Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Michael Lee-Chin Crystal

I dropped by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) last Wednesday. It's free from 4:30 p.m. until closing (5:30 p.m.) that day. I know one hour isn't much time to look around, but I was only interested in seeing one thing. It wasn't any of the exhibits there (which I've previously seen), but the recently built Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

It officially opened on June 2, 2007. Michael Lee-Chin (#677 on the 2008 Forbes list of billionaires) donated $30 million towards the cost of the Daniel Libeskind-designed building. Mr. Libeskind got the initial idea for his design after being inspired by the ROM’s gem and mineral collection. It was dubbed the 'crystal' because of its crystalline shape.

It wasn't as open or airy as I imagined it would be. Instead it was divided into different floors in which the exhibits were displayed. The only truly floor-to-ceiling open space was in the central stairway. There were other areas where you could look over the main floor from upper levels too. But, the views were partially obstructed sometimes. I would have really liked to have seen the building before the exhibits were placed in it. Just to view the architectural elements on their own. It's too bad I missed that chance when the Crystal first opened. Boy, do I regret that.

Anyway, I scurried around for the one hour slot we were alloted trying to take as many photos of the Crystal as I could. I was hoping to piece together enough shots from the five different levels to give people a reasonably decent idea of what the building looked like inside and out. You can view the full slate of photos on my webpage if you want.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Shota Kubo
Occupation: Didn't say
Location: Distillery District
Clothing details: Shirt and Sweater-Gap, Pants-Sui (they're supposed to be Japanese), Boots-Timberland
What he was doing when I met him: Shota was visiting from Japan. He was just walking around the Distillery District with his two friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, my friends

To all my friends, have a Merry Christmas and a safe, happy New Year. Be nice to others. Not just people you know, but everyone (unless they really annoy you). Anyway, you know what I mean ;-) Have a good one ~ Take care

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmastime in Toronto

I had a chance to walk through the Eaton Centre after church on Sunday. Just to kill a bit of time you know. It's only a few more days until Christmas. Of course the mall was packed with last minute shoppers trying to finish off their gift lists. That can't be fun at all.

If I can, I normally try to avoid the crowds. If I'm not shopping (which I wasn't) it's not so bad. It's weird, it doesn't much feel like Christmas to me. All the decorations are up and everywhere you look. But, there's just something missing. Perhaps it's the image I have in my mind of picture perfect winter scene. In it there's an idyllic, country home half buried in snow with a yellowy, candle-lit glow coming from the windows and smoke drifting from the fireplace chimney. That reminds me of Christmas.

There's nary a snowflake to be seen here in Toronto. It's strange I know. After all aren't we "the Great White North"? Especially now, when half the eastern seaboard from Tennessee to the southern New England states (according to CNN) was just slammed by a major snowstorm. Who's "the Great White North" now?

To tell you the truth, I don't miss the snow. Call me a Grinch. I guess I'd just rather not deal with it. Maybe I'll get more in the mood once Christmas dinner with my folks comes around. We'll be having our family dinner next Saturday. Maybe some turkey in my belly will do the trick, who knows?

On an unrelated note - Brittany Murphy passed away this past Sunday from cardiac arrest at age 32. She was an actress who starred in movies I've never seen, save a bit part in Sin City, if I remember correctly. Boy, it's sad... 32 is far too young to die. Rest in Peace my dear.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Eva from France
Occupation: Works in PR for Nikki Beach
Location: Distillery District
Clothing details: Dress-Marc Jacobs in London, Boots-Ermano Servino, Bag-is from London, Necklace-specially made from a fossilized tooth, Watch-Chopard with handmade bracelet (made by Eva herself), Ring-French designer Natasha Farina
What she was doing when I met her: Taking photos around the Distillery District.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Olympic Torch Relay

Vancouver, British Columbia will be holding the 2010 Winter Olympics next February. Currently the world's longest torch relay (at 45,000 kms) is going on across Canada. Yesterday, day 49 of 109, it passed through my hometown of Toronto. The final stage of the day was held at Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall.

Women's Hockey gold medalist winner, Vicky Sunohara, was the final torchbearer of the day. She brought it in and lit the cauldron on the stage where the performers had been. The wait was way too long. According to the schedule I found on-line the ceremony was to have been at 7:00 p.m. In actuality it didn't happen until over an hour later. I'm not sure if it was planned this way or if the protesters along the way delayed them. At one point, at Yonge and College, there were about 300 native protesters (according to news reports) blocking the route. The flame had to be split into two to keep on schedule. Originally it was to have gone to Sick Kids Hospital first before coming to City Hall. It was reported they had one torchbearer bring it there and another continue on to City Hall.

My day began when I met my friend Gabe for lunch in Chinatown. After that I went to the library at City Hall to kill some time. At about 6:00 p.m. I made my way out into the frigid night air to stake out a spot to see the flame as it passed by. I was hoping to leave not long after 7:00 because I had to go to gym night. Well, that didn't quite happen. They kept on with the performances and shameless, self-promotion from the sponsors until my fingers and toes were about to fall off. The torchbearer finally entered the square at a few minutes after 8:00. I was so happy to finally see her. Mostly because I wanted to get my shots and get my butt out of the cold. I know it was probably a once in a lifetime experience. And though I had been quite looking forward to experiencing it, I wasn't so cheery after that.

On the plus side, since I missed gym night, I was able to visit a few of my homeless friends around Nathan Phillips Square afterwards. They weren't very happy about the sub-zero temperatures to say the least. Anyway, I hope they enjoyed the chat. I believe they did. And I enjoyed talking with them. Afterwards I had to take a pee. My hands were so cold I couldn't undo the top button on my jeans in the bathroom. I had to wait there a few minutes until they regained feeling. Luckily for me it wasn't an emergency or else you wouldn't be hearing about it ;-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Green means "go"?

This message is directed towards everyone out there. But, it pertains mostly to pedestrians and cyclists.

What does a green light mean? Most people would say, go. And you wouldn't be incorrect in saying that. But, I'm here to suggest, green doesn't mean go. It means look both ways and when the way is clear, then you go.

A long time has passed since the accident. It was about twenty-five years ago, around this time of year, just before Christmas. At the time my kid sister was just a teenager. She had been out and was returning home by public transit. After she got off the bus, she crossed the street with the light, but was hit by a car driven by a lady who wasn't paying attention and went through the red. My sister was knocked unconscious and sustained serious leg injuries (two broken legs).

For our family waiting at the hospital not knowing what was going on was the worst feeling you could ever have. My sister was a bright, highly intelligent, young person who had a very promising future ahead of her. We had no idea of the extent of her injuries at first. Her whole life, and ours, could have made a drastic turn for the worse. Thankfully she made a full recovery. I'm so happy about that. In cases like this it could have just as easily gone the other way.

Anyway, I'm sure you've all gotten the point. You know what to do. At an intersection Green means, look both ways and when the way is clear, then you go.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Jess C.
Occupation: Dramaturge, Gallerist
Location: Distillery District
Clothing details: Tank top-Lawless from jacflash, Denims-Naked & Famous from Lileo, Sweater-TNA from Aritzia, Shoes-Michael Kors from Capezio, Sunglasses-Christian Dior from Penny Arcade, Fortune Cookie Necklace-Anna Karmidis (she's not sure if this is spelled correctly) from Bergo, Bracelets-Vita made in Florence from Jasimine's in Bloor West Village
What she was doing when I met her: Jess is so cool. She actually had fun posing for my silly shots suggesting certain poses and things. I enjoyed shooting her. She was searching for a client from the gallery she works at when I first approached her. I hope she managed to find him after the short break she took posing for me. Oh... she has tons of style too as you well can see. I was lucky to find her.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Intervention on A&E

I just finished watching couple episodes of the award-winning* television show Intervention on A&E today. What a powerful, powerful program. It showed the struggles of a loved one and their family and friends' fight to pull them back from the brink of whatever life threatening addictions they were battling.

The two episodes had parallels in some ways. Both involved young women who were addicted to drugs and both had underlying mental health issues. So, to make matters worse, they were battling two problems at the same time - the addiction and mental illness**.

A further parallel was that both young women grew up in dysfunctional families. Now I'm not sure how big a part this played in their downward spiral, but I do think it did have a negative affect on their lives. Not to say that living in a dysfunctional household will necessarily drive you to drugs or alcohol or any other destructive behavior because both women had siblings who turned out fine. But, if you are emotionally fragile it may just push you past your breaking point.

The first episode dealt with Marci. She grew up in a family where her father was an alcoholic. Her mother was out most of the time working to support the family. Because of her work commitments, Marci says her mother wasn't there to support her and her brother from their father's drunken verbal abuse when they needed her.

When Marci graduated high school she went to college where she first started drinking and doing drugs. After two years of schooling she dropped out. At age 24 she got pregnant with her first child, a daughter, and was pressed into marriage by her mother. She had a second child, a son, a few years later. Not long after she got into drugs again and her marriage failed.

The second episode dealt with a young woman named Linda. She too had what she considered a tough upbringing. It wasn't that her parents were abusive or outright cruel. But, like many Asian parents, they pushed their children at a very young age. This included Linda and her brothers working many long hours at the family-owned laundromat. She longed for the life she saw many of her other young friends living at that age.

After graduating college Linda left home and headed to L.A. where she found happiness working as an extra in movies and television shows. It was at this time she came down with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a disorder characterized by joint dislocations. To fight the pain she started taking Fentanyl, a pain-killer 100X stronger than morphine. Quite often she would take twice the daily suggested dosage. Among the side effects were the rotting of her teeth and damage to her internal organs. In relation to her mental health issues, Linda claims much of her pain was caused by electrical energy discharged by flowers, certain colours and even specific people.

To stop both women from ultimately killing themselves an Intervention was planned. The families got together with the producers of the show and other health experts to confront Marci and Linda about their problems and offer treatment to them. To emphasize the seriousness of the interventions the consequences of refusing treatment would have to be severe. This would include disownment by their families. For both girls this meant, to some extent, the funding for their addictions would be cut off as well.

In Marci's case, her mother would always help her financially if she came over in need. She was her mother after all. How could she refuse her daughter's plea for help? In Linda's case, the problem was similar. Her parents poured their life savings into renting a home for her and helping her buy drugs to ease her pain (real or imagined).

In both cases their parents were unwittingly contributing to their children's problems. Because they loved them so much they would step in to help monetarily any time their daughters asked. And in both cases their mothers were serious stumbling blocks in trying to provide help at the interventions. For some reason it was hard for them to believe their daughters had these problems. As well, they felt deeply pained at the prospect of possibly turning their backs on them if they refused treatments.

In the end both Marci and Linda agreed to get treatment. With all my heart I hope it works out for them. Not only for their sake, but for their family's sake too. Both families (parents, siblings, friend and relatives) had gone through hell and back in their ordeals.

I believe there are two underlying problems here. One, the lack of diagnosis and treatment options for the mentally ill. And, two, easy access to highly addictive drugs (legal or otherwise) in our society today. Marci was able to score Crystal Methamphetamine at will. Linda was able to visit many different doctors to get multiple prescriptions of Fentanyl.

We have to shape up or face dealing with more problems like this in relation to addicts and the people who love them.

*2009 Emmy Award Winner
** The show stated that in many cases drug abusers do have some degree of mental illness

Monday, December 7, 2009

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Rahi High
Occupation: Busker/Musician
Location: Queen Street West/John Street
Clothing details: Hat-Tibetan shop in Parkdale, Shirt-Handmade by Rahi at, Pants-Female from Gap (he likes them because they are tall and lean), Shoes-Puma from a store at Queen and Spadina.
What he was doing when I met him: Busking for an appreciative crowd.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Out of the Cold Program

This photo is of the dishwashing crew from three years ago at the Out of the Cold program at Knox Presbyterian Church. From left to right are Linda, John, Safrina and Chiharu. I started volunteering here in the fall/winter of 2005.

Our program runs every Tuesday night from the beginning of November to the end of April. We provide dinner to under-privileged young people. They can also do some activities here too. Some of the youths play basketball. We have an old video game system that some of them use too. When we had sleepovers the first year I volunteered they used to show a DVD movie. As well, some of the youths could use the three-lane, five-pin bowling alley in the basement of the church. That was pretty popular. There was no automated pin resetter. It was up to the volunteers to manually reset them after they were knocked down. That was a pretty tough job. Besides dodging the odd bowling ball you had to hop down into the pit where the pins fell, reset the pins and hop back up to safety. Up, down, up, down, up, down... you get the idea.

Things changed the following year when they stopped the sleepovers. Not enough young people were staying over to make it worth opening overnight. We began closing down earlier and kicking everyone out by 9:00 p.m. There wasn't enough time to open the alley any longer. Instead the youths just waited a little while after they finished dinner and then hit the food bank when their number was called. Like I said, they could involve themselves with a few of the aforementioned activities or just chill with their friends. Darlene could also help them sew any clothes that needed mending and/or give them lessons on one of the sewing machines she brought in. Bill would also cut and/or dye peoples' hair every couple of weeks too.

There are a few areas people can volunteer in. Buying the food is a big job. So is food prep/cooking. Pat and his crew do a great job at that. Others volunteer at the food bank. And, then there's what I do... I'm part of the clean up crew. Some volunteers will put the tables and chairs away and wipe all the surfaces clean. I wash dishes and/or put them away mostly. I'll mop the floors in the kitchens too. That's a new job for me. John (in the photo above) used to do it previous year or two, but he's out of town in school this year. I miss his help. He did a lot. Besides, Vicki (the co-organizer), John and I would stay to the very end cleaning up. We had fun while we were there. Instead of wasting leftover pitchers of drinks or coffee we'd try to finish them all off. You won't believe how much we'd end up drinking. Let's just say it wasn't a healthy amount. This year we have a couple newer guys helping with the dishes - Trevor and Michael. I think both of them started last year. They're really great too. Things have been good over the past couple of years. I remember the first year when Fred and I would stay way past midnight doing almost everything after the rest of the volunteers had left. That was tough. Now we leave anywhere from 9:00 - 10:00 p.m.

As for where the rest of the people in the photo are now. I'm not sure where Linda is. Safrina moved to Calgary a year or two ago. Chiharu was a student and returned to Japan after the program finished that year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jeff's Blogservations

"Every blogger wants to have readers. That’s why we’re here. Me, I want to express myself, and I like to get a response. Otherwise, I’d just keep a journal." -

How true is that? For me it is anyway. And I suppose it's the same for many other bloggers. We enjoy writing our blogs, but we're most gratified when we know other people are reading them too. Whether they like what we say or not; agree with what we've written or think we're completely off our rocker. It doesn't matter. We need our fix. And our fix is knowing our well thought out narratives are being eagerly ingested by others.

On a different note... here are a few Blogservations I've recently made.

As mentioned before, I've recently been looking through peoples' blogs trying to find interesting ones to follow. One blogservation (blog observation) I made was what people of different age ranges tended to write about. For girls under 20, it tends to be boy bands and how they hate school. For young ladies from 20-35, it changes to fashion, design and art. For women over 35, they blog about food/recipes and/or their family life. You know, I had no idea food was such a popular topic to write about.

Another category that's quite popular is the travel blogger. Those are the ones I like following the most. There are certain places in the world that fascinate me to no end. Some I've been to, others I've yet to see. Following these blogs keeps the fire burning in me to eventually travel there (either for the first time, or yet again). I love seeing their photos and hearing of their exploits in exploring foreign lands and discovering new cultures. Besides getting ideas of what you might want to see, you gather insightful analysis of what may make your trip safer, easier or more pleasant.

So, if you find I'm following your blog, these might be one of the reasons why. And, if you're reading this, and you're not currently a follower of mine I'd love to have you aboard. Choo-choo!