Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cheap Skate 

I shot some video on my phone to capture the first skate of the season - and yes, that's my bike with the red and white LEDs on the wheels.

Lately I've been enjoying all the “free” stuff Toronto has to offer, and not just art exhibits. This weekend the city opened a bunch of its outdoor rinks. One I ride by every morning is the Paul Quarrington rink just below Sherbourne Common (I realize I mistakenly refer to it as "Commons" in the video). The Commons (is the "s" needed here?) is sort of an interesting project. It's a water park that cleans storm water run-off using natural and UV filters and features playground structures with striking architectural elements. The only thing is, I never see any water coming from the funky water features and even with significant plantings it feels more like a parking lot than a park. Likewise with the skating rink. It's a water pad in the summer and it is in an unusual place sitting between Lake Ontario and the Gardiner Expressway. Soon though it will be surrounded by residential towers I guess making it some of the only remaining public (and partially green space) in the neighbourhood. Oddly though the rink seems to face the city skyline which will not be visible once the remaining empty lots have buildings on them. It seems strange to build something with its back to the lake. There's no reason the rink couldn't have been sited with Westward and Southward views back to the city and the lake. Still it is what it is and part of that means having an amazingly illuminated city skyline as your view while you're skating.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Learning to Breathe Underwater 

Like Courtney Barnett, I was having trouble breathing in

I used to think it odd that no matter how much I swam, it didn’t make me a better runner or cyclist. Likewise, biking didn’t seem to improve my running or my swimming. Admittedly, if you run, it does help everything. Running seems to be, pound-for-pound, the quickest way to lose weight or to stem the tide of being out of breath while climbing stairs. Lately though, I’m starting to think that’s not quite true. Swimming is really the linch pin in everything else. It took me ten days to realize it.
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Chocked Full o' Nuts 

It's that time of year when chestnuts appear in grocery stores here in T.O. From now until early January they should be good (i.e. not mouldy or dried out etc.) For whatever reason the best ones seem to come from Italy. There's something kind of romantic about chestnuts that I love. They've got history and tradition. As far back as the 18th century, a hot chestnut falling into a pair britches caused a calamitous episode in The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman. Victorians seemed to take roasted chestnuts on winter walks, and in 1940s, movie characters warmed their hands at a street vendor's stove while buying a small bag to snack on. They're mentioned in seasonal songs, and in the fall squirrels shake them from trees onto unsuspecting passersby. Here in Toronto some neighbourhoods are thick with chestnut trees and when the chestnuts fall to the street, the mashed nuts make a slippery obstacle for the cyclist to avoid.

Like hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts are a perfect match for autumn and winter. I've never soaked them in water before like the video above mentions but I'll try it on the batch I just bought. I don't know why, but I find if I buy and keep them at home too long they seem to dry out too quickly so I usually only buy enough for a couple of snacks. It's particularly nice on a cold evening to place warm chestnuts in a bowl and keep them in your lap almost like the way people used to carry a couple of hot chestnuts to keep their hands and pockets warm on a frosty walk through an icy dark night.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Laid Bare 

Weegee: Murder is My Business. Image via The International Center of Photography

I don't understand the incoherency of the mentally ill. I don't understand the hunger of the addicted. I don't understand the entitlement of the affluent. I don't understand the hate of the angry. I don't understand the broken hearts of the dispossessed and the lonely. I don't understand the stupidity of the dullards, nor the pain of the afflicted.

I also don't understand the kindness of the open-hearted nor the awe of the open-minded. I really don't understand those that see the beauty in the chaos. I don't understand the hope of the faithful. I don't understand the logic of the powerful or the economics of the monied.

I'm starting to think I don't understand this city.
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Monday, November 09, 2015

The Last 100 Days 

Generations of kids grew up seeing this ad on the back of every comic book. Image via Comics Alliance

Sunday was day 100. Since August 1, I wanted to see how many workouts I could do in a one hundred day period. I’ve already explained why I started this before, but basically since the days of Charles Atlas ads on the back page of comics, advertisers have promised to make you a new man, in only 15 minutes a day, in just 90 days! That’s not that different from what Bowflex says now, or what researchers claim about interval training (I mean it is eerily similar).

Did I become a new man? Was my life transformed forever? Do I sleep better? Did I get all the gals? Well, not really but I did see some changes.
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Friday, November 06, 2015

Seen in October 

The Martian, image via The Movie DB

I spent most of this summer binge watching shows on Netflix, mostly because I was really only watching about 45 minutes of television a night. Now that Autumn is here to stay I expect I'll be spending more time basking in the warm glow of my living room television.

The Muppets (2011)
The new Muppet Show appearing on TV this fall made me curious about one of their previous and recent (though not as recent as I thought) cinematic outings. That film starring and co-written by Jason Segel was uniquely popular amongst audiences and critics. It’s easy to see why. The Muppets have found success in being goofy, funny critters that kids enjoy, while simultaneously making fun of their own absurdity as puppets. This isn’t just a knowing wink to adults but kids too get just how weird and silly it is that a bit of cloth somehow comes to life in our world. If you need a bit of a pick-me-up, you could do worse than to watch this version of the Muppets that is genuinely funny, and nostalgic, yet a wry send-up of the musical genre (“Sorry I’m late, I got caught up singing this song…”).

Suits, Seasons 1-4
Kind of like an update of L.A. Law set in New York City. This series is odd in that the first season (or two) all the acting is sexy side-glances and throw-away lines as each week another case is resolved by one ridiculous piece of juicy gossip delivered on a single piece of paper in a file folder. I mean, it just seemed so superficial with everyone being model-pretty and impeccably well dressed (in particular Meghan Markle). But at some point the narrative takes a season long tilt and the stakes get ratcheted up bit by bit. I’m not saying this is the Wire or Breaking Bad, but it is better than I recall L.A. Law being (maybe, who knows, it was a long time ago). Additionally I get great pleasure recognizing or trying to figure out where in Toronto they are filming (in one episode, a scene actually takes place in Toronto - also, in the same episode, two actors from Game of Thrones face each other in a contemporary setting - which seemed like an inside joke).
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