Friday, August 31, 2007

T & T dim sum

I've seen big flags before, always in the US, but this may be the biggest Canadian flag in Canada.

It flies above the parking lot of the brand spankin' new (on the site of the old Knob Hills) T & T Supermarket on Cherry Street, right across the road from the Cirque de Soleil tents.

This is an Asian foods market that I'd heard about and always wanted to visit but it was located in the depths of Scarborough or something so I wasn't in any hurry to get there. I thought next time I'm out that way...

However, yesterday's paper had an article about the new downtown store just opening and I thought, wait a minute, I live downtown, and I'm going to be out that way, so...

It's a beautiful store. I'm such an adventures-in-retail junkie that I can happily wander through a store looking at displays and the ways the owners choose to merchandise their wares.

Live fish, lobsters, and crabs; great hot take out; and the usual grocery items as well as shelves and shelves of stuff you really won't see at your local shops.

And while there, I bumped into Marty Gallin (of Marty & Avrum) doing his shopping and we both had the same complaint: not enough translation of the products' descriptions.

He makes his living talking about food and wanted to try a bunch of stuff but was too tired of having to wade through the product ingredient list to try to figure what some of the foods were. The lists are in English but the labels often are not.

Me? I just looked at the pretty pictures on the cans; but then, my shopping basket was empty and his was full.

I just got dim sum to go. Next time, ribs.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Small worlds

It's small world. But I wouldn't want to paint it. Steven Wright

I'd had a motorcycle accident during high school. When I say motorcycle I'm being romantically generous. I was riding pillion on the back of a Honda 60 after cutting class to go hang out in Yorkville and was returning home in rush hour traffic doing a heady 10 mph when the Honda was clipped by a car making a dodgy left turn.

My friend Lynne Milgram would chauffeur my invalid self around, squeezing my ankle to thigh cast into the shotgun seat of her father's Buick and we'd hang out in Yorkville, being cool during the beginnings of the hippy folk era, sitting on stoops, watching people walk by.

If you look carefully, you can see my film debut in the NFB film Flowers on a One Way Street some of which was shot from my window overlooking Yorkville Ave.

But the insurance settlement from the accident didn't come through till after P and I were married a couple of years later.
We now had a little money and big choice: put down a down payment on a house or go to Europe for a year. We were living in my room on Yorkville and a house in the area would have cost $20-30K. (Many of them are now in the $2 Mil range).

Oh, well.

When we returned from our innocence abroad, we moved into a house that Lynne had rented near the Ontario College of Art and shared roof and expenses with a varied group of other delinquents mostly art students or actors.

Lynne soon took off for Europe and Asia and other people moved in. One or two nutty nut-bars over the next four years, but mostly a pretty good and talented bunch like Barbara Astman and David Powell and Paul Harnett.

Some years later we did buy a house a few blocks away and one of our neighbours was artist and illustrator Barbara Klunder. She threw great parties. Still does.

This afternoon we went to an opening at the David Kaye Gallery tied with a book launch and party at the Drake for Klunder's book: Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times,

The reviews have said wickedly funny, and while she's been published before as illustrator, this is her first solo book. We were happy to be there and toast her success.
Klunder's friend, Paul Harnett dropped by. Small world.

Lynne was there too. Just back from England and LA on the red-eye from her own book launch. She's an anthropologist and OCAD prof and knows just about everybody in the entire world. Also she's married to gallery owner David Kaye. Small world.

All worlds are small worlds aren't they? Art worlds especially.

I still wouldn't want to paint them. But I know people who would.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

res ipsa loquitur

Seen at the Vaughn Mills Mall: a bank of strollers for your convenience.

Well, maybe just one more.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Big Balls for Epilepsy

It was Buskerfest this weekend.

It must be the Libra thing in me; I'm both drawn to and repelled by crowds. And yet here I am on a fine Sunday afternoon strolling through...PEOPLE!

Buskerfest had about a dozen streets all cordoned off, with acts, sidewalk chalk artists, and food & vendor's booths. I'm not exactly sure how this thing works, I didn't see too many hats being passed 'round, so I have a pretty good notion that the Headliners actually get paid to perform. These acts are good, serious good; they're not an out of tune guitar player singing Kumbaya while you're standing in the rain waiting to see the Bourne Resurrection.

Buskerfest is entertainment at its most basic, mano-a-mano.

First, you, the audience, have to get off your ass, put down the remote, go there. And by you, of course, I mean me. They don't just come to your house when you push a button. (Well, I suppose they could, there's nothing really to stop them; well, perhaps a restraining order.) Then, there's no buffer zone: just the performer and the audience, up close and personal. Bad breath and all. If the audience doesn't like Koko the Clown, they vote with their feet, and move on.

If the performer doesn't like the response from the audience, the act changes: sometimes to try to win the audience over; sometimes just to amuse the artist.

And the show goes on.

And when you put kids into the audience mix (Daddy, why isn't the Emperor wearing any clothes?) Whoo hoo!

However, let it be known, that on this day, in this city, at this Buskerfest, these acts were damn fine and the audiences appreciative.

Looking over the tops of people's head, I kept seeing a young woman, in the air, doing somersaults: singles, doubles, triples. OK, a trampoline act, but not particularly engaging. Then I got closer and was able to see what was making the crowd go ooh!. No trampoline. She was being launched into air from a beam resting on the shoulders of her two accomplices. Getting up is easy. But landing on a four inch patch of bar? After twirling in the air? I'm impressed. They're the Quebec Russian Bar Trio.

The juggling act that I saw was Pete Sweet.
He has a kind of Emo Phillips voice and wears a bowtie and ill fitting blazer. His patter is smooth and pretty good. He can juggle five balls, which many jugglers can do, but as he likes to put it: he has five REALLY BIG balls.

And that's hard.

The real skill though is when he juggles just one ball. A crystal ball.
Not so much juggling, as ball dancing; just letting the thing roll, fluidly, over his fingers, palms, up his arms, over the shoulders, back down again. At several points throughout, it seems as if the ball is stopped in time and space, just hanging in the air while Sweet moves around it.


It takes courage and confidence to put yourself up front before the mob audience. For a living.

The designated charity, the beneficiary of the event, was Epilepsy Toronto. You can donate here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Seek You, Seek You, Seek You

CQ CQ CQ, seek you, seek you, seek you.

In 1959 I straddled the two worlds of techno-geekdom and class clown. In any movie you've seen, I'm the freckle-faced red head next door who provides comic relief and spurs the reluctant hero on to achieve his goal. I don't usually die horribly, but sometimes I do and then there'll always be a boat naming ceremony or something at the end.

Where other 11 year olds might have had posters of Tim Horton or Rocket Richard on the walls of their rooms, I had wire. Lots and lots of copper wire.

I lived inside an antenna.

That summer, having finally been given the transistor radio I'd been whining about for who knows how long, I discovered that this Toshiba had a short wave band as well. And so I began exploring the world, eavesdropping on amateur radio (ham) operators. Looking for trouble. Like David Sarnoff.*

That's what the CQ is: the beginning of a ham transmission, looking for someone to respond.

I had no transmitter so all I could do was listen.

Reception was better at night (isn't everything?) and I listened to the world: HCJB (High in the Andes); Moscow Mailbag; Shortwave Service of the CBC.

And while I couldn't communicate by radio transmission, I could use the mail.
I'd drop the operator a line on a post card telling them when I'd listened, what I'd heard and report on frequency and signal strength. In response they'd send a QSL card, a personalized thanks with their location and call letters. The object was to collect as many as possible and that's what ended up on my wall in place of hockey stars.

The following year I started high school.

In Toronto, in those years following the Second World War, three downtown high schools still maintained their Cadet Corps and every spring would have a big Parade at the armoury.

Harbord CI was one of those schools and cadets was mandatory for grades nine and ten. I hated marching so I joined the Signal Corps.

During the school year we'd meet after classes, do ham radio stuff, goof around, and get paid government money to learn Morse Code, which I still remember.

And then in late April, when all the cadets were marching around in wool uniforms at
the BIG EVENT, we sat up in the balcony, smoking. (We could do that then; all the cool thirteen year olds did.) Then we got driven onto the parade floor in a truck, jumped out, set up a radio base station, tore it down, jumped back in the truck and got out of there. Total time before we were back smoking in the balcony: six minutes.

Everyone else, in uniform, hot day,
standing at attention for hours and hours. Fainting was involved.

I loved being a smart ass geek.

But I did have to repeat that year.

I was having so much fun in high school, I kinda forgot about the studying part. Oops.

The next year I discovered girls and electronics went out the window, replaced with biology.

(Hello Cindy, wherever you are. I hope you're a grandmother and have had a rich and easy life with more sunshine than clouds.)

Here in the blogosphere, I'm still the techo-geeky class clown twelve year old searching the world, looking for trouble.


* David Sarnoff was a young telegraph operator in Manhattan, set up in Wannamakers Department store. On April 15, 1912, he was at his post when he made contact with RMS Carpathia speeding to aid the sinking Titanic. Since he was the first, all other radios had to stand down, and young David was the sole source of any direct news. He stayed at his radio during the entire rescue effort posting the names of survivors for the crowds of anxious relatives outside the store and around the world.

A little while later he founded NBC. Oh, and he also became head of RCA.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

I recently saw an old boyhood friend whom I hadn't really talked to in about forty years or more. He's now a serious math & stats prof with an Ivy League degree whose specialty is probability. He's the go-to guy whenever the media need a quote or sound bite about the lottery: "Your chances of hitting the lottery are...", that kind of thing. David Mamet has a probability friend too (they're all the rage now) and in Bambi vs Godzilla he cites his friend who told Mamet that the chances of buying a winning lottery ticket are not significantly different to finding the winning lottery ticket lying in the street. So save the buck.

Yeah, I know, I still buy them anyway.

Because I have faith. You know what faith is, don't you Susan: "Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to." If that sounds familiar, it's because you hear it every year during the gifting season. Thank you George Seaton and "Miracle On 34th Street".

Not only do I have faith that I'm going to win, I have faith that I'm going to win BIG.

See, that's what I get for the buck.

Like the ad says, you get to dream. And my dreams
involve money. Wait a minute, that's Mamet again. In the Spanish Prisoner, Ricky Jay's character says: "We must never forget that we are human, and as humans we dream, and when we dream, we dream of money." Okay so my dreams involve leather as well money but I have a shallow fantasy life, so never mind.

And while not quite like Pascal's Wager, in the end, what do I have to lose? A couple of bucks that I probably would have spent on Purdy's English Toffee (just sooo good.) And if you factor that couple of bucks a week over twenty or thirty years with the miracle of compound interest what do I end up with?

Paying one more month of the night nurse's salary so she can sail through the cryptic crossword (in pen) while pretending not to hear me gasp for air as I croak out a vale dictum and the shemah?

I'll take the dream.

And that's why the lottery works, why they can give millions away and still rake in the dough. Because they're not selling you lottery tickets, bucko, they're in the dream business. And as Hollywood and every dope dealer know, the dream business can be very, very lucrative.

I better go check my numbers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

No More Most Unique Manse, Okay?

Just a short rant.

1. Its is possessive: the dog and its bone. It's is short for it is.

2. Your is possessive: my house and your house. You're is short for you are.

3. He gave it to Teddy and me. Not to Teddy and I. If in doubt try flipping it around and listening to it: He gave it to I and Teddy? Nope, I don't think so.

4. Unique means "one of a kind". Something cannot be more one of a kind than another; you cannot qualify it. Get it? So no most unique, quite unique, very unique. Unique, like the cheese, stands alone.

5. A manse is a parsonage or rectory given for the use of a parish minister. It is not a small mansion. Well, it may be, but not the way you think.

Thank you I feel better now.

Just 'nother day in paradise.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I Adore My 64

We were going through a sleeve of old posters we have tucked away and re-discovered this one. In 1984 (I think), along with millions of others, I bought a Commodore 64 computer. And not only did I buy one, I was cast as Vincent van Gogh in the "I Adore My 64" commercial. I believe that the theme was that all creative people, Hemingway, Mozart, Wright Bros, Van Gogh would have used a 64. I was a pretty close match for Vinnie.

This is the poster for that spot.

And after we'd shot the thing, I bought all the peripherals off the floor: the external floppy drive, monitor, printer. I still have the monitor (and use it as a dvd monitor).

I did love my 64, but then, along came mac.

I'm still waiting to do a mac commercial.

And as old Vincent said while he was slicing that ear off:
just 'nother day in Paradise.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


We are just not cat people.

We don't have anything against cats, other than believing that they steal the breath from babies' mouths, and that they're Satan's minions on earth.

We even had one once: a cute and cuddly kitten. It ran away as soon as it figured it out how to work the screen door. Taking only a lunch and a small ball of yarn, away it went leaving only tears and a tiny hairball behind.

We believe cats can sense that we're not cat people and so come over immediately. They rub and purr and arch and bat their long eyelashes and make you dance to their tune by the light of the silvery moon.

However, a cat lives next door.

By this I mean, they feed him from time to time, and take him for shots or whatever it is that they take him for and the rest of the time he lives on my porch. Mine is the nicer porch I admit. His own shabby crowded porch is shown in the photos as he tries to escape my camera, screaming: "damn you TMZ, can't you just leave me alone!"

Ripkin he is called,
allegedly after some athlete, but more likely because he enjoys ripping birds and mice apart and depositing their entrails or other remains on my door step.

The Ripkinator loves nothing more than leaving nothing more than a fluff of feathers and a tiny beak for my naked foot to step into while fetching the morning paper.

A love offering.

On hot lazy summer afternoons and well into the evenings, he can be found under my small twig table seeking a little respite from the sun.

This then is Ripkin's life: sleep eighteen hours, then murder something and eat most of it. And.. what was it now...sleep some more.

This then is the Ripster's obit.

We've know him forever, he's fifteen or so by now; so, seriously, how much longer can he keep this up?

I though that I'd write his notice now, because who knows, I might not be around to write it later and I know for a fact that he likes to ego surf his name on Google.

I thought he might enjoy reading it now.

It moves me to tears just thinking about it.

Yep, just 'nother day in paradise.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Seriously, is it just me?

I just got back from a bike ride running some errands on a hot day. Uneventful, that is, no blood was shed this time, but it's always risky even in a bike friendly (?) place like Toronto.

Understand this: I'm not an avid cyclist, it's just transportation. I live downtown, and I ride a lot; I even wear a dorky helmet, the kind that was inspired by Ridley Scott.
Maybe I should be like the guys who just dangle their helmets from their handlebars. Not that the helmet will do a whole lot, but I'd be a fool not to. And besides, I bought it at a yard sale for a buck and it'll have to do until something better comes along.

I also don't have any hair left for the wind to blow through.

I try to behave myself, I use my mandatory bell a lot to keep from getting doored. I'm just a mad bellin' fool.

And get this: I stop at red lights; I stop at stop signs. I signal. Am I the only one?

Apparently so. Apparently I'm surrounded by the folly of youth, and sometimes oldth. These cyclists just weave in and out of traffic, through red lights, on sidewalks. They ride wide. They have invisible friends on bikes. They take their dogs for a walk drag.

They are invincible, hear them roar.

And then when one of them gets popped, they start whining about the cars and traffic and lack of respect, and "share the road, man!"

I think that it's a sense of entitlement they feel: they are noble; they do not pollute; they leave no footprint.

Hah! A bully by any other name.

And that's today: 'nother day in paradise.