Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bubble Tea anyone?

After the zombie walk (see my previous post) and a rather spicy Chinese meal, we found this amazing place that takes bubble tea (what, you haven't jumped in the bubble-tea band-wagon yet??? GASP) to the next level.  On Dundas, called Bubble Tease, this Torontonian venture (yes! it's Canadian!) offers an incredible universe of possibilities with different kind of teas, milks, and chewy goodies for your drink!  I had a hot Roasted Coconut Teaspresso with Tapioca.   How about that!

The place seems to be super new, by the way.  It's not even listed on their website yet! (?)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Zombie Walk!

Saturday October 26th Toronto was invaded, once more and as tradition has it, by hordes of zombies (the Zombie Walk).  This year it was so massive they actually did it parade-style, closing of streets and all!

Good fun.  Especially standing on the side-walk and seeing them pass by, glaring at you and feigning attacks at you, completely in character!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Toronto After Dark

One very cool thing about Toronto is its numerous film festivals.  And for those of us who enjoy horror films, especially independent ones, the Toronto After Dark (TAD) film festival is an amazing opportunity to enjoy plenty of those.  I can't remember how it was last year, but this year's festival included a broad range of films and that made it super interesting.  In fact, whereas we had been watching between 2 and 4 films at other editions of TAD, this year we saw a total of SEVEN! 

The first night (well, it was the festival's third night, but it was OUR first) we saw a series of shorts: Baby I love you; My father is a bird (from Israel); Invocation; Don't move; Sequence; North Bay; Rope a Dope; C; Kick-Heart.  Some were OK, some not even that, but on the other hand I really liked Don't move (about a group of young people who seem to have conjured a demon that eviscerates any of them who move), Sequence (where everybody in the world has the same disturbing nightmare about an unsuspecting person) and Kick-Heart (which seemed slightly out of place, with a very manga-ish look and even slightly erotic touch, plus tons of craziness).   

Afterwards, as part of Zombie Appreciation Night.  We watched The Battery.  Have you watched the TV series Walking Dead?  I'd say this film had a certain influence from it.  Similar sense of desolation, isolation, impending danger, the living others being as dangerous as the undead others...  Thumbs up.

Our second night (the festival's 6th) was Sci-Fi Night, and we saw Last Days on Mars.  Actually, this could have easily been part of zombie night!  Nice twist, hey?  A zombie film, set on Mars!  So you add to the terror of transformed dead people the terror of the hostile environment of Mars.  It was really good, and it's nice to see that the zombie genre has matured to a point where people can start exploring other variations on it, and even with quality.  Good!

That would have been our only film, but it's presenter talked really well about the next one, and did remark that the trailer for next film was not a trailer, but just a bit of the film.  I actually had chosen not to watch the film because the "trailer" had seemed rather meh, but the presenter was so passionate about it that after Last Days on Mars ended I rushed out, bought tickets, and lined up again for The Machine!

And watching The Machine was a great choice.  Blade-Runner-esque.  Well done.  And who doesn't like Sci-Fi where a new race of cyborgs takes over?  If you can, look for it.  It's worth it!

Our third night (the festival's eighth) was Gory Night.  Well, if I had forgotten what gore was all about, Evil Feed took good care in refreshing my memory.  It's not a good film per se (it's hard to concentrate on good acting and story when your main attraction are effects, action and gore), but it was a crazy one to watch anyhow:  martial artists are kidnapped to fight to the death and be served as food in a special restaurant.  Comedy, body parts, sex, action, mutilation.  What a combination!

Our fifth night (the festival's ninth and closing) was, well, disturbing.  Wow.  First, we watched Cheap Thrills.  What happens when a wealthy couple decides, for the fun of it, to pick up two losers at a drinking hole and offer them ever more money for doing ever crazier stuff?  You get a very unsettling, very violent, very shocking film.   Ugh.

Fortunately, after Cheap Thrills we say Big Bad Wolves (מי מפחד מהזאב הרע), from Israel.  It was obvious why it was chosen to close the festival.  The music was beautiful and perfect, played by an orchestra.  It was a visually very beautiful film.  Extremely well done.  It was horrifying, with wall doses of comedy.  Somewhat Hitchcockian.  And about seeking revenge and answers from a murderer... or was he indeed the murderer?  Gripping, to the very end.  Wow, what a way to end the night!

Thanks TAD for so many nights of scary, gory, crazy, terrifying independent film!

Friday, October 25, 2013

40 à Montréal - revisité

Since I wrote 5 posts about me turning 40 in Montreal, I thought it'd be nice to have them all together in a single place.  Plus (or maybe "more importantly"?) this here would coincidentally be my 888th post which, in Chinese culture, would be considered an extremely auspicious number.  Conversely, a 40th birthday would be considered not auspicious, since it has a 4 in it, which sounds similar to "death" in Chinese.   So what better than to have the 888th post be about my (effing amazing and happy) 40th birthday in Montreal, hey?

All in all I have very few words about these 40 years of life except what I had told some friends already:  these were, frankly, awesome 40 years, with their fair share of nasty surprises (life's life, right?), but with even more super good ones (and good memories beat bad memories in my world, so there!).  Looking forward to the next 40!

Here they are, for my pleasure, or for good luck, or for everybody's ease of use, or whatever.  All 5 posts.  If you click on the title above the image a new page/tab with the corresponding post will open (ooh, nifty! NOT):

(40 in Montreal - redux)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

40 à Montréal - les couleurs

Finally, my last post about my 40th birthday in Montreal.  By now you must be sort of fed up, with me publishing daily, but I didn't want this to suffer the same fate as my trip to Lebanon (the one that took place in AUGUST and about which I've published near ZILCH).  So, part 5 and last... (warning: many photos ahead, as in MANY)


One of the other aims of the trip (besides enjoying bagels and partying) was to be surrounded by the colours of Autumn.  I mean, this is one of my favourite things about living in these latitudes, and I had big expectations for Montreal!   Expectations which were briefly but quickly dashed after we went for a walk to one of Montreal's landmarks, Mont Royal, since most of the trees were green, some were yellow-ish, and just a very few were red-ish.   Now, we were only seeing one side of the huge park, but it just didn't look promising, and I reluctantly accepted that maybe I'd have to forget about the idea of being surrounded by fall foliage.  Darn.

Even these two photos below, taken near Mont Royal, were the exception rather than the rule.  Beautiful, for sure, especially being able to see the moon with red leaves as frame.  But I'd be lying through my teeth if I were to say I wasn't somewhat disappointed at the quantity (not the quality, obviously).

But that was our very first day.  The next one we went to the Jardin Botanique, and then things started looking better!   Not only did we see tons of gorgeous flowers and cacti (hey, I like cacti, they're otherworldly, interesting, and beautiful in their own way), but when we left the greenhouse and into the open park I finally got a nice dose of the beautiful reds, oranges, crimsons and yellows I was looking for!   Though they didn't dominate the landscape either, it was a fantastic sunny day, the paths took us to some peaceful ponds, and all in all the place was just so relaxing that the fall colours we did see seemed even nicer.

And it got even better, and our next to last day was the most amazing of all.  We went for a walk to Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal).  We were NOT looking for more Autumn colours, we just wanted a walk around the old town.  The weather was cloudy, with the occasional ray of sun.  But as soon as we got to the legislative palace we were greeted by a line of trees with bright orange streaks, which somehow seemed louder under the grayish skies.

If that had been it, I would have considered myself more than well served.  But then we headed to the Old Port (Vieux-Port).  Just for a walk by the water.   Just because it was there and neither my husband nor me had visited before.  And that's when we saw this GORGEOUS park, where practically ALL the trees had turned shades of red and orange!  That was one big, unexpected, amazing surprise.  And the place was so calm and quiet (I think people were still having lunch or something), we had it almost all for ourselves!   You may actually recognize it from the photo where my husband is doing Butoh in this previous post.  That's how beautiful it was: it was Butoh-inspiring.  I mean, the sky, the water, the odd ray of sunlight, the old building of the old port, the bright leaves, the cool soil...  Loved it.

The very last day we still came across some small parks with more incredible red leaves, but I think I may have overdone it with the photos already, so I won't post them here.   This was one of the most memorable things of Montreal, and one that made me incredibly happy to have chosen that city for my 40th.

That trip was, all in all, the best way to begin my 41st year of life.  Including having my husband next to me, doing his utmost to satisfy my every whim and put up with my every crazy idea (believe me, it's very exhausting being with me!).  A very happy trip.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

40 à Montréal - le party

Yes, one of the main reasons we went to Montreal was to party.  I mean, it was my birthday, right?  And Montreal is indeed known for providing ample opportunity to celebrate so, even though I had originally thought we'd only go to Black & Blue, we ended up partying at least a bit every single night.  Yay!


First of all, Montreal, much like Toronto, enjoys a healthy and diverse (and tasty!) microbrew culture.  I love discovering the local brews of the places I go to, and made sure to go to at least one special brewpub, le Cheval Blanc, where not only did I enjoy a couple of good, dark, local concoctions of the hoppy variety, but where a friend of mine who I hadn't seen in some 5 years decided to pop by all the way from Hong Kong to surprise me for my birthday!  See? Are you going to tell me crazy things don't happen in Montreal?         

And you know what pairs well with Montreal beer?   Montrealers, who are one flirty, warm, sexy lot!  I simply can't remember the last time I was hit on in Toronto, but within 5 minutes of entering one of the gay bars on Ste. Catherine a tall, strong, handsome man who didn't seem either überintoxicated or mdmazed stopped in his tracks when he saw me, said "wow", and then "salut!".   Having forgotten what such frank attention felt like, my bewildered self did what any reasonable(y embarrassed) person would do: say "salut!" back, look away, flee.  The coming days nobody was as forward as that, but I did get smiles and people holding my gaze.  I was loving it.  And who could see any fault in enjoying being perceived as attractive by a couple of strangers, right?

NOTE:  People with hang-ups about sex workers may skip this paragraph starting HERE. OK, for the rest of you, you know what else is fun about Montreal?  Its (male) strippers are drop dead gorgeous!  At least the ones at Bar Stock, which is the only one we went to - it really has a reputation of having really good looking people on staff, so we had to take a look.   And it sure did live up to its reputation.  Super good looking.  No exaggeration.    

Anyhow, let's move on the the BIG party: Black & Blue.   So, a basic intro first.  Black & Blue is a circuit party.  Which means that there are parties EVERY NIGHT for a week or so, which turns the event into a "circuit" of parties.  And those circuit parties (along with "circuit party boys") get a pretty bad rap, and you can research on your own the salacious details as to why if you want.  AND all proceeds from Black & Blue go for a foundation assisting AIDS/HIV research and supporting gay and lesbian groups.   So, out of the countless events and parties and brunches and what not that were part of Black & Blue, we went to three:

PRISM Édition Montréal Black & Blue Pré-Party 

This first one was actually by accident.  We were just walking around, with my friend that was visiting from Hong Kong, and we passed by one of Montreal's famous clubs (Apollon).  Since the line-up was almost negligible and we were there and the place was famous, we went in and voilà!  we realize that was one of the Black & Blue parties!  It was fun, but we didn't stay long, I wanted to be at least partially rested for the main event next day!

BLACK & BLUE Main Event

What did the main event look like? Well, I can't really say, because the thing went on from 10pm Sunday night until NOON Monday, and we "only" stayed until 4am, so I missed a full 8 hours of the event!  But from what I did get to see:    tons of people (it's been averaging 8000 people the last few years, so it could have been the same this time), with an unusually high proportion of them being good-looking, amazing music, shows every hour or so, a silent art auction with many of the artists still working on their pieces right there, fancy attires, two separate stages each with their own DJ's and shows...  That is, one immense fun party.  Not bad at all for my first circuit party ever, hey?

Party de Clôture Officiel de BLACK & BLUE

The third and last event we went to was the official closing party.   By then, most people were probably completely burnt out, so it took place at a much smaller place with a much smaller crowd.  But I think I actually might have had even more fun at the closing event than at the main one!   This was at Cabaret Mado, and it was a drag queen show with Mado, one of Montreal's most famous drag queens (who also DJ's, by the way) as hostess.  There were some 5-6 performances by guest drag queens and, though the production value was not very high, the entertainment one was spot on!   By the end of the show we were all having one damn good laugh.  The perfect way to end my stay in Montreal! (that was our last night)

I had a blast, completely.   I hadn't had so much fun partying in a long time.   Merci Montréal!   

So, we had good food, good art, good architecture, good partying... there's just one thing left to talk about.... red leaves!

Monday, October 21, 2013

40 à Montréal - les hommes et ses choses

I'll have to admit this post is where I put a number of things I didn't really know where else to put.  I'm saving the two best things for last, and both make for very thematic posts.  But these here... I don't know, these are just some specific things I liked, and that made our trip that much more interesting!   So, here they are...

(of man and his objects)

One very curious thing about Montreal, at least when I compare it with other Canadian cities I've been to, are its staircases.   Countless homes and buildings have staircases on the outside, leading from the street to the main or to the second floor.  These are not your normal emergency escapes you see on the sides or backs of many buildings, there are the MAIN access routes for these buildings in Montreal!   And something else, though this was definitely not as common, was that some of the older buildings at the corner of streets had turret-like structures in their top corners.  Some seemed like just an adornment for a window, but a few seemed actually able to hold a tiny room or a living space of sorts (I want one of those!).

Of course, then there's contemporary architecture, like the Olympic Stadium and it's Tour de Montreal.  Frankly, I quite liked the tower, but it really is a shame to see how such a massive, iconic building is mostly deserted, thought you can still go to the top to the tower for (not really inspiring) views of the city.  So I'd say the tower is something you want to see from the outside and far, and not from the inside.  Still, like I said, I thought it looked awesome, and I took many photos from all sorts of angles!   

And on a different part of the city, another icon, Habitat 67, right by the river, is a crazy experiment of joining and piling dozens of identical prefabricated concrete units to create living spaces of different size and configuration.  It was intended as a model of living in the crowded cities of the future, but the fact that only 150 or so living spaces were built has turned it into a rather luxury option instead of living quarters for the middle class.  Still, it's a really interesting design, and I wouldn't mind myself living one day in a similar thing!

Now, by the time I took the photo below, I was probably already falling in love with the city, so perhaps even a random piece of dirty crumpled paper on the pavement could have looked beautiful to me.  But I really do think I saw a high proportion of artistic or quirky posters on the streets and subway stations.  I mean, I took quite a few pictures of them, so that must mean something, right?

And last, but most certainly not least by any means, we happened to find ourselves in the Jewish areas of Mile End and Outremont around the end of Shabbat (Saturday evening), and all of a sudden we started seeing numerous Hasidic Jews going out for a walk: children, families, elders, everybody!  The adult men with their elaborate hats, every male with their long sidecurls, and everybody dressed in what seemed nice, fine clothes overall.  Quite an experience!  

There's just two more things I want to write about Montreal: the partying, and the Autumn colours.  That will come in the next two posts.   But hey, this is some interesting place, isn't it!?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

40 à Montréal - l'art

OK, first of all, yes, I am going to be bombarding this blog with posts about my trip to Montreal.  Had I not enjoyed it so much, I wouldn't need to.  See?  So, that being said, this is part 2 of "40 à Montréal"!


One of the reasons I chose to celebrate my 40th in Montreal, besides the super good airfare and the super big party we were going to (Black & Blue; more on that later), was that it's a city where I could satisfy cultural cravings too...

For example, right in the centre of the gay village there was an installation called Trous de Mémoire / Memory Gaps.  As I understand it, it was a sort of metaphor for memory.  It consists of many different parallel panels with an opening in the middle and which, when looked from different angles, compose different images.   Panels which offer gaps for writing, for drawing, for adding, for annotating.  Panels that are appropriated by strangers, played with, looked at, reflected upon...  All in all, a very cool, playful, accessible and deep installation which drew us to it more than a couple of nights.  

In addition to that, we also happened upon the odd photograph here and there on the streets.  I don't know what exhibition they were a part of, but this image in particular, right in the middle of the gay village, sure did draw one's attention with its contrast in colour and content with that of its surroundings:

And, of course, there was also a the superb cultural institution of the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), a fantastic place with some 3-4 buildings interconnecting through underground passages. Their medieval art collection: was pretty cool.  The Napoleonic paraphernalia collection: who would have thought they even had that! But amongst all the wonders it had to offer, the modern and contemporary art collections were my favourite.  And my faves among them? 

- This gorgeous Vénus de Meudon, by Hans (Jean) Arp.

- This painting by Karel Appel, Portrait de Sir Herbert Read. Was it the intensity of the colour? the strength of the strokes?  Whatever it was, my gaze kept coming back to it across the gallery.

- This shocking piece by Tony Matelli, vieil ennemi, nouvelle victime (old enemy, new victim), where two ravenous monkeys overpower an overweight one.  Their skin, hair and eyes were done to disturbing detail (and these monkeys were fully anatomically correct, too).  The implications of the piece were, also, disturbingly obvious...

- And this special exhibition by the master of blown glass, Dave Chihuly.   As you can tell from these pieces below, he can get somewhat obsessed with morasses of glass shapes entangled in dense and flowery shapes, but his mastery is undeniable, and it's quite refreshing to see blown glass being used creatively in artistic ways.  I admit that my last photo is not really good, but I think it helps to show the size of many of his pieces.

Lastly, Montreal offered me a very different, but also very fulfilling, kind of art: Butoh.   My husband happened to find a spot that pulled him, a small park in Montreal's Old Port, surrounded by water, full of trees with red and orange Autumn leaves, peaceful, in a slightly cloudy day with the odd ray of sun shining through.   It was amazing to find this particular spot and this specific mood with the weather and all, and I was the lucky lonely spectator of his impromptu performance, barefooted on a carpet of cool, wet russet and yellow leaves and green grass... 

It's really cool (and I was very fortunate) to be in a place where you don't only eat great (check my previous post, "le manger"), but that also enriches you spiritually and culturally.   And that's just two of the great things I enjoyed over there...