Monday, August 18, 2014


YAY!  Tonight was the first class of an intensive Improvisation course I just signed up for.  It feels so good to be back at it!

I've taken many improv classes over the years.  I've done a couple at Second City and did the first four levels of improv training at the now defunct Bad Dog Theatre Co.  In either case, I've been away from it for a few years.  Man, have I missed tapping into that side of my brain, into that type of creativity.  So much fun!

Like so many of the other things I've been doing this summer, it's not about prowess or talent - it's about doing something enjoyable (but if I may say so, I'm not terrible at it!)

We did a number of games and activities (making an offer, saying yes, listening, establishing the space/scene) that I've done before and it was cool to feel so comfortable right from the outset doing these things.  Throughout the course of the evening, I became a peeping tom, a raccoon hunter, a champion bowler, and I spiked some chick's drink with a roofie...  Okay, none of that really happened, but all of it was believable for that moment.  

There was great energy in the room (classmates are various ages, various levels, various backgrounds), and everyone was laughing quite a bit.  Awesome!

I can't wait for the next class!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I ain't no Picasso!

The latest trend around Toronto seems to be drop-in art studios, painting workshops and themed "Cocktails and Canvas" events at bars/pubs around the Greater Toronto Area.  (Painting as a social thing, in a bar doesn't appeal to me at all - I prefer a quieter environment when it comes to being creative).  

Now, like so many other things, I quite enjoy painting (with acrylics)  despite my obvious lack of talent.  Years ago, a roommate and I used to work on canvases together whenever we were bored.  Every picture we made was awful and sooner or later they all ended up in the garbage.

I realized that lately I've missed painting, missed getting in touch with that type of creativity.  So, when I discovered PAINTLOUNGE, I immediately signed up for a couple of workshops.

Now, PAINTLOUNGE is not quite "Paint By Number" for grown-ups...  They give you a sample picture (rated by skill level as "easy", "moderate" or "challenge") and suggest colours and approaches, but you can put your own spin on it.  (You can also go in for solo work and do your own thing.)  They supply all materials, and it's no big deal if you spill some paint here or splash a few drops there - BONUS!

Using a blow dryer to get the background to dry more quickly.

This was Monday night's masterpiece (my picture is on the left).  I wish I had done the background stripes differently - fewer colours and wider bands.  Also my birds look fat, especially the one on the far right!

Again with the blow dryer (but this is from Tuesday night's session).

My painting is on the left - I rather like this one!  I like the colours I used instead of the 
purples and pinks.

I plan to keep up with this whenever I have time (PAINTLOUNGE is not too far from where I live).  I find it totally relaxing and the time just flies by.  I doubt that I'll ever paint anything worthy of framing (never say never), but prowess isn't the point - having fun and zoning out for a few hours is.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Netflix: Misc. Documentaries 2

Terrific!  An important topic and a well done documentary.

Wow!  What a guy, what a story, what a movie!  Definitely worth watching.

This one got to me... and I'm not even a cat person.  If you like animals at all, this is worth seeing.

Even though this is an important topic, the film was dull.

This was good.  An interesting story of exploitation, agribusiness and injustice.  It'll piss you off (as it should).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Netflix: Misc. Documentaries 1

Just terrific!  Great story, great music, and very well made.  Highly recommended. 

Sad, but thought provoking. Worth watching this for the wake up call (esp. re: environment) it provides.

So-so.  Not quite what I had expected.  It didn't focus only on couples who met via specific dating sites, but also on chat rooms and games.  Even though most of the stories were warm and fuzzy, overall it felt rather dated (pardon the pun).

Skip it!!  Felt like an infomercial-puff piece for The Golden Arches.  Waste of time.

Very good!!  Thorough and frank.  Self-deprecating and wryly funny.  Worth watching.

Monday, July 28, 2014

5th Annual T and T Waterfront Night Market

On Saturday night, a couple of friends and I went to the T and T Night Market.  I went to the first one back in 2010 and missed it the next few years.  It was a treat to go last night, but holy smokes, the event has reallllly gained in popularity!  It was jam packed, and some of the booths had very long lines.

This year, there were considerably more vendors, activities and entertainers than the first time I went.  The event is still primarily about food, and - WOW - what an array!  T and T is an Asian Supermarket, so not surprisingly the food tends towards flavours from the Far East.

I tried something called Tornado Tempura Shrimp, and there is no way at all to eat it gracefully (note the crispy noodles on my shirt).  It was delicious, but I should've splashed a bit more hot sauce on it.  My next treat was a Tater Twist, in this case a purple potato.  It's basically potato chips cooked on a skewer, but these were seasoned with wasabi - yum!  I also sampled an avocado milkshake (didn't really care for it - it's like drinking guacamole), squid takoyaki (meh, but it was interesting to watch it being prepared), grass jelly drink (pretty good), and paprika pineapple (very good - I plan to make this at home).

For entertainment, we caught a bit of the Chinese Dragon Dancers - very cool, and we goofed around in a photo booth.  All in all, it was a fun night and it was cool to try some new foods.  I'll probably go again next year, but will head down earlier and try to beat the crowds.

For more info about the event (and videos) click here:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Recent Reads: Rock Divide Sky

I haven't read a police procedural in ages and ages, so it was a treat to dive into this! I loved the main character Eddie (Dog-er-dee), and Montreal in 1970 is a terrific setting for a crime novel (heavily steeped in reality - McFetridge certainly did his homework.)  Great mystery - highly recommended!

I'm already a fan of Matt Taibbi's, and this book just cements what I already knew:  The guy can write, and his words will make you think and make you angry.  Injustice meets inequality... arghhhh!  My jaw dropped several times.  Meticulously researched, very detailed, and Matt's tone is tartly delicious.  Anyone who paid any attention to the Occupy movement and anyone with even a passing interest in justice and human rights should run right out and get a copy of The Divide.  

I hated this!  I really tried to get into it, but the characters were hard to like or to even care about.  The dialogue was stiff and unrealistic.  I finally gave up on page 177 and deliberately left it behind when I got off the bus.   

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Making a Big Grey Mess

One things I've always wanted to learn is pottery.  The idea of moulding something while the wheel spins has long appealed to me.  Finally, last night, I tried it for the first time ever, and it was a lot of fun!

I joined a drop in class at the Gardiner Museum (here's the link).  The class is about two hours and costs only $15, which includes all materials (although firing your piece(s) is $5 extra).

I can't say I was a natural, but that hardly matters.  The clay didn't seem to want to do what I wanted it to do, and I sometimes forgot about the speed of the wheel - my foot would lean down and suddenly the whole damn thing spun out of control and a few bits went flying - luckily not too far. The woman sitting next to me was very nice and very patient.  My jeans were pretty much grey by the end of it, but who cares?

I made two pathetic little misshapen vases and paid to have them fired.  I'll go back sometime next week to paint my sad little creations.  I'm looking forward to the next class!

Update (photo) added July 26th:  I returned the following week to paint the works of art I had created in the previous class.  That, plus they let you paint "abandoned" pieces that people made once upon a time, but never picked up.  So, I painted (glazed) four pieces (two that I had made, and two "abandoned" pieces).  Plus, made one new creation.  I'll go back again next Friday to make another mess.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toronto Fringe Festival 2014

Every year, I try to see at least a couple of plays at Toronto's Fringe Festival, and every year it's a treat to see innovative, honest, creative, low-budget shows.  As much as I love the overblown, million dollar Broadway productions, there's something special about seeing smaller scale (much smaller!) where the script and the acting really survive on their own merits. 

The first play of the evening was a light family comedy called "If It's Not Too Much Trouble".  I liked it well enough, but to me the acting was a bit uneven.  The character Glen was my favourite and the actor playing him did a great job, but a couple of the others need a bit of polishing.  In my opinion, the script also needs a bit of tweaking - it felt like too much was squeezed into a one act play.  That, plus there was one blip in script continuity that irked me. Nevertheless, there were a few good lines and I generally liked the ways the characters were drawn.  

Ha ha Ha!  My friend and I didn't plan to see this one - the show we wanted to see was sold out, so we rolled our eyes and bought tickets to this one.  It was terrific!!!  It's about two men, who've know each other since they were kids, and the competitiveness that permeates their friendship.  The approach (sort of like a boxing match, with a winner declared for each round) was original.  The "referee" was a young girl the men knew when they were growing up.  The actors had their timing down pat, the script was terrific, the execution was great.  So glad to have stumbled onto this play!  

Hmmm... This was okay, but quite different from what I'd thought it would be.  It wasn't quite a musical, but it did have some songs in it (I'd expected more of a musical comedy).   It was a bit of a tongue in cheek, old west story about frontier justice, and while it had some very funny moments, it definitely wasn't a comedy.  However, I liked the characters and I think the acting was quite good, it's just that overall the story wasn't really my cup of tea.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chico in Unusual Places

I have two little Maltese dogs that I absolutely adore!  Bella (girl, above, on the right) is 13 years old and Chico (boy, above, on the left, with tongue hanging out) is about 10 years old (unsure of birth date).  

Both dogs are toothless - yes, really, neither one has any teeth; this is why Chico's tongue is always hanging out.  Bella usually holds her tongue in, but smacks her lips a lot as if she's looking for her missing teeth.  Despite the lack of teeth, both dogs eat heartily.

Bella is somewhat camera shy, but Chico isn't, and he's very patient when I place him in unusual poses.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Whackfuck! A good walk spoiled...

I know there are those who think of it as a good walk ruined, but golf has always appealed to me, even though I've only played 4 or 5 times in my whole life. (Several years ago, thinking that it would motivate me to learn, I bought my own set of clubs... they've been gathering dust  in the back of a closet.)

So, since I'm really making a point this summer of trying new things, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a few private golf lessons.  

Lakeshore Links Indoor Golf  is only about 20 minutes from where I live, and their prices are reasonable, so there was no reason not to give it a try.  

My instructor is Roger Moores, a very patient man who has been teaching golf for over thirty years.  Even though I've only just begun, I can see a difference.  He's shown me how to hold a club properly, and he has emphasized posture and positioning.  Just those two things have made a difference already!  Instead of swinging and missing 99% of the time, my club is making contact with the ball more often than not, or as Roger says: the ball gets in the way of my club.  Either way, for me it's HUGE progress!

I have a lot to learn, but I'm pumped about it.  It will be interesting to see how much I can improve over the summer.

"Golf is popular simply because it is the 

best game in the world at which to be bad." 

~ A.A. Milne

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Queens Plate 2014

Today was event day for the 155th annual Queen's Plate Race at Woodbine Racetrack and I went!  The Queen's Plate is the first of three races that make up the Canadian Triple Crown. (The other two races are the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders' Stakes later this summer).  Although I've seen lots of horse racing over the years, I haven't been to the track since about 1997.  

Today was a real hoot!  The events in and around the track were fun - live music, food booths, themed cocktails, and a lot of people watching!  The people watching was almost better than the race itself.  A lot of people really dressed for the event - almost like they were in wedding attire.  I particularly got a kick out of the women's hats and fascinators, some were beautiful and others were just outrageous (meanwhile I was wearing my tired old cap that I wear everywhere).  

As for the races, well, they were great overall. I placed small bets (generally $2 to show) on a few races. Won a couple, lost a couple.   For the main event I had a triactor, and  two of the three horses came in, but the other one I'd chosen came in fourth - damn it!  In any case, it was a terrific day and once again it was great to do something different.  I probably won't wait another 15+ years to go to the races again. And next time I go to a Triple Crown event, I'll be sure to get a helluva hat to complement my outfit!

Not surprisingly, I was NOT on the guest lest for the FLARE garden party tent at the Hats and Horseshoes event.  Must have been on account of my footwear...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Not sure what I was thinking...

Today's new activity was Stand Up Paddleboarding.  

Wow!  It was really cool, totally fun, much easier than I expected, and very relaxing!

I did an evening intro course at Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre, which is the same place where I recently took a kayaking course (see previous post).  

I am proud to say that I didn't do any unexpected flips and end up soaked!  I'm lucky I stayed dry and stayed - however precariously perched - on the board (sometimes sitting, sometimes standing).  Because of the broken foot and sprained ankle, my balance wasn't great.  Not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for this!  

Also, the way one must move to get on the board, or to raise one's self from sitting to standing was hard and quite painful on the foot/ankle.  Again, not sure what I was thinking...

Perhaps I should have waited a couple more weeks before trying this, but... Oh well!  I learned something new, and I really can't wait to do it again!  And I can definitely see PI Sasha Jackson giving this a try... and getting soaked!

Note: For both the SUP and the kayaking, we paddled from the inner harbour to the areas between and behind Muggs Island and Centre Island Park.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Thing: Kayaking

This weekend I did a two-day Intro to Kayaking course.  What a hoot!  

I did do some canoeing when I was much younger, but this is the first time I've ever been in a kayak and I loved it!  I especially loved it because I didn't flip over and have to do any wet exits!

There were eight students in our group, plus two instructors.  All-together, a cool bunch of people.  

The pace of the course was leisurely and we spent most of our time on the water - Lake Ontario - rather than on land just listening to instructions.  My paddling needs a lot of work - I can't seem to go even kind of straight yet, but so what?  I'll just blame wind and waves.  Saturday was actually a bit choppy and wavy (which to me made it even more fun!), and Sunday was calm but hotter than hell.  

I could see myself writing in a kayak scene in a future PI Sasha Jackson mystery - and if I do, you can be sure she'll tip it over and get herself soaked!

Update (Photo) added July 24th:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thank You BBQ

Tonight I went to a BBQ/Thank You Party.  Who was being thanked and why, you ask?  Well, in the spirit of doing new and different things, for much of May and June, I was a campaign volunteer.  This is the first time I've ever volunteered for or gotten involved in politics.  It was a great experience and I met a lot of cool people!

The candidate for whom I volunteered is Arthur Potts (Liberal, Beaches-East York).  It was Art's first time running in a provincial election, and it was a tough riding to run in.  The incumbent Michael Prue had held the seat for many years (too many!)  

I don't know Arthur all that well, but I have known him for many years (we first met in 1998).  When I found out he was running, I immediately volunteered.  I knew instinctively that he'd put up a heckuva fight for the riding.  I also felt from the get-go that he'd do a fantastic job if (when) he won.  Arthur has endless energy and his enthusiasm is infectious!  He also has a knack for connecting with people.  

The election was on June 12th, and waiting for the results was something of a nail-biter!  It was a very tight race, but we all knew that Arthur and everyone involved in the campaign had given their all.  The hard work paid off:  Shortly after midnight, the ballots were tallied and Arthur won by 431 votes.  I'm so glad I was a part of this process and I am truly happy for Arthur.  And yes, I will definitely volunteer again in a future campaign (maybe municipal? maybe federal?).  It was cool getting involved.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Broadway Binge

I love seeing live shows, whether it's comedy, music or some other type of performance. I especially enjoy theatre (plays and musicals).  I've been to New York five times in the last two years, and the reason for the trips is solely to indulge in Broadway shows (and some off Broadway, too).  This time around, I saw four shows in two days (2 matinées and 2 evening shows).  

I think I'm getting tired of formulaic, clichéd musicals.  I can handle thin storylines, and I can live with predictability.  But what I disliked about this (and other recent "must-see" musicals) is the music - particularly the lyrics.  The lyrics were repetitive and seemed to be exclamation points for a theme or emotion.  I kept thinking "Yeah, I get it, move on already..."  The songs didn't seem to advance the narrative - or at least not enough to justify the length of a given number.  There were some funny lines though, and the actor playing Lola was delightfully over the top.  

Cranston was great, but the play itself was meh... Maybe it's hard to build suspense and to sustain tension when you already know the ending (will LBJ get elected???)  I kept looking at my watch.

I really liked this one!  I got a last minute rush ticket to see it.  I've never seen the movie and had no expectations about the musical (I'd not read any reviews or anything...) Terrific!  Zack Braff does a great job in the lead.  The actress playing Olive was a hoot, and Cheech was wonderful.   The story, music, set design, acting, costumes and the rest were really good.  A lot of fun - go see it if you get a chance!!!!

Another last-minute ticket purchase, and again, I had no idea what to expect...  "The music is Tupac, the story is now" - great slogan, but I don't know (didn't know) Tupac's music.    

This was great!!!!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Holler If You Hear Me was edgy, angry, hopeful, honest... It's about inner-city gang bangers trying to turn their lives around. It's quite a departure from the usual Broadway offerings - definitely worth seeing if you're in NYC.  An all-round talented cast.  

I should also note that Holler doesn't rely on fancy-schmancy costumes and zillion dollar set designs.  It's raw and simple, and that's part of what makes it so compelling.  It's simply a talented cast telling an interesting story set to great music.  Check it out.