Caustic Love, by Paolo Nutini

When I discovered Paolo Nutini in 2010, I ravaged the Internet in hope of finding anything that would soothe my hunger for the sultry and rustic voice as unique as his. I kept his two first albums in a loop and watched every single live performances I could find on the web. Then, I lead myself to the depletion of newer material. I was so sad and desperate, I nearly lost it when, finally, this teaser came out back in Summer 2012:

However, I couldn’t find any explanation to this sudden surprise, so I died in mystery for nearly two years. Two long years.

paolo-nutini-caustic-love-album-art

At last, Paolo Nutini’s third album Caustic Love was officially released on Tuesday, and my soul has been rejuvenated by the news.

Paolo has definitely matured since the beginning of his career in 2006. I still can’t believe that he was only 19 when he dropped his first single Last Request, because his voice begged to differ. To describe it, I’m going to quote Gabriel Assouline:

[...] his voice gives the impression that one is listening to an old soul that’s smoked for 30 years and endured 5 lifetimes of love and pain.

Just perfect.

The sound of acoustic guitar and drums was predominant in most of the tracks of his first album These Streets. Then, he added a few trumpets, trombones, saxophones and other wind intruments in his second album Sunny Side Up for more folkloric or jazzy rhythms. Now at 27, he seemed to have taken a progressive plunge into funk, soul, blues and even trip hop for the production of Caustic Love. However, he didn’t diverge from his initial style; he only got better.

Listening to Caustic Love is like riding a musical time machine. Through his 13 tracks, I feel like I’m jaunting from one genre to another in a confusion of old or contemporary sounds: starting with a little funk, to a bit of blues, with a touch of soul, and a bit of trip hop, jazzed up in rock, or alternative, and finished with the genre of ballad anyone would sing at karaoke. It may sound like he’s all over the place, but his voice… his voice is the anchor, and not only for this album: that’s what makes Paolo Nutini so distinctive and memorable.

One of my favorite tracks of the album, One Day:

Now, I dream of the day I will hear him – in all his passion, with his pulpy lips, and his sultry and rustic voice – live.

How My Kindle Is Going To Change My Life

Until very recently, I was quite skeptical about owning an e-reader, mainly because I always thought that the look and feel of an actual book was irreplaceable. The scent of paper, the colored covers, the sound of pages flipping, the grainy feeling under the tip of your fingers and the beauty of having a library: these are all characteristics that you can’t get with an electronic device.

It reminds me of this Sex And The City scene where Carrie Bradshaw brings home an old library book and takes a deep breath into it as to inhale the smell of its very core. Every time I see this scene, I smile, because I can feel my nostrils yearning for that familiar scent of comfort and happiness. It also made me wonder why we are inclined to feel that way about books. Therefor, I found an interesting video that explains the attachment we have for certain odors–like who else loves the smell of gasoline? Raise your hand.

The nose is one of the strongest ways to trigger memories because it is tightened right in the limbic system which is responsible for regulating emotions.

Despite of this psychological attachment, my boyfriend got me a Kobo Touch last Christmas. The minute I unwrapped it, he realized that I would’ve been happier with a Kobo Glo for its illuminated background option. I, on the other hand, was of mixed emotions.

I loved its grip, its case design and its lightness, but I wasn’t convinced of its technology. When I tested it out, it felt a bit buggy. Every time I would switch pages, I had time to think about my outfit for the next day. I wondered if it was going to freeze on the black screen I saw through the flicker before getting to the next page. It wasn’t reassuring and it certainly didn’t take my mind off my initial aversion.

However, we decided to get some advice before making the switch to the Kobo Glo. Then, we realized that Amazon’s e-reader sounded a tad more appealing, and it sparked some eagerness within me. Thanks to the guys from Goodereader for their excellent review:

It’s been three months since I unpacked my Kindle out of its box, and I can say that I grew some unconditional love for it, and that, for many reasons:

  • I can carry as many books as I want to. Having all the titles I want to read in one little device is heavenly convenient. I even managed to set up an automatic delivery for 5 p.m. everyday, in order to have all the articles from my “read later” available for my way back home from work. I presently have 42 items on my device and I don’t feel like my purse is going to break at any moment, except when I compensate the free space with other things that could eventually serve me–in a thousand years. Seriously women, why do we do this?
  • I can read samples before buying, whenever I want. Strolling around the alleys of a bookstore is one thing I miss. Spending hours in it to buy the right book, not so much. Especially when I get out of there empty handed, or when I buy one but end up hating it, that’s even worst. This is why my Kindle comes in handy. With Amazon’s amazing collection, I can download the sample of 1 or 2 chapters of a book for free, and take as much time to read it. I can leave it in my device as a reminder, and once I’m done, I can decide whether I want to continue reading it by swiping it on the credit card or leaving it in my wish-list. I never feel pressured by closing time, and I do it in whatever comfort zone I feel like.
  • I can read at night as much as during the day. With its adjustable luminosity, electronic ink and glareless screen, I can read anywhere I want to: in bed, in a car, on the train, on the bus, in a tunnel, at a bar, at the beach, at the bottom of a well, or–if I ever dare–in a haunted house. I never have to worry about the intensity of lights, and no matter how low or high you set the brightness on your screen, the font will stay perfectly sharp. Unlike a tablet, it won’t drain your eyes, so you can go on and read for hours. It almost feels like reading a real book.
  • I can give my hands some rest. Holding a book of 500 pages with one hand while keeping my balance on the train or the bus with the other hand on a pole, is always an uncomfortable challenge. I am surprised my neck is still in place when the majority of our drivers are eager on the brakes. What’s even more challenging is turning pages in that position. Now that I have a Kindle, my tiny hand can hold on to it without much effort, and all I need is the thumb of that same hand to flip a page.
  • I can adjust the font the way I want it. I always hated books with bad kerning or spacing, such as in paperbacks. When paragraphs are all clumped up like little black clouds, my eyes tend to lose track of the next line and I just stop reading. With my e-reader, I can be a white-space prone all the time–darn, these designers. If ever I get tired of the default fonts, I could always install a new one. Plus, when I don’t have my glasses, I can set the characters big enough so that anyone sitting two or three seats away from me can read along. Sharing is caring, right?
  • I don’t have to guess the meaning of a word through its context. Since dictionaries are integrated into the device, I just have to press on a word to look up its definition. This is quite important, as I’m always looking to expand my vocabulary. I can even get further explanation from Wikipedia if I connect my Kindle through wifi. This is also good when you want to get a description of a particular place, it helps you position yourself in the story. Plus, there is no risk of getting lost into the wiki world since the browsing experience is very limited–which is not a bad thing since I’m less prone to procrastination.
  • I can go on for a month without charging it. Of course, it depends how often or how you use it, but it definitely doesn’t consume as much battery as a tablet. I use mine about 3 to 4 hours a day, almost everyday and I’ve been charging it every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • I never have to lose my page again. No matter what happens, whether I’m being interfered in my reading, I decide to change book, or I close my Kindle by accident, it’ll always open to where I left off.

I probably didn’t pinpoint everything about the beauty of my Kindle, but I think the most important aspect I need to cover is that it makes me voluntarily read ten times more than I usually do. If I compare myself to my boyfriend who owns about five times more books than I do, who completes the lecture of three titles when I’m still trying to finish one and who is compulsively obsessed with news articles, I’m really just an average reader–perhaps, even below. It has never been a passion for me, but my Kindle has contribute more than I expected within the past three months, by nourishing my knowledge and improving my vocabulary.

While I was doing my research for this post, I came across this interview from Dr. Keith Stanovich, an Emeritus Professor of Applied Psychology and Human Development at University of Toronto and former Canada Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science, who concentrates most of his researches on the psychology of reasoning and the psychology of reading. In the video below, he talks about the Matthew Effect, which is the phenomenon of “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” and he applies it on how he sees the processing of reading. It’s quite complex, yet largely interesting–just try not to focus on his stuttering.

I’m a busy person, and the only time I find convenient to read is either when I commute by train or bus, or on my lunch breaks when I’m not too overwhelmed with work. If I get lucky, I can read a few paragraphs before meetings, dinner plans or bedtimes. Unlike an actual book, I can carry my Kindle pretty much everywhere all the time. Wherever my phone is, my e-reader is not too far behind. It may not smell as good an old library book, but if I really wanted to, I could resolve that in an instant (if you’re curious, click here). All in all, this little gadget is a bliss, as much for me, as for the growth of Pancake’s Digest.

Pancake’s Digest, the Story

For those who have read my first post, it will come to no surprise that I almost took an eternity to settle with a title for my blog. I’ve been searching, and searching for so long that I was suggested to name it Forever Searching. I thought it was hilarious, enough to even consider it, but I didn’t want to be confused with a group on child abductions’ awareness. Therefor, I stuck to my initial idea and kept the pancake in the flavour.

Why Pancake?

First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Vironique Pankham. I’m a graphic designer based in the city of Montreal, currently working at LCC vins et spiritueux–if you need bottles of wine or spirit, wink wink.

My daily job is predominantly related to creation, but my interests have far-fetched way beyond the design industry. I’m curious by nature, and once I get hooked onto something, I become an online detective, click on everything linked to the subject and gather all the information in one place: my mind. As much as my brain can take, I try to write it down before my ideas get out of hand or get distracted by another topic. Although science proved that writing is a good way to remember what I learn, it also helps me connect some dots and broaden my knowledge. Here’s an interesting infographic I found that would resume that theory:


This means that writers have the ultimate power to influence others. With a powerful and evocative story you can activate your reader’s brains and make them feel like they are experiencing it first-hand, influencing the emotions you want them to feel.

When I was younger, I never liked my French, nor my English classes. I despised oral presentations with all my heart, and surprisingly, I wasn’t a big fan of writing essays neither. I had a hard time grasping the whole idea of sentence structure; it made me lose a lot of points on any of my written exams. At least, my grammar kept me over the passing mark in high school. College years were another story. I flunk my first French class, I barely read any of the books that were given to us, and I wrote some incoherent thesis. I slept in class from time to time because I was either too busy at night finishing a lab for one of my programming classes or designing the interface of my profile page on Asianavenue.

The fact that I’m the author of this page today, feels unreal. I believe that the whole blogging experience from my early twenties changed my writing habits. I began to pay close attention to my compositions because I was conscious about having an impact on my readers. Not only did I want to share my thoughts and discoveries, and inspire them with my stories, I also needed to express myself with concision and aestheticism. Then, I became obsessed with grammar; I started trolling around Facebook to correct my friends on their status updates–I promise, I calmed down.

It proves that passion comes from practice, because from there, I learned to enjoy writing more and more, enough to start blogging on a serious level.

Okay, but why Pancake?

It’s simply due to my last name’s exoticism: Pankham. Even if it consists of only two syllables, some people managed to deviate its pronunciation. While the Francophones turned it into pacane, the Anglophones deformed it into–of course–pancake. My parents heard it, my sisters heard it, my brother heard it, my nieces heard it, my nephew heard it, and anyone with the same family name probably heard it too.

The shift from Pankham to Pancake became such a common joke that I had to adopt it. Besides, it respects the two criteria I was aiming for: it’s easy to remember and it’s completely unrelated to anything I will ever write, just like Apple or Google. What makes it even perfect, it’s the whole definition of a pancake: it’s universal, versatile and delicious.

All in all, Pancake’s Digest will be the compendium of my ideas, my reviews and my discoveries, in hope that I can contribute to the growth of knowledge and inspiration of every single one of you.

How a News Editor, a Science Communicator, and a Triathlete Made me Start this New Blog

For as long as I’ve been exposed to the web, I’ve been dreaming of building a website of my own. I’ve been picturing it in my head for years, but as time flies as fast as technology evolves, my ideas grew out of proportion and my desire for perfection refrained my sacred ambitions. Meanwhile, all the subjects that I wanted to write about remained either unwritten or piled up in the draft box of my dying Tumblr blog. I could’ve published some of them, but frankly, I was waiting for the perfect website with the perfect title, the perfect logo, the perfect grid, the perfect strategy, the perfect plan–the perfect everything. Instead, I lost myself in a world of procrastination stirred up from excuses of time, money and knowledge. A world close to this:

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I always knew that I was a perfectionist, but I never thought that it would become so problematic. I realized it nearly a year and a half ago when I read this article on Fast Company: “Is Perfectionism Holding You Back?“. I felt like , and I had a lot in common and it left me a bit anxious:

[...] like I am on a treadmill that I can’t get off of but also like I am on the verge of being perfect, if only I had the time to sit down and do it well. [...] I’ve held back on making my personal website public for ages, because I always feel as though it’s not good enough yet.

When I saw the comments at the bottom of the article, I felt a sort of relief as it proved that Anjali and I were not alone. I’m even convinced that some of you can relate to this. However, I couldn’t help feeling highly disappointed in myself for letting my passion and my ambitions down for, perhaps, a question of fear or self-esteem. I let procrastination win me over and affect my entire enthusiasm for self-achievement. It startled me so much, especially after I read another article from Vice that mentioned that perfectionism is a mental illness and it is ruining lives. I didn’t want to let it play with my head, so I had to overcome it.

My problem was that I didn’t know where to begin. The proverb First impressions are the most lasting kept me under a list of readings about entrepreneurship, business, marketing strategies, social media, public relations, blogging platforms, tools, inspiration, motivation, etc. I even purchased a book on HTLM and CSS and signed up on Codecademy to help me build that perfect website that still doesn’t exist. All that research didn’t go to waste, but it didn’t get me to break the ice, as I was looking for–of course–the perfect introduction.

Last month, I stumbled upon an interesting video from Derek Muller of Veritasium. I swear it had nothing to do with his beard, but I immediately fell in love with his authenticity. I browsed around his Youtube channel and somewhere between all his science videos, this one below made me reflect on my issue:

Derek’s message can be applied to anyone who wants to start something in life, not just a Youtube channel.

If you think that you’re being restricted by time, money or equipment, you’re just fooling yourself and you need to get out there and start making stuff.

Basically, we just have to initiate it and never give up. It’s not going to be perfect in the beginning, but it can only get better with time and experience. I can say that his video helped me suppress a great amount of my what-ifs.

Pierre Lavoie

Pierre Lavoie’s conference on January 22nd 2014.

By the end of January, I had the chance to attend Pierre Lavoie’s conference with the courtesy of LCC. I am ashamed to admit that I was clueless of his identity, but to my surprise, I was told one of the saddest yet most touching and inspiring stories of my entire life. I might not be able to tell it as well as he did, but I’ll try my very best.

It was 1997. Pierre was 34 when he lost his first daughter Laurie to lactic acidosis. She was only 4 years old. Sadly, many parents of his region lived a similar story as the illness was a common spread in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. The year after, his wife gave birth of their second son Raphaël. He was also affected by the same hereditary disease. Pierre desperately wanted to find a cure. He devoted himself to raising awareness in hope of saving the children of his region, including his own. In 1999, he founded his first Défi Pierre Lavoie and alone, he rode his bike for 650 km in 24 hours. It was a great success as he gained the support he was looking for, but Raphaël didn’t make to his second birthday.

Losing a child is like freefalling without ever touching the ground. You lose all your reference points and you hurt everywhere.

I can’t even picture being in Pierre’ shoes when he received the call from his wife while he was in Hawaii. He admitted that he nearly lost it, but he never gave up. As soon as he went back home, he put on his helmet, rode his bike for 3 more Défi Pierre Lavoie and collected enough money with his supporters to form a team of researchers. A miracle happened in 2003; they discovered the gene that was responsible for lactic acidosis and developed a screening test for future parents. That miracle didn’t bring his kids back to life, but Pierre believed that Laurie and Raphaël came and parted as quickly for a reason, and he found that reason. A year later, Pierre and his wife were gifted with a healthy baby daughter who is now 10 years old.

Today, Pierre Lavoie is an engaging and valuable man in Quebec’ society for the future of our children and the future of health science. He has become a proactive athlete, a firm speaker, a passionate innovator, an inspiring visionary, a faith to humanity and a hero to many. Here’s a video promoting him and his project that has been going on since 2008, Le Grand défi Pierre Lavoie:

Surprisingly, Pierre never was an athletic kid. In fact, he did really bad in all his gym classes; his teacher convinced him that he wasn’t born to be an athlete. He grew up with that misconception, worked in a factory and smoked a lot of cigarettes until he reached his 20s.

Once he decided to quit tobacco, he started running around his neighborhood, not to mention that his main motive was to court his future wife by jogging strategically around her house–how cute! It was in 1989 that he decided to take part in his very first triathlon. Unfortunately, he finished second to last. He described his experience as extremely painful and while he was still trying to get to the finish line, he swore to never do it again. However, the encouragement and acclamation he received for his achievement made him sign up for Ironman World Championship in 1992, one of the most challenging triathlons in the world. He finished with the best time of all participants. Since then, he’s been going back almost every year and came back home with several wins in his category.

When I walked out of the seminar that night, I had a different state of mind. I was on the verge of creating this new blog beforehand, but Pierre Lavoie’ speech was all I needed to actually get it done.

Ce n’est pas le succès qui nous rend plus fort, c’est l’inconfort.

We could translate his message to: success doesn’t make us stronger, discomfort does–the discomforts that we eventually overcome. It struck me because all the while I get extremely self-conscious about my writings. I never want to publish anything until it is perfectly written. The problem is that my definition of perfection has no limit. I always find something to criticize and tweak. It took me over a hundred revisions before pressing the damn Publish button of this actual post. It is a never ending business, as if I am on a constant fight with my ego. I know I’m just being hard on myself, but if you’re reading this right now, it means that I made it to the finish line, just like Pierre Lavoie did on his first triathlon.

This is not how I pictured my website to look like in first place, but my goal here, for now, is to get out of my comfort zone, write like a human being, allow myself to make mistakes, learn from them and keep on writing in hope of self-improvement and on-going inspiration.