Not shooting much... or rather, shooting too much to edit. Sakura, graffiti, wanderings in winter cities and coastal rainforests, dim sum, late night skate jams... atop a four year backlog, full time job, and writing three novels simultaneously. Yeah, I'll get right on that photo editing thing for my non-existent audience.
The busy part of the year kicks off in a few weeks, so I'll just leave this here.
I know-- it's not 2012 yet. But I'm getting the jump on the new year, just to be productive.
The usual disclaimer:
This list doesn't include a lot of events I'd like to be at... for example the local underwear runs, flash mobs, matsuris, tattoo conventions, classic car rallies, bathtub derbies, and many other annual happenings across Ontario. I'll update it regularly as I hear more.
$ - 5 to 20 bucks: reasonable and good entertainment for the price of admission
$$ - 25 to 50 bucks: do it if you can afford it
$$$ - over 50 bucks: dammit I need a press pass...
The Toronto NextStage Festival (little brosister of the Fringe Theatre Festival) turns out winter entertainment at a great value from January 4th through 15th. $
Jan 7-27 - the 3.11 Portrait Project is on display at the JCCC. This project documents survivors of the March 2011 Tsunami. www.jccc.on.ca
Jan 12 - Late Night with Mullet, 8PM, Black Swan Tavern (154 Danforth Avenue). You probly don't know Mullet. But he knows stuff about stuff. His first late night talk show in November was the best live comedy I've ever seen. Now he has a monthly late night talk show (2nd Thursday of every month) and this is the kickoff. There is no charge, although a floppy hat might get passed for starving clown school students. 19+. MeMullet.com
Jan 22 - Japanese New Year's Festival at the JCCC. All ages, $. www.jccc.on.ca
Feb 25-26 - Con-G convention in Guelph. The little fan run convention that could. All ages, $$. www.con-g.com
April 7th - the annual Toronto Pillowfight, bunny edition. Details at Newmindspace. Free, all ages, but watch out for that killer rabbit from Monty Python.
April 15th - Weather dependent, Toronto's cherry blossom season begins right about now and runs through the first week of May. For the best parks to visit check this article out.
May 25-27, 2012 - Anime North. Pre-registration opens January 2nd. Note: attendance is capped this year, for the first time ever. Panic reg will ensue. All ages, $$. www.animenorth.com
June 2-3: The Battle for Stoney Creek (at Battlefield House in Hamilton). An excellent re-enactment on beautiful and historic grounds. $, http://www.battlefieldhouse.ca/
June 16-17 - Hamilton Airshow 2012. Worth checking out due to the fantastic Warplane museum alone.
June 17 - The Yorkville Exotic Car Show returns. www.yorkvilleexotics.com
July 1st - My Canada day includes the Toronto Pride Parade. Free. All ages/races/genders &tc. www.pridetoronto.com
July 6th - Friday: Free General Admission at the Honda Indy Toronto. www.hondaindytoronto.com
July 6-8 - Polaris sci-fi convention. $$ www.tcon.ca/polaris
July 13th - Friday the 13th at Port Dover, summer edition. www.pd13.com
July 14th - Natsu Matsuri and O-Bon at the JCCC. $, www.jccc.on.ca
July 14-15 - Atomic Lollipop - danceanimeravecandycon. $$, http://www.atomiclollipop.com/
July 21st - The Ontario Warrior Dash at Horseshoe resort. Oh my.
July 21st & 22nd - Mississaugas of Scugog Island Pow Wow. $, all ages. www.scugogfirstnation.com
July 27-29 - ConBravo. $, conbravo.com
Early August, TBD. Taste of the Danforth. Nom noms for all ages.
August 3-5 - Otakuthon 2012 in Montreal. www.otakuthon.com
August 11th - Cosplay Picnic on Centre Island. $ (Ferry). http://www.lelola.net/cosplaypicnic/
August 11th & 12th - the 'Siege of Fort Erie' -- the largest reenactment in Canada. Details here closer to the date. $, all ages.
August 23rd-26th - Toronto Buskerfest. All ages, free. www.torontobuskerfest.com/
August 31st - September 3 - Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. $$
September 9th - The Great War Flying Museum Open House and Fly-In, Brampton, ON. $, all ages.
September 27th - 30th - Wasteland Weekend 2012. Screw Nuit Blanche... I'm heading back to the wasteland for a second round of chaos. If you need me, I'll be in the desert. $$, 18+. www.wastelandweekend.com
October 6-12 - I hope to be at Albuquerque International Balloon Festival in New Mexico. Getting my hot air fix.
October 12-14, 2012. The Battle of Queenston Heights - Queenston, ON (Near Niagara Falls)
October 20th - The 10th annual Toronto Zombiewalk! Free, all ages. Come out and get your Zed on. www.torontozombiewalk.ca
Late Oct - Night of Dread, date TBD. http://www.clayandpapertheatre.org/
October 31st - Church Street Halloween. Free block party. Aww yeah.
*tumbleweeds, also recovery period*
Dec 21st - Kensington Market Festival of Lights. An annual solstice event. Free, all ages. See Red Pepper Spectacle Arts for details closer to the date.
RECOMMENDED LINKS FOR TORONTO CALENDARS
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Disclaimer: the following is a rant with photos. The photos are of the parts of Nuit Blanche that I actually liked.
“Welcome to Nuit Blanche, where you get to see people who have jobs do stuff no-one would ever pay them for at night.”
I haven't had much good to say about Nuit Blanche after the growing pains of past years' events. I can say one really good thing about it, however: it's still free to the public and a great excuse to do some nocturnal exploration with friends and a camera. (And hey, I shoot therefore I am.)
This year we went out with no plan... only a short list consisting of four pages of events, exhibits and installations that I had some hope of seeing, but no real committment to getting to. Knowing what I was up against, and with dramatically lowered expectations, the only real plan was to wander formless as the void and hopefully come up with some interesting photographs.
Mission partially successful: I got a few. But as usual I was in the wrong place at the wrong time for a good part of the night. (Unavoidable, when it takes an hour of transit time just to travel a few kilometers.)
We started our night at Food Truck Eats in the Distillery. Having seen plenty of food truck competition shows recently on TV, I was eager to try the local offerings. After a half hour line-up, the $5 tuna tataki from El Gastronomo Vagabundo was a single slap of disappointment. The variety of foods on offer from other trucks made up for it, though. (Our favorite: the lumberjack grilled cheese sandwich from Gorilla Cheese. Recipe, yoinked.)
Unfortunately the St James Circus, this year's offering from the Benecorpo Community, was still setting up by the time our meal was done. At 8PM there were plenty of people strolling around the Distillery, but nothing actually happening to see. We left and trekked all the way to King and Dufferin to check out the first Toronto International Adhesives Expo at the Baitshop.
Local art educator Andres Musta spent several years putting this event together, gathering submissions from over 150 artists around the globe. As a long time lover of street art, I found this to be one of the highlights of the night. The volume of art and talent on display was fantastic and the forms themselves thoroughly scratched my visual itch.
A full set of photos of this exhibition can be found here.
After the Baitshop, seeking some non-sponsored and supposedly risque content, we stopped by the 12 hour bondage event put on by "Lord Morpheus". Unfortunately the line-up (comprised largely of partially drunk Chinese males with cameras) was a lot less tempting than the possibility of taking photos of eagerly submissive topless girls hanging upside down covered in wax or wearing shibari halter tops and latex. (In a way I was pleased to leave without remorse, as it confirmed that my idea of kink doesn't include BDSM. That shit is vanilla, yo.)
Next we stopped by the 12 hour Canadian Burlesque Marathon at the Gladstone, in hopes of catching Toronto zombie clown Mullet as emcee. No such joy. Instead we got a heaping helping of full frontal meat slices.
Anne Murray, Bubble Wrap & Vag.
You didn't need to read that sentence. I didn't need to write it. But there it was; full frontal under a single immodest layer of bubble wrap. Was it art? Hmm, maybe in an Amsterdam sex club thirty years ago. At the Gladstone it was just a sad and sordid way to start the night. It's a good thing nobody plays Anne Murray anymore or I could have some wicked flashbacks. It almost put me off the rest of the evening, but then I thought: what was I expecting? Queen West has tanked every year for the past five years, so why am I even here?
To answer that, I got a couple shots of balloon wunderkind Sean Rooney's mind-distorting facade for the Drake, then we got the hell out of there.
Note: I regret missing some of the other acts at the Gladstone, but that's okay. I got caught up on all 12 hours later, thanks to the Canadian Burlesque Marathon stream found here. (Warning: NSFW. Also, more bellydance than you could shake a navel at. Contrary to advertisements, it does not actually reduce the belly. Skip to 3h22m for the bubble wrap if you really must - or if you just want to be permanently deprogrammed of Anne Murray.)
From there we suffered an overcrowded and halting streetcar ride back to Nathan Philips Square. (Distance: 3.4 km. Transit time on a normal day: 7-20 minutes. Transit time around midnight, during Nuit Blanche: 56 minutes.)
At City Hall, we intended to check out Flightpath, with its massive scaffold tower set-ups. Unfortunately it was slow, post-climactic and ultimately underwhelming. Every five or ten minutes someone painstakingly safety-harnessed onto a styrofoam wingboard was pushed across a traverse and went "wheeee!".
For those beneath the action (what little there was) the main distraction was a central pillar with a laser array atop it. Visitors were treated to the basic effect of a nightclub, but without danceable music.
We wandered up to the rooftop garden and Gorilla Glass, then from there through the backstreets to the Heart Machine. I had high hopes for the Heart Machine (not least because a platypusian contact of mine was going to be doing some poi within it)-- but due to the crowds we had a very hard time even getting close to the barriers. It took about twenty minutes just to get a half decent view. Those who waited in line to get in and play the instrument were having a lot of fun, however.
Wandering back to Yonge Street, we crossed paths with artist Germaine Koh and her travelling project Erratic.
The Erratic project involved using only human power to move an 840 pound granite boulder down Yonge Street from its last resting place near Thornhill to the lakeshore. It took the four person team four days to accomplish this, including the final span of 12 hours of Nuit Blanche. Watching what looked like backbreaking labour, I could actually appreciate the scale of this performance.
By the time we saw them at work they had a system down: one person took turns bending to place pipes beneath the rock while another guided the boulder from atop. Around the performance, security guards on bicycles and crowd marshals cleared the way in front and kept curious onlookers back.
Unfortunately, not all onlookers were curious. As Erratic entered the thick bog of late-night nuisance drunks on Yonge between College and Queen, the audience got abusive. "You call that art?" one exceptionally large man yelled, and others chimed in. (Worse was said, but frankly it was the pointless verbal abuse of drunken assholes, and not worth repeating here.)
But here's the thing about forces of nature and the people who channel them: the boulder and its crew carried on unheeding.
We carried on down Yonge Street too, passing through Barricades, a series of installations reminiscent of the pointless clusterfuck of the Toronto G20 the year before. It made for some good shots, although the security guards who guarded the caution tape walls were far too aggressively in character. ("Do not touch! I SAID DO NOT TOUCH!")
"Where are the zombies? Dammit, I miss my zombies." -Overheard on Yonge Street.
After the no-touchy public art, we found some shit that glowed in the dark. It looked like a first year OCAD project made of melted wax. We kept walking.
As always, despite the underwhelming nature of many projects, the Nuit churned out a few pleasantly unexpected surprises along the way. Probably the most enjoyable of these was The Tie Break, with Tibi Tibi Neuspiel and Geoffrey Pugen recreating the roles of Björn Borg and John McEnroe in a legendary Wimbledon match. We stumbled across the performance mid-match and stayed to the end at my urging, entranced: "This is as close to Wimbledon as we're ever going to get". (My companion was more entranced by the tight white shorts and floating leg muscles, but whatever.)
As a cosplayer I have more than a passing appreciation for people who maximize their physical similarities by donning carefully researched and reproduced costumes... accurate down to the color of the shoelaces and sweatbands. And when said ringers not only turn out very much in form but also recreate, shot for shot and call for call, a half hour long tennis match-- for twelve hours straight, in eight degree weather-- I can only stand in respect and awe of the effort.
Every angle, every gesture, even the calls of the announcer were spot on... I can only imagine the months of training & rehearsal involved. The concentration and intensity (not to mention skill with old-school tennis racquets) involved in the reproduction was humbling; the posh pseudo-British commentator's in-character admonitions to hecklers, hilarious. I don't even like tennis and I loved it. So: A+ performance art.
When the match ended we escaped around the corner into Commerce Court and discovered "Soon", an exercise in incipient anticipation created by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard.
Before even reaching the center of the square the point of this project was felt with full impact: soon, something is going to happen. Distant ultrasonic rumblings intimated an alien invasion. Searchlights chased random bystanders through jets of ground fog. Random people (part of the piece, or just itinerant performers) did random things: carrying a pillow on an eight foot tall 2x4 and trying to swat spotlights with it. Being raptured in light skewers and falling to the ground in ectsasy. (At least I think that was part of the piece. If not, good job artists; you gave a girl a seizure.)
What wasn't part of the piece was the security guard having sex with his girlfriend in a fourth floor window on the south side of the courtyard. Nonetheless it was pretty funny.
My final regret of the night: that I was so weary and fed up by 3AM that I did not endeavor to drive or TTC to Casaloma to catch the first Canadian debut of Digital Kakejiku by Japanese guest Akira Hasegawa and local artist Ivo Videnov. It's not every year you get to see a new art form throwing light on iconic Toronto architecture. (And on that note, if it was as good as I heard it was, it really should have had a downtown venue.)
Having scratched off every other entry that involved one of the usual suspects (see rant below), by 3 am there wasn't much left to do. We called "too old for this sh*t" and headed home.
“Hey new people! Did you see any stupid shit that glowed in the dark in artist-land? Coz that’s NUIT BLANCHE!” - Jean-Paul Mullet
I'd like to tell you that this year's Nuit Blanche was different than past years'. The reality however was that it had far too much in common with the four all-night art events prior. Toronto's Nuit Blanche has begun to settle into a pattern-- one which extends even to the content. In an event on this scale, repetition usually indicates either maturity or stagnation.
The roving hordes of drunk teenagers. Infrequent or overloaded TTC service. Flashy lightshows. Sound installations. Video projections on buildings, fixed screens or inside windows. Light-up sculptures. People in boxes/enclosures/shelters. Things in alleyways. Things made with recycled materials. Lots and lots of things that light up and hang from ceilings or move at a touch. Fire installations. Art on electric signs and thoughts writ in neon. All now staples of the Nuit Blanche rota. Even the same artists' names are reappearing as those who have loved it in past years (or figured out how to work the application process) return for another round with more in the same vein.
...Now, don't get me wrong. I love me some fire installations. Not only are they perpetually popular cold-weather crowd pleasers, they offer spectacle at the most elemental level. Big scale fire is pretty much a perfect fit for our clime.
I'm just saying. It seems like the Toronto all-night-art-thing is now on repeats.
As sad as that is, what I'd really like to do is bitchslap the profs at OCAD or wherever who insist on churning out graduates trained to generate endless grant proposal lolprose. To figure out which projects are worth checking out I have to read through a hundred and fifty project descriptions a year. Five years later, that's more than enough to make me question who the fuck writes this stuff, and more to the point, who taught them to express in this way as an adjunct to actual creative expression?
Don't know what I'm talking about? Have a walk through the project descriptions from any year at scotiabanknuitblanche(dot)ca. Because there's a limit to how many times I can creatively re-imagine the implicit contextualization and speculative hegemony of technological connection between environment and viewer through an ongoing and participatory deconstruction of navel gazing.
So yeah. Here's what I propose: instead of revisiting things we've seen already, how about applying funds towards some big-scale art to make jaws drop or cause sweat to break out or paralyze viewers with enlightenment. (You want some examples of what I'm talking about? Okay then. Go here and here and here.)
There's something else that's troubling me too. While the downtown stretch of Yonge Street may function as a landmark to outsiders and a dirty shopping trawl or civic walkway to locals, those who know its history will be well aware that this piece of pavement is not just a late night vomit collection trough. Yonge Street is something of a lightning rod for riots, vandalism and violence. (Edit: It seems that I'm not the only one who sensed the undercurrent of impending riot during Nuit Blanche. Several other columnists and bloggers have also commented since on the atmosphere on Yonge that night.)
I get a definite whiff of that potential tonight while sliding through the bored and intoxicated mobs. There are barely any cops around. Hordes of rowdy young nuisance males with nothing to do, bored and mouthing off, are only a few drinks and one push away from critical mass. All that is really missing is the ignition switch-- the hockey, politics or other Significant Trigger Event-- which would act as the catalyst for a hive minded mob scene. We can all be thankful that a public night of art is just a shade too limp wristed for that.
The full set from Nuit Blanche 2011 can be found here.
This year, Toronto's newest mayor chose to break the longstanding precedent set by former mayors Lastman and Miller and take a pass on participating in the annual Pride Parade and mayoral wet t-shirt contest.
The reasons given stressed his sense of tradition and family values. Not too surprisingly, this was interpreted as a snub by many for a variety of reasons. From a glad-handing point of view it was a major political error.
For the sake of enlightenment, let's discuss what happens if you're the mayor and you do go to Pride. It's simple, really.
You get wet.
If you're smart, like Lastman was, you ride on top of a firetruck with a supersoaker of your own and unlimited supply of liquid ammo. You hose right back and have a good time with the people who did or didn't elect you. Or you hold fast to dignity and march with your councillors, a charity organization, or local community group. Be a good sport. You know, Coach Ford... sportsmanship?
Previous years, Pride has yielded a number of close encounters of the mayoral kind.
I've been supersoakered by Mel Lastman. (Caught in a crossfire.)
I've high fived a soaking wet David Miller. (Accidentally. Didn't see him coming.)
I didn't vote for either of these gentlemen, and can't say I particularly liked either of their politics... but by participating in Toronto's biggest festival-- one that encompasses everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, orientation or culture-- they gained points in my books.
Imagine, Rob Ford, if you had showed up with your whole family instead, or at least any other family members who were willing. Let's imagine for a moment if you and said family members arranged to march with, oh, say... the PFLAG group. PFLAG already gets the love for showing their support to the community. With your powers combined, you would have earned a standing ovation and at least an iota of respect from every person present.
I didn't vote for you... but if I saw you in the parade I would goddamn well clap, cheer, take a photo, and then show it to the world to prove that our city's mayor is an example of Toronto's vaunted tolerance.
I've been going to Toronto Pride for seventeen years now. I'm not sure you've ever been, so I guess you'll have to take my word for it. And hopefully man up, make inquiries and see what you can do to show your face in a positive way next year.
Or else it'll be shown for you.
Case in point.
More photos from Pride 2011 can be found in this set on flickr.