Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Let's speak Yiddish

It's a language that has less and less secular speakers and more and more extremely religious ones.  Depending on who you ask, today there are between 82% and 99% less speakers than before WWII.     Countless Yiddish newspapers, publishing houses and theatres have closed down.  But no matter what, I find it absolutely fascinating, an international language linking people on all continents, and with a delightful admixture of the other languages it's come into contact with.

Sunday, Toronto's Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre organized a full day of lectures about Yiddish (Yiddish in Canada, in post-Soviert Russia, in translation, and as a verncaular in the 21st century).  And those lectures were in Yiddish.   Including the Question & Answer sessions! (I so thank my knowledge of German and Russian that supported my not so good command of Yiddish and allowed me to follow the event)

To Ashkenaz Festival that  not only supported the event but offered a small klezmer concert at the end, to the MNJCC, and to the more than welcoming people I met who were happy to have this goy learning their language, a sheinem dank farn Yidishtog!    

Monday, April 29, 2013

Toronto's alternative fashion show: FAT

By mere chance I was given a pass to attend FAT 2013 (Fashion Art Toronto 2013), a fashion show that bills itself as an alternative fashion show, offering a venue for less mainstream artists.  As soon as I heard those two words (fashion, alternative) mentioned in the same sentence, I knew I had to go!

"Fashion Therapy" was this year's theme and during the different days the shows focused on various "aspects" of therapy:  drama, craving, crisis, escape and euphoria.   Saturday night was Euphoria.  

As the fashion ignoramus I am, I cannot comment on the quality, design or merit of any of the collections I saw.  But what I can comment on is that the show does deserve a mention for including plenty of non-Caucasian models, models of various heights, models that ranged from worryingly thin to Rubenesque, models ranging from the very young to over forty, queer models, and even a model with vitiligo.   Additionally, it also included fashion that some would probably deem more appropriate for fetish parties.  For me, that was plenty.   And even though I there was a collection or two I wasn't too crazy about, the rest ranged from cool to fun, with the last one, by Purple Jester, quite the dramatic performance unto itself.

And now I've added FAT to my calendar so I won't miss it next year.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Finally, after such a long wait, this Saturday the temperature rose above 10ºC and it was sunny and clear too.   Torontonians were happy, invading the streets, patios and squares in full force.  Welcome spring!  We missed you!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hava Nagila and The Dandelions @ TJFF

These were our last two films at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.   First, The Dandelions (Du vent dans mes mollets), an adaptation of the novel by the same name by author Raphaële Moussafir.  A charming, funny and just a tad melodramatic French comedy about a 9 year old whose life, and her parents', changes with her friendship to a more intrepid new classmate.  

The second one, "Hava Nagila (The Movie)", was a very happy way to end the festival, an interesting documentary about that song that most of us have heard yet very few know anything about it besides its being Jewish.  We were in for a small surprise when we found out it originated in the Pale of Settlement (the Ukraine), one of my ancestral lands!  As usual, the festival organisers could not let the festival end without a small treat for everyone (and I'm talking about a cinema packed full!):  strawberry sherbet!   Mazel tov, TJFF, and thanks!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Invisible Men (גברים בלתי נראים) @ TJFF

This was the second film we saw at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF), right after we had watched Numbered. 

One of the things I enjoy a lot about the TJFF is that, more often than not, you'll get different treats offered by the sponsors before or after the film!  This time, it was some delicious cinnamon, raisin and chocolate scones.  Nom nom!

But the documentary, for obvious reasons, was in stark contrast to the sweetness of the scones:  the plight of gay Palestinians who, threatened at home with physical violence or death due to their sexuality, must also face the constant threats that life as undocumented immigrants in Israel presents, as well as the bittersweet option of finding legal residence in a random Western country where their sexuality won't be an issue, but where they'll live away from the culture(s) they grew up in.  The acrid subjects of emigration and homophobia, in the difficult lives of three young Palestinians who are affected each in their own different ways, but nevertheless in suffering.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Numbered (ספורים) @ the TJFF

Numbered was our first film (Sunday) at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF).  A very well-done documentary on a most touching and terrible subject, the survivors of Auschwitz who had had not only their possessions, family and world taken away, but also their names: becoming to the Nazis just the numbers they tattooed on their arms.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Graffiti Lane

Last Sunday we had a walk around downtown and we came across this graffiti covered alleyway, Rush Lane.   No matter how long you live somewhere, there's always something new to be discovered, hey?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Installing Toronto Spring... Installation failed.

No comment.

Winter in Ísland: Redux

Since I published all my Winter in Ísland posts over such a long period of time (11 posts between January and April!), I felt it was necessary to have this post just to list them all together, as it would have been easy to miss one among all the other things I published in the same period.  Think of it as a "housekeeping post".  So, without further ado, here they are, in order.  Click on the image to get to the posts!

winter in Ísland I - the hunt for the Aurora Borealis

winter in Ísland II - of books and rotting fish

winter in Ísland III - a very Butō Christmas Eve

winter in Ísland IV - an überwhite Christmas

winter in Ísland V - the road to Sigló 

winter in Ísland VI - Life at 66° 11' North 

winter in Ísland VII - Butō at 40km south of the Arctic Circle

winter in Ísland VIII - From Sigló to Reykjavík

winter in Ísland IX - I HEART U Reykjavík

winter in Ísland X - Northern Lights, the last call

winter in Ísland XI - welcoming 2013... Reykjavík style! 

Friday, April 05, 2013

winter in Ísland XI - welcoming 2013... Reykjavík style!

One of the many things we had been wanting to do since our first visit to Iceland was to welcome the new year in Reykjavík.  Well, finally choosing to do that was one of the best ideas ever!

First, a nice surprise from our hotel (we totally love that place, Room with a View)!  You see, with all the moving around our life implies, sometimes we find ourselves spending December 31st in places where we have few or no good friends nor family around, so it's become a sort of a tradition on those occasions to still celebrate, just the two of us at home with champagne and tasty nibbles, and then later to go out and join parties or celebrations.  But this time, with all the touring around, we had forgotten to buy a bottle! and all the liquor shops were already closed!  And what did we find when we came back to our room?  A bottle of sparkling wine AND a firecracker, courtesy of the hotel!  woohoo!   Nothing to make you happy like a surprise gift of just what you need!

Later, to get in the mood, a trumpet concert at Hallgrímskirkja!   Everybody was dressed nice.  And you know by now how much I like this church.   Some fancy orchestra was playing somewhere else, I believe at the Harpa Opera, but quite simply, this church was the first landmark we saw on our very first visit to Iceland, and it has a very special place in my heart.  So having a New Year's Eve concert there, surrounded by these descendants of Vikings, listening to a trumpet interpretation of Albinoni's Adagio, and then having a romantic and slow walk back to the hotel with the moon shining bright above the church, that was priceless.

I had been debating with myself, wondering whether we should welcome the new year in town by one of the huge bonfires Icelanders build, or at the foot of the Hallgrímskirkja...  In the end, given how incredibly lucky we had been with our hotel, we decided the best views were the ones from our room!   And so we began the celebrations there.   Munching on some weird but tasty, 100% Icelandic, paprika twisted chips,  watching a very silly New Year's Eve program on Icelandic TV where they lambasted politicians and made fun of themselves (silly enough for us to be able to follow it without speaking Icelandic!), and seeing ever more fireworks as midnight approached...

Finally, exactly at midnight, we opened our bottle while fireworks were going off everywhere, we toasted, and bid farewell to 2012 and welcomed along the whole city the entry of 2013!

What followed after that bottle of sparkling wine and a city full of people celebrating was too predictable:  Partying!   We headed to THE gay nightclub, Club 46, which was just a couple blocks down the street.   We drank, and we danced, and we met people, and we danced.  Not very original, of course, but we had so much fun!   Obviously, I also had to try my "Happy new year!" in Icelandic ("Gleðilegt nýtt ár!") on unsuspecting Icelanders!   I couldn't miss that chance, could I!?

And after we had had our fill of fun and our stomachs were complaining they hadn't had their fill of food, we headed out for... Icelandic shawarma and pizza!   We were aiming for some Icelandic hot dogs, but the famous stand we wanted to try was closed (or maybe we were too late and they had run out of food? LOL).   Still, at I don't know what time it was, their version of shawarma and their pizza with a good dose of paprika was just perfect.

And after the "crazy" celebration (well, crazy by my standards, which are pretty tame, probably), we welcomed 2013's first day in the nicest of ways: with a walk at one of our favourite places in the city, the city's pond, or Tjörnin!  The air was calm, the light shone soft, people were enjoying a very relaxed day, walking on the frozen pond, with their kids, with views of the churches and the colourful houses around...  Of course, I had to have a go at walking on the pond too!  When in Rome...  This morning at the Tjörnin felt good.  Really good...

The graffiti on this statue of Ingólfur Arnarson, Reykjavík's first settler, at Arnarhóll park, sums it all:  LOVE.  We loved welcoming a new year in this city.  We loved our trip.  We loved the skies.  We loved the water.  We loved the mountains and the snow.  We loved their cake and cafés.  We loved, loved, loved.  That was one happy new year.

And with this, slightly boringly linear post, I end my series on our winter trip to our beloved, amazing, surprising Iceland.  

Monday, April 01, 2013

Air acrobatics, nuns and transmen

"Church of Crush" party by I'd Tap That at Club 120, where air acrobatics, sex-positive young people dressed up in all manner of religious themes, a screen with a live tweet-feed for interacting and flirting, and all sorts of genders and sexes mix in a typically relaxed Torontonian fashion.