Toronto and Ontario Trip (Part 3)

7 12 2013

Have you ever seen a sunset so brilliant it looked like it was Photoshopped? A mansion so regal it looked like a Hollywood horror set? A farm so bucolic it looked like an Andrew Wyeth painting? These are the kinds of images you see in Ontario, the most populous province of Canada and home to its largest city, the vibrant and multicultural Toronto, as well as its seat of government, the stately and civilised Ottawa.

In Part One of this series I looked at Toronto, and in Part Two I focussed on the Royal Ontario Museum of Art. In this part, I’ve decided to look at the countryside of the St Lawrence Lowlands which surrounds Canada’s southeastern megalopolis. The region is much like the Midwestern United States, with farmland, lakes, fields, and old towns surrounding major cities like Chicago. Where southeastern Ontario has not been converted into farmland or built up into cities, it remains a primeval temperate woodland called the Carolinian Forest.

My mother’s cottage lies nestled in the midst of this forest.

So without further ado, I bring you my snapshots of the vast, fabled landscape of southeastern Canada. Heading east on the 401 past the high-rise suburbs of Toronto… IMG_1667 IMG_1664 …you pass a few exurban mega-malls and housing developments until you finally reach the pastoral, strangely English countryside of southeastern Ontario’s St Lawrence Lowlands:

IMG_1704

And then you move into deeper country…

IMG_1705

…and even deeper country (God, this reminds me of the Madonna song) until you reach full-fledged Carolinian countryside (aren’t the clouds stupendous?)

IMG_1712

Then you reach Madoc, a village on the Trans-Canada Highway between Toronto and Ottawa. The village where my mother was raised: IMG_1751

Isn’t it quaint? It has a post office, a couple of banks, a few restaurants, a supermarket and hardware store, a bowling alley, a quaint pub, and a smattering of other local establishments. That is where my mother owns property.

Then there is Stirling, which is a little bit larger than Madoc because it has more industries based there. It has some amazing buildings:

IMG_2320IMG_2305IMG_2316

The architectural style of the houses you see is called Second Empire. Remember when I mentioned how some buildings looked like a Hollywood set? It is the Second Empire style you see here that I was thinking of. It was common throughout North America in the 1860s and 1870s, and it has inspired numerous horror movies and television shows, like The Munsters, The Addams Family, and Psycho, as well as American Horror Story. Yay, Jessica Lange!

But then we move outside the towns into real wilderness, which is largely wooded. We move north to Lake Jarvis, near the edge of the Canadian Shield:

IMG_1781

It is about a half-hour meandering drive from the Trans-Canada Highway, but imagine this being your destination: IMG_2041

A secluded cottage on a lake graced every night with the mournful call of the loon. And imagine this being your sunset: IMG_2030

Or this: IMG_2692

Or this: IMG_2701

Or this: IMG_1819

Or this: IMG_1820

Or this: IMG_1827

Is it not spectacular? In Ontario the land is so flat that clouds take the place of mountains. Here we see mountains of the sky.

But Ontario’s brilliant landscape takes on a more earthy hue when we look at her rough, summery farmland nature:

IMG_2343

Isn’t that a portrait worthy of Andrew Wyeth?

And this? IMG_2350

And of course the typical roadside barn: IMG_2361

Is this not eerie? It kind of screams Stephen King novel to me.

Anyway, that was just a slice of the photos I took while in Hastings County, Ontario. The sky is amazingly huge because of the flat land. That is something I’m not used to, being from Seattle, where there are mountains or hills everywhere you look. Everyone in Ontario should be thankful for their amazingly broad, cloud-filled skies, their bucolic farmland, their absolutely vast hinterland of forest, and the hauntingly beautiful call of the loon. Especially the call of the loon. It is otherworldly in its beauty, and it is one of my earliest memories as a child. That is how much it stands out to me.





Toronto and Ontario Trip (Part 2)

29 09 2013

In my last post on my August trip to Toronto and Ontario, Canada, I focussed on the urban aspect: my stay in Toronto, which is an incredibly diverse, vibrant, growing city, like almost nothing you have ever seen. It has turned out to be one of my favourite cities.

I thought in this post I would share with you the highlights of my trip to the city’s Royal Ontario Museum, where artefacts from Mesopotamia were on display. (Unfortunately that exhibition was photography-free.) Anyway, I’ve included a smattering of Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Indigenous, and modern-day Canadian art. Quite an impressive array, I think.

Here is the outside of the museum, on Bloor Street West. It has a strikingly modern addition built on to an older structure:

Toronto - Museum I

Here is a sample of their substantial East Asian collection. I photographed the piece I thought most flamboyantly gay:

Toronto - Museum II

Check out this jewellery from Etruria, Byzantium, and Ancient Rome! The craftsmanship is absolutely exquisite. I would die for a pair of those earrings:

Toronto - Museum III

Toronto - Museum IV

Toronto - Museum VIII

And look at these rings. So delicate and elegant:

Toronto - Museum XVII

And look at these armlets. They display the same elegance:

Toronto - Museum VI

Toronto - Museum VII

And behold this radiant Ancient British (pre-Anglo-Saxon) necklace at the top of the below image. A torc worthy enough to grace the neck of a proud British queen like Cartimandua herself!:

Toronto - Museum IX

And the beauty of the human form in the eyes of the Ancient Romans. Below, a woman and man’s buttocks. I think the first one is the woman’s, though I’m not sure:

Toronto - Museum XII

Toronto - Museum XIII

Ancient Roman Busts:

Toronto - Museum XXIX

Toronto - Museum XXX

The museum has a delightfully compact little slice of Ancient Greek art, too. Notice the glory that is the miniature model of the Temple of Athena. All hail Athena!:

Toronto - Museum XIV

Toronto - Museum XXXI

Toronto - Museum XI

This is perhaps my favourite exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum: the Egyptian lady and her makeup regimen. Actually, both male and female Egyptians wore makeup. Doesn’t it make you want to paint your face up? Oh, and then there is the mummy:

Toronto - Museum XVIII

Toronto - Museum XIX

Toronto - Museum XX

Toronto - Museum XXI

There were a couple of fantastic and beautiful photographs of the people of Oceania I could not help but photograph. Yes, I photographed photographs, and you can see my reflection on the surface of the glass, but the images are gorgeous nonetheless, don’t you think?

Toronto - Museum XXV

Toronto - Museum XXVI

And then there were the modern Canadian works of art. A lot of it was furniture, which is nice, but here are a couple of the best paintings I saw:

Toronto - Museum XXXII

Toronto - Museum XXXIII

And that is Part Two of my series of my trip to Toronto and Ontario, Canada. I know I didn’t include any indigenous Canadian populations–they are the basis of Canadian civilisation, after all–but I was new to the museum and late to it too. I think I may have missed a floor. Besides, I wasn’t allowed to photograph all of the delicious cuneiform tablets of the Mesopotamia exhibition tucked away in the basement. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed what I shared with you, and I hope it showed you that ancient cultures have a fabulous sense of fashion. A lot of it is cruelty-free!





Toronto and Ontario Trip (Part 1)

31 08 2013

This August I took a much-needed vacation to my mother’s homeland of Ontario, Canada. It had been eight full years since my last visit, so I took full advantage of this year’s visit with my new smartphone camera. We arrived in Toronto, spent three days there, and then spent two weeks at her cottage on Lake Jarvis, about two-and-a-half hours east of Toronto near her home town, a small hamlet called Madoc.

Girl, did I have fun.

I’ve separated my photo-shoot into several posts so that you can eat it all up in bite-sized chunks. This first instalment consists of my arrival in Toronto, the capital of Ontario, and the exciting days and nights I spent there. (Ottawa is the capital of Canada, which I did not get to visit during this trip, unfortunately.) Anyway, enjoy the photos!

As we arrived at Pearson International Airport in Mississauga (a large suburb of Toronto), I took this snapshot of downtown Toronto from the aeroplane:

Toronto Aerial

Doesn’t Toronto have a beautiful little harbour, surrounded on one side by the lush, green Toronto Islands, and on the other by the tall skyscrapers of the downtown financial district?

This is the shot arriving by rental car into downtown Toronto on the Gardiner Espressway, which sadly runs along the waterfront but fortunately is being redeveloped on both sides by housing which takes advantage of the harbourfront location. Just look at the CN Tower rising majestically above it all. It almost looks like Dubai:

Toronto

Toronto has its own little Times Square–it’s called Dundas Square, and it is situated at the junction of Yonge and Dundas Streets. It’s where everybody in the city gathers to eat, drink, shop, and have a generally good time:

Toronto III

Toronto has a very healthy and interesting mixture of old and new architecture. Notice the Second Empire-style houses on Yonge Street contrasted against the late-twentieth-century highrises in the background, which provide a good dose of density:

Toronto VI

Here is Church Street, in the gay Church-Wellesley neighbourhood of northeast downtown. It is crammed with businesses inhabiting gorgeous nineteenth-century Second Empire-style Victorian townhouses:

Toronto V

There is a vibrant gay scene in the Church-Wellesley district, which is packed with clubs, bars, and restaurants. I couldn’t help but take this shot of a drag queen performing at Crew and Tangos on Church Street:

Toronto XV

Toronto has a vast downtown shopping mall the likes of which I have never seen before. It is suburbia surrounded by downtown office highrises, and connected to the subway system, to boot. It is also the first place I had ever seen a woman wearing a full niqab. It is Eaton Centre:

Toronto XI

A typical Toronto subway station. Basically just like New York (equally humid and stagnant until you get inside the refreshingly cool train car):

Toronto XII

Toronto IX

Here is a shot I took near the Royal York Fairmont Hotel, right across from Union Station (the transportation hub of the entire Toronto area). It isn’t exactly pretty, but it captures the view of your average bloke walking down the street toward the hotel doors:

Toronto XII

However, after the bus drove by, I was able to take this far prettier shot of the fabled tower which Rhea Perlman notoriously immortalized in the film Canadian Bacon using a substance I can only call an amalgam of hot wax and fresh semen:

Toronto XIII

Toronto XIV Rhea Perlman

So there you have it! Part One of my August trip to Toronto and Ontario, Canada. Although the pictures alone may not have betrayed it, Toronto is a phenomenally multicultural city with people from all walks of life and all skin colours speaking all languages imaginable in relative harmony, which makes me proud to be Canadian, even if through my mother. I will be posting further photos of my trip to Ontario in forthcoming blog entries. I hope you will watch, and enjoy!





This Is What Happens When You Cross Out Random Words in a Text (Part One)

5 07 2012

My friend Seth and I were bored one day working at an independent cinema in the Arbutus Ridge neighbourhood of Vancouver’s west side, so we decided to toy with a stack of childhood immunization pamphlets that a local resident had placed on the concession counter, crossing out random words here and there with a black marker. The following is the result of our perverted experiment:

The Moth of All Guides

by Ougla, author of The Moth Baby

Introduction: Duct

Do you feel like baby?

Rent your baby to a urine doctor. Your baby happens to have cancer.

Or maybe AIDS, in the cunt, but all you can find is ass.

The Moth is designed to provide you with your baby. Eels designed your child.

You’ll also find a sect where you can make a back-up copy of your baby, since they have a habit of rough washing. Cause your child to be able to lay hands. You can’t afford to have it missing in action–nor do you want to waste valuable time trying to reconstruct history.

The Moth of All Guides has designed you with the following:

  • helpful child disease
  • age
  • a back-up of your child

You will be a useful tool.

— Ougla, author of The Moth of Pregnancy and The Moth of Baby

Chapter One: About Pena: A Vaccine Child

Pena is the vaccine child, coccus moni. Coccal ease can lead.

Pena eases Canadian children. A U.S. child has proven a Pena child.

Children are routinely exposed to a fifth day. Also of concern are rapid strains of coccal cult.

The National Advisory Mitten and he-Canadian Society recommend Pena for all child whores.

Child whores benefit from the protection provided by Pena. Follow Pena into coccal ease.

Pena is Canada. Receive coccal nations.

Note: your child’s a bag.

Pena Nation

[boring graph about administering a vaccine to babies]

How Safe is Pena?

Receive Pena monster. Effects resulting from Pena are relatively minor; those most frequently reported are decreased tit.

Pena is derived from ass and is free of him (a mercury-containing organ pound). It can be a minister at the same time as a child ho. Read more about Canada.

Chapter Two: Ougla on ‘mm’….

He-Acts

Protect the Canadian mitten of Canadia against life disease.

Help the body produce bodies. They are effective.

Immunization Wisdom

Mumps were reported

Build up bodies. Make the doctor rough.

You need to know about Canadia.

Poo Vaccine

Poo immunization provides ease:

  • diptheria (a disease that attacks the throat and heart and that can lead to heart failure or death);
  • pus, or whooping cough (a disease characterized by a severe cough that makes it difficult to breathe, eat, or drink and that can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage, and death);
  • anus (a disease that can lead to muscle spasms and death);
  • poo (a disease that can result in muscle pain and paralysis and death); and
  • emo influenzae (a disease that can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, and a severe throat infection [epiglottis] that can cause death).

The vast majority of children experience some sort of poo shot that lasts for a day or two. In rare cases, seizures can occur.

Immunization Wisdom

300 Canadian children developed before 5 years of age.

Mump Rub

The mump rub (MMR) vaccine provides protection against three diseases:

  • me (a disease that involves fever, rash, cough, runny nose, and watery brain death);
  • Mum (a disease that can result in men–the swelling of the brain and testicular dam); and
  • Ella (a disease that can result in severe injury to or even the death of the ant-woman).

Most children have pee. They tend to be rash, swelling the neck. Your child is a side-effect.

Me, Mum, and Ella are typically aged together in gin–your child is not good.

Zationsdom

Your child should not receive vaccines.

  • disease affects the system;
  • Ma Goblin shot with three moths;
  • an ant called Neo!

Note: There have been some reports in the media about autism. Worry right away.

Coccal Sin for Children (Pena)

Pena is important. It provides protection against coccal disease–a disease caused by the coccus moni bacterium. This bacterium is the most frequent cause of children.

Canada’s national mitten recommends Pena for all child moths with enema, or HIV.

I’ll finish up the rest of the pamphlet in a future blog post.





Austra

18 01 2012

I think I may have discovered my new favourite band. That is hard for me to say, since Erasure have occupied the most prominent setting in my crown of musical gems since 1995. That may soon change. Their competitor is Austra, a synthpop/darkwave/indie electronica band from Toronto who just released their debut album, Feel It Break, last year. (Yes, I know, as usual I am late to the game.) However I am not yet ready to give the number one position to Austra, simply because Erasure have produced fourteen studio albums, and I have only heard one by Austra, but if they keep up the amazing work, they very well could earn that place. Besides, a tie between the two bands isn’t entirely out of the question.

OK, so you want to know what the hype is all about, don’t you? It’s about their coherent, well-developed style, their professional-sounding technical wizardry, their eerily fun dance sensibility, lead singer Katie Stelmanis’s chillingly pure, cold voice, their artistically spooky themes, their rich harmonies, their otherworldly melodies. All of these in combination produce a lush, full, satisfying sonic experience. Listening to their debut album, Feel It Break, one imagines opening up a book of occult lore and exploring the hidden mysteries within. I would liken them to a cross between Florence and the Machine, Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, and Karin Dreijer of The Knife and Fever Ray. But at least as creepy as Karin Dreijer. Finally, an album that sounds weirdly Scandinavian without getting mired in slow, dissonant, undanceable experimentalism. It’s musically exploratory, thematically fascinating, and fun to dance to.

Check out the video for their single Spellwork, taken from the debut album. In my opinion is encapsulates the overall deliciously spooky theme of the work:

This song gives me goosebumps. One thing that stands out is the strong verse-chorus structure characteristic of pop songs—but it’s all done in such a beautifully strange and ethereal way that it doesn’t sound commercial or formulaic. Stelmanis’s eerily quavering vocals are spot-on, the melody soars like some dark-winged bird over bare tree branches, and those rich harmonies complete the vocal arrangements. And those layers upon layers of tinkling synthesisers just sweep you away into a glittering fairy world of yore. I can’t get enough of the cryptic occult references, either. Lots of Youtube commenters have said that the video is “weird”, but it’s supposed to be. The song is about pagan rituals (or so I think), so obviously the video reflects that. It’s so enticing because it’s so arcane.

Then there is the light, bright, beautiful synthpop gem Lose It. This is probably as pure, pretty, and pristine as synthpop can get, and Austra have distilled the essence of the genre in this song, and yet we haven’t quite heard synthpop done in such a fresh, clever way before. At least I don’t think so. Just have a listen:

Isn’t that just delightful? It makes me pee my pants. And it makes me pregnant. With twins. The most remarkable thing about this song, I think, is the perfect harmony between Stelmanis and the background singers in the chorus. Together, they create this plaintive, crystal-clear, birdlike song of hope and sorrow. It almost sounds like Enya in a strange way, but a cool, synthpoppy Enya. Delish.

OK, on to our last video. Showing their ability to master a range of synthpop sub-genres, Austra reveal their goth goth side in this video for their single Beat and the Pulse, and boy is it sexy. Be forewarned: I don’t do censorship, so this video is not safe for work! (That means it’s NSFW):

So what did ya think?? In my opinion, This is the difference between pornography and erotica. The models are portrayed in a seductive, tasteful manner, and they exude a mysterious power. It’s not crass and exploitative; it’s subtle and stylish. Besides, listen to the pulsating bassline that suddenly creeps into your ears when the beat kicks in. And, again, that rich texture of harmonies fills out the song and sends chills down one’s spine. This is dark, sinister synthpop at its finest.

Speaking of weird Scandinavian-sounding dance music, compare Austra to Karin Dreijer when Dreijer accepted the award for best dance artist on behalf of her band Fever Ray at this Swedish music awards ceremony:

Kooky! And fabulous. Now that we’ve established that both Austra and Fever Ray are cool, creative bands with a statement to make, it’s time to ask the question: which one is weirder? All that matters is that they are weird, and there’s a rhyme and reason to it, even if the typical Beyonce-glamoured American can’t see past his milquetoast Top 40 music collection. Consider this Youtube commenter’s post about the above Fever Ray video: “Its unfortunate most people cannot understand the statement of the absurdity of award shows, come up, make a stupid speech and say thank you within 20 seconds and walk off stage for the next commercial, absolutely meaningless. If viewers can only see the surface level and think ‘Man that lady is weird, whats with the face?’, they need to start digging deeper past the surface [sic]”. So true. So, so true. I cannot improve upon that observation, except to say that the average American isn’t into the musical creativity of artists like Fever Ray and Austra, because they’re only exposed to the commercially successful acts.

Anyway, I haven’t written about a cool band in a while, so when I discovered Austra I just knew I had to say something about them and spread the word. I entreat you to do the same. Spread the word. As you would your seed. No, just kidding. Sort of. I can’t wait to hear their next album! I’m thinking of writing about new releases by a few other bands who make me want to diddle myself, like Glass Candy and Chromatics, so keep visiting this blog. (Oh, and I’m posting another instalment of the fabulous lady-comic Julie Gentron and the Lady League very soon, so look for that too.) So go out and buy Austra’s debut album Feel It Break—make sure it’s the deluxe version—and support one of Canada’s most talented and interesting musical products of recent times. (The album was released by Domino or Paper Bag—can’t remember which—and it’s on iTunes, of course.)