Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Touching bottom

It is apparently a total coincidence that Toronto's renowned gay village is located on what, long ago, was once the estate of Alexander Wood. Wood, as that Wikipedia article explains, was an openly gay merchant and city magistrate at the turn of the 19th century. He was sent back to Scotland for a few years owing to his dubious handling of a sexual assault case -- several young soldiers were suspected of rape, and Wood decided that to properly investigate the case he would need to personally inspect their genitals. All in the line of duty, you know.

A statue of Wood stands at the corner of Church and Alexander, just down the block from Buddies, and there is a plaque on the plinth illustrating the magistrate's infamous "investigation." The soldier's brass bum has been rubbed shiny and clean; I'm not sure if rubbing it is supposed to bring good luck in one's amorous pursuits, or if people just like to touch it.

Here are the hands of Alison and Leslie, getting in touch with a little civic history:

Touching bottom

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cavernous graffiti temple

On last Thursday's walk, Dylan led us into a spooky abandoned warehouse in Liberty Village. We thought there might be people living in there, or at least raccoons, but (some rustling noises in dark corners notwithstanding) we seemed to be the only lifeforms inside. It was nearly pitch dark, the graffiti-encrusted walls illuminated only by the flashes from our cameras: it was like walking into a chainsaw slasher movie. I noticed large dark forms lying here and there on the ground, and had to take a photo to figure out what they were. The unexpected answer: old Christmas trees.

Jamie of jbwarehouse was along for his first walk -- have a look at his fine blogpost, with lots of pictures. And check out this amazing 30-second exposure of the warehouse interior, by Jason.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Just a trim

Haircuts by Children
The Camille Unisex Beauty Lounge in Parkdale isn't usually a three-ring circus on weekends, I'm guessing, but then it's usually staffed by stylists who are at least old enough to drive. When I got there, mid-afternoon on Saturday, there was a throng of waiting clients and their friends out on the sidewalk and in the salon; Darren O'Donnell was running around in a stripey scarf taking photos of everything; a camera crew with a boom microphone were filming haircuts in progress; and there were a lot of 8 to 12-year-old children about, some selling lemonade and cookies out front, and others inside, cutting people's hair. Occasionally, bemused locals would wander in and watch in amazement for a few minutes: "The children... are cutting the hair?" It was the third weekend of Mammalian Diving Reflex's Haircuts by Children project, which has obviously been a huge success.

A ten-year-old boy carefully sheared the back of a man's head with electric clippers; a young girl added bright plastic beads and clips to a delighted woman's long braids. My haircut was much more basic: long hair, just a trim. I was introduced to an eleven-year-old named Maaz, who got to work without further ado. Some of the kids were chatty, but Maaz seemed like a very serious sort of person, frowning with silent concentration as he snipped away. He did mention that when not cutting hair, he likes "computers."

Here's a mid-haircut picture:
During picture

Haircuts by Children is on for one more weekend, at Harbourfront as part of the Milk festival of children's arts.

Click here for more photos from Saturday, including my "after" picture.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Toronto the Good 2006

Some signs you may be at an excellent party:

- Open bar! And lots of food!
- Will Munro DJs, then is followed later in the evening by Tyler Clark Burke
- The mayor of Toronto shows up and fires a reproduction War-of-1812-vintage cannon at the Gardiner Expressway (sadly, the Gardiner is unscathed)
- At around 11:00, half a dozen soldiers in camoflage uniforms march down the long path from the adjacent army barracks, and proceed to invade the dance floor and pick up girls
- All the people around you are really fun and interesting. And plastered. Did I mention the open bar?

Most of my pictures came out crap (did I mention the open bar?), but here's a good one of the army lads:

Army lads invade

Saturday, May 20, 2006



I'd blog about Tuesday's walk, but it has been admirably done by John Bentley Mays of the Globe and Mail. Click here to read the article, which will only be up for seven days. We're all over the front of the Toronto section! Here is a picture of Mr. Mays diligently taking notes on our activities, as Himy holds forth in the foreground:

Mays observes

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ants, proteins, yarn

I did indeed get out last night to see the Performance Lectures curated at Harbourfront by Sally McKay. Amos Latteier talked about "Ant and Human Societies", and Susan Bustos talked about knitting proteins. Amos's talk touched on a lot of stuff related to my research interests & even to my current paper (selfish genes, evolution of cognition, self-organizing systems), and occasionally seemed to gesture towards conclusions I wouldn't agree with, but it was well-done and full of interesting information: his enthusiasm for ants is contagious. Susan's use of knitting as both metaphor for protein synthesis and process for constructing actual 3-D tactile models of protein molecules was enlightening to me, especially the bit where she explained that the knitting pattern is like the mRNA and the knitter is the ribosome. Oh, Susan's the ribosome! OK I get it! I think what Susan and Amos are doing is tremendously interesting, in fact I've actually kicked around the notion of curating art-meets-science lectures myself before, though I've never actually done anything about it. Maybe once I finally dig my way out from under this mountain of overdue papers.

Another great thing about the evening: I finally got to meet Maria and Eva!

Maria and Eva

I "know" both of them via their blogs and the comments section on Blamblog (note Eva's hand gestures: a long-standing Blamblog tradition), but had never met them face to face. During the Q&A Maria stood up & gave Susan a technical suggestion for improving the structural integrity of her yarn-based proteins, and I thought, "Hey, it's Naked KnitGirl!" Then after the Q&A Eva came over to me, and we had a funny "...Squiddity?" "...Easternblot?" moment. Nice meeting you both!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Red moon with tree

Red moon with tree, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

I snuck out on my essay tonight, and went to Harbourfront, where the moon was hanging over the harbour all huge & red & gorgeous, like a blood orange. Without a good lens it's impossible to get the full effect in a photo, but I like this pic anyway. I was there to see the Performance Lectures curated by Sally McKay -- so good! More on them tomorrow. Right now: more essay writing for me.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Open Letter

So I signed an open letter this week. For those of you who aren't already caught up in what's going on, a short version of the story: As alert readers of squiddity know, I spend a lot of time hanging around with a community of (mostly) experimental writers and poets here in Toronto. One of these poets, the energetic and talented Angela Rawlings, has been getting slagged off a lot lately by jealous and mean-spirited people. It's really gotten out of hand, and some of the verbal abuse has had an ugly misogynist quality, and other people have been targeted as well. So, some of Angela's friends felt enough was enough and wrote an open letter expressing support for her and denouncing harassing and hateful behaviour within the community, and I've put my name to it.

Rather than repost the letter here, I'll give you some links to check out, because if you haven't read the letter already, you might find some context useful. The letter's been reposted by Sharon Harris, Derek Beaulieu, Gregory Betts, Jason Christie, and Rob McLennan (possibly more, these are just the ones I've seen). As well, discussions about the situation are happening on the blogs of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sina Queyras, Jay Millar, Katherine Parrish, and Gary Barwin.

I wish I had more time to blog about this, but I'm under head-exploding levels of deadline stress this week. It's a complicated situation, and some thoughtful criticisms of the open letter have been raised. As a strategy, the open letter has its imperfections, I'd agree, but it does seem like a good way of getting some of the problems that people have been facing out into the open. I signed the letter because I really don't like bullying, and I don't want to be the person standing around looking at her shoes while a friend gets picked on.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

We're not lost, we're exploring

Tasty Restaurant
After the Broken Pencil launch at Toronto Free Gallery on Thursday, only Sean, Alison and I set out for a walk. We went west over the bridge, then south into the industrial area, where we saw a lot of raccoons and old warehouses that haven't been turned into condos yet, then we turned east on Eastern Ave. It was the part of Eastern that's like a highway, with no sidewalk, but a broad concrete divider between the two lanes in the centre of the road -- so that's where we walked. "Funny place to put a sidewalk," Sean noted. The best thing was that we were not, in fact, the only party of hipster freaks walking down the centre of Eastern at 10:30 at night. There were 2 guys about half a block's distance ahead of us. One of them was wearing a suit, the other was barefoot in khakis and a t-shirt, and they appeared to be bickering.

Farther along Eastern we saw the above sign. Mmmm tasty! We also passed the Hell's Angels HQ, and then for the rest of the evening we kept seeing groups of guys on motorbikes zooming past us -- we must have seen two dozen of them -- so maybe some kind of meeting was going on.

We got agreeably lost on the Martin Goodman trail -- at one point we could see the downtown skyline spread out before us, all bright and twinkly, but we were surrounded by meadows and chickenwire fences and the Don, and we had no idea where we were or how to get back to transit-serviced civilization. So we just kept walking, until we unexpectedly found ourselves at the Distillery.

Waiting for the King streetcar at Parliament St., I looked up and noticed this: an eerily-lit mask peering out of an upstairs window. I pointed it out to the others, and they were all, "What am I looking for, here? I don't see what-- AAAAAIGH!" Spooky!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Summer's shaping up nicely

So, I got some excellent news last week. I'd been worried: As a Ph.D. student, I'm entitled to some kind of assistantship -- usually, marking/grading or research -- over the summer, but earlier in the spring there were alarming rumours afloat that the Faculty of Grad Studies didn't have nearly enough assistantships to go round, and that some of us were going to be left hanging. Indeed, I got word early last week from the department that they couldn't find me anything in either Arts & Sciences or Atkinson, the two faculties with philosophy programmes. Crap! But then Cristal, the very helpful grad assistant in my department, did some calling around, and requests from other faculties were considered, and the upshot is, I have the best summer work placement! It has nothing to do with philosophy! I'm going to be helping out at the Department of Dance, and specifically, working at the World Dance Alliance Global Assembly in July.

Picture: "Momentos 2," Jorge Amarante company, Argentina

This conference is going to be amazing. There will be dozens of academics, performers and choreographers flying in from Europe, Asia and the Americas, and lots of lectures and panel discussions as well as performances. There will be a performance that involves dancers dangling off the side of the new Accolade Building; a youth program that, if all goes according to plan, will culminate on the last day with "100 underprivileged teens dancing on the lawn in front of Vari Hall"; and one choreographer wants to construct a bonfire at night in the middle of the pond and put together a performance around that. Furthermore, there will be a 2-day World Indigenous Dance mini-conference right before the week, then a ballet conference right after. Oh, and all this very conveniently kicks into gear a few days after the Scream wraps up. Tickets to individual performances at the WDA will be on sale to the general public as well as to conference delegates, so if you love dance, keep an eye on this page.

It's going to be a busy summer! But it'll be a good busy!

Monday, May 01, 2006


Shrunken heads
This is a detail from Mel Ziegler's In the Air. Ziegler got dozens of students at U of T's Hart House to inflate balloons and draw faces on them; then he placed the balloons all around the Hart House library. A month and a half later, they had wilted considerably, the breath inside them filtering back into the library's atmosphere. The piece was part of the Hart House Installation Collective show, which unfortunately I didn't get round to visiting until the last day. It was awesome! And you missed it! Sorry!

A couple of awesome things that you haven't missed, worth mentioning:

Do you remember all the lyrics to the Beatles' "Yesterday"? Not sure? Perfect! Brian Joseph Davis wants you to go to the Mercer Union Gallery before May 20, and record your inept, earnest, stumbling version of the classic tune in the booth he's got set up there. (He was paying people $5 to do this, but he has already run out of money.) The piece is called "Yester-duh". Brian is going to compile all the recordings into a kind of aural composite image of our inadequate collective memory of the most recorded pop song of all time. The resulting CD will be launched at a closing party at the gallery on May 24.

Also, Darren O'Donnell's conceptual performance collective thingy Mammalian Diving Reflex will be staging an event every weekend this month that you have to check out. Three words, people: Haircuts by Children. Exactly what it sounds like. Takes place May 6, 13, and 20 at salons around the city, and on May 27-28 at Harbourfront. Call 416-703-5491 for details, or to book an appointment: yes, you can get your hair cut by 8-to-12-year-olds, for free! Click the link to see a priceless photo of Coach House Press founder Stan Bevington being carefully groomed by fifth graders. Postcards and flyers advertising the event may also be found around the city; I can't find the text that appears on the postcard online anywhere, but here's what it says:
In the future, every child will be given a pair of scissors and invited to shape our destinies. In the future, every child will be granted full citizenship rights; invited to vote, run for office and drive streetcars. In the future, children will teach and adults will learn; a playground will be built on every battlefield; candy will be free and rotten teeth will be replaced at no cost to you, the consumer. In the future, children will be powerful creatures able to cross the street without looking both ways, and hold their breath underwater forever and ever and ever.