottawa Senators games. 
Twitter / Mavericks / Punkottawa