Alison Garwood Jones

Newsflash: here’s my App!

May 6, 2010


Good news. Steve Jobs approved my App last week!

Here it is!

It’s only .99 cents. My cut will help with groceries.

Buy now and follow me in just one convenient touch.

A high rating would be appreciated.



I knew this digital journalism thing would work out.


Food trend: face plants

July 20, 2012

I’ve noticed a food trend. It’s not sexy like figs with warm honey, or technically brilliant and tasteless like foam. It’s definitely not healthy. And it’s more a style of eating than any new culinary concoction.

It involves doing a face plant in clouds of takeout wrapping paper. Anyone watching you eat like this has no idea what you’re working on — we can’t  see through all the paper and foil. Usually it involves a burrito, but not always. All your audience knows is that you’re going in, coming up to chew, then going back in, and that you’re  breathing heavily through your nose while your cheeks gather skid marks of sauce and vegetable detritus. I give it zero out of five stars for style.

The first time I witnessed it I couldn’t help thinking, ‘You’re ramming that food down one hole until it comes out another.’ It’s that crass to watch.

Has anyone else noticed that people have stopped directly touching their food? Fear of germs and the rise of hand sanitizing gels have probably contributed to this. So did the necessary changes to environmental packaging standards, from Styrofoam boxes back to waxed paper. Remember this olde delivery systeme that gave you no choice but to directly pick up the contents?

McDonald’s Styrofoam Big Mac container, circa 1990

Back in the day when I ordered a McDonald’s cheeseburger (sans box, but with paper), I’d completely remove the damp sandwich from its yellow wrapper and chomp my way through, occasionally losing a plop or three of ketchup. Most times, though, it was too dry and too old to drip. Still, mess is the biggest reason why folks today don’t remove the wrapping on big production numbers like burritos. It would be like slicing open an intestine.

The Breakfast Burrito. There’s that cloud of paper!

Alien anyone?

But the trend is spreading. I’ve seen people refuse to touch “clean food” like granola bars (the dry ones, not the sticky honey or chocolate-coated ones). They eat them like toothpaste, by pushing the product up from the bottom of the wrapper until it’s safely in their mouth. And when it comes to burgers, they’re only half-unwrapping them, even at the table. They slowly push or peel the paper back until they’ve consumed the whole thing. Not once do they pick it up, feel the weight of it, engage with it. NEWSFLASH: ten minutes after posting this, I got a message from my friend, Carolyn. She had a Whopper at Burger King last night and said it’s now being served in a half wrapper inside the box. “I only touched the burger when it became absolutely necessary,” she said.

This is not a diss against junk food. It’s just that I’m all in favour of getting intimate with every hamburger I encounter. I like rolling up my sleeves in advance of the condiment stream down my arm.

Our relationship to food is sacred, or it should be. I’d just like to see us honouring this special occasion where our senses converge.

The naked hamburger



Game on!

June 18, 2012

Newsflash: It’s official, three-time World Champion boxer, Mary Spencer, is heading to the London Summer Olympics next month! Word came down this morning that she was awarded a wild card. When I interviewed Mary this past March, she was preparing for the Olympic qualifying tournament in China. Being the World Champ, most assumed she would make it through. She lost. For a month and a half her fate was hanging in the balance. Still, she never stopped training like she was going to London. That’s a fighter for you.

Here’s an excerpt from my profile of Spencer in the Summer issue of Glow magazine. If you want a peek into the photography shoot with Spencer that I attended at the Toronto New Girls Boxing Club, click here. Copyright prohibits me from posting the full article, but I thought I’d post a teaser because by the time the issue comes off the newsstand the Olympics will have come and gone.

Photo by Arkan Zakharov

When Mary Spencer reaches for her BlackBerry during breaks from her daily workout session — a 13-kilometre run at dawn, multiple sets of push-ups on her knuckles and enough consecutive chin-ups to make most grown men collapse in a heap … and that’s before breakfast — the exhilaration of this three-time world boxing champion from Windsor, Ont., is barely concealed. Tight hand wraps and the steady drip of sweat won’t slow down her action on Twitter. Social media offers a window into the disciplined world of an athlete. “My life isn’t really boring,” Spencer (@CanadianBoxer) posted on Twitter in March, right around the time she dreamed about Olympic competition for the first time and began counting down the days. “I just tell myself [it’s boring] so I don’t get overwhelmed with excitement!”

Until this summer, boxing had been the only Summer Olympic sport to exclude women, but come London, it’s game on. There, Spencer hopes to throw some of the biggest bombs of her life in the 75-kilogram middleweight category. And with the stadium gates now open to female fighters, Spencer is free to visualize herself ducking beneath the ropes and standing up inside the ring as the first Aboriginal contestant — man or woman — to compete for Canada in boxing. Frankly, her timing couldn’t be better.

[pullquote]Spencer is the first Aboriginal, man or woman, to compete for Canada in Olympic Boxing.[/pullquote]

Years before Malcolm Gladwell published his 10,000-hour rule in Outliers — it takes approximately 10,000 hours, or 10 years, of deliberate practice to master to a skill — Spencer was told something similar. Her coach impressed upon her at age 17 (the year she tried on her first pair of boxing gloves) that she could own the podium if she put in 10,000 hours of training for three hours a day, seven days a week for 10 years. She’s 27 now, and by those calculations, Lady Luck should be on Spencer’s side as preparedness meets the opportunity of a lifetime in London.

Spencer’s talent never matched this timetable or prediction. Ten thousand hours shrank considerably when just after three years of training, at the age of 20, she won her first world boxing title. Not bad for a gal who had no discernible talents in high school. “I failed gym class,” says Spencer (she cut too many classes). She was also suspended for a period for beating up a classmate — a boy, no less. “I got the best of him,” Spencer told a reporter at Global News’ 16 by 9, an admission that makes most people who meet her do a double take.

[pullquote]”I failed gym class in high school,” says Spencer[/pullquote]

Mary Spencer is no bully. She’s poised, soft-spoken and tall (five foot 11), not to mention a much loved mentor to dozens of kids who jump up and down on the spot when she pulls up in her white Camaro for her visits to Cape Croker, a reserve five hours from Windsor and the community where her dad, Cliff, used to be a minister. “I have some of the girls on my BBM so no matter where I am in the world, they can text me,” says Spencer. Her commitment and quiet self-possession are a reflection of someone who’s understanding of hard work and sacrifice runs deep.

The road to the Olympics is tough for anyone, but for Spencer it was tougher because she had to face her close friend Ariane Fortin, a two-time world champion from Quebec, in the final qualifying round. The two boxers are teammates and had always fought in different weight classes, but when the Olympic Committee announced there would only be three weight classes for women, Spencer had to bulk up and move into the category Fortin had dominated. “There’s no hate; it’s just taking care of business,” Fortin told the press before their deciding fight in January at the national boxing championship. But when Spencer raised her glove in victory after four rounds, it severed the friendship. “It’s a bittersweet victory for me right now,” Spencer told reporters after the fight. “I just defeated my toughest opponent in the world, and my friend’s dream is crushed.” Not long after, Fortin accused the judges of fixing the result. The rivalry between the two fighters will soon be featured in Last Woman Standing, a documentary being produced by Prospector Films for release on the film-festival circuit in 2013 and set to air on the CBC’s Documentary Channel. …(end of excerpt)


2010 Roundup

December 29, 2010

The scariest post to write

My best posts are usually the scariest to write. I’ve found that the more scared I am about the content, the more likely I am to connect with my readers because we all struggle with the same stuff. But there’s a fine line between tacky confessionals and honest storytelling. Maybe that’s the source of my fear: misrepresenting my emotions and experiences. Being tacky and flippant is easy. Being real is hard.

And it’s never easy writing about members of the opposite sex when you’re simultaneously trying to attract them.

The wackiest post

Shortly after I got my new iPhone.

The fluffiest post

I love talented illustrators.

The most ‘Wow, life is awesome ‘ post

Travel is like a “big bang” explosion of the heart and mind.

My most popular health post

Sleep deprivation is huge.

My most popular design post

Bruce Mau has a lot of followers.

My most misunderstood post

Looking through the feedback to my site in Google Analytics I discovered that people thought I was saying, “Feminism is bad” and “Feminism is wrong” (these are just two examples of  key word search terms typed in by readers). What I was really trying to say is that feminism is as flawed and occasionally misguided as every other form of human expression. It’s a work in progress.

And this post was my attempt to say that female empowerment is more tied to the spirit than the flesh. When Sheila Heti wrote in How a Person Should Be that “Every age has its art form. The nineteenth century was best for the novel, but today we live in an age of some really great blow job artists,” she captured something true about the tenor of our times.

The post with the most comments

Talking about my Mommy, as I liked to call Catherine G-J, was the easiest post I ever wrote. It didn’t require coming up with an idea. I just remembered. You may be wondering, how is your mother? “The same. Worse,” is how my family has taken to describing her when friends and family ask. Every time I visit my mum in hospital, she has sunk deeper into her wheelchair. This Christmas made me cry even harder. I can’t hold her hand anymore. They’re bonier than ever, and she has them locked together in a nervous knot. It would take a wrestler to pull them apart. With hands clasped, eyes looking skyward and her mouth wide open, you’d think she was praying or in some sort of religious ecstasy. Whoever said life is a wheel was right. We get on, go around and get off so someone else can take our place.

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