Friday, October 31, 2008

One for you, Two for me

Bill and Ron creepify their front yard

For this years Halloween I volunteered to help out in the distribution of candy to the neighbourhood kids. I thought I'd be hard nosed with the attitude "No costume, No candy!" but in the end most of the kids were dressed up as something so I really didn't have to come down on some poor teary eyed kid. Plus what if the child came from a poor family that couldn't afford a costume? Yeah, that would go over well.... plus they'd know where I live.

Jack and Sponge Bob as carved pumpkins

Heather, the next door neighbour, gives kids treats

I made sure the store bought candy was stuff I would eat. In fact there were times I thought I'd just turn off the lights, lock the doors and hide behind the couch eating my stash of gummi berries, tootsie rolls, and aero bars. "Get your own jobs and candy you costumed free loaders!" but then I'd remember the times as a kid I'd get those hard orange and black wrapped candies that everyone wanted to trade you for so they could get anything else. Those things sucked.

You didn't have a lot of options as a kid. The bags of candies we'd score and sift through was a big deal for my cousin Bryce and I. Trading the stuff we didn't want for stuff we did want. It was like a commerce of candy that would last for a month or so with the other school kids. I even remember trading a bunch of rockets (those small colored tablets of sugar) for a comic book. Poor sucker. I'm sure karma has come back to bite me in the ass since then.

As for those orange and black wrapped candies, I'm not sure what they were made of or how old they were. I knew that if you threw them at someone it would hurt and biting into them was out of the question. I seem to recall geting my teeth stuck in them thinking that I might loose some teeth just by opening my jaw. Giving that candy to old people with dentures might be funny. "Let's see your denture adhesive work now!" Evil, but funny and again there's the karma thing coming back to kick you in the ass.

Kind of like the Christmas fruit cake that makes it's yearly return, these nasty hard candies were probably made in the sixties and recycled every year since then by a bunch of candy bastards that hated kids. I was not going to be clumped into that category. So no hard orange and black candies for the kids on my street.

Bill and Ron's Jack O Lantern

I never actually found those things this year. Perhaps the company that made them (I think it was Allan's) got wind of them being used as projectiles rather than food and stopped making them for Halloween safety. Whatever the case may be kids today can rest safely knowing that these candies aren't on the streets.

Hilary as Bacon

The backyard Halloween party

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Massey Hall

The Massey Hall entrance on Shuter and Victoria.

I took my cousin to see a Just for Laughs show today at Massey Hall. I scored the tickets from GAT. Thanks to Ingrid Hamilton we got to see the comics Finesse Mitchell, Hal Cruttenden, Pete Zeslacher, David O'Doherty, and Danny Bohy. To start off there was a guy that did sound effects much like Police Academy's Michael Winslow. Unfortunately I don't remember his name something like "Candy Pop".

While photographs were allowed as long as you didn't use a flash I was later told I could not shoot anything on stage because I had a professional camera. Boo.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Plugged Up

The Piggy Bank

In order to go to RollerCon 08 I emptied three ice cream tubs of change and the piggy bank, finding just over $1200.00. ($38.00 in pennies!) Since then the piggy bank has had a hole in it where change kept falling out. Until today that is...

Piggy back plugged up.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Coal City

Cheese Grater and Maya Ruins in front of Skateaway

We arrived at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA today at about 4:00pm. It was a 6.5 hour drive from Hamilton. I was pooped. Probably due to the late night partying until 3am with the Kitchener, London, Montreal girls the night before. Well if this is the last weekend of derby for the season sleep becomes less of a priority, until that is, you're driving a car. About 5 hours in I started getting sleepy and had Cheese take over the steering while I slept in the passenger seat.

The Coal City venue was great. It was an actual roller skating rink, with 70s furniture, and decor, even shag carpeting along the skate walls. Unfortunately the lighting was pretty dim. The venue was probably made with romantic or dance skating in mind not some fast action sport with photographers like me trying to get photographs.

Vicadoom tries out the SkateAway floor

Not wanting to use a flash I shot my photos using the settings of ISO 6400, f2.8, 1/125. Even with the high ISO I was still shooting at about hald the shutter speed I'm used to. There were pockets of darkness located around the rink that didn't help. Despite the lack of light I managed to snag a few good photos of action that took place right under a florescent set of lights.

The HCRG travel team

Cheese made Canadian flag

The highlight of the trip was driving to the after party. Upon pulling up to the entrance and wondering if it was indeed the right place, a guy flew out of the door head first landing into a lump on the ground. Another guy came out shouting to someone still inside trying to pick a fight followed by a derby girl trying to diffuse the situation.

Meanwhile the guys in the car jumped out to see if the lump guy was alright. He wasn't moving and there was blood flowing out of him. While someone in the crowd called 911 I drove away to pick up the second wave of people, who also happened to be the paramedics. By the time we returned the bar was surrounded by fire trucks, police cars and an ambulance. The guy trying to pick a fight was gone and the blood on the ground had been washed away with water.

"That doesn't look good."

Despite the crazy drama we drove into, the skaters that were inside at the bar were all very nice people. A bunch of them that I talked to didn't even know what had transpired outside... until I showed them photos.

The quotes make the sign less demanding.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No Photos!

The Cumberland station platform on the blue line

I woke up early due to my leg having some kind of spasm. I think I need to intake more potassium (I ate a banana today). It was around 8am and everyone in the room was still sleeping. Not being able to go back to sleep I woke up and walked over to the L train and went downtown.

I hopped off the train at a stop in the loop (the Chicago downtown core) called Monroe and when I got outside on street level found I was surrounded by buildings. The blue line train is underground but there are other lines that go above ground.

The shadows are falling westward...

For navigation I had a CTA map (Chicago Transit Authority) which I picked up at the beginning of the day. I had bought a map the day before but left it in Becky's truck. Based on getting lost in London (UK) because I had used the tube map I didn't put much into the Chicago transit map being that accurate. So as any geek would do I looked up at the shadows on the buildings, started humming "...the sun is setting in the west...", figured that the sun rises in the east, casting shadows westwards, figured out where I was in relation to the water on the map then walked toward the water. I suppose just asking for directions would have been easier but I had no where that I wanted to be. I just wanted to look around.

The L train

I shot around Chicago all day without incident. A police officer had stopped me while I was shooting pigeons flying by but it wasn't to arrest me it was to find out if I was shooting with a 10.5 mm fish eye lens. He wanted to buy a new camera and he had told me the sad story of how his wife took his Canon and all the accessories when they got divorced. Now he was looking at buying a new Nikon D90 (when it comes out). We talked for a few minutes until a city guy posted a sign changing the parking restrictions for under the train bridge. Tomorrow is the Chicago Marathon so the city streets were starting to get reconfigured.

The silver jellybean

I found the silver jellybean, as I like to call it. It's actually called the Cloud Gate designed by Anish Kapoor. I like "Silver Jellybean" perhaps because it reminds me of food (much like everything). This was one of the things I heard about that's located in Chicago that I really wanted to see. I forgot about it from being overwhelmed with all the other architecture in the city. I actually went to shoot the Jay Pritzker pavilion because you could see it from down the street of the downtown core. It's a flowery organic looking structure by Toronto born Frank Gehry.

While shooting the stage I walked out onto the field. It was in the middle of the field that I noticed the silver jellybean on my left (west of me). It was like someone used computer graphics to place a reflective mercury blob in the city scape.

The jellybean with the Pavillion in the background

For the most part, the day went pretty well photography wise. I walked around for six hours taking photos all over the city. The only weird thing that happened was when I saw something really cool to take a photo of. The sun was coming down at the perfect angle . It was an American flag. It looked amazing with the light passing through it. Everything that was great about the USA flooded through my brain. Abraham Lincoln, the Constitution, Randy's giant donut, JFK, the moon landing, freedom of speech, School House Rocks!, the american national anthem, and even a flying bald eagle. Then as I started to focus my camera on the flag, cutting through the silence and my wonderment at the same time, out of nowhere, a disembodied voice blurted "No Photos!".

The American Flag, the stuff dreams are made of.

I looked around. I was the only person on the street other than a window cleaner above me and a block away at that. "No photos!" went the voice again. This time it seemed angrier. I stopped and listened. "Do not take pictures!". This time rather than the hum of traffic mixed with some garbled voice I clearly heard the voice this time. It was coming from some megaphone speaker fixed to one of the buildings. It had an electronic distortion to it. I looked up trying to find the speaker but couldn't see anything. I decided it was time to go so I pointed my camera down and walked back toward the water.

Some more photos from the Windy City...

The L-Train

A window washer or a guy escaping cubicle world

Stacks of dirty dishes?

Nope... it's twin buildings that look like cobs of corn.

The corkscrew parking garage.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Trip to the Windy City

The Duty Free

Left from Hamilton to go to Chicago around 1:30am. At about 3:30am we were at the Duty Free. Other than stopping for a washroom break has anyone else noticed that the duty free doesn't really sell much? Other than liquor, cigarettes, and giant chocolate bars that is.

I was looking for some kind of travel pillow but the only ones they had were the ones that look like a toilet seat, the puffy Us that go around your neck. You'd think they would cater more toward the weary traveller. Maybe that's what the booze is for (I say this sarcastically).

The Chicago skyline as seen from the truck.

By about 9:40am we could see the Chicago skyline. This would be 8:40am Chicago time as Chicago is an hour behind Toronto. The photo above was taken by Becky as I was doing the second half of the driving.

I've noticed that, and I'm generalizing here, that driving on the highway near Chicago is very start stop as some drivers do not seem to be able to commit to changing lanes. This results in a lot of car honking and erratic car movement. The honking of the cars started to get annoying. So much so that Ivy, in the back seat, started yelling back at the honkers.

Breakfast at the Burgundy

We arrived at the place we were to stay at but were locked out. The spare key that we were supposed to get was being used by someone else. So instead of crashing, as it had been a long drive, we went for "breakfast" and did some sightseeing by driving around. It should be noted that parking downtown in Chicago is pretty expensive even compared to crazy Toronto downtown parking prices.

The drive along the water front.

I love this sign, but not in a weird way.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

In Other News...

A photo I shot sneaks onto the front page of the Star.

I was surprised to read an email saying that a photo of mine was on the front page of today's Toronto Star newspaper. The email wasn't specific and I just thought it might be some derby thing I had shot that the newspaper had appropriated some how. My brain was curious as to what the photo was of.

Turns out it was a photo of Nigel. I forgot about the whole election thing coming up and the fact that I took a picture of a candidate was something that wasn't on my mind at all. After all when you shoot someone in your backyard you don't really think of where the photo might end up, let alone on the front of a newspaper. But there is was. Wow.

It's Nigel, one of the GTA candidates

The hisser, the fatty, and the sneaky

Felix hisses at Simon

There are times when sitting in your backyard just observing can be pretty entertaining. Today I was a witness to a cat turf war. There's Simon, the black and white cat from down the street, Felix the cat next door with the large head, and Pumpkin the fatty.

Pumpkin seems to pad around the backyard oblivious to the other two. Felix will follow Pumpkin from a distance and should Pumpkin retrace his steps getting closer to Felix, Felix will hiss and eventually run to some sort of shelter. As for the third cat, Simon, She sneaks up on the other cats. I witnessed her run up to Felix while Felix was stalking Pumpkin. Simon whacked Felix a few times in the butt then ran off.

It seems this is Simon's way of entertaining herself. The photo above was Simon closing in on the unsuspecting Felix and Felix at the last minute noticing the proximity of Simon and reacting. Cats are fun aren't they?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Hide your babies!

Carl zooms through the T&T grocery store thanks to 'uncle' Derek.

While I don't have any brothers or sisters I do have a landlord with a kid. Much like I've become the guardian and food provider for the resident cat, Pumpkin, I've been called the uncle for said kid. So unless I marry someone with siblings this is probably the closest I will get to being an uncle. I use that term pretty loosely.

As such being an honorary uncle is fun. Actually it's all the fun and without the responsibility. Think about it. You can teach the kid new words, give the kid noisy instruments and toys to play with, and you can even stay up late with the kid when the parents aren't home feeding the kid chili. Then when all is said and done you can go back home to a nice quiet apartment where you can hear the parents shriek fill the quiet neighbourhood.

I'm probably creating nightmares for Kyoko and Chris (the friends and landlords) right this second so I'll just say it could happen but I'm not that mean. Should Carl (the kid) ever breaks out saying "Klaatu barada nikto" chances are it was me. Well hey, it's better than "Hiya, babe" with the two little hands making gun like gestures.

A few months ago (August 12th to be exact) I showed my cousin's kid the "rock" hand using the thumb, index finger and the pinky. It was a thing I picked up from a guy at RollerCon on a bus. He was from Colorado. You ask "What time is it?". When no one knows you put your rock hand over where your wrist watch would be and say "It's time to ROCK!!!". My cousin Paula and I had a heck of a lot of fun brainwashing the youth.

She can't pronounce the 'R's yet.

I can just see this kid going to school with the teacher asking if anyone knows what time it is.... haa haa haa ha ha!!!! (evil laugh) On the next visit Paula and I are going to try to teach the air guitar and the phrase "I wanna ROCK!" ala Twisted Sister.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Nuit Blanche 2008

number 24 - Canadian Polish Art Initiatives

Nuit Blanche, an art event sponsored by a bank with a tag line "You're richer than you think.", while a good idea it really shows how disorganized Toronto can be with it's lack of foresight. To have washrooms available would be one of those things one would, should give consideration. Think about it, an event that starts in the evening and goes until 6-7am in the morning. Washrooms... hello??

There were some portable toilets in front of city hall but only three were accessible, the others were fenced off. College park closed it's washrooms at 10pm. Security wouldn't reopen the washrooms because they were just cleaned. It's unfortunate but now the halls in College Park, specifically in the mall areas, probably smell like pee as I saw a bunch of people urinating in the dark corners. Zombies and people needing to pee were running around the mall like something out of a bad movie.

number 42 - University of Toronto

The coconut drink (at UofT)

You'd think people with businesses that served food would capitalize on staying open all night but no. Starbucks, Second cup and other coffee stores that are open normal hours were closed to the disappointment of Kate . Thank the heavens for Tim Horton's (and their bathrooms).

Despite the lack of pee places I had a good time wandering around looking at stuff. The night started off by eating tons of meat at a Korean buffet. Having filled ourselves with copious amounts of food we waddled off to the Queen and Beverly area to start, past the AGO, over to UofT, through Queen's Park, a cab ride to Yonge and College, down to Yonge and Dundas and finally to the Eaton Centre. It was there we called it a night. Kate was getting tired.

Sam's last spin

number 4 - 15 seconds by Daniel Olson

Someone getting a bit more than 15 seconds

number 2 - Into the Blue by Fujiwara Takahiro

The planet eater from Star Trek

Real street trash just north of the fake street trash (number 3) of Massey Hall

At that point it was around 4am. We hopped on a bus going north on Yonge and I got off at Bloor to transfer to a bus going east. While waiting for the Bloor Street bus I got a text message. The text message resulted in me going back to the Gardiner museum. Kate and I tried to get in earlier that evening but the door guy wouldn't allow us in because Kate had a cup of tea. The second attempt I found it was just closing. What? It was only 5:30am, the sun wasn't even up... so much for all night. Lame...

A shoe display on Bloor

I ate breakfast at the 24 hour restaurant 7 west. I had a tasty but overpriced hamburger and soup. We had a waiter that kept forgetting things, like a spoon for my soup, an extra coke. It was a bit irratating but I was getting tired and figured the waiter was too.

David Suzuki

Melting building

Golden Light

By the time I arrived home (by cab) it was 9am. I had an hour to sleep before having to wake up to go for my birthday dim sum. As it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, I didn't get any sleep.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The cat wants in

Pumpkin wants my food

This morning or perhaps afternoon while eating my lunch, a burger on a bagel, I walked out onto my deck to get some air and some sunlight. After not even a bite I started hearing the trademark sound of the resident cat meowing. "I want your food." I'm amazed at the senses Pumpkin seems to have when it comes to food and me eating it.

With the move of my landlords Chris and Kyoko to the house next door the cat has been showing signs of discomfort. That or maybe he's been eating grass with some kind of pesticides. While visiting my apartment the cat started vomiting. Not hair balls but cat gak. Thankfully the cat is kind enough to up chuck in the tub where it can easily be washed away.

Someone once told me that if owners left a house, a dog would follow the owners, where as a cat would stay with the house. This seems to hold true. Mind you the cat (Pumpkin) has been fed by me, for three weeks, while the owners went to Japan. I'm thinking he equates me with tuna or some other tasty morsels of food.

Content on the porch

Never the less today the cat seemed more at ease, if you can call it that, once I opened the door and let him in onto the porch. I think the move has been a bit stressful on our furry friend.