Sunday, June 25, 2006

Upcoming events

The Scream Literary Festival is fast approaching once again. In addition to a fantastic mainstage lineup on Monday, July 10, there will be a week's worth of smaller happenings, including: the annual book-length dinner reading (this year it's Lisa Robertson reading The Men at Bar Mercurio), the Eye Scream art exhibition (at The Embassy, on Augusta), and a walking tour of Kensington Market, at which various people -- possibly including me! -- will read original and cover texts about the neighbourhood. Also: the headliner at this year's gala is Gentleman Reg! I'm so pleased!

Also happening the weekend of July 7-8: Wade, a festival of performances and art installations in wading pools located in public parks around the city (including the pool in Dufferin Grove Park, which is decorated with cave-painting-like dino-fish like the one above). Wish I could make it; if you're not going to be consumed with Scream stuff that weekend, you should check it out!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lynchian Jenga

Lynchian Jenga, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

Eerie music plays in the background... the tower teeters ominously... a midget dances nearby...

From Sunday's Room 101.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Stories, no pictures

Went to Room 101 tonight. Two things happened that I should have gotten photos of, but didn't:

I sat down to play Apples to Apples with a group of people that included a white-bearded man wearing a vintage 1970s cartoon t-shirt. Unlike most of the people who wear such t-shirts in the Drake Hotel, he had probably bought it in the 1970s and been wearing it regularly ever since. On the table in front of him were perfect, intricate origami reproductions of a Concorde and a butterfly, folded from bits of the Drake's monthly event guide, each about three inches long. "Wow," I said. "Did you make those?" His friend said, "His origami is famous. It was on the cover of a book once."

After the games, I was walking along Queen St with Liav, and he was just telling me about an inventor who has spent years trying to perfect a formula for coloured bubbles, when suddenly, the pavement around us was spattered with blue foamy gobs. We looked up. There appeared to be an Imperial Snow Walker sticking out of the second-storey window above us. After a moment, a twentyish hipster dude stuck his head out next to it.
"Um, is that an Imperial Walker?" said Liav.

"It's an AT-AT, yeah," replied the dude cheerfully. "I rigged it to shoot shaving cream!"

"Excellent," I said to the dude.

"I love my Star Wars toys," the dude said.

"Sometimes the city just seems very generous to me," said Liav to me.

Friday, June 16, 2006

That Bloor/Lansdowne mystique

Railway lights
On Thursday, a few psychogeographers gathered at offthemap gallery and took in the currently-running sound installation about the Bloor/Lansdowne neighbourhood, and then we walked the neighbourhood itself.

Having examined the installation's map (hand-drawn from memory by an older resident), which shows a remarkable array of factories in the area 50 years ago, we kept an eye out for those old buildings, curious to see what had become of them. Some, like the old American Standard factory, had been converted into condos. "Toronto has the Candy Factory condos, and the Chocolate Factory condos," mused Sean, "and yet they didn't call these the Toilet Factory condos." The sock factory was still a sock factory, but part of the building has been converted into offices currently rented by a quirky array of tenants -- artists, landscape architects, a private eye. (A Google search suggests, rather disappointingly, that "Complaints Department Ephemera" is a graphic design business.)

Bloor/Lansdowne on a summer evening is a place of beauty and mystery. What's with all those vast, completely empty vacant lots? Are they still laced with too much toxic industrial waste to be of any use? And what was the story behind that enormous scrap heap, with bedposts and broken golf carts sticking out of it?

The saddest thing we saw was a dead orange cat. Probably it had died trying to cross Dupont St. Someone had placed it neatly on a flattened cardboard box at the edge of the sidewalk.

The place I'm most likely to return to is Yasi's Place, a nifty lunch/brunch diner on Wallace Avenue. They have an all-day breakfast! They have a community garden out front! They have a dish of dog biscuits on the counter!

The most surreal moment of the evening happened when we explored a warehouse that had been converted into studios. The building was open and well-lit, but deserted. We roamed a maze of corridors lined with locked doors, then suddenly we found ourselves in an enormous, inexplicable room, like a dance hall. Just off the banquet hall was, even more inexplicably, a hardware shop. Weirdest of all, the shop was open.

Mystery hall

More photos.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Things growing in bottles, and whisperings about absinthe

The Terrarium Project
If Edward Gorey was alive and doing collaborative multimedia installation art, he might have contributed to "The Terrarium Project," currently on at Harbourfront. You have until July 9 to see it, and it's seriously worth it: a complex, creepy, funny walk-in work of retrofuturist science fiction.

Sleeping on the table

Mom and Rene
My mother and Rene Price with "Coming to the Table," a sound installation by Helen Verbanz & Don Hill that runs at offthemap gallery until June 24.

Dorky fan girl moment

After the show
Last Friday I took in the NXNE slate at Lee's Palace. The lineup was great; I finally got to see Luke Doucet play, for one thing. (I have been hearing the legend of Luke Doucet for years, mostly from female friends and mostly concerning what a cutie he is. Alison calls him the Two-Bite Brownie.) Really liked his set. (Most memorable Doucet line: "It takes a uniquely fucked-up man to break his own heart.") Longtime readers of squiddity, however, will be unsurprised to learn that I was most excited about seeing Mike Doughty, who was the closing act.

Mo and Andy and I were stationed behind the soundboard, which gave us an excellent view both of the stage and of the sound guys running around like freaked-out squirrels at the start of Mike's set. Apparently "the keyboard was dirty." It still looked and sounded like a terrific set to us, energetic and spontaneous.

Mo asked me if I'd ever met or e-mailed Mike and I said no, and he suggested that since I have all the guy's CDs and read his blog regularly I ought to hang out by the stage door and say Hi after the show. This seemed inarguably reasonable, so we stayed after the set ended and the bar cleared out, watching the instruments being put away in big cases with wheels (see picture). I have never in my life waited at a stage door to talk to anybody, and the situation felt weird to me. I'm uncomfortable with the whole Fan Thing, I can like someone's work a whole lot without feeling the need to pester the person who made it. Mo, meanwhile, used to work as a music writer in Montreal, has spent an inordinate amount of time backstage, was unfazed by the whole thing, and amused me with an anecdote about the time his date ditched him for the keyboard player from Counting Crows.

The drummer, Pete, emerged from backstage & I was all "Oh I don't think we should bug Pete I mean I'm sure he's a busy man & he's probably tired" but Mo went over & congratulated him on an excellent set, which was of course the sensible thing to do. Talking to Pete, we were amazed to learn that the main keyboard, around which the act was based, had actually broken at the beginning of the set, and much of the show had in fact been ad-libbed with auxiliary keyboards.

Eventually Mike emerged, looking understandably tired & wearing a sweater. By this point a wave of regressive adolescent-type awkwardness had left me almost completely verbally incapacitated, so it was a good thing Mo was there to, like, form sentences. Mike had the weary but sincere graciousness of someone who had done this on a nightly basis for years and years, shaking hands and letting people have their pictures taken with him. (I got a picture but I'm not going to post it, because I look lens-shatteringly hideous in it.) He was a bigger guy than I'd realized, a head taller than me. He had had a rough night and done a fantastic job in spite of everything, and I was so discombobulated I forgot to wish him a happy birthday, even though it was, in fact, his birthday.

In conclusion, I probably won't do the stage-door thing again, having determined that I turn into a complete dork in that situation, but it did seem like the kind of thing you have to do once. Also: You want Mike's CDs. Yes you do.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Six! Baby! Raccoons!

Three up a tree!
Three up a tree

Three on the ground, with Mum!
Hanging out with Mum
(Actually, there may be 4 babies in this picture, it's hard to tell.)

So wee!

That is all.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Strip malls and electrical fields

Over 2 billion squeezed
Last night's walk through Wexford, in Scarborough, started inauspiciously but wound up epic. At Sean's suggestion, we got on the 54 East bus at Eglinton Station, and got off near Victoria Park. We had a couple of new people with us: Camille, a poet I met at Lexiconjury, and frequent Squiddity commenter Liav (who came straight from a job interview, and was wearing a tie & carrying a portfolio of architectural sketches in a tube). When we alighted in the middle of a featureless commercial zone, they looked a bit disconcerted: this was not the interesting cityscape they'd been expecting! But the night was young.

Sean wanted to see some of the Points of Origin murals, which he'd read about in the latest issue of 54 East Magazine. We found those, and we also found a bizarre mural on the side of a halal butcher shop that showed a train going through mountains, people in rowboats on a stormy sea, and some kind of neo-classical temple; also some cedars in pots. Then we found a very pastoral mural advertising the Wexford Restaurant.

The restaurant is in the Wexford Heights Plaza -- see above photo. We dawdled outside. They were just closing, and a woman who worked there came out & chatted with us. She told us the restaurant has been right there, in that strip mall, since 1958, and she gave us all copies of 54 East. The Wexford Heights Plaza also features an adult video outlet and an Islamic SuperStore -- two doors apart. I imagined the respective proprietors of these establishments periodically stepping out onto the walkway and just glowering at each other.

We wandered off the main road, past a huge Ontario Hydro facility, and into an electrical corridor. There was a bike path in the corridor, so we walked down that. It was very quiet, and I thought I could hear the wires above our heads crackling faintly. We wondered what aliens, or archaeologists from a far-distant future, would make of the solemn silent rows of immense hydro towers, marching endlessly from Pickering. As we got closer to Kennedy, we had an amazing view: a jumble of towers, transformers and wires in a wide field, and behind them the lights of all the highrises of Scarborough. "You couldn't make this stuff up," said Camille.

We reached the tracks of the Scarborough RT, which Camille, Liav and I had never ridden; Sean and Himy enthusiastically insisted we had to try it. We walked to the station and got on. It's true, the RT is like a tiny toy subway! It's the cutest transit in the GTA.

Flickr photoset here.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

If you had wings, you'd be home by now

Pigeon condo

Rain notwithstanding, there was a walking tour today of The Networked City, a series of art installations along Yonge St. As you may have noticed, I am all about the art installations and the performance art, and there seems to be a lot of interesting stuff in that vein happening lately. The walk culminated at the model suites/sales office of The Pigeon Condo, pictured above, and there was free ice cream. The Pigeon Condo is a project of artists Amos Latteier (last seen talking about ant and human societies at Harbourfront) and Luis Jacob, and will run until the end of the month. So if you have a little crush on Luis or Amos (not that I ::cough:: know anyone who does), be advised that every Saturday this month you'll be able to find them hanging out under the Gardiner, dressed as pigeons. I'm not making this up, here's a photo:

Pigeon condo sales pitch

That's our intrepid tour guide Johanna Householder standing between them. The Pigeon Condo is worth checking out for those pigeon costumes alone, but there will also be presentations by guest speakers each Saturday; check the website for details.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Guerilla gallery tour

Pascal explains

A small group of psychogeographers braved the threatening skies yesterday, and were rewarded with a glimpse into the world of Toronto's street art scene. Our guide was Pascal, who used to be a "respectable" gallery painter but who, a couple of years ago, decided that the whole culture of paintings that hang on walls has become hopelessly moribund, and graffiti is where the really vital work in painting is happening these days. He apprenticed himself to a "crew" of more experienced artists, and has been learning the ropes.

The graffiti world runs on a complicated set of rules of etiquette, and has its own lingo. To "front" somebody is to paint on top of one of their pieces: that's a provocation & will cause that person or crew to have a "beef" with you & paint over your stuff in return. Crews sometimes go out together and do a "crew hit," several pieces close together. A "bomb" or "throwup" is a quick piece done in a "hot spot," ie a place where you're likely to be seen & chased away. A "wall" can take several hours & is usually done in a "chill spot," where you're likely to be left alone. In a good chill spot on a good night, there might be three or four artists working at the same time -- a rare chance to meet face to face.

Pascal took us to an excellent chill spot -- the railway siding south of Gladstone Ave., which has been covered with really elaborate wall pieces. He told us about the guys and crews behind each of them. There was a piece by a guy named Alpha who had died at 19, hit by a train. Pascal said anyone who fronted that would get kicked out of the scene.

It started to rain a bit. The light was beautiful, the air finally cooling down. Little snails came out onto the dirt path, leaving silvery trails and waving their eyes on stalks. The rain got heavier, the sky turned red, and we went to the Gladstone for pitchers of cider.

More graffiti walk photos on flickr. If you're interested in graffiti and you live in Toronto, you're in luck: the ReSurface festival is this Saturday, June 3.