7:08 PM

fire next to the reverb

muzak: the Cranberries - "dreams"

I'm sure most people in Toronto have heard about the fire that did some serious damage on Queen St. West last week. So a friend and I popped by last Friday to do some shopping and also to take a look at the destruction, because we're curious onlookers like that.

Cameras of all shapes and sizes were out in full force. Anything ranging from photojournalists with lenses the size of my head to passersby with dinky little cell phone cameras, everyone wanted their own version of the icy wreckage.

So of course, Jo wanted a piece of that action. I couldn't help it, my inner child was staring in wide-eyed awe at the wanton destruction.
Along the way, I wandered into the coolest little store called Outer Layer. Amazing finds at average prices, it's similar to the quirky stuff you'd find in Propaganda on Bloor St. I can't believe I'd never found it before! So I ended up acquiring a wallet that I really don't need.

In my defense, it's really cute! Really!

9:23 AM

Cookie Monster on National Public Radio

Muzak: Jordin Sparks ft. Chris Brown - "No air"

Cookie Monster is easily the coolest character on Sesame Street. So naturally, I was thrilled and a little surprised to see him interviewed on NPR.

Since when did C to the M become articulate enough for radio!? Wasn't he speaking in garbled tongue 20 years ago? Now he talks about opthamology, and he enjoys....broccoli. O_o

The interview seems awkward at times, like the host doesn't really believe in the character. The Cooks retains enough of his simplicity to still be adorable (the shape of Bert's head would look good on the dollar bill!). But the questions are all close-ended and aren't geared to Cookie Monster at all, they're just random Q's.

Cookie Monster = great interview subject, but I think the host dropped the ball on this one.

11:51 PM

love me, love me not

Remember back in junior high school when guys would pick a girl they thought was cute and buy them a flower? The girl would giggle, accept, the two would be in blissful coupledom for a week or two before things cooled off, and the two would amicably split up and move on to the next person.

Nice, simple, no real feelings.

When did things get so messy and complicated? It's such a fine line to walk now.

10:45 PM

cupid's musical arrows

CBCnews.ca released a list of all-time heart-wrenching love songs for the masses. They're mostly old songs, circa 1940-1979. The newer releases are unknown to me and I figure they're from indie bands because, you know, listening to indie artists makes you automatically cool. I can just see the writer putting on his beret and tinted shades as he strokes his goatee. In the sterile walls of his cubicle.

Well, CBC, I beg to differ.

For the young people out there who don't remember the Tiananmen Square massacre, but do remember when Michael Jackson was still black, here's my list of top 10 cupid inspired tunes.

  • Bon Jovi - Always : absolutely classic. Sure it's creepy and stalkerish, but if you ignore all the obsessive undertones, the song is a work of art.
  • Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On : call me cliche and a teeny bopper. Eleven years later, this song still makes me picture doomed lovers sinking and I'm all "noooo, Leo!".
  • Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You : how could this not be included? I get chills listening. Whitney's gargantuan windpipes and finely tuned vocal chords make for goosebumpy goodness. And I'm told it's played at almost every wedding. Surefire love song right there.
  • Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody : I heard this one before I saw Ghost. I loved it the first time I heard it, and I still do. The various remakes don't even come close to doing it justice.
  • Mariah Carey & BoyzIImen - One Sweet Day : this duet was made for the pages. The simple fact that Mariah can overpower four dudes is amazing. The two artists actually complement and push each other to higher harmonial ground rather than compete with one another. The result? One of the best duets evar.
  • X Japan - Forever Love : my ode to J-rock. To me, X still reigns as one of the founding fathers of visual rock. Although the song is instrumentally simple, Toshi's testicless vocals make for some tear-jerking music.
  • Berlin - Take My Breath Away : What would a love song list be without the Top Gun theme? Jessica Simpson needs to GTFO. Terri Nunn's breathy vocals and energy-charged presence more than make up for Simpson's vapid use of see-thru camis and self-carressing.
  • Davy Jones - Your Personal Penguin : A dear friend sent this song to me last year. I usually don't like cheesy kid songs. But this one was different. It was just so heartwarming and simple. Like having hot chocolate and sitting by the fire after making a snowman. It takes me back to my days of Robert Munsch and Shel Silverstein. But in song form.
  • Tattle Tale - Glass Vase Cello Case : The lyrics definitely aren't a selling point to this song, but who can say no to acoustic guitars and violins? A crazy climax ensues in the middle with its whirlwind ferocity before settling back into its original theme.
  • Destiny's Child - Emotion : Okay, maybe this is the antithesis of a love song, but for once, Destiny's Child was able to knock me off my feet. The motown-style harmony and completely relatable lyrics makes me want to curl up into a ball and cry. Props to them.
I was tempted to throw in Dir en grey's Namamekishiki et al. unplugged version for the same reason as Destiny's Child, but decided that it was just too far off base. So dir gets an honourable mention instead.

Happy manufactured holiday, all! The point is to spend it with someone you love. I spent the evening having a delicious Valentine's dinner with my dad.

3:11 PM

I am not a dog lover...

...but if I ever got a dog, it would be a pug. And it would have to look like this. How much more doleful and stupid could it look? Who could say no to this face?

Thanks, Toronto Star!

PS. the dog was just a way to grab your attention and dolefully ask you to listen to CHRW 94.9 at 6pm tonight.

Stream the show from the intarwebz. You might hear someone familiar. Remember, you can't say no to that face, it would just be inhumane.

10:28 PM

Scientific nails

Muzak: Smashing Pumpkins - "disarm"

I'm not gonna lie, I have an absurd obsession with fashion and style.

So peep this, yo: from Lancome, a nail polish called Le Magnetique that uses a magnet to draw the minerals in wet nail polish into a funky pattern. Theoretically, two coats are painted, nails are placed close to a magnet on the bottle, and poof, the magic of science. At $17 a pop, it's pretty pricey, but for someone as inept at nail art as I, this could be a godsend. I can't wait to see what other colours and ideas come out of this. Anyone tried it yet?

In other news, I hate winter with a burning (ha. ha. ha.) passion. Old Man Winter and Jack Frost can lick my left nut right about now. Bring on the warm.

9:48 PM

Journalism in a violent world

Muzak: Creed - "with arms wide open"

Western kicked off the inaugural conference dedicated to journalists dealing with trauma this past weekend. Journalists, scholars, and professionals from the around the world flew in for two days of trauma discussion and prevention. Taxing and rewarding at the same time, I've decided that waking up at 7am is just not human.

Other than the general alcoholic schmoozing that took place, I learned a few things. Among them:

  • Most of the higher-ups in broadcast journalism are white, middle-aged men. Balding is common.
  • Journalists like to talk. A lot. And I mean a lot a lot. Like copious amounts.
  • Questioning Mr. Big Shot about how to take his job from him in the future isn't the best tactic for networking.
  • I have a new respect for journalists who have been to places and had their lives threatened every day for the sake of pleasing the editors.
  • I have the attention span of a 3 year-old.
Does he look familiar?

The panel. One of many.

Future journalists are so badass...

Check out my boobs about to bust out, yo!

10:54 PM

Enterprise story - fall 2007

It was 3 a.m. on a Sunday. Tom Kowalski, 39, climbed to the top of a condominium which was still under construction. The wind was calm, the city lights twinkled below him. From 50 storeys up, he continued to climb onto a construction crane, across the arm, unnoticed.

When he was suspended 400 feet above the city, Kowalski took a moment to survey the view of downtown Toronto sprawled out beneath him. The city sounds were distant, and he was surrounded by nothing but the still air and a sense of calm.

Then he jumped.

“From the corner of your eye, you can just see (the windows) zipping up, up, up. Then you start to hear the wind in your ears, and you start to feel it... And the intersection just explodes. The cars start to grow. It’s incredible.” Kowalski said in a documentary about his experiences.

Kowalski is a base jumper—one of the handful in Toronto. It’s an underground sport, but jumping off of tall fixed objects grew from just over 250 jumpers around the world in 1988 to over 1,200 according to basenumbers.org.

There are even world championships for base jumping.

Kowalski avoids the glitz and glamour of the sport. For him, it’s a unique and spiritual experience. “The space that it puts you mentally, it’s like this nirvana, this high,” he says.

Kowalski has been base jumping since 1994. “The whole thing’s been coming to me since I was a kid,” he says about his desire to freefall. “Guys were playing with their guns and stuff and I just wanted to walk on top of the roof of a building. It was always there.”

The activity recently received some rare and unwanted exposure when three men were arrested in Montreal last month for jumping off a hotel.

There are no laws against base jumping in Toronto, but other legal issues could come up depending on the case, says Const. George Schuurman of the Toronto Police Service. Base jumpers would most likely be charged with trespassing or mischief for sneaking into construction sites or damaging property, he says.

For Kowalski who lives in Toronto, the constant construction of high rise condominiums by the lake provides the platform he needs. “This is my personal experience, and unfortunately I have to use public spaces. If I lived beside a nice cliff, you’d never see me downtown.”

Base jumping consists of four components. The term for base jumping is an acronym for the four platforms that people fall from: building, antenna, span (bridges) and earth (cliffs and waterfalls).

Kowalski’s passion inspired a documentary producer to create a film based on his jumps. Peter Riddihough spent two years following Kowalski and his friends on several jumps around downtown Toronto before producing his film Jump.

“If you’re standing at the bottom of a building and you see someone with a parachute jump off, it looks really frightening,” Riddihough says. “There’s no other time when you’ll actually see somebody plummeting towards the earth.”

He feels television and film have glamourized extreme sports with fast, action-packed scenes cut together in quick succession. In reality, base jumpers spend a lot more time planning, says Riddihough.

Base jumpers take every precaution they can, he says. If the conditions aren’t right, they won’t do the jump. Before jumping, Kowalski keeps track of the weather and scouts the area for security guards, wires, traffic, buildings that could interfere with wind currents, landing spots and backup landing spots.

“You have to do it perfectly,” Riddihough says. “If you make a mistake, the consequences are potentially catastrophic.”

The catastrophic consequences are exactly the reason why Kowalski refuses to jump with someone who has no experience. With base jumping, one second of indecision could mean death.

“It’s a blending of luck and experience,” says Kowalski who gets ready to land as soon as he opens his parachute. “If you snap open, and there’s a car, you’ve got to be able to make the decision—kaboom, you’re flying in the other direction.”

In his 13 years of jumping, he has yet to come close to landing on another person. Kowalski isn’t blind to the risk he takes, but says it’s similar to driving. “You get your licence, you pay for the sticker, you don’t drink, and kaboom, there’s the biggest accident you’ve ever experienced. Tough luck, you know, it happens.”

Still, the positives outweigh the negatives. After 13 years, his body is intact, and he still feels a thrilling rush every time he makes a jump. He admits that he’s had injuries, but adds, “I’ve also been hurt riding my bicycle before, so it’s all part of the game.”

10:48 PM

Michael Moore meets london - June 2007

Lights. Camera. Action!

Upon his arrival to several hundred screaming fans at Masonville Silvercity, Michael Moore took his time getting into the theatre, stopping to talk to media while signing books, guitars, and a poster nominating him for prime minister.

He appeared on the red carpet in jeans and running shoes, patiently answering questions and giving a cheerful fist pump, “Canadians!” to a whooping crowd before disappearing into the theatre.

Moore was in London for the premiere of his new film Sicko on Friday night, and while he may have completed his film which criticizes the American health care system, the Canadian media spent a frenzied day documenting his documentary.

“I wanted this movie to begin where my family began—right here in the London area,” Moore said about his decision to premiere the movie in London. Many scenes from his movie drew Canadian content from the area, he said. He also wanted to see how much attention he could draw from neighbouring cities like Toronto.

Looks like he got his wish. CBC Toronto videographer Joe Fiorino, 35, said the crew arrived at 10:30 a.m. The broadcast would later be sent to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa CBC stations. London’s A-Channel began setting up satellites and cables by early afternoon.

CTV also sent representatives from Toronto to the opening of the highly anticipated documentary which shines a favourable light on Canadian health care. Richard Crouse, 44, film critic of Canada AM, praised the movie, saying “after I saw the movie yesterday, I walked out and kissed the ground, happy to be a Canadian.”

Not all feedback has been in praise of Moore’s documentary, but he’s brushed all negativity aside. “Is there a lot of negative press?” He said. “I’m sorry if there is, but really, I’ve received nothing but positive stuff here,” said Moore. He received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival in France earlier in the month, according to CBC news reports.

He certainly got a warm welcome on Friday. Kevin Tuck, 16, arrived at 1 p.m. with his friends, armed with acoustic guitars. They’d been planning to write a song for Moore, but it just didn’t happen, Tuck said. They were joined by other fans and curious on-lookers by 2 p.m. and the parking lot was filled by six.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best was first to arrive, followed by Shirley Douglas, actress and daughter of Tommy Douglas who is known for fathering the Canadian health care system. “I’d say we need enormous improvements in the Canadian health care system, but I do not want it to become what the American health care system has become,” said Douglas. “I’m willing to fight very hard to see that it doesn’t. I think this film will help.”

When asked what she thought of about the American health care system, Douglas promptly replied, “Profit, and inability to get into the hospital without money.”

Moore, also known for his documentaries Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11, was tight-lipped about his next film idea. “I’m facing prosecution from the United States for what I did in making this movie,” he said referring to the 9/11 workers he brought into Cuba for health care. “I don’t think they’ll stop coming after me any time soon, and I’d rather not reveal to them who I’m going after next.”

When asked if Moore would become a Canadian citizen anytime soon, he responded, “no, but you’re all welcome to come to my country. We have wonderful immigration policies.”

10:38 PM

Enterprise story - summer 2007

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

His mother died when he was a teenager, and he didn’t have any say in what happened to her body. The burial plot cost tens of thousands of dollars, and the casket was another several thousand. He paid it all off—eventually. But that wasn’t the hard part.

What really haunted him was the idea of his mother decomposing. “I don’t know what’s freakier, rotting or being preserved till the metal decays and then rotting.” Shawn Chow, now 23, of Toronto said.

“Cremation has a more comfortable feel for me,” Chow said. “Once you were whole, and then you’re not.”

While not everyone may share Chow’s sentiments, alternatives to the traditional burial are becoming increasingly popular.

The decision to burn bodily remains in Canada grew to 56 per cent in 2005 from 40 per cent in 1995, according to Statistics Canada. “Some people just don’t feel comfortable being buried,” said Bill Webb, 47, funeral director of London’s Needham Funeral Service. “Cremation is just a faster way of returning to your basic element,” said Webb.

But the basic element may not be enough anymore.

A few funeral services now offer even more options after cremation. Instead of sitting on a mantelpiece, Aunt Mabel can now literally go out with a bang with an elaborate fireworks display.

After cremation, funeral directors put the ashes into specially made fireworks which are then blown into the atmosphere, says the website for Angel’s Flight, one of the only North American based companies which provides this service. The cost sits at about $5,000 but Angel’s Flight says that the fireworks are a way to celebrate a loved one’s life rather than mourn a death.

For those who are wary of being fired into the sky, memorial diamonds can also be created from cremains, giving new meaning to the term family jewels.

LifeGem is a company based in the US, but with a global reach, including partners in Toronto, according to its website.

The company’s website explains the process as extracting carbon from ashes before putting the extracts under high heat and pressure to create a diamond. The cheapest diamond starts from just under $3,000, but some feel that the results are well worth the extra money. “I felt as if my mother's life essence was contained within the diamond,” wrote Laura Andreini on the LifeGem website.

Others find the concept difficult to grasp. “The human diamond seems weird,” Chow said. “(It) would just be a reminder to me that someone isn’t here anymore.”

These two options are man-made said Webb, and many people find that the concepts go against their values of ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and returning to nature. But, he said, there is always a possibility that they may become trendy, although he has yet to see the human diamond.

There are a number of reasons alternatives to the traditional burial are rising in popularity, Webb said. One factor is space. Shortage of land is quickly becoming an issue for many overpopulated countries. “Mount Pleasant Cemetery was in the country when it was founded,” Webb said of one of Toronto’s cemeteries which now spans through two busy city blocks. “It’s absolutely massive, and they’ve run out of space.”

In London, blocks of land outside of the city limits have already been purchased for burial use, but Webb noted that if the population trend continues to grow as it is, space will also run out.

On top of the lack of land, pricing is also a big factor. The minimum for a traditional funeral costs $3,000, but Webb said caskets alone can go into the hundreds of thousands.

People also often want to spend more lavishly on the deceased, said Chris Burris, a professor of the psychology of death and dying at the University of Waterloo, adding that the average North American funeral costs about $7,000.

Burris also said that health concerns and “sacred space” put constraints around local planning and compound the problem of graveyard roominess.

In order to combat the space problem, there are advocates for “green” burials, said Burris who has also published a study on the relation of oneself to death spaces. A green burial involves the minimum amount of preparation, and burial is typically in a forest with or without a marker, Burris said. “(They) have the least negative impact on the environment, not adding to greenhouse gases like cremation does.” The body decomposes and there isn’t a giant coffin taking up room or slowing down the process.

Green burials are on the rise in popularity, but while many people enjoy the idea of going green in an eco-friendly world, traditional, cultural, and religious norms make the green burial seem a little too simplistic.

Chow said he still feels disappointed that his extended family took over his mother’s funeral, but he’s learned not to let it get to him. “(The burial) was mainly for them,” he said. “I’ve never needed physical things to get me over something. I have my memories and that’s all I’ll ever need.”

10:32 PM

older, balder, fatter, but not really wiser

muzak: Kagrra - "irodori no sanka"

Why did I start this blog to leave the other one alone? Times change, people change. Xanga was just getting too juvenile. I didn't have the heart to update it and the more I looked at it, the more I felt like i just outgrew the thing. I'd spent so long building my xangan character that writing like a normal human being seemed out of place.

I don't plan on updating frequently. If nothing else, I just need a place to archive clippings, what few of them there are, so that I don't have to feel paranoid about having my hard drive with me all the time.

So there's my obligatory christening post.

Now for something a little more journalistic, I present some actual published headlines of 2007. The world needs copy editors, those unsung heroes!

-Something went wrong in jet crash, expert says
-Miners refuse to work after death
-War dims hope for peace
-If strike isn't settled quickly, it may last a while
-Cold wave linked to temperatures
-Typhoon rips through cemetery; hundreds dead

And my favourite:
Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?

-thanks Suman!