Monday, August 29, 2005

Tornado Barely Misses Toronto

Reports came in throughout the week of the damage done to some streets and highways since last Friday's tornado touched down in the surrounding areas of Toronto. We didn't know what to expect that night, but the storm passed quickly, and most of us were lucky to get a good start to the weekend on a boat cruise out on Lake Ontario.

Since I hadn't seen any images until now, the severity had somehow escaped me. This amazing image, which looks like it was created for a Hollywood disaster flick, was taken by a meterology student in the area of Fergus, Ontario. It turns out it was a pretty rough storm, but one we will recover from.

Now, watching the news at the office, we are all in horror as hurricane Katrina pounds through Louisiana and Alabama. I've never seen anything quite this bad. We hope that all those involved stay safe with their loved ones.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Toronto International Film Festival Hits 30th Year

Yesterday, Piers Handling and the new guard revealed the programme for the 30th annual Toronto International Film Festival. It's the beginning of an exciting time for many of us in the city, racing around trying to get into this party or that screening. Now that the programme is known, seats quickly fill up. Many screenings sell out by way of lottery to those who buy packages well in advance.

While most of the 335 films in the programme will get a chance to enjoy the limelight, it's the 6 Gala presentations that create the most buzz here and abroad. Often these spectacular Gala films resonate with Oscar quality, so I was surprised after reading the press release yesterday, that the following main event line-up is chock fill of crazy char"actors" like action-flick superstars, a country music musician and several hip-hop artists.

The Gala's are: David J. Burke's EDISON, starring Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, Justin Timberlake and LL Cool J; Stephen Frears' MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS, a world premiere starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins; the world premiere of Guy Ritchie's REVOLVER, starring Ray Liotta and André Benjamin (Andre 3000); Stanley Tong's THE MYTH, a world premiere, starring Jackie Chan, Kim Hee Seon, Tony Leung Ka Fai and Mallika Sherawat; and Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut, THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA, starring Jones, Dwight Yoakam, January Jones, and Julio César Cedillo; and Richard Shepard's THE MATADOR, starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear.

I think, given these bizarre choices, that I might give the main event a miss and go for what I know will be a sure thing: DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY by Michel Gondry. Gondry's direction in music video (for artists such as Bjork and The White Stripes) is true genius. Mixed with writer/producer/comedian Chappelle and the first reunion of The Fugees since 1997, I know this one might not be Oscar material but it's got the kind of star-power that impresses me.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Chachi Loves Flickr

Originally uploaded by colourblind.
Through flickr and gtabloggers I heard about this guy doing something called Portraits In The Park. For a nominal donation the photographer (screen name Photojunkie, real name Rannie) will take your shot and print a picture for you. Last week he was down at one of my favorite little spots, Cherry Beach, and since I was "babysitting" Chachi I figured I'd check it out and take him for a walk at the same time. Chachi loves the beach too, he runs around in big circles, as fast as he can, for about 10 minutes or until he gets tired. That's his way of showing he's excited.

We saw Rannie's set up as soon as we arrived. I was going to stop in quick and then take Chachi down to where the Rochester ferry, The Breeze, splits from, but Rannie wanted to chill for a bit first and invited me to join the flickr meet-up group hanging out at the other end of the beach. It was kinda cool, a group of people, most of whom only knew each other from the screen alias' used to identify one's photos uploaded on flickr. We hung out a bit, listening to some cool tunes, supplied by Duchamp. I met a few people and learned a couple cool things about my camera that I hadn't known, as well as some general photography tips. Since everyone had their cameras out and weren't totally comfortable taking shots of each other at first, Chachi became the natural subject. Colourblind took this one of a smiling Chachi down at the beach. A bunch of other great shots came out of the meet-up, but I have yet to pick up the "pro" shots taken by Rannie of Chachi and I down the the Cherry Beach lifeguard stand. Looking forward to seeing the shots and to the next spontaneous photoblogger beach party, Chachi is too.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mid-summer Meltdown

Is it just me or is the summer party scene dying down? There are a couple cool things going on this weekend, but it's not enough. People want options, places to go with guaranteed good music, and not the usual places, or anywhere in the Entertainment District. Certainly some of us thirty-somethings are feeling wanton, been-there done-that, while many of our friends drift out of the scene and just like quiet evenings at home. What about those of us who still like the scoial scene in this city? Time to do something about it and start throwing my own parties I think. Hook it up with my girl Julie. With a little help from my friends we could bring in some hot DJs and find a cool space to keep us satisfied during these restless summer nights.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Noisy Neighbours

from my window
Originally uploaded by 416style.
Three years ago I moved into my peaceful apartment in High Park, on the top floor of a house on a hill, with a beautiful view across the park. Friends came over and awed at "the treehouse", while I beamed because I felt so restful when I was there. This is what my home was, a respite from the loud world outside, but I'm slowly being driven mad by my noisy neighbours.

Excuse me if I complain again. Every day begins with my neighbour’s fascination with patio stones, which are cut on the premises. My other neighbour across the street appears to have hard on for noise of any kind: leaf blowers (have you heard these things?), car vacuums and drum sets. It's frequent and frustrating.

This past Saturday I awoke at 9am in full bitch mode, and traveled the 70 steps down to the road where I met the leaf-blower demon head on. I mean, really, it's not even Fall, can't you just rake the damn leaves? And, don't you care everyone's trying to sleep? Well, I lost the battle, but it doesn't mean I'll lose the war.

In a bit of a tirade I hopped online and began looking up Toronto's noise by-laws. Amended in 2003, it read, "No person shall make, cause or permit noise (defined as unwanted sound), or vibration, at any time which is likely to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of the inhabitants of this City." Sounds good, but then it continues to report that anyone can do whatever they want between 7am (9am on weekends) and 11pm at night. Dammit. Who’s gonna help me now?

I kept digging and came across a Now Magazine article which discussed how noise pollution is linked to a number of health related problems, including, of course, hearing loss. Up to now I was just pissed because I couldn't sleep, but now I'm thinking, maybe my neighbours are contributing to my gradual hearing loss too, among other things. It's a bit of a worry for me. My dad has some serious problems with his hearing lately, and I wonder if I might go down the same path. I've been going to crazy loud parties for a long time, and while I'm no Frankie Wilde, I expect that I too might have to deal with this issue someday.

So, now I'm stressed about my stress and my hearing loss, great. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a resolution to this one. I can't get my neighbors' team of landscapers on either side to work reasonable hours. Move out of the city or deal with it I guess. Toronto is nowhere near as bad as Tokyo or New York for constant street chatter, but it is getting worse and nobody seems to want to make any noise about it.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Great Graff Debate

space ship
Originally uploaded by steffiejupe.
Traveling through Scandinavia as a teen, I would see massive amounts of graffiti all along the major train routes. Click clak. Click clak. My eyes would be fixed on the art as I passed; one brief moment, one spontaenous message, one image burned in my memory. It made me happy and reassured. Then, I would come back to my home in this city and everything felt so bland, so constructed, lacking the color and life of more established cities.

A couple years into High School my friends started the Keele wall, seen here, behind the Midas garage in High Park. It inspired me, made me draw, take pictures, explore the city. It was also really cool that Midas let my friends spraypaint whatever they liked as long as they designed a Midas logo for the passing subway cars and commuters to see. The wall still flourishes today, its message always new and simple. In this image it's a spaceship, and the word "sight". Next month a new artist will cover the space.

Even though the trend toward grafitti covered walls has been increasing in popularity, the City of Toronto has been pushing for stricter measures against its proliferation. The message to commercial property owners is this: "Clean up the art or pay the painting bill that the city hands over and a potential fine." The argument presented is that alleys and walls of spraypaint scare away tourists. But, which tourists?

At the same time as this crackdown, festivals around the city are supporting the art and bringing people into the city core to celebrate it. Harbourfront Centre sponsored a Beats, Breaks and Culture event which showcased grafitti-based art, as well as music. The Grafitti 416 expo is on this weekend at Portland and Queen, and Little X's Getting Up Festival last weekend advertised grafitti demos as part of its allure. Even, City Hall was involved in one outdoor art exhibition held this summer on its grounds that featured some of Toronto's grafitti artists.

Yet, grafitti still gets a bad rap. Sure, there are punks with no respect, tagging buildings they have no right to. My anger flared seeing 1930's dance club Palais Royale tagged by some amateur, and now the Hotel Edgewater's retro sign will never be the same.

So some people give it a bad name. They're not artists in the same right. Parameters should be set, and business owners should have their say. The mayor's little broom icon from his campaign bumper stickers refered to trash and not art, I thought. Mayor Miller should learn the difference. The rest of the city knows. As do I. When I'm on that subway train heading to Keele station, about to pass the wall, and I see several TTC riders looking out the window with curious eyes all lit up looking at the wall, it makes me proud, and reassured that art of many kinds has a place in a city of many cultures.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Torontonian's View of the World

I've always revered what journalists do, and how they do it. Many put themselves in harm's way because getting the story out is more important than anything else. Others, however, just chose to follow the ratings and pick the most salacious stories. And then there's Geraldo, who tries to do both while embedded as a war correspondent in Afghanistan, but it didn't really work out for him. In this day and age, when we are confronted with news from every angle, it's increasingly more important to choose one's sources wisely, and often to read the stories that don't always seem most attractive, but can offer much perspective.

Toronto-born network news anchor Peter Jennings, who passed this week, was a journalist that tried to offer a view of the world, instead of feeding into the ratings frenzy. For an American audience - a small percentage of which actually have passports - digesting international news can be tough. Jennings decided he would deliver stories from around the globe anyway, because it was important for him to live up to the banner of his show, World News Tonight, even if it meant a decline in ratings. It was risky, but he made a name for himself in foreign affairs reporting. Part of me thinks this decision of his had something to do with his background in a country as multifaceted (and multicultural) as Canada. Canadians are known as frequent travelers, inquisitive about the world around them. Peter Jennings is an inspiring symbol of the worldwide curiosity we all share as Canadians.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Wakestock Rocks Toronto Islands

Wakeboard Cup, Xanten
Originally uploaded by Zwergie.
I'm super-psyched for this weekend's Wakestock World Series down at the Toronto Islands. Fortunately for us city-dwellers, the festival was kicked out of its annual spot in Wasaga, so now we get the world's best wakeboarders coming to our city to put on an awesome show.

Been watching the Summer X Games all week on TV, since it's rare getting to see this stuff live. Seeing the stunts the athletes pull off makes me giddy with excitment and that's just on screen, I watch it over and over on my PVR and make sure all my friends catch it too. It's some crazy shit.

Wakestock's gonna have it all. Besides the jump and rail competitions at Long Pond, there'll be motorcross and pro skate demos...and probably tons of blaring punk rock. Enough to piss off the Islanders, who sure as hell don't want us there. Never mind, 30,000 other revellers. Can't wait.

Sunday's the day I'll be down there, for the day-long pro competitions. Check out the link on the left for ticket info.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Tragedy Averted at Toronto Airport

Originally uploaded by Pritch.
About an hour and a half after Air France flight 358 crashed into a ravine at the Toronto Airport we started to hear news that there may be some survivors. Amazing! Then more and more reports came in. I checked the various news broadcasts, trying to get the best coverage. CTV had some good leads. CNN was pretty good too. CBC was doing something on rowing. Back to CTV.

So what caused the horrible fire? One witness CTV interviewed had seen lightening strike the plane. Then, today, I read that planes get hit on average once a year, that passengers wouldn't even notice it, and that this wouldn't have been a factor in the crash. It was suggested by CNN that stormy weather had caused the crash, but the papers again disputed this potential cause, saying that winds had not reached a severe enough speed to set the plane's landing off course. So, it was the papers, The Globe and Mail, The National Post and Dose, that appeared to be ahead of the game, but of course they had more time to prepare the story. The papers were full of diagrams of the runway, the Toronto airport and chronology of the crash. Most stated that the plane had lost its front wheels as it crashed onto the runway. Hmmm...not enough info for me still.

After lunch I checked to see what images flick'r had of the incident (they had had the first widely available pics of the London bombing, taken by citizens at the scene) and so I found this great example of the aftermath of the crash. The picture shows that all the wheels touched down on the runway and carried the plane into the ditch, as evidenced by the skid marks coming off the runway. So the papers are busy with speculation too, and presenting it as fact. Well, good for citizen journalism-at-large and on-the-scene. So far flick'r is the source I give the most credit to. Though, we'll all have to wait until a full investigation begins by officials on Wednesday. Until then, perhaps my firefighter friend Dust[in] can comment on the scene and rescue efforts, which were by all standards truly amazing.