Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The Tour de Greenbelt events combine two things that I enjoy: biking in a new setting and eating fresh, local food. We signed up for tours of the Niagara and Durham Region, and each proved to be fabulous in their own way.
I suspect that this was the most popular of the tours, because the Niagara Region has a good reputation for scenery. The fact that the tour started and ended at Henry of Pelham did not hurt either. There were a few steep hills, but the terrain was relatively flat though a constant head wind prevented a leisurely ride. The popularity of the region meant that we were forced to bike single file to avoid cars. However, the serving of wine and setting of white table cloths for lunch amongst the vineyards gave the whole event a certain cachet.
The event did not start with promise as the weather was chilly, and dark clouds could be seen on the horizon. Riders were met with a massive hill at the beginning of the course then came to realize that it was a symptomatic of a region made of up rolling hills. Yet, we were all in agreement with fellow riders that hills are preferable to head wind, of which there was none. The roads were better maintained than those in Niagara and emptier, allowing us to ride side-by-side, and the leaves had started to change colour, providing pleasant distraction from the hill-climbing. Rest stops featured delicious baked goods (Annina's Bakeshop and Café) and a corn maze (Cooper's CSA Farm and Maze), which was more interactive than the Niagara rest stops.
We are looking forward to next year's event, along with the Tour de Dufflet, whose motto, "Eat more cake, ride more bike" are words to live by.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
We spent the early afternoon outside in the backyard with Rusty, allowing him the luxury of enjoying the outdoors and the sun. Even then, Rusty was obviously in a lot of discomfort and pain. The outdoors was ultimately where we chose to have the procedure done.
I wrote a premature obituary for Rusty late last year, so I won't repeat myself here. He was not a nice cat, but he was very easy to love.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Sunday, August 01, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
It is hard to understand why a smart series like "Burn Notice" has failed to gain the attention that dumber shows like "The Mentalist" are thriving on. The only explanation that I can think of is that it is a cable-based program without the budget for flashy production or promotion.
The title refers to the firing of Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), an American spy. Left in limbo in Miami without funds or resources, Michael survives on odd jobs helping ordinary people in over their heads, while attempting to return to Government duty (Note that I am in the middle of Season 2 so Michael may already have discovered the reasons behind his firing in the current fourth season).
Michael's practical approach to mayhem is one of the appeals of the show. Like MacGyver, Michael needs only a screw driver and a paper clip to take on armed thugs. Throughout the show, his calm voice-over schools viewers in the efficient art of covert ops. In spite of his wits and physical prowess, Michael is handicapped by personal baggage that makes him more of a weirdo than a slick operative. When confronted by overt emotions, Michael becomes hilariously robotic.
Michael's oddness is only amplified by the company he keeps. Helping Michael out are Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell!), a former Navy Seal, now a gigolo surviving on the kindness of women, and Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), an ex-girlfriend and former member of the Irish Republican Army who functions like she is still in a war zone.
A note to nerds: if the presence of Bruce Campbell on the cast does not win you over, know that the show has featured guest appearances by two cylons: Lucy Lawless and Tricia Helfer.
In Canada, "Burn Notice" is playing on the Super Channel (whatever that is) or on a torrent near you.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Me: So, I think I gained some weight since last year, because I was injured and...
Doctor: Ha! The excuses are already pouring out! (reads scale then my file) Well, you did gain a little weight. That's okay.
My doctor's sudden return to sensitivity signaled that I had become a subject of pity because a weight gain of almost 10% is not "little".
Fortunately, I'm not the only one getting tubby, and since victory over others is a great personal motivator, I challenged fellow fatties to a weight loss competition. Our progress, or lack thereof, will be documented in a blog: http://thinspirationxxl.blogspot.com/.
So as not to appear callous, we have tacked on a charitable element to the endeavor. Spectators are asked to bet on a competitor, pledging to donate an amount of British pounds, equivalent to the amount that the competitor loses, to his/her associated charity.
A foreseeable end to the competition was suggested by Royal Pinguo so, sometime in September, the biggest loser will be revealed...then beaten with pork hocks. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
After mastering the art of generating strong opinions within a lunch hour for the last five years, I decided to make myself more respectable by attempting to write fiction. My last foray into fiction writing was back in high school, when I was heavily influenced by J.D. Salinger. This was not a good thing. So, I signed up for an introductory writing course with the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies. It worked for Vincent Lam, so why not an underachiever like me?
My class is made up of people who work in finances, mothers doing it for themselves, and a party clown (not a derogatory statement but a fact). The writing is equally eclectic: the Muslim women use lush prose to describe the clash of East and West, the party clown wants to be the next J.K. Rowling, and a segment of the finances division has failed to meet the project deadline. Of the two remaining financial workers who did hand in their final project, one offered a story worthy of Harlequin, and the other modified a personal travel blog entry.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Sunday, June 06, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
- M. Night Shyamalan - You are an Asian American director who has chosen to bring to the big screen a well-loved animated series that bases itself on Asian culture. The obvious answer is to cast Asian actors, but no, you choose white actors for every major role with the exception of the villain.
- Geeks who enjoy "The Big Bang Theory" - Geekdom is finally cool because geeks like Joss Whedon and Sam Raimi are in control. Yet, you choose to watch a sitcom that depicts geeks as socially awkward caricatures. Sure, the characters make geeky references but why not watch a comedy that makes references that only you would understand and respects you in the process? Try "Chuck" or "The IT Crowd".
Friday, May 14, 2010
As usual, neither of us have any intention of visiting a doctor. Joe's ailing enters its second week and he relies solely on our single box of Contac Complete, of which, only the limited supply of Nighttime pills provide any relief.
I have decided to take the opportunity to explore alternative methods of self healing.
Alcohol - I, once, successfully made a cold disappear after an evening of beer drinking. Ever since that single occurence, I have been unable to duplicate the results. Mostly, when I drink alcohol, my cold gets worse because I become dehydrated, but in an alcohol induced haze, at least I become indifferent to how terrible I feel.
Junk Food - Greasy food definitely makes any illness worse by adding vomiting and diarrhea to the list of symptoms. But, what about sweets? I stuffed myself with turkish delights (from Turkey) and a few chocolate chip cookies last night. This morning, no improvement. Bonus: no weight gain either; my sweets binge appears to have made up for whatever weight loss I might have suffered otherwise...in back fat.
Echinacea - I have read various reports debunking echinacea as a natural cold remedy, which I am prone to believe because herbal remedies don't go with my wardrobe. However, when my co-worker offered me echinacea tea, I couldn't resist. As of this moment, it appears to have worked. My throat no longer feels scratchy, sore or flemy, and my nose is no longer runny. Admittedly, my cold symptoms were just beginning, so my immune system might just have rallied itself. Until the results can be duplicated, consider them unscientific...then generalize that assessment to this entire exercise.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
When I first heard that a repertory theatre was being unveiled in the Spadina and Dundas area, I instantly pictured the initial site of the Golden Harvest cinema, located on the north-east corner of the intersection. This was where my parents brought me to see Jackie Chan movies, and for a child, the venue's stadium seating was preferable to the subtle incline that dominated cinema design in the 1980s. It was clear that the seats were original to the venue as they were upholstered but made of wood and painted bright orange. Orange seating aside, it was easy to see that this was once a grand venue with chandelier lighting and a huge domed ceiling.
Thanks to Wikipedia, I have since learned that the Golden Harvest cinema was originally the Standard Theatre. It started out as a Yiddish theatre, then a burlesque theatre, before becoming the theatre of my childhood. The theatre was boarded up when Golden Harvest moved to 186 Spadina Ave. and a dollar store now takes up the stairs and former lobby.
I've entered the dollar store once and stared at that wall that barred even a peek into the theatre, wondering about the state of the orange seats and the chandeliers. I would have paid full admission regularly to revisit the cinema of my childhood.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
It is pointless to act outraged and claim moral superiority because everyone, at some point, has passed the buck. I cannot even recall how many times I have passed a homeless person lying on a grate in the middle of winter, without checking to see if s/he was even breathing.
Ever since I learned about the bystander effect in my first year Psychology class, I have always assumed that I might not get the help I need if I was ever in danger. This is not to say that there are no helpful people in society. In fact, with such a spotlight on the bystander effect, I believe that people are bound to be more proactive, if only for the next little while.
However, if faced with danger, it is best to make your predicament someone else's problem as well:
- If you're being attacked, start breaking windows or damaging merchandise. Now, the store owner will definitely call the police.
- If you're being mugged, grab someone's purse or wallet and start running after the mugger. Now, you have an army of dubious support following you. Avoid taking anything that might slow you down like laptops or groceries lest you get overtaken before you reach your mugger.
- If you are being abducted, drag someone else along. Two heads are better than one, and maybe s/he will have friends that will work harder than yours to find missing people.
*That's an awesome movie, and the apathetic bystander character is topical.
Monday, April 26, 2010
I have run about twice a week for the last five weeks, but the runs have been sloppy affairs; 30 minutes here, 8 km there, mostly by myself but occasionally accompanied by a disgusted Joe. I finally went for a run with a group of over-athletic overachievers last Thursday, during which my eyes roamed desperately for a red light. The only person who approves of my floundering is Flocons, who is pleased to find a fellow advocate for pit-stops at fast food chains along the route.
Traditionally, I have not done well in the Sporting Life 10K, in spite of the downhill course, because I tend to train poorly over the winter. In light of my history, prior and recent, I will be very happy to finish the Sporting Life 10K in one hour. In anticipation of disappointment, I am going to look forward to the next race. Which one to do next?
Hunger had nothing to do with my experience of the latest stop on my Leslieville culinary journey.
Okay Okay Diner (1128 Queen St. E.)
Their pancakes were amazing: fluffy but with substance and packed with flavour. Hence, shoving the flapjacks into my cake hole at record speed was no chore, as my lunch companion and I attempted to eat our way out of the freezing patio as quickly as possible. Still, I wish the pancakes came with some sort of accompaniment like fruit or vegetables, even if it would have prolonged our suffering.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Now, with the good weather, cyclists are out en masse and, unfortunately, some are acting like a gang of roving delinquents, thumbing their noses at the rules of the road.
I understand that stopping then starting a bicycle is work. It's not like simply releasing then pushing the acceleration pedal of your car. However, if passengers are attempting to board the streetcar, or pedestrians are crossing the road and have the right of way, cyclists are supposed to stop.
Three cyclists whizzed right through a red light as I was crossing the road this morning. Admittedly, my tone was not congenial when I pointed out the red light to them. One cyclist responded with "We're letting you walk, aren't we?" A fourth cyclist who pedaled past told me to "relax".
It is hypocritical of cyclists to demand respect from drivers as vehicles of the road then flout the rules of the road at their convenience. Granted, when drivers fail to observe a red light or wear their seat belt, the results can be fatal. However, I challenge anyone to feel the impact of being hit by a bicycle at moderate speed or of flying over the handlebars without a helmet before arguing that the rules of the road are merely suggestions of etiquette for cyclists.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
There was the usual tension that sets in when you haphazardly corral a large group of single minded women then create a bottleneck to their common desire - a good seat. Apparently, it was the biggest audience of the season; the unfortunate overflow audience members were forced to sit in the aisle, and vacate their seats after every segment to allow props to be wheeled in and out of the studio. The rest of the audience were seated so comfortably that they barely registered a pulse when not prompted to enthusiasm by the director. The exception to this were the awkward few who insisted on doing the seated two step to the dance music that blared from the speakers in between filming.
Steven and Chris only revealed themselves to the audience when they were cued to do so before the cameras. There were sweet nothings and hugs for a special few, but the rest of the audience were pretty much ignored by the hosts until they were ready to bid us farewell. If I were to choose the friendlier half of the duo, it would have to be Chris, who was entertainingly flamboyant, even in between takes.
Perhaps the disconnect between the hosts and the audience was caused by the wall of cameras that separated us. An overhead monitor showed audience members what was happening a mere 15 feet in front of them. Add the set ups for each segment, which lasted longer than a commercial break and inflicted audio torture what with the aforementioned dance music, and I found myself wishing that I was watching "Steven and Chris" in the comfort of my own home.
My complaints are all my own and probably don't reflect my mother's experience. When guest chef, Lynn Crawford, showed up to promote her new show, "Pitchin’ In", I was a little alarmed at how excitedly my mom laughed and applauded. It is not a side of my mother that I am used to since I failed to become a doctor or any professional of note.
Seeing how much my mother enjoyed herself, I soberly suggested attending a live taping of "CityLine" in the future, which my mom said would be agreeable to her. The things I do for love.
Monday, April 05, 2010
Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant (1220 Queen Street East, Toronto)
The giant paper-mâché nose above the restaurant entrance may remind Torontonians of its previous location at Yonge & Eglinton or the American Express TV commercial. However, this was my first experience of the Italian restaurant, which has a surprisingly limited selection of pasta on its menu. Instead, the chef's focus is on seafood and meat.
We were all really (really) happy with our meal though I found my portion size on the small side; my lamb was very juicy and flavourful while Joe's osso bucco was tender and delicious. However, the desserts were to die for: the goatcheese cheese cake was just perfection while the tiramisu was the best I've ever had - light, both in texture and taste, yet still rich with flavour.
Leonidas Belgium Chocolates and Cafe (5 Coady Avenue, Toronto)
Strolling around in nice weather makes one susceptible to tasty summer treats so when we noticed the trash can shaped like an ice cream cone outside Leonidas, we ran for the front door. I usually prefer the creamy flavour of ice cream to the lighter texture of gelato but Leonidas's raspberry coconut and Tiramisu flavours were creamier than any gelato I have ever had. We have a coupon for a 1 litre tub of Leonidas gelato, which I had scoffed at previously but now, am simply biding my time for an opportunity to lock myself in with said tub and possibly the first season DVD of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand".
And the furniture store that will save us from Ikea:
G.U.F.F. (1142 Queen Street East, Toronto)
Joe and I discovered this used furniture store while they were in the midst of a moving sale, which we took advantage of to acquire a task chair with chrome legs ($45) and an industrial console table ($95). With their grand re-opening on April 3, Joe and I couldn't resist buying a full length mirror in a solid wood frame ($95). From the many 'sold' signs attached to the merchandise on display, it appears that G.U.F.F.'s reasonably priced vintage furniture has a high turnover rate.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I will experiment with tights, baby powder and possibly foot binding in a bid to keep these shoes. If all options fail (or not) I will console myself at the One of a Kind Spring Show & Sale (March 31 - April 1, 2010) by buying some stylish clothes to draw attention away from my limping. Nothing works quite like cracking open the wallet for frivolous purchases to fan away the tears.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
It took me three days to recover from that first training run but, soon, Joe was using my runs as an excuse to explore The Beaches, a neighbourhood that I usually avoid for fear of being abducted by locals and forced to work as an au pair. The area is actually quite charming at night, in the absence of double strollers being pushed by coloured nannies. I never noticed the Fox Theatre before and will definitely make it a pitstop on a future date night.
When we're not stumbling eastward, Joe and I chomp our way west along the Queen East culinary strip. I will record our gastronomic experiences periodically on this blog. The journey so far:
Edward Levesque's Kitchen (1288 Queen Street East)
I mistook this place for a diner because their kitchen is on full display at the front of the establishment. Hence, it was only after we had asked to be seated that I realized our paint stained clothing was not appropriate for the venue. Our attire was paired with loud and inappropriate comments on my part that were politely ignored by neighbouring patrons. Unfortunately, I don't remember much about the food itself except that it was tasty though not a revelation, and surprisingly filling for the portion size. I welcome my dining companion, Fiona to elaborate on the culinary merits of the restaurant, and, hopefully, not my social faux pas.
The Friendly Thai (1218 Queen Street East)
One of the more stylish branches of the restaurant chain that provides Torontonians with a dependably tasty source of Thai food. Joe had a noodle dish and I had the Vegetable Green Curry. Both of us went running for the washroom at Canadian Tire about an hour later.
The Leslieville Diner (1168 Queen Street East)
This was the consolation prize after we discovered that The Ceili Cottage was closed until 12pm on a Sunday(!). The place appeared to be run by a Quebecois family, as evidenced by their accents and the Habs posters on the wall. It was also a magnet for customers who speak French, wear Hab caps or Quebec flag t-shirts, which was representative of four neighbouring tables. The service was good but the brunch was rather pedestrian. Unfortunately, this was no Lady Marmalade (see previous review).
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Having settled into our little house in Leslieville, Joe and I ventured forth into the neighbourhood to survey the area. We quickly became aware that we were lacking the key characteristics of a local:
- a coffee from Red Rocket Coffee
- a dog
- a baby in a Bugaboo or a stroller of equal prestige and price point
- a pale complexion
Of course, I'm being bitchy; Leslieville already feels more comfortable than our previous abode, which was practically becoming a university dorm. It's nice to find a wide selection of good restaurants and boutiques within walking distance, which is what enticed us to the neighbourhood in the first place (see The Leslieville Guide). We're slowly eating our way west, and the selection of wares are similar to what can be found on Queen West, but at more affordable prices.
The commute to everything, even the supermarket, has not proven to be a great hardship. Traveling on the streetcar to work has allowed me to just sit and listen to CBC Radio One for a longer period of time than my previous 12 minute walk - something that is tantamount to a spa experience in my mind. The supermarkets are further than a five minute walk but there is so much more selection at lower prices.
As the weather gets warmer, my assumption is that our experience of the neighbourhood can only improve since we will make forays into Ashbridges Bay or sit on a patio nearby. We will become true locals, even without a coffee, a dog, a baby and a bottle of SPF 100 in tow.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Fortunately, opportunity knocked twice:
- Flocons invited me to join him in running the Sporting Life 10K, a terrible race with too many participants but a rapidly descending course that will make everyone's times better than they should be.
- The current issue of Runner's World has been deemed the "Weight Loss Issue," an enticement that instantly had me reaching for my wallet. The magazine includes an 10K training plan that requires a mere three runs per week for six weeks.
The last time I drastically increased my running distance within a week, I was shocked by my drained complexion and suffered an increased susceptibility to colds and other annoying illnesses. "Running is supposed to make me healthier," I moaned.
This prior run-in with the hazards of over-training has not deterred me from becoming excited at the prospect of punishing myself over the next six weeks. A cautionary tale of how not to train, to come.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
In the meantime, I direct you to the blog I wish Xiao Pangzi could be, Stargazing by Malene Arpe. Two items of note today, copied and pasted directly from Malene's blog:
David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen team up again From Monsters & Critics: "The star of the darkly intense The Road is in talks to play Sigmund Freud in The Talking Cure, according to film site buzz. Digital Spy reports Mortensen will replace Christoph Waltz as the founding father of psychoanalysis following a scheduling conflict involving Waltz. Mortensen will again work with director David Cronenberg, who directed him in A History of Violence and Eastern Promises with Naomi Watts. The key story line in the movie is the conflict between Freud and theorist Carl Jung, who will be played by Michael Fassbender. Their dramatic relationship, indeed, is portrayed as giving birth to psychoanalysis. Keira Knightley, according to the buzz, may just make it onto the couch as an 'unstable young woman'."
Damn "Andy Whitfield, who plays the title role in the Starz Original series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The British-born actor will begin treatment immediately. The network says the cancer was discovered during a routine checkup as Whitfield prepared to begin shooting the second season of the action-adventure series, which is filmed in New Zealand. Starz said Tuesday that production has been postponed while Whitfield undergoes treatment. According to the network, doctors say the cancer was detected in its early stages and is "very treatable." AP.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
If you are ever in a weight gain competition, include the following on your grocery list:
- instant noodles
- whatever else adds poundage quickly in the sumo wrestler rolling level of We Love Katamari. The game designers had it right.
Monday, March 01, 2010
The crash course in house painting has made us cynical experts so I pass along some product reviews that we may all benefit from our unexpectedly extensive knowledge base.
Behr Premium Plus Ultra
This product is supposed to save both time and money by serving as paint and primer in one. We actually used the product on both primed and un-primed walls; Behr Premium Plus Ultra Drywall Primer on the darker walls, and none on the dark beige walls. The primed walls required two coats whereas the unprimed walls required four so I question the marketing claim. The paint consistency is quite thick and sticky, hence even application of the paint required attention and extra elbow grease. Add to this experience the unexplainable blue vein that kept bleeding through the creamy white on dark beige and you have a promise from Joe that we will never use Behr again.
Benjamin Moore Moorestyle
Professionals are a fan of Benjamin Moore and we understand. We purchased a dark and a light colour in the mid-range line, and applied the paint to walls primed with the Behr Primer. Like the Behr paint, two coats of the Benjamin Moore were applied on top of the primer, but the experience was completely different. The Benjamin Moore paint went on like butter and the ease with which we achieved even distribution made us feel like skilled professionals. A second coat of the lighter colour was not really required but we decided to apply it anyways, since we had half a can of paint left and nothing to use it on. Our contractor refers to Benjamin Moore's top of the line, Aura paint as "angel piss"; we can only dream of a paint job that is comparable to receiving manna from heaven.
Valspar Ultra Premium Color Changing Ceiling Paint
A friend recently recalled the nightmare of painting her ceiling in which she was foiled by neck cramping and the inability to tell which areas had already been covered. The moral of the story is to hire a professional to paint you ceiling, as she did. For Joe and me, the take home message was to buy a ceiling paint that goes on purple then changes to white as it dries. The Valspar Ultra Premium Color Changing Ceiling Paint does indeed change colour, though it initially did so too quickly to serve us much good. After a more heavy application of the product, we were able to avoid looking like a repetitive French farce. The paint is more watery than either the Behr or the Benjamin Moore paints, but appears to do the job of evening out the colour of the ceiling in one to two coats. However, the worst aspect of the Valspar is the pungent odour; in contrast, both Behr and Benjamin Moore paints are subtly sweet smelling, which has its own disturbing health implications. In combination with the neck strain, the Valspar made me nauseous and I passed out in the middle of the job (thinking that it was cute that I was taking a little nap, Joe simply continued loading the Valspar onto the ceiling).
Up next: how to lose and alienate friends in the process of moving.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Based on the three boxes of organic fruits and vegetables that we have enjoyed, I can conclude that organic means undersized as many of the produce are smaller than what I am used to seeing in the gleaming aisles of the local supermarket. However, the freshness of the fruits and vegetables has only improved the taste of our lunches and dinners, hiding our lackluster culinary skills. This only confirms what I have long suspected about professional chefs and their insistence on fresh ingredients. With a fresh organic apple and some BBQ sauce, you, too, could be Bobby Flay.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Harry's Spring Run Off 5K (April 3) 25%
Mississauga Marathon 5K (May 15) 25%
Toronto Women's 5K (May 30) 25%
Toronto Women's Half Marathon (May 30) 25%
Equally fruitless were the comments that alternated between responders prodding their own fat or encouraging me to maintain the status quo.
So, I'm going with none of the above and signing up for the Mississauga Marathon 10K on May 15. It starts at 6:30pm, which is a bonus for me because I am not a morning person. For now, I predict that I will finish in under an hour, but I may aim for a more competitive time if shamed into doing so. Training kvetching to come. Stay tuned!
Monday, February 08, 2010
I am a big fan of Andy Barrie, current Metro Morning host on CBC Radio One, and his calm but inquisitive style. So, when it was recently announced that Barrie would be "abdicating" the position, I had my suspicions that Matt Galloway, current host of the drive home show, Here and Now, would be his replacement since he was the most frequent substitute for Barrie. It turns out that my fears are correct.
I tend not to listen to Here and Now because, while I find Galloway intelligent, I do not find him engaging. Galloway has a detached air about him that will not be easy to listen to, first thing in the morning. I can only hope that Galloway warms up in his hosting style with his move to Metro Morning.
I visited Mont Tremblant, for the first time, over the weekend and it was amazing. The runs are numerous, lengthy, scenic, and, even on a Saturday, uncongested. While nature has been kind to the area, with spectacular views and perfect snow conditions, the people behind the operation are savvy. From the speedy lifts, to the convenient village retail, to the free parking, everything has been done to prevent stress and foresee to visitors' needs. If Blue Mountain is looking to compete with Mont Tremblant, they have a long way to go.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
But, everything is not okay, and it's time for an intervention. Public shame will compel me to exercise because the pleasure of working out does not provide enough incentive.
I'm going to sign up for a running event, publicly state what time I expect to finish in, then kill myself to meet expectations. For me, the stick has always worked better than the carrot.
Interventions require a circle of friends to smother the target with caring. I invite you to vote in the poll on the right as to which race I should register for. Help push my soft junk back on the wagon.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Recently, I started watching "Spatacus: Blood and Sand," which gained buzz early on when its network ordered a second season before the first episode had even aired. Writers were giddy with puns when describing the explicit sex and violence featured on the show. Being the seasoned voyeur that I am, I failed to heed their warnings.
The only reason why I can recall the plot of the first and second episodes of "Spartcus" is because they follow the standard fall and rise of a hero: a Thracian warrior crosses the Romans and is sentenced to die in the gladiatorial arena only to survive and find hope for freedom as a gladiator. Otherwise, the episode details are a blur of rock hard abs and slow mo thrusting.
Producers, Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert are longtime purveyors of super ripped torsos with more family friendly fare like "Xena: Warrior Princess", "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys", and, currently, "Legend of the Seeker". With "Spartacus", Raimi and Tapert have now become peddlers of soft porn. Conversational scenes all eventually lead to explicit, and frequently gratuitous, sex scenes. Full frontal nudity makes an appearance at least once every episode, but audiences are kept busy with heavy helpings of tits and ass.
I frequently lost track of conversations because I became distracted by Andy Whitfield's tiny gladiatorial shorts, or Lucy Lawless's butt, or Extra # 2's penis. Then, when I would ask Joe to rewind so that I could actually comprehend the words, he would refuse on the grounds that he did not want to view the sausage factory again.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Having run both the Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the Toronto Marathon (half-marathon), I have plenty of opinions to share but I'll try to keep it succinct.
- The Toronto Marathon may have come first and possess a heart-warming mandate of being "grassroots" but the Toronto Waterfront Marathon is just a more exciting event. There is nothing exclusionary about the Toronto Waterfront Marathon hosting elite runners; if anything, seeing the elites fly by is motivational for tortoises like me.
- The Toronto Waterfront Marathon is better situated on the calendar. In the years that I have run the event, late September has consistently offered perfect racing weather. In contrast, I have been deterred from running The Toronto Marathon due to its October timing, and the two times that I have run the event, I struggled with the freezing temperatures.
- I would love for Toronto to continue hosting two marathons, with the Toronto Marathon moving to the spring, but if I had to choose one, my past actions make the decision easy: my money has gone repeatedly towards registering for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
We are always on the lookout for a good place to brunch and Lady Marmalade (898 Queen St. E.) was amazing, in spite of the cold, half hour wait outside that we endured before a table became available.
I had the "kung foo" organic tofu scramble, a questionable brunch menu item but delicious, nonetheless, due to the fresh ingredients and loads of flavour. Joe had the brie, avocado & bacon eggs benedict, which was cooked to perfection.
I think that we have found a replacement for Cora, which will no longer be within walking distance when we move, and has been going downhill in food quality recently.
Come Up To My Room
This alternative design event has been held annually at hipster hangout, Gladstone Hotel, for a few years now but the 2010 event (January 21-24) was my first. Right away, I was reminded of why I have avoided this event for so long. There was an entry fee of $8, which felt a bit steep for such a small show. Hipsters, more interested in socializing in the hallways than actually seeing the work inside each hotel room, clogged the exhibition.
The standout of the show for me was the room of Richard Unterthiner and Paolo Ferrari. A completely mirrored walkway lead visitors into a cocoon-like white room with a mattress beneath the feet, sheets fitted snugly all around and words hanging like mobiles from above; a robotic voice conveyed apprehensive thoughts. For the brief moment that I had the room to myself, I was entranced and it was breathtakingly simple to allow myself to become absorbed in the piece.
Also very well executed was Julia Hepburn's sculpture featuring the intricate dioramas of a sleeping bird's nightmare; they hung like lanterns above the bird's bed, its chest rising and falling under the blanket.
The room of Maggie Greyson, Christine Lieu and Phoebe Lo featured an archive library of sorts in which friends and acquaintances placed mementos in canning jars tagged with a short explanation. Visitors were encouraged to take a memento in exchange for one of their own. A sweet idea that contrasted sharply with the cash grab plinko game set up next door, where the artists requested $5 for two tries at winning prizes. Participants won either a tiny clown pin or a white peanut, though all were aiming for the big prize of a ceramic figurine. When asked where the money earned would go towards, the artists lamely answered art supplies.
The rest of the rooms were either underwhelming or poorly thought out. In such a crowded, small venue, some pieces were just too obscure and provided little assistance in an environment that encouraged ADD. The most amateur project of the show had to be the piece about germ phobia. The paper mache spores looked too much like a school craft project and the pile of salt meant to evoke purity just looked like an afterthought. For a show with such buzz and a mere 11 featured works, one would have hoped for a higher batting average than 27% awesome.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
- It was refreshing to be in a city of night people. Hong Kong only really comes alive at 10am then goes strong straight into the night, every night. As a result, we felt no guilt about sleeping in before visiting even tourist attractions. Arriving anywhere anytime before noon is a safe bet.
- The air quality is terrible in Hong Kong with a constant grey haze hanging over the city. The city is also not good for claustrophobics nor people with high blood pressure what with people rushing all around you on tight streets and an over-abundance of stimulation. I showed my age as what used to energize me now makes me want to sit down and take it easy.
- In the course of a week, we experienced only two sunny days, one of which was spent at the idyllic village of the filthy rich, Stanley. It was great to have public bus access to a tropical beach so close to a world class city like Hong Kong. However, on the overcast 18C days, a good portion of the locals wore winter coats and furry clothing. Meanwhile, Joe and I considered the weather ideal conditions for enjoying our hotel's outdoor pool, having suffered swimming in Canadian lakes in the spring time.
- The high quality and low price of the food is one of the main reasons to visit Bangkok. Even at high end malls, full meals could be had for a few Canadian dollars; eating on the street cost even less. Instead of junk food, locals buy handy grab bags of fresh cut papaya, pineapple, strawberries and whatever else was in season, for less than $1 CAD. This explains why the local population is consistently skinny, even the policemen in their tight black uniforms, regardless of age.
- The locals also demonstrate an amazing sense of style that had nothing to do with labels, though high end designer clothes were readily available. Local designs showed an affinity for draping fabric, which is chic and very in vogue with Western designers. I found myself excitedly buying affordable local designer clothes because they will work as well in Toronto as they do in Bangkok.
- The worst part of Bangkok were the tourists. On the innocuous side of the spectrum were the faux hippies; the brokers and students on vacation who have decided to wear flip flops, wife beaters and dread locks. It marks them out like idiots, considering how stylish and urbane the locals tend to be, no matter what the weather. The more troubling visitors are the sex tourists; the older Western male hanging out with a much younger Thai girl or boy. My visit to Pattaya Beach was marred by repeat sightings of hairy, beer bellied white guys in Speedos, clutching either a beer or a young local. Both kinds of tourists show absolutely no respect for the local populace.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
With a new year, we have decided to throw caution to the wind and sign up with Front Door Organics. FDO will deliver a box of pre-selected fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to our door, once a week or less frequently.
This week, we can expect to receive:
1 pound of Yams
1 pound of Beets
1 head of Cabbage
1 bunch of Broccoli
5 Apples - mixed variety
4 Pears, Anjou
5 Bananas - Fair Trade
2 pounds of Tangerines
1 bunch of Collard Greens
1 unit of Lettuce, 'Summer mix'
A common complaint amongst subscribers to the service is that food often went bad before they could consume it. Thus, I hope that my hatred of waste will compel me to shovel a wide variety of delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables down my cake hole, and Joe's pie hole, too.
We have yet to receive our first package but I predict that it will feel like Christmas morning, but without the bloating, and the pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
As Saturday loomed, our stressed increased and we found ourselves wide awake on Saturday morning, ready to do something. I thought of exercising and decided to have a sensible breakfast in preparation. Somewhere between pouring the milk over the All Bran and putting the cereal bowl in the sink, I started playing Dragon Age: Origins. The end.
It was quite delightful to lose myself in a PC game with only a definite end time of Sunday night. Fortunately, unlike hard core Korean Starcraft players, we took breaks to eat, sleep and watch movies such as:
9 - To be clear, we watched the animated film about a post-apocalyptic world and not the musical about a libidinous filmmaker. 9 does a good job of setting up a depressing future and characters to root for, but offers little else. The characters are stereotypical and underdeveloped, and the climax is muted because if the resolution had followed logic, it should have been more ruthless. An entertaining movie that ultimately disappoints by not going as far as it should have.
Zombieland - While 9's muted reception was understandable after viewing, Zombieland's lack of popularity is surprising. This is as good of a zombie film as Shaun of the Dead, with a loser protagonist most fanboys can relate to, and all the hilarity that encounters with the undead can bring. Woody Harrelson is especially good as an asshole with a talent for zombie killing. Not to over-hype the movie but this is essential viewing if you have even a suspicion that zombies could be in your future.