Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Burgess Shale fossils, lakeside views and shoes to die for

About a month ago we got to know another three different aspects of Toronto during three separate weekends:

First, the Royal Ontario Museum. It's not only got an amazing façade, with a traditional exterior punctured by an extruding crystal structure. Fantastic to look at, very difficult to capture wholly in a picture. But what is inside is as impressive, or more (depending on your interests, of course), but I want to focus on two things: native art, and fossils. The museum has a section on native art, and not even inside that section, but outside, you have two majestic totems, truely inspiring, rising tall through the different storeys, alien in their relationship to our traditional art conceptions. There was also a really beautiful carved narwhal tusk. Yes, a narwhal's tusk. It was so delicate, and detailed, and its origins so mystic (yes, I'm vegan, but this piece of art came from a different time and place...). And second of all, the Burgess Shale fossils. The largest collection of such in the world, as a matter of fact. To me, that means a lot: the Burgess Shale fossils are some of the most exciting discoveries of the 20th century, revealing a huge number of "body plans" and "shapes of life" that were hitherto unknown (sorry, that is really very exciting to me, honestly).

Of course, if being indoors is not your thing, then a walk around the lakefront, especially when the sun is shining, should be. We visited different parks, all next or really close to the water, and it was a very energising experience: the air was cool and crisp, the sun was shining, and the lake reflected the sunlight fantastically. On top of it all, you could hear bagpipe music coming from one of the boats, we found a monument to peace with "Peace" written in dozens of languages (you know how thrilled I was by that!), and we simply enjoyed nature, tall trees, colourful flowers, a stroll by the water... I was very happy, simply taking it all in.

And, the third weekend, we went for something more urban: an area known as " The Annex", where we visited the emporium of cheap, an immense store with unbelievably silly signs about the honesty of the owner and the dirt-cheap prices, and yet a place whose owner was a fan of theatre and musical comedy and had a fantastic collection of posters and photos among the more than minimal (to save money) layout. We saw hip shops, and the colourfully grafittied walls around them. And we visited the Bata Shoe Museum, a museum that, no matter how much or little interest you may have in shoes, will have you marvelling at the diversity of designs, of uses, of colours, of stories behind them. A true gem.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Yes, that happened about a month ago, but I'm producing posts as fast as I can!

When we arrived in this city, it was already pretty late to get tickets for the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and, on top of that, with over 300 films to choose from, deciding what to see (and quickly, as tickets were selling out minute by minute!) would have been quite the task.  So, just for this one first time, we took a chance and bought a package of six, "programmers choice", movies.   What did that mean?  It meant that, a week before the festival started, we'd find out what six movies the programmers had chosen for us!   Some may be shocked at the idea of buying tickets for films you're not choosing yourself but, to be honest, it seemed pretty exciting to me!   And, as it happened, we were well rewarded.

During 6 days we were honoured to not only see 6 films that, honestly, we would have had little chance to see otherwise, but also to have them presented by the directors (and sometimes even the main leads) themselves!   And so, for six nights we enjoyed some delightful warm food to make the soul happy and laugh a little (Soul Kitchen, by Fatih Akin, Germany, 2009), heard some tales about (in)equality and the damage of roles and expectations (Scheherazade, tell me a story, by Yoursy Nasrallah, Egypt, 2009), got to see a dark side of the other China as well as the dark side of what you get when you have two long stories to tell and stick the second one at the end rather haphazardly (Prince of Tears, by Yonfan, Taiwan/Hong Kong, 2009), were carried around in a strange and somewhat extreme story trying to understand the last days of the world (Les Derniers Jours du Monde, by Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu, France/Spain/Taiwan, 2009), got delightfully entangled in the mysteries of ghosts, dreams and the subconscious (The Double Hour, by Giuseppe Capotondi, Italy, 2009) and, finally, enjoyed a true gem, a fantastic thriller with perfect twists that kept us immersed, heart in hand, 100% in the story:  The Disappearance of Alice Creed (by J Blakeson, United Kingdom, 2009). 

Sometimes, letting things in the hands of randomness produces deliciously unexpected and gratifying surprises...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn stroll, High Park

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Pre-parkwalk vegan brunch @ Fresh

Granola Parfait with vanilla soy yoghurt. Vegan sausage. Organic açaí, guaraná, mango, cherry, pomegranate shake.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"(Cruelty-Free) Food for Thought"

(this was supposed to be a post about Toronto's Vegetarian Fair, the Royal Ontario Museum and lake-side parks, but I couldn't help getting very excited about the first topic, so...)

Not long after we arrived to Toronto I got news that there was going to be a Vegetarian Fair.  That got me very excited alright, but when I discovered by chance that one of my favourite podcasters (Colleen Patrick-Goudreau) was going to give a talk, I was practically jumping up and down.  You see, I've been vegan (or at least doing my best to be) for 8 years.   And for the first 5 years I practically had to go at it alone, being the only vegan I knew.  And then, after discovering the wonders of podcasting, I met her (well, figuratively, of course, through her podcast, Vegetarian Food for Thought).  And I got hooked.  I not only awaited eagerly for every new episode, but listened to all her previous ones, one after the other, hours on end. 

Through her, I realised (what a discovery for me!) I could enjoy pizza without cheese (instead creating my own,  like my walnut, spinach, paprika, caramelised onion  and artichoke combination); I also took the next step and finally quit my (then still very cherished) cows-milk weekend ice-cream "treat" and open my eyes to alternatives (discovering Singaporean momochaha, Taiwanese bingsha, Häagen-Dazs sherbets and Hachez 88% Premier Cru chocolate bar).   I laughed loud when I recognised myself in her anecdotes.  And when the going got tough and it seemed like I was a madman for following my path,  her voice offered comfort.

And so, after three years of knowing her, I finally met her, in person.   And even got to talk to her, however briefly, one on one, and do what was fair and right:  I thanked her, as sincerely as one may, for her hours of dedication, for being a voice for those that have no voice, and for all 108 episodes I'd been fortunate to listen to.      

The fair itself was cool:  food stands, book-stands, seeds, cereals, non-dairy ice-cream, treats of all sorts, music and, to boot, the weather was just fantastic.   Having a bunch of people around thinking that a calf's place is being nursed at his mother's side being nursed instead of in a tiny crate waiting for slaughter was refreshing.  But, for me, all that was just icing on the cake her talk and my meeting her had been.

There is a phrase Colleen often uses, and which I feel that rings very true:  Don't do nothing because you can't do everything, do something.    Doing SOMETHING is much better than doing NOTHING.   If you can you quit all animal parts and secretions except cheese,  go ahead!  All but your Angus beef?  Be my guest!  do you want to take it one step at a time, with just one vegan day a week?  Bravo!  ANY of those is way better than simply doing absolutely nothing.  Unless, of course, you're 100% consciously and knowingly OK with the daily relentless exploitation and murder of animals and their objectification as nothing more than commodities.     

It was an awesome day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Best vegan brunch in Toronto @ Fresh

Dark chocolate, banana, espresso, mint shake

Banana nut pancakes with pure unprocessed maple syrup, grilled vegan sausage and scrambled tofu

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A weekend of Fetishism, Theatres and Planes?

The first weekend of September was quite... diverse. Having travelled to all the places I've been to, having tried at least a bit of many different languages, and basically having been led to a number of things just out of plain curiosity and a sense of adventure, it was only a question of time before we took a look at Toronto's Fetish scene: we found out about a monthly party at a night-club not too far from where we live and, donning what little appropriate attire we had (how handy did my black kilt come in there!), we entered a world which, quite honestly, shared plenty with the salon presented in the film Short Bus. Different genders, sexualities and fetishes were present, and people were pretty much free to do as they pleased, but with one important unspoken rule: respect. No one made fun of anybody's attire, attitude or interests, and people were as polite or more than your typical person on the street; the diversity and tolerance gave me a high and a real sense of admiration for this city.  Of course, they don't allow the taking of pics inside, so I'll have to leave all to your (wild?) imagination and just say I wore a black denim kilt (bought in Montreal) and boots (well, and a dress shirt, of course).   

The following morning, still infused with a sense of wonder from the previous night's experience (and strangely rested, though our furniture hadn't arrived from China yet and we were sleeping on the floor!), we did another one of our "City Walks": the Performing Arts Walk. It was a chance to discover a bit more of our neighbourhood and it was a wonderful sunny day to go for a walk, with the added benefit of seeing ultra-modern planes doing all sorts of manoeuvres overhead as part of Canada's Labour Day Show. We saw a number of theatres, like the Second City Theatre (where Dan Aykroyd and Mike Myers have performed, and where we attended and evening of live improv), the Royal Alexandra Theatre (which has hosted, hear this, the Marx Brothers and Orson Welles!) and the Princess of Wales Theatre (where the Broadway version of The Lord of the Rings had its world debut; what a shame we missed that). We walked Canada's Walk of Fame (you'd be surprised at how many famous actors and directors are Canadian and not from the USA). We saw a sobering memorial, the "100 Workers Monument", holding memorial plates for 100 different workers who died building this city (some in really gruesome ways), and representing all those unsung heroes.

Finally, we enjoyed the Air Show I mentioned earlier. Well, actually, we had been enjoying it all along our walk (and even the days before, as they had to practice), but then we went to my office where, it being on the 40th floor, we could get a different angle. You can't watch those machines doing what they do, flying at the speed they fly, and not be utterly amazed, even if you, like me, haven't the slightest interest in planes.

Another weekend well spent, I say.

Afternoon sun

How not to love this?

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