Friday, August 30, 2013


Toronto screams greatness. At least that was my impression during a quick weekend getaway. There is the sense of a city on the move, progressing, growing, evolving. Grandness. It's something that is sadly lacking in Montreal, my favourite cultural hub. If only the government of the day in Quebec would worry a little less about the types of funny clothing people wear on their heads and worry a lot more about fixing the goddamned roads, rotting Montreal infrastructure, healthcare, education, and job creation. One of the first things I saw in Toronto was a pair of construction workers ... working. At night, no less. I mean, really working. I never see things like that in Quebec. Seriously, FIX THE GODDAMNED ROADS, QUEBEC!
But I digress.

I hadn't really spent any time in the downtown Toronto area before and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. So, armed with two of my best buds - J.P. Budman and Mr Anderson - I set out to discover what the fuss was all about.

We didn't get very far before discovering a piece of the homeland, in the form of Cora's (better known as Chez Cora), my favourite all-day breakfast chain. In fact, many recognizably Quebecois stores popped up with shiny new-looking storefronts and weird anglicized names. As luck would have it, Stan the Man from Oz was in town just prior to beginning an exchange in the U.S. and I was able to introduce him to the delights of «les oeufs Ben et Dictine».
Delicious Crêpes ... and an Aussie
Toronto has some pretty cool comic shops. I only managed to stop in to Silver Snail Comics (very nice), One Million Comix (also very nice), and the Hairy Tarantula (a true comic book store if ever there was one, with full-on hardcore geek / nerd speak throughout). Sadly, I'll have to leave the Comic Book Lounge for my next trip. This last one seems like the sort of place I might enter and never ever leave.

Silver Snail Comics
The Comic Book Lounge
Aside from the recent McBaguette and the McPizza of my youth, I have vague recollections of trying out a McLobster sandwich somewhere in the USA (Maine perhaps?) many years back. However, as it happened to be available locally for a limited time only, I thought I'd take the opportunity to sample the regional speciality, this time around with photographic evidence for the next time I forget its existence and almost adequate edibility. Still on the to-do list: McAloo Tikki and McSpicy Paneer.

Dating Site Profile Picture

The Harsh Reality
The boys and I did a lazy wander around town to explore. Alas, the CBC shop (I had wanted a souvenir) closed down just a few months ago. We stumbled upon a number of interesting sculptures, ranging from the aesthetically pleasing to the just plain bizarre, and even walked along the Walk of Fame - though we couldn't seem to find Wayne and Shuster.

All in all, it was really nice and easy to get around. The TTC is probably the best transit system I have used to date. It helps that subway cars are spacious and clean, and electronic signs helpfully point out everything, including which side the doors will open at a particular stop.

Toronto also has its fair share of lunatics. I left the boys at the hotel late one night and went to an all-night Starbucks to mentally recharge my introvert batteries and do a little work in my head (ah, the life of the researcher). After some time, a gentleman approached and introduced himself as "The Machine 2014" 'cause next year would be his year. He told me that all women are stupid because they didn't realize what great catches real men were (shock-surprise twist ending: real man = The Machine 2014), that he hadn't been able to hold a job since his ex-girlfriend had him arrested, details on the book he was writing at that moment, and that he was bipolar. He spoke on and on, but my mind quickly drifted back to trying to prove that a certain class of Lipschitz functions is actually the maximal generator of another class of functions, so I can't remember what else he said; though I'm sure it was equally as entertaining. An interesting night, to say the least.

Find "Furry" Friendship. Indeed, Toronto. Indeed.

A Good Day to Die. Not.

A Comedy Legend
We met up with one of my oldest and dearest friends (and possibly the coolest teacher you'll never have), the lovely Jada. A fellow fan of horror, cult, and the obscure, she told me about a very cool trash cinema night - that I just missed. Not to mention the TIFF Midnight Magic screenings going on right now. Toronto, why you gotta play me like that, girl?

I Spit On Your Grave

Yeah, here come the Rooster ...

Zira, Cornelius, and the head of Dr. Zaius!

Friday the 13th Part VI: The Horse Lives!
I just barely missed the Game On retro video games exhibition when it came to Melbourne in 2008. Samwise Collins had regaled me with tales of its greatness, and so I knew I couldn't pass it up when I saw the exhibition was currently on display in T.O. - and the 2.0 version at that! Second is the best, after all (first being the worst, and so on). It was held in the Ontario Science Centre.

The Ontario Science Centre. Oh wow. This place is legitimately too cool for school. When I get really excited, I forget that I'm supposed to pretend to be an adult and become the most obnoxious kid you can imagine. Thus is explained my behaviour that day. Buds, Kev, I'm sorry I abandoned you as soon as I saw all the fun games and interactive experiments (let's be real for a moment here - toys for adults). I ran around and flapped my arms, and admittedly nudged more than a few 8-year-olds out of the way so that I could play such classics as: Pong, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and more - and I finally beat Tron!!! I thought for sure they'd have Zaxxon, Space Invaders, and Q*bert too, but these were nowhere to be found.
Game On 2.0 at Ontario Science Centre

Manna from Heaven

The rest of the exhibits at the centre were just as exhilarating, including displays on electromagnetics, kinetics, visual and auditory illusions, aerodynamics, paper airplane making, genetics and racial differences, and so on. Plus, the young staff all seemed to be decked out in Bill Nye the Science Guy outfits (at least to me) and were having a ball explaining science to little kids. I could definitely see myself quitting academia to work in a place like this.

Another great thing about the centre was that I got to scare people. I love a good scare. I got a little tired out from running around and being overstimulated. When I get like this, I become hypersensitive to stimuli - light, sound, touch, etc. become painful. Luckily, I spotted a replica of a cave in the middle of the interactive displays that seemed to garner no attention. The dark interior provided much-needed relief. I remained alone with my thoughts for an eternity, or more accurately, about ten minutes. Then I heard some children trepidatiously entering the cave. Being the gentle soul that I am, I scared the hell out of them and laughed for a good little while. The kids, being kids, thought this was the greatest thing ever, and together we did the same to the next group to enter. The ensuing screaming and laughter started to make this a bit too popular for my tastes, and so I made haste to the cave exit, whereupon I spotted Kev and Buds. I quickly sent them into the cave to be scared, and then ran off to have some more fun.

Boogedy Boogedy Boo!

Oh Smurf! Gargamel finally prevails!


One of the best moments of this trip was being able to see my very good friend Eugene and his beautiful family again. Life being as it is, we hadn't met face to face in over eight years. Good friendships, however, endure. He graciously offered to pick Josh, Kev, and me up from a subway station in his cool red car and drove us to his place in style for some suburban relaxation and some amazing BBQ. While Buds played with the kids, and Kev played with the kitty, Eugene and I spoke like no time had passed at all. Hopefully it won't be another eight years before our next rendez-vous.
Schwarzenegger and DeVito reunite after eight long years!!!

The boys and I made good use of our remaining time in Toronto. We had some very good sushi, went out for drinks, and roamed around town. A big shout out goes to Greg (?) the CBC Radio employee who pointed us in the direction of Ossington Avenue to find some good places to chill. Greg walked and talked with us for about ten minutes, and we discussed our respective work and careers. That was cool.

Another big shout out goes to the dude at the theatre festival party who managed to scrounge up three leftover giant delicious chocolate brownies and gave them to us for free after I had asked him if he knew where I could get a real good chocolate cookie at two in the morning in downtown Toronto. This is my Canada.

Second-to-last shout out to the beautiful girls who turned up the music and started dancing to Hot Fuss at that last bar. Thanks for the memories.

And of course, the biggest shout out of all to my boys Big Kev and Buds, for putting up with me for a whole weekend, and for a really great time. Love you guys.

Pinkman and Heisenberg at the diner. Bitch.
P.S. Beware potential maniacs wearing sex, drugs, and RAP T-shirts.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Geek Love

G and I dressed to impress, hit up Mikes, and then went to the movies.
Playgirl 2013 Geek Edition
Since Margaret and David are taking a break, and Siskel and Ebert are dead, here are some reviews from yours truly. Spoiler alert, I guess.

1) This is the End

Good, really good, but not great. Critical raves aside, I guess my expectations were just a bit too high. I’m still not convinced rape jokes should be a thing … but if they are going to be a thing, they should be left only to comedians of extraordinarily deft ability when it comes to the art of crafting a joke. Such was not the case here. Also, wish there was more Michael Cera in it. Small complaints. Otherwise, a good film worth checking out. I enjoyed it more for its concept and originality than for making me laugh (but it did make me laugh).

2) Star Trek Into Mediocrity

Ooooooooooohhhhhh ........................................................ yeaaaaahhhhhhhh!
Yaawn. Good Star Trek is an exploration of ethics dressed up as dumb action. This film was all dumb action. Nothing really makes sense. Your brain wants to turn off to enjoy said action, but the film is so utterly stupid your brain is forced to scream out to tell you so. They have … still … a transporter that can transport you basically anywhere. But they need to land the Enterprise on a planet and off again so that Spock can play in a volcano … yeah, okay, whatever. I guess it would have made too much sense to use your freakin’ magic transporter. And what a waste to have Robocop and Benedict Cumberbatch as the villains in the same movie. Either one alone is enough to carry a potentially great film; squeezing in both just leaves each with inadequate screen time. And with all due respect to Benedict Cumberbatch, Khan is not some whiny pasty-faced British-sounding emo bitch. Khan is a red hot blooded masculine beast of a man in the form of Ricardo Montalbán pretending to be an East Indian. I’m talking fine Corinthian leather here. To be clear, I’m not faulting Cumberbatch’s acting. There’s only so much one can do with poor writing and mischaracterization. And oh wow, but do they not think much of women: Uhura alternates between annoying constantly angry girlfriend and eye candy, and "Dr" Carol Marcus is there … to take her clothes off. Roddenberry would be rolling over in his grave, you know, if he had been buried. Don’t even get me started on Spock’s emotional outburst (a laugh-out-loud parody of a scene from Wrath of Khan) or the one-too-many oh-look-it’s-yet-another-exotic-looking-Star-Wars-alien moments. The actors are fine, the cinematography is fine, the writing is something you hope to avoid stepping on while walking down the street. Pass.

3) Man of Steel

Ooooooooooohhhhhh ........................................................ yeaaaaahhhhhhhh!
Boy that Spock sure gets around, doesn't he? But I digress.

The newest Superman film is in one sense as much a clusterfuck as the latest Star Trek, with the plot here revolving around central character and Daily Planet staffer, Jenny. God bless young, sweet, brave Jenny. You go girl. Anyway. What is strange is that it somehow works. One reason for this, is that it seems to comprise a vast collection of moments from popular blockbusters of years past: The Matrix, Independence Day, Alien, Aliens, Avatar, The Sixth Sense, etc. Another reason is that there’s this great scene wherein Kevin Costner gets killed for no reason whatsoever. If they put fictional Kevin Costner getting pointlessly killed on replay for like 45 minutes, that's another blockbuster right there (I emphasize fictional here; the man has a family and kids after all). LOTS of sexual innuendo. Clark while atop Lois, relates how he can do things “no ordinary man can do”. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Need an array of penis-shaped missiles? Here, have an array of penis-shaped missiles. Clark and Lois fall in love, though they speak for a total of no more than five minutes, which mostly has Clark saying, “Hello Lois. So … did I tell you about the time I let my father die? And watched it happen? True story.” It has some truly great moments too: Superman’s father Maximus rides on the back of a flying dragon. There is a late, great Christopher Reeve digital cameo. Supes indirectly commits genocide. And ultimately, Superman kneels before Zod (as well he should). All in all, a great laugh-out-loud comedy.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chappelle’s Show

Dave Chappelle suddenly decided he needed to do some stand-up at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival. I just as suddenly decided I needed to see him do stand-up at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival. I found this out about five minutes before tickets went on sale, and thought it would be a breeze to pick some up. Six hours and many cups of tea later, I finally managed to snag a pair of prime tickets to the last of ten scheduled shows.

My good friend D and I entered the theatre, hopeful but unsure of what to expect. After all, it had been a long time since Chappelle had been on stage, and mumblings of his shows earlier in the week gave mixed reviews.

Harold and Kumar go to Chappelle's Show
The show was amazing, from beginning to end - easily one of the best I’ve seen (last shows usually are). The openers were Neal Brennan and Hannibal Buress. Brennan had a few good zingers and Buress killed, leaving the audience in just the right mood before the master took stage. Suffice it to say that by then Chappelle had finessed his material to the point where there were many hits, no misses, and you felt you were having an intimate conversation with him. A hilarious conversation.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Heaven is a Place on Earth

It’s a little known fact that one of the easiest routes to heaven is to take exit 14E off the I89 over to 1251 Williston Road, South Burlington, Vermont where you’ll see a big sign that says, “Al’s French Frys”.

Once there, order the corn dogs.

Then sit back and enjoy pure bliss!
I'm Lovin' It

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Up in the Air

The Prestige!

Third time’s the charm when it comes to yours truly and flying first class. Largely I credit this to the new style of seat that easily transforms into a veritable bed, a blessing for one suffering from bad knee pain.

I often have to travel for work and I tend to stick with the same airline (Air Canada, the best of the North American airlines). Hence, I occasionally get a few perks here and there.  This time my prestige status got me bumped into business class, including the business class security line (or lack thereof). With a bit of time to kill, I used a voucher to access the Maple Leaf Lounge for the first time, mostly out of curiosity. It was nice for what it was, the air conditioning was a relief on an unpleasantly hot Paris morning and I managed to gorge myself on all sorts of delicious snacks.

Foolish Passenger Obscures Photo of Steward's Stunning Thumb

Onboard I was treated like royalty - the response to every request given with respect and a smile. Even silly ones. The gourmet-style foods came out almost non-stop (the salmon and cod come to mind, as well as a great selection of French cheeses and breads). Otherwise, I slept most of the way.

All in all, not a bad way to travel.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

SUMS Reunion 2013

The Montreal Gang
Many thanks to all who came out for a great night, and to the lovely staff at the relatively new Lola Rosa on Avenue du Parc for handling our rather large, boisterous group. Hope to see you all next year!