Friday, November 21, 2008

Cross Rhodes 3

Jack Layton gives the thumbs up to the Hammer City Roller Girls

I participated in a neighbourhood art show this weekend. A bunch of houses on my street were open to the public to showcase the works of the various residents. From photography to pottery, holiday cards, and bobbles, there were quite the variety of things to buy or look at. Heidi Evans a photographer from a few houses over spearheaded the project and invited me to show some of my work.

Since there was a theme or maybe there wasn't but generally there seems to be a theme when one presents "art". I choose "From cat walk to flat track: a celebration of the female form" as mine. It was pretty obvious that I'd choose this as that's what I have been photographing all year. That and maybe Pumpkin the downstairs cat. From London to Toronto Fashion week, the Cadbury chocolate ball, Fashion Cares, the Hammer City Roller Girls, the Eastern Regionals and most recently the Nationals. It all just seemed to fit.

Among the few to show up at my section of the art crawl was Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party. Wow! I didn't expect any big wig politicians to show up. Actually, being a small neighbourhood, I didn't really expect anyone to show up.

He seemed to show a genuine interest in the photos, taking them in one at a time. He stopped and gave me the thumbs up for the Hammer City photo (shown here) of Hamilton Harlot's Carla Coma leaping over the Steel town Tank Girl's Atomic Toaster.

He also noticed the green friendly bamboo floor and gave positive comments to Andrew and Isako, the house owners . What a nice, polite, down to earth, individual.

"Wow!", did I say "Wow"?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Nationals

Located just east of the Thrift Lodge with cool sliding art in each window

Waking up on the west coast with the clock set three hours behind Eastern standard you'd think I'd get up earlier? nope. Woke up at 10am, got outside and headed east. I thought I'd try the opposite direction today from last night. That's the great thing about being in a new city is that any direction you take will be something new and interesting.

Forgetting to pack all my travel stuff during my last minute haste, today I was on a quest for shampoo. There weren't any variety stores or grocery stores in sight (at least going east). But there were other things of interest. Car dealerships, bottling companies, the odd food place. I would make note of the food places as they're always good to have in the back of your head when you're hungry.

You can buy that electric car for $12,000.

notice the old 7up sign in the background

I felt like I was walking suburbia. Not too many places to buy food let alone get supplies and everything was at least a few blocks away from each other. Where were these places hiding? Oooh, a record, CD, DVD store open until midnight. Note to self: remember location.

EM, a DVD, CD, record store open until midnight every day

One of the interesting things about the US, being a country built for cars, they have drive thrus for everything it seems. In Ohio there was the beer drive thru. Here in Portland, a Goodwill drive thru and a Starbucks drive thru are just two drive thrus I noticed. As convenient as they seem I found it irritating last night when wandering around for food. A lot of restaurants are open until wee hours of the morning but in order to get food from them you have to be in a car. What about the people walking around? Thank goodness for Muchas Gracias! Yes, that was a plug. They deserve it as they were open 24 hours and open to people on foot (as well as a drive thru). Hooray!!

The goodwill drive thru

One of the car dealerships I walked by

I just liked the sign

A curved fence

Some sunglasses in the Hollywood district

The old Hollywood theatre - first opened Saturday, July 17, 1926

What's this Superman thing?

Things from another World

Finally after about 40 minutes I arrived in a section called Hollywood. There was a Rite-Aid pharmacy (I suppose the west coast's version of Shoppers Drug mart only better - more selection and that sort of thing). Right next to it was Things from another World. It's amazing that I find these stores. It's like the nerd gods, if there is such a thing, program into my brain the night before where to randomly wander so I can stumble across these places.

I had to go in. Of course I did. It's funny as I checked around peeping the merch I also looked at the people in the store. It must be universal. Comic book/figurine geeks all look pretty much the same. Dressed in black, wearing the comic book/movie T-shirt, dark long overcoat as popularized by John Woo movies, whatever it was that they were wearing I seemed to be able to fit right in. So cool and yes, soooo nerdy.

I didn't have a lot of time as I had to return to the hotel by 2pm to meet up with the Montrealers that were flying in. JP and Raph had text messaged me saying the plane should be landing around that time. I tore myself away from the Domo figurines and left to buy the shampoo. On the way out I noticed the sign for the Hollywood theatre. D'oh, it was tonight. I wouldn't be able to go.

Oh! So that's what that superman thing was about

A phone booth courtesy of Qwest.

I arrived at the hotel just ten minutes before they called to say they were in. The walk back was a bit quicker (25 minutes) as I wasn't taking as many photos on the way back. Raph needed to buy shampoo. We ended up back at the rite-aid store. It only took about 5 minutes by car. We even went into the TFAW store as Raph just wanted a quick peek. Wooweewooooo. Talk about deja vu.

Raph and J.P. at the local sandwich shop just east on the corner from TFAW.

After grabbing a bite to eat and dropping off our stuff back at the hotel we were off to the Nationals...

The Nationals!!!

As soon as we were checked into the building I made a bee line for a place to sit and shoot. I missed all the merch tables thinking I'd check them out later on. This was only day one after all. The track was lit with an enormous amount of incredible lighting. It wasn't just a roller derby track, it was a photographer's dream. A season filled with all those dim lit arenas and to end with this... wow! (insert small shoe theory here)

It was at this point that it dawned on me that I was on the west coast, I was in Portland, and I was about to shoot the Nationals, the Nationals!! The crazy last minute correspondence to get a camera pass, the crappy screen with no selections in front of me on the airplane, the long waits at the airports, the bad signage at the vancouver airport, the bad airport food, the walking around all night looking for a place to eat the night before... it was all worth it. This was the Nationals! THE NATIONALS!!!!

The top eight teams from across the US, four from the east, four from the west, were going to skate it out in the next three days. Combine that with the fans that came out from all over. Add to that the familiar faces that I recognized from the Eastern Regionals and RollerCon and any other derby place I'd been to in the last year, the term "Wow" just doesn't seem to encapsulate the whole excitement very well.

I got my gear together, set up my stereo camera rig, and waited. The anticipation for something to happen was high, you could feel it in the audience. Like me, they were all wired. I wondered if any of them were jet lagged before getting here. I know I was for almost the whole day. I felt a bit tired. That was all gone now. It was like being in a casino pumped with air back in Vegas or perhaps like a large shot of adrenaline running through ones veins.

Holy crap! A marching band!

I'm not sure why but those were the words coming out of my mouth, out loud. "Holy Crap! A marching band", complete with wand twirlers and flag wavers.It was one of those bigger than life moments. They came out playing in formation, the flag wavers and twirlers did their thing. Following the band were the eight teams of roller girls. The Windy City, Philly, Carolina, Gotham from the East, Texas, Rat City, Duke City, and Bay Area from the west.

Crackerjack would address the crowd. Eventually we would hear the words "Are you ready to see some roller derby?". By that point the crowd went nuts. Cheering, applauding, copious amounts of smiling all around. We were going to love the following two games. Every single minute of them.

Carolina VS Texas

Suzy Hot Rod of the Gotham Girls

Cheap Skate in the middle of a roll calls off the last jam of the first period

Gotham VS Duke City

The final scores were...
Texas (125) VS Carolina (61)
Gotham (182) VS Duke City (25)

After the two bouts it had occurred to me that I hadn't eaten anything since before we left for the convention centre. J.P. and I ended up at the Doug Fir, a swanky restaurant attached to the equally fancy (or at least from the outside) Jupiter Hotel. The food was great. Although much like the mexican food I had yesterday which was also great, the food was probably 1000x better just due to the fact that I was starving. Once finished we went down the street (west) to B-side, one of the venues of the roller derby to see what was going on. It seemed not too much was going on.

Jean-Philippe sits in the Doug Fir.

J.P. in front of the B-side venue

It should be noted that the Thrift Lodge was picked (by J.P.) for it's convenient location. It was located just across the street from the party venues for the days to come. A very important detail in a potentially crazy roller derby party world.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One Last Derby Adventure

Cold Hawaiian pizza

The Toronto Airport has a bunch of places to eat food but getting service depending on what vendor you pick can be pretty slow, extremely slow. I stood in front of a cashier at a burger place for about 10 minutes with not even a hint of service. I looked at them working, they looked at me. I was beginning to wonder if they were even open. As luck would have it as soon as I left to go to the food place across the way the person waiting behind me got served.

The other food place across the way was the same. I stood in line or an area I thought was a line. Near me was a woman looking at me. She wasn't sure where the line was either. Signage would have helped as an unmanned cash register doesn't scream out saying "place your order here".

Eventually the cashier meandered over from her state of trace and asked what I'd like to order. After doing the "You first.", "No you." with the other woman, I placed an order for a slice of the already made hawaiian pizza and a bottle of Coke. I wanted something that would keep my waiting to a minimum.

I could see the pizza slice being heated as it was placed in one of those conveyor belt ovens. The process took about 5 minutes (actually 5:17, I was timing the experience). By the time I found a table, sat down and placed the pizza in my mouth, the cheese was still cold. I began to think the oven was one of those Betty Crocker stoves with the single light bulb... A light bulb that had been replaced by one of those new florescent bulbs emitting zero heat.

The meal was seven dollars.

Flight Air Canada 109

The plane ride was not much fun either. I was placed in the middle of the plane, seat 13E, with a person on either side and my interactive screen was malfunctioning. Didn't matter if I choose a song or a movie. I'd get a bunch of scrambled mpeg data on the screen then the "Selection not available" message would pop up. Crud, and I really wanted to watch that X-files movie. The screens next to me seemed to work. The guy on the right was watching the Dark Knight movie and the guy on the left was watching CBC news. Good thing I packed the game boy.

While playing Advance Wars 2 I noticed my thumb starting to cramp up. "What the heck?". It was at that moment a voice came on the intercom saying to "sit down and fasten your safety belts". I realized I was playing that one level of the game for nearly the whole flight. five hours. I hadn't moved. I was in the shrimp position for all that time. My back ached. Geez.

We arrived in Vancouver airport. If you're a traveller and you feel like going through Vancouver my suggestion to you is to ask people standing around for directions as this airport is one of the worst airports I've been in for signage. Granted, the airport is under construction.

Because my end destination was the USA, my luggage was moved to a pick up area after going through US customs. You have to find US customs first. That is the trick as the signs kind of stop on the first floor. Only by asking a guy at information did I figure out you had to follow American flag images to get to what looked like a kitchen door for wait staff, go through that down some narrow corridors to a small bunch of rooms with no windows.

I had arrived around 4:30pm Pacific time. My flight out to Portland was 7:45pm. So it wasn't like I was rushing around the airport. There were a few glitches during the airport stay. When I got my camera case off the luggage carousal it wasn't closed. All my gear fell out (again). Damn those customs guys, why can't they just snap the case shut?

One of the luggage handlers gave me some string to tie the case shut which I thought was amazing. She also told me to complain to some of the people on the other side of the wall. I looked at my stuff and since it was all there and not noticeably damaged I didn't think it was worth going through customs again.

My flight out was delayed. We didn't start boarding the plane until 9:00pm. The reason, that was told to us, was that the previous plane had hit a bird and they had to get a replacement plane. Our question was "How cheaply are these planes made?", the second question was "How big was this bird?". The bird jokes kept flying (no pun intended).

Waiting for 4.5 hours wasn't so bad though. I met a woman from Portland that worked in medical services. She showed clients software that converts 2D MRI scans (or slices) into 3D representations using voxels (points in 3D space). She showed me some data on her laptop of a brain aneurysm. Density of the tissue determined the color of the voxel. It was very cool to see it in 3D but I felt sorry for whoever the patient was as the brain aneurysm was the size of a walnut.

The flight to Portland on the small plane was very spacious as each passenger had two seats. The ride was also surprisingly smooth. I, for some reason, thought it would be bumpier in a small propeller plane.

Once in Portland, this year's home of the WFTDA (Women's Flat Track Derby Association) Nationals - the Stanley Cup of Roller Derby (or Super Bowl if you're a football fan), I checked into the Thrift Lodge, dumped my stuff and like a good tourist wandered the city.

Glad I'm not paranoid.

The big Made in Oregon sign near old town

I love these old neon signs. Portland? Who knew?

A trailer I'll have to check out when it's open.

There's a lot of shelters or maybe I just happened to be in the right section of town.

The train called MAX can take me to the airport for only 2.25.

Stairway to water level.

I liked this pet sign.

Muchas Gracias, the only 24 hour restaurant I could find that did not require you having a car.

The ThriftLodge. Notice the lack of apartment windows.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cat Attack

Post cat attack...

I ventured outside after hearing what sounded like Pumpkin meowing. As I popped my head out the door I saw them. There they were, the three neighbourhood cats in a Mexican stand off once again. As soon as Pumpkin saw me he walked toward me. I walked past Pumpkin and went to pet the other cat Simon who seemed less skittish today.

That was a mistake. I found out as Simon's cat like reflexes, I suppose because she's a cat I can omit the cat reference to the reflexes, made her jump and attack my arm. For a brief moment the cat was hanging off my arm like it was a tree branch. She bit me once then just as quickly as she attacked she let go leaving me with seven deep puncture wounds and a small scratch or two on my elbow.

Stupid cat.

ps. I never thought this would be my 1000th blog entry but there you have it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Still waiting...

Natasha and Gudrun being their usual goofy selves

Had lunch with Natasha and Gudrun today. While in the neighbourhood I also checked out Lacie for a replacement power supply. Turns out they don't really cater to off the street sales. They were very helpful none the less directing me to the web site for spare parts.

Other than that I've been waiting on people to get back to me regarding the Roller Derby Nationals in Portland, Oregon. Specifically trying to get a media pass to shoot it. The Nationals are less than a week away, starting this friday. Fingers crossed.

Reflection of the CN Tower

Monday, November 10, 2008

Balloons to the Extreme

Balloon Alien complete with double fisted laser guns.

While working a book launch event for Burman books I was lucky enough to witness balloon artist Mark Verge create an assortment of balloon art (animals and other things). To say he does balloon animals would be like saying "Canadian tires just sells tires". Forget the poodle balloon animal we're talking incredible stuff. See the photo above with Christine and the balloon alien. That's one of his simpler creations.

Go to his web site and be amazed.

see Jungle Jack World.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Fashion Cares

"Rear Window" fashion

Fashion Cares or Fashion sCares, as there was a Halloween theme, is an event held in Toronto to help generate money to find a cure for AIDS. It's an event filled with good looking people (of both sexes) dressed to the hilt in evening wear and Halloween themed costumes. An amazing experience that included a giant color changing LED chandelier, a silent auction, roast beef sandwiches (if you you media), fresh horseradish, and an evening show.

Katy Perry sings "I kissed a girl"

I was there to shoot the evening show. As this was my first Fashion Cares event I really wasn't sure what to expect. I had heard from other photographer friends that the event had taken a nose dive since the 20th anniversary show featuring Pamela Anderson. Shows 21 and 22 were horrific. My expectations were understandably low.

The show started off with a costume contest, then hit high gear with a bunch of outfits shown with an Alfred Hitchcock theme, Katy Perry took the stage to sing "I kissed a girl", more Hitchcock fashion, Kreesha Turner singing the song from Entourage, then if the show couldn't get any better there was the grand finale with none other than Dame Shirley Bassey. She made her stage entrance singing Goldfinger.

Shirley Bassey sings "Diamonds are Forever"

She has an incredible voice that filled the room. The live band added to the bigger than life soundtrack. I was in awe, the singing of the other Bond movies "Moonraker" and "Diamonds are Forever" made the movie geek in me happy. She ended her stage performance singing "Big Spender" to a standing ovation.