Friday, 21 October 2011

Veiled threat

  Veiled is an exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada  by Andrew McPhail, Grace Ndiritu  and Tazeen Qayyum  which “examines the act of veiling the body not only as a material and physical gesture, but also as an emotional and personal process” and “the idea of a veil as a poetic device for the investigation of public vs. private space, protection and intimacy.”

  There will be a series of lectures around this topic such as “Art of the Veil: Commoditization of a Cultural Practice?” where experts will speak at the museum. I suppose that I will have to leave my assumptions at the door and approach the point of view given by the speakers with an open mind although I already have some strong feelings after seeing the exhibit. The pictures will give you a truncated tour of the installation.

Textile Museum of Canada

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  The Textile Museum of Canada which is located in downtown Toronto, is the only museum in Canada solely focused on the collection, exhibition and documentation of textiles produced globally over a span of two millennia. Anything of fabric is displayed with over twelve thousand accessioned items. The museum has two floors accessible to the public with the permanent collections on the first floor and temporary exhibits on the second floor. There is also a hands on area for children including looms and a spacious store of items for sale on the first floor.
Next to Entrance outside

Some of the permanent displays

Greek jacket from the Ionian islands late 19th century

   This is a jacket made in Corfu, Ionian islands in the late nineteenth century using cotton, gold thread and copper
West African masquerade costume 20th century

  This a Masquerade costume made in West Africa by the Senufo people during the Twentieth century using  sisal.
South African apron late 20th century

  This is an apron or liphotu as it is known locally which was woven by the Ndebele people in South Africa during the 1980s from goat skin, glass beads, brass and various plants.
Chinese headdress 20th century

  This a wire and silver headdress made by the Miao people of China sometime in the mid to late twentieth century.
Chinese jacket mid 20th century
   This is a jacket made by the Miao people of Guizhou province in China during the mid Twentieth century using silk and feathers.
Museum shop

Museum store

  If you’re interested in buying one of a kind textile items from around the world then the museum shop is worth seeing.
Close up of central Asian purse

Fabrics for sale

Entrance to shop

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Restaurant review: Manpuku

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Japanese comfort food

   This modest and unassuming Japanese restaurant is in the basement of the Ontario College of Art and Design where it serves a primarily student population who enjoy its low cost and fast service between lectures.   This post is a compilation of three visits because the portions are very large and I had to make more than one trip to get a reasonable impression of the restaurant.


  Takoyaki is flour with octopus in the center which is grilled on a special hot plate. The dish is then topped with takoyaki sauce, katsuo and anonori. Katsuo is skipjack tuna and anonori is green seaweed. katsuobushi are the dancing fish flakes of katsuo and they appear to move in the air. This is the best dish that I tasted at the restaurant and only costs $3 although it takes 15 minutes to prepare. Highly recommended.

  Ochazuke is a warm bowl of rice in a tea broth topped with nori seaweed and Japanese okaki cracker and costs $4

Negitama gyudon

  The Negitama gyudon is a large bowl of rice topped with sliced beef, green onion and an egg. Lots for $9 and well prepared. Recommended.

  The Ohitashi is a bowl of cold vegetables in a light dressing. Also recommended and cheap for Japanese food at $3.
Hotate Rice bowl
   The rice bowl with scallops, fried egg and onions cost $9. It was a large portion and well prepared.

Corn soup

    The corn soup had a good portion size and cost $3. If you like modern fast Japanese food at a moderate price, then this restaurant is a good choice. Not your usual sushi and tempera but the cost is much lower. The service is fast and friendly.
feels like being in Japan

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Occupy Toronto: St. James Park

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Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
( Emily Dickinson)

    I’ve always found it interesting that during periods of societal stress and transition people turn to dance. In the 14th century you had the Danse Macabre (fr) or Danza de la Muerte (sp) in Europe which was a cultural reaction to the predations of the Black Death although this was often an allegory for the inevitability of death - a sort of physical memento mori. The 16th century saw the Taki Unquy in the Peruvian Andes in opposition to the predations of the Conquistors and the European diseases which they brought with them. During the 19th century there was the Ghost Dance of the Native Americans in the western United States where the act of the Ghost Dance would mitigate the predations of the white settlers and a prior typhoid epidemic. Now we have the Occupy dances in opposition to the predations of the economic elites.
Announcement board at St. James Park

   As I said in my last post I went to the encampment at St. James Park last Sunday afternoon to deliver garbage bags as well as disposable utensils, cups and plates to the encampment via the public transit because many of the roads downtown were closed due to the Toronto marathon. It was quite a trek to haul all of that stuff by myself but I did.
Meditation group

  I felt that I had done enough meditation in the morning so I gave this group a pass.

Out of town group

    Thomas Walkom, a Toronto Star columnist, walked around the encampment on Wednesday and wrote the following:

In style, the Occupy Toronto protest is almost stereotypically Canadian. Those camping out in a downtown city park are polite and respectful to all, including police. The campsite itself is meticulously tidy, with protest placards lined up for inspection along the pathways.

Free food tent for protestors

  I dropped the supplies at the food tent and it was gratefully received by the folks who were almost out of plates.
Bay street banker jail

   Will the occupation gain traction.  In the following quote from the online version of Atlantic magazine, their so called  “left-wing” policies as outlined are already a current Canadian  reality so the intense demands for change of the American occupiers don’t really exist in this country. There is more a fear here of Canadian society moving in the direction of America.

What binds a large majority of the protesters together--regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education--is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.
Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement--no matter the cost.
Robert Gourlay - the original protestor

  Another bit of irony – the statue of Robert Gourlay who protested against the Family Compact, a small group of plutocrats who ran Ontario between the War of 1812 and the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. There are many similarities between the current economic environment and that of the early 19th century including the collusion of the government with the plutocrats. The plaque reads:
Robert Gourlay championed reform
ahead of his time.
In Scotland - a vote for every man
who could read and write
In England - a living wage for workers
In Canada - fair land distribution

One section of the tents in the park

  I believe that on Sunday which was the second day of occupation there were 160 tents distributed around the park.

Media center with donated computers

From Rue89:
Et si l'enrichissement des riches, la paupérisation des pauvres, cessaient d'être perçues comme des fatalités météorologiques ? Et si, et si, et si ? Pourquoi s'interdire de rêver ?

Center of the park

  Addendum October 20:  I couldn’t end this post without saying something about the food since I post restaurant reviews on this blog. The meals at the encampment are donated by many of the local restaurants so you never know what to expect except for the certainty that the food will be good and plentiful. The video below will give you a good impression of the food which is important for overcoming  a down mood from the rainy and windy days which we're currently experiencing.


Altar on Sunday

   Last Sunday I had a bifurcated day where I spent the morning at my local parish in an upscale suburban environment having communion plus a thanksgiving luncheon and the afternoon downtown at the St. James Park Occupy Toronto encampment. You can see from the pictures in this post and the next that there was quite a contrast.
Thanksgiving lunch

  Lots of food at the luncheon including poached salmon, ham with pineapple, pork tourtière (a Quebec dish consisting of a pie with a minced pork or beef filling), broiled potatoes with rosemary, rice and other dishes plus a choice of red or white wine.


  A variety of deserts were available with coffee or tea. I was certainly full when I finished.


 Nice harvest décor on the dining tables.

Two 75th birthdays

  Contrast this with delivering garbage bags as well as disposable utensils, cups and plates to the encampment via the public transit because many  of the roads downtown were closed due to the Toronto marathon which was also happening on Sunday.

St. James Cathedral from park

   St. James Cathedral is the seat of the diocesan bishop in the Toronto Anglican diocese and the park which contains a cemetery where many of the early Ontario luminaries are buried lies on the east side of the building. This was once a very prosperous part of the city but declined over the years into a relatively poor area which has recently been gentrified by new arrivals. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip attended a service at this church last summer. It`s a good place to attend if you like Anglo catholic pageantry and rubbing shoulders with the local elite.

St. James Altar

   The original church was built in 1807 but was damaged and robbed by American troops in the War of 1812. After a number of replacements burned down, the current church was built in 1853 with the bells installed in 1865 and the spire completed in 1875.


  This church was the preserve of the Family Compact, a small group of plutocrats who ran Ontario between the War of 1812 and the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 which makes the Occupy Toronto having its encampment beside the cathedral ironic since there are many similarities between the current economic environment and that of the early 19th century including the collusion of the government with the plutocrats.

  Below are the park gardens which were off limits to the encampment and in return the church supplied electricity to the occupiers.
St. James Park gardens

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Occupy Toronto

  I just got home tonight from the organizational meeting of the Occupy Toronto group in time to see myself on national television which is a strange feeling. I thought that I would compare my impressions with an online article from the Toronto Sun, the local tabloid.
A ragtag group of would-be revolutionaries gathered in a downtown parkette Thursday night to organize committees and solicit donations for Saturday’s planned Occupy Toronto demonstration.
Around 250 people — the majority of them in their 20s— assembled in a circle around several organizers of the upcoming protest against capitalism and big business — a Toronto-based rendering of the Occupy Wall Street protests that first took root in New York’s financial district in mid-September.
The group gathered in the Bloor St. W and St. George St. area, just east of the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

  The article did get the size of the group about right, the crowds had around 200 people but the rest of the comments by my estimation were off since the demographics were evenly distributed over ages from 20 to 65, probably most of them had at least an undergraduate degree and they tended to skew towards the higher end of the socioeconomic scale. Ragtag is not a word that I would use because they seemed to have pretty good organizational skills and the participants knew how to pursue goals. After an hour of procedural wrangling, things moved along rapidly with reports from the various subcommittees such as logistics, food, media, legal and medical given and training sessions for various aspects of the occupation announced.

One of three news vans
  There was wall to wall news coverage and five representatives of the constabulary.

News crews everwhere

  At this point, my personal feeling is that the demonstrations on Saturday will not be as active as in the States since Canada is not in the same economic and social situation as America. The wealth inequality is not anywhere near the US (ratio of CEO salaries to workers’ wages here is 22:1 and 475:1 south of the border), the banks did not need to be bailed out, there was no housing bubble and economy went into a short, shallow recession. Also the cost of post secondary education is relatively low compared to America and student debt is subsequently manageable for most people. This does not mean that things could not be improved but I think the strong impetus for change is not present.

One of the younger members

Three of the volunteer facilitators

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

On writing

Ernest Hemingway’s 1954 Noble Prize acceptance speech.

No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.
It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with good luck, he will succeed.
How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.
I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.

Hemingway and his cat

War of 1812 bicentennial

   Next year is the bicentennial of the War of 1812 which is not widely celebrated in America or Britain but is a really big deal in Canada since many Canadians consider it a defining moment on the road to the formation of Canada.  The federal government is going to mark the bicentennial by spending $28 million on historical education, supporting 100 events, a permanent memorial in Ottawa and infrastructure improvements to three 1812 national historical sites including Fort York in Toronto.
   PBS had an accurate two hour War of 1812 program on Monday probably because 65% of the paying members in the New York branch live in Ontario and a lot of the funding came from Canadian sources. The trailer for the program is at the top of the post.
Battle of Queenston Heights

  My Ex comes from a United Empire Loyalist family, the families who supported the Crown during the American Revolution, and  they moved to Thorold, Ontario in the early 1780s after their property was confiscated by the Continental Congress which was a common means of paying for the revolution. During the Battle of Queenston Heights in October of 1812, they got their payback by defeating the troops from Kentucky. The Kentuckians were in the wrong place and the wrong time because they had the loyalists and native allies in front of them and a 500 foot vertical drop into the Niagara gorge behind them. To make a long story short, they had a really bad day.
Fort York in Toronto

Fort York is a historic site of military fortifications and related buildings on the west side of downtown Toronto. The fort was built by the British Army and Canadian militia troops in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, to defend the settlement and the new capital of the Upper Canada region from the threat of a military attack, principally from the newly independent United States. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1923.(Wikipedia)

Fort York, soldier in British uniform c1812

One of the main canon at Fort York

  The battle of York which is the former name of Toronto was fought in April, 1813 and American troops burned and looted the town after defeating the garrison at Fort York. When the garrison was attacked the defending troops blew the fort`s magazine which killed or wounded many of the American troops and this was the probable cause for the plunder of the town. The British in retaliation burnt Washington, DC in 1814.

War of 1812 Howitzer Cannon
War of 1812 Historical Reenactor from Fort Meigs with a replica Howitzer cannon.
under creative commons licence from charissa