Sunday, September 25, 2005

After the splashing

Dormant fountain
A fountain on campus dozes in the sun. I'm still very busy & I have a cold right now, hence the continuing lack of posts. A couple of followups to the fountaineering escapades of earlier this month:

Kyle has added a couple of pics by & of me to the Urban Oases Tribute page.

Ranjit had a remarkable dream inspired by my CNE blogpost.

Also, I saw Pretty Persuasion on Friday and I liked it. A lot of the hype makes it sound like Heathers meets American Pie, but it's actually more of a film noir than a slapstick farce. Really great casting all round, and James Woods' scenery-chewing is indeed worth the price of admission.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Prepare to be appalled

This just in from my brother: Pretty Persuasion will open in Toronto at the Cumberland Cinemas in Yorkville on Friday, September 23. Finally, we get to see what all the fuss is about!

Fountaineering redux

There are lots of public fountains in Toronto outside the CNE grounds, so we decided this week's walk would be another round of fountaineering (the perfect word for it, apparently coined by Liz Clayton). Here, some of our group solemnly ponder the first fountain on the itinerary, on Bloor St.

We walked through U of T's St. George campus to Queen's Park. (I seem to be making a habit of taking photos of people behaving strangely in Queen's Park at night.) There we found these candles burning on a park bench:
Mystery candles
There was a cryptic note on the bench, indicating that the candles were part of some Trinity College frosh-week scavenger hunt type of thing. We took a dip in the Queen's Park fountain, then proceeded down the centre of University Ave., where we splashed around in the big fountain just north of Queen St. Alison is hiding in this picture! Can you find her?
We ventured east. A groovy op-art lightshow was playing on the walls of City Hall, perhaps to celebrate the curvy, space-age building's 40th summer. We watched that for a while, then went to the new paving-stone labyrinth behind the Eaton Centre (near the Church of the Holy Trinity), and meandered along its curves before flopping down to rest in its centre. More photos here.

Meanwhile, up on campus, two things have become clear: 1) I really do have an inhuman amount of work to do, and I have no idea how I am going to get it all done on time, and 2) I love my program this year. It's going to be tough, and undoubtedly will drive me crazy some days, but it's also everything I ever hoped it would be. I feel like I've figured out what I want to do when I grow up, and this is it. Better late than never!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Fountains for Jeff

I never met Jeff Chapman, aka Ninjalicious, but I'm a big fan of Infiltration, the zine and website he founded. Jeff was one of the originators of the now-global urban exploration movement; in fact, he coined the phrase. He accomplished a lot of other stuff too -- zines, online projects, collaborations -- so it was almost a surprise to learn that, when he lost his battle with cancer late last month, he was only 31.

Jeff's brother Kyle put out a call for friends and admirers of Jeff to pay tribute to him by jumping in fountains. That was a big part of the reason why we decided to walk Exhibition Place on Thursday. We were also curious about what the grounds would look like a few days after the end of the Ex.

It turned out to be a fascinating place. Most of the garbage and litter had been collected already -- as we went in, we saw a lot of orange-vested sanitation workers, and peering into buildings we saw sacks of garbage piled into mounds of Biblical proportions. The streets were wide, tidy and completely empty, like some model city whose population had mysteriously vanished overnight. Over at one end of the grounds, the massively opulent Liberty Grand was playing host to the gala launch party for Deepa Mehta's Water, so the only signs of life we saw were occasional small groups of people in formal eveningwear, heading that way.

The exhibition pavilions were empty and desolate, but spotlights still illuminated the facades of the Better Living Centre and all the other monuments to space-age, retro optimism. We came across a white gazebo, still brilliantly lit. Eerier still were the many fountains that dotted the landscape, glowing with shifting and flickering coloured light, for no-one's benefit but our own.

The first fountain that some of our group jumped in was relatively small and unlit, so it wasn't until everyone had climbed out that we noticed the dead rat. Ew. Subsequent fountains were larger and brighter, inspiring greater confidence. Many had signs saying "LAKEWATER: DO NOT DRINK OR TOUCH," which we thought was kind of a sad comment on the state of Lake Ontario.

The largest fountain, above, featured a wide pool, in the centre of which was a sort of island with benches and an enormous bronze sphinx and angel statue. We knew we had to defy the signs and visit that island; urban exploration, after all, is all about "going places you're not supposed to go." The water was freezing (though apparently clean and rodent-free), but the benches were comfy. There was some kind of enigmatic inscription up there, something like "The peace is in you; you be the peace."

We walked back to the gates; Laura found a hula hoop in a tree and we rolled it around the streets on our way out. We saw swarms of very-much-alive rats darting in and out of the shrubbery near the streetcar stop.

I've put up a set of photos from the walk here. Jason's are better, though.

Update: There's a nice post by Laura about the walk up on the psychogeography blog.

Friday, September 02, 2005



Usually, at around this time of year, I spend way too much time online trying to figure out the dates and times of the various University of Toronto book sales. This year I don't have to: they've compiled a handy list. Check it out! Above, a picture I took at the Old Vic booksale last year.

Also coming round again: another Zen Buddhist rummage sale. It's on September 10 and 11, at the College St. temple.

I was on York campus today for a very long, but helpful and informative, day of workshops and seminars for teaching assistants. Starting the week after next, I will be leading tutorials for the first time.

It was a gorgeous late summer day, and I caught this red feather drifting through the air: