Creating Content for the Masses: 1960′s England Through My Granddad’s Eyes

Posted on December 20, 2013

I cut this mini movie together using 16mm footage from my Granddad Harvey’s trip to England in the 60’s. What struck me most during my first few look-throughs, was how seemingly generic his choice of subject matter was and that there was nearly 30 minutes running time of it.

 

Assuming that the equipment Harvey was carrying was pretty bulky, that setup would have taken some time and that film as well as processing would have been expensive, I couldn’t imagine what was he doing pulling over to the side of the road to film sheep.

In fact, my first thought was, it’s the kind of images people today, with limitless digital storage and Facebook walls to fill, fire off at will. We’ve all got a keen eye for “sharable” content that has mass appeal and is intentionally none too personal, so that even those in our wider circles will find it interesting.

That was my takeaway at least, until my Dad saw a few clips and told me with a laugh,

“Harvey took all that footage to just show the people back home how backwards things were over there”.

Well that changes things. We’re actually watching something made for the consumption of a wider audience! Not the same collection of acquaintances and networkers we have in mind when we take a photo to be published on our social media feeds today of course, but an audience non-the less.

Add to this, the fact that the trip would have been Harvey’s first encounter with the old world (his family moved north with the British Empire Loyalists after the American Revolution) and the steam trains and market scenes were all as alien to him as to a time traveller. Perhaps even more so considering all the British period dramas get on TV.

All this has led me to question the extent to which our constant access to such a large audience, has changed the way we document our lives and perhaps even to some extent, changed the way we value our personal experiences.

And I wonder if having the above information will change the way you view the film if you play it second time?

Mobilised & Empowered: Justin Trudeau’s Volunteers Are A Force To Be Reckoned With

Posted on May 2, 2013

I’m young and I’ve never joined a political campaign before. I’m educated, underemployed, I’ve traveled widely and lived in other countries. I have real concerns about where this country is heading but I also know there are many reasons to be deeply optimistic about what the future could be like and I am not unique.

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Last week was National Volunteer Appreciation in Canada and I had the pleasure of finally meeting the man so many of us volunteers have devoted countless hours to in support. What struck me most about seeing everyone gathering in one room was, how much we all have in common.

Bright, energetic, multicultural and willing to give our time, how did Justin corner the market on this resource that has gone seemingly untapped by every other party or politician?

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The simple answer is, Justin and his team have not just offered volunteers the opportunity to get involved but an opportunity to learn and connect with smart, talented people at a time when such things are hard to come by.

With social media pages that have already taken over the Prime Minister’s, a fundraising campaign that was actually boosted by Conservative attack ads and an openness to volunteers jumping into the front lines of the campaign, the people behind the scenes are genuinely excited to be there.

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Add to this a powerful message of hope, change and inclusiveness and you’ve got yourself a force of volunteers that should not be underestimated. Omar Alghabra said it best, speaking at 30 Duncan Street last Tuesday just after Justin took the floor,

“We’re all here because we believe that Canadians deserve someone better. Someone who understands the challenges they face and takes the time to listen to their ideas while showing the respect their opinions deserve… You just didn’t know that that someone would be you.”

I’m not unique among the volunteers on Team Justin but I bet you won’t find people like us behind another party in Canadian politics.

Canadian Food Is The Lack Thereof

Posted on April 9, 2013

What is Canadian food anyways? Ever been asked this and wondered what to say? After living in central Europe and entertaining guests from the region in Canada, this question has come up a lot and is usually broached with a discernable air of cultural superiority from the European side.

So, I often find myself on the defensive. With food being such a big part of national identity in other countries, it seems implied that Canada is in some way lacking in sophistication.

In this country though, questions that relate to identity are never easily answered. To ask “what is Canadian food?” also forced one to make some kind assumption about who might be eating this food. And since anyone could be Canadian, the answer is, anything could be Canadian food.

Growing up in Toronto it seemed inherit to me that what my family ate for dinner was not the same thing as what my friends and neighbors would be eating.

By contrast, while living in my first homogeneous society, it was mind-blowing to learn that while most meals looked pretty much the same, each one actually had a name and could also be found in a recipe book sitting in every home.

If you asked me what I ate for dinner last night and I said “roasted potatoes”, there would probably be a follow-up question as to how they were done because there are so many ways. In Austria however, when you say, “I ate Bratkartoffeln (roasted potatoes) last night” you’re actually referring to something very specific that’s cooked in a pan and everyone eats the same way.

This recipe based definition of food however, strikes me as a fairly limited attitude towards cuisine. When Canada does try to fit this model, the result is usually some kind of top ten list featuring Poutine, Swiss Chalet Sauce and other clichés that are mostly just embarrassing and actually says very little about what people eat here.

Instead, I suggest bringing the conversation up to speed with the society it relates to.  In Canada, comparison to other countries is often relied on to bring to light what is uniquely different and therefore “Canadian”.  If this sounds like a cultural void, I’d suggest rather, it’s an extremely liberating and individualistic experience to be Canadian.

It means you can find food from all over the world here and in the end, people end up eating what ever it is that they like, with a few commonalities. Canadians prize freshness, great quality and always look forward to the next big trend in food to take part in.

If visiting the country and you want a “Canadian dining experience”, my advice it to try sampling as much as possible and leave rules behind.

Just incase this is not specific enough, I thought it might be fun to mention a few things I’ve notice about Canadian food that are quite unique, at least compared to Europe.

 

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It’s Kept Cold: Coolers are a must have for summer road trips and cottaging, you can buy ice at any convenience or grocery store. Canadians also like ice in their drinks, if you’re at a restaurant and don’t want ice, you need to specify that.

Note: “cottaging” is term used in Ontario meaning – leave the city, drive like mad until you get up north, then spend the weekend by a lake.

Steak & Meat Straight Up: With an ocean on both sides and access to great beef, you’ll find a lot less marinating and sauces going on here. Just cook the salmon or beef steaks up (preferably on a charcoal barbeque) and tuck in.

Barbeques: Why heat up the house when you can cook outside? If you’re invited to a friend’s house in the summer, chances are it’s a BBQ. No one is slaving the day away in the kitchen and as you’ll find out, just about anything can be cooked on the barbeque.

Raw Veggies: I’ve never seen people crowd around a plate of veggies and dip before like they do here. You can get everything local when in season. Canadians learn to eat their veggies as they are.

 

The Mighty Reds

Posted on March 21, 2013

Definitely not known for being one of the best clubs in the world but you could say the fans are. Most of us don’t go to see the team win, just to enjoy each other’s company, some good weather and huge pints of beer.

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Canada’s first Major League Soccer Team was born in 2007 and known the world over, not for its players but its extremely supportive and enthusiastic fans. In fact they are a textbook legend for any new sports club trying to muster a following.

Toronto fans have helped make the club one of MLS’ most successful franchises right from the start. In fact, the Toronto Football Club had been profitable since its first year with regular sellouts and sold-out seasons tickets.

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The Reds, as the TFC is called, pack almost 80000 seats every game at home and have a substantial group appearing at away games. In the Reds case, the fans are part of the attraction and you can’t help but have a great time being with them. “All for one” is their slogan and they have some nice great merchandise to go along with their team spirit and catchy cheers.

One of the most fun Reds’ cheers is in French (don’t ask me why) and everyone goes mad singing it back and forth to the fan cheerleaders. Another curiosity, fan cheerleaders seem to be self nominated volunteers who take it upon themselves to keep their seating section standing and singing.

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Qu’est ce que vous chantez [Group 1]

Nous chantons les rouges allez [Group 2]
[Repeat 4x]

{Jumping}
la la la la_la – la la_la la_la la la [Groups 1 & 2]
[Repeat 4x]

The stadium is located at Exhibition Place along the Toronto lakeshore and on a game night you can see the seats packed with red and white while you drive along the Gardner Express Way into the city from the West.

Get to a game if you possible can, I can’t promise you a win just a great time.

 

Let’s Go To The Ex

Posted on March 19, 2013

Attracting crowds for over 130 years now the Ex is a much loved summer to-do that everyone has memories of visiting when they were a kid. Staples include soft-server ice-cream, Tiny Tom Donuts and rickety midway rides.

Every August The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) lights up Exhibition Place during the 18 days leading up to and including Labour Day Monday. Approximately 5.3 million people visit every year making it Canada’s largest fair and the seventh largest in North America.

Originally the focus of the fair was on agriculture and technology, featuring such events as the Butter Churning Competition in the Dairy Amphitheater. These days though, the focus is much more on the food.

You can get just about anything deep fired, even butter and an enjoy a hamburger in between doughnuts or two grilled cheese sandwiched (my favorite!) There are also as many options when it comes to pulled pork… basically, if you can dream it, you will find it in the food building.

While these days you’ll find the rides on the expensive side, about 5 bucks a pop, and the betting games stacked against you, the nostalgia is wonderful! I had not been in years and I think, probably in another decade, I’ll be hankering for go on the gravitron again.

I would be needing to go back sooner but now, I hear you can get a burger between two grilled cheese sammys in Kensington Market at the Burgernator, so I think I’ll be saving up calories for that.

Trinity Bellwoods Farmer’s Market

Posted on June 5, 2012

You can say that buying organic is a fad if you like but once you’ve had fresh-off-the-farm food that has been lovingly grown and harvested, you suddenly remember what “real food” tastes like.

First Batch Ontario Strawberries

First Batch Ontario Strawberries

Take a look at these Ontario Strawberries!  Remember? With long stems and a delicate green fringe of leaves, they are nothing like those big watery ones you get at the grocery store you have to cut the top off of.  Since these were the first pick they were a little on the sour side but so tasty! Next week a basket should be going for $5 and you can return the basket from your previous week’s purchase.

Lovell Springs Trout Farms

Lovell Springs Trout Farms

If fruits and veg are not you main priority there is plenty more at the market that will get you excited. Take Lovell Spring Farms for example. Here you can get a one pound rainbow trout dressed for just $6. Plenty for one if you’re a big eater and they sell out fast! Best is to put your name on their order list for the following week. It’s a great system. If you don’t show up by the time you stipulated then they sell your fish – so no phone call needed.

The Twin Creeks Organic Farms

Twin Creeks Organic Farms

Another favorite is Twin Creeks Organic Farms with a whole rang of meats available including a preorder lists for grass feed only beef and lamb as well as pastured corn & soy free pork, poultry and rabbit. Also tempting is their 6 month meat share subscription which comes in two sizes, standard and small. Each month you get a mix of mostly frozen beef, lamb and pork (which can be substituted). Their last share delivery looked something like this: Ground Beef / Stew Beef / Sirloin Steak / Farmer Sausage / Pork Loin Chops / Lamb Chops

Monforte Dairy Co.

Monforte Dairy Co.

Finally, we get to the cheeses. Of course expensive but if you love cheese it’s a great splurge. Also good to note is that Monforte Dairy Co. is very generous with their samples incase you get peckish. I recommend giving their camembert a try. Trust me you will end up buying it.

Ali's Fish Shack

Ali’s Fish Shack

Should get hungrier than samples will provide, you may want to make a stop at Ali’s for some fine roti or fritters. Both come in fish or vegie options that have been sustainably caught or organically farmed.

St. Johns Bakery

St. Johns Bakery

Most days though, I just pick up a loaf of bread to nosh on that will go nicely with my new cheeses.  The Trinity Bellwoods Farmer’s Market is small but as you can see, there are some real gems here. It’s on every Tuesday from 3pm – 7pm. You can find out more info about the vender here at www.tbfm.ca.

 

Sip Scotch In Style Like Daniel Craig: Wicked Gift Idea

Posted on December 16, 2011

A few months ago I got it into my head that I needed some serious scotch glasses. After that scotch glasses were all I could see, cropping up in movies, TV shows, home magazines. Seriously, the same glasses I finally got were later featured front and centre with Daniel Craig on the cover of Esquire in August.

Lauren by Ralph Lauren Cocktail Party Double Old Fashioned Argyle Glasses (Set of 4)

Lauren by Ralph Lauren Cocktail Party Double Old Fashioned Argyle Glasses (Set of 4)

When starting the hunt for the perfect set my first impulse was look for antiques. Especially since I wanted crystal and they would be something I’d keep forever. Generally, I always prefer antiques. There’s nothing better than hunting something down that’s unique and you really like. But I never found what I was looking for in the right price range.

That is until a trip to The Bay home ware section. These Lauren by Ralph Lauren “Cocktail Party Double Old Fashioned Glasses” were better then anything I’d seen. Very “when men were men” look and feel.

Their weight is perfect. They’re made of heavy lead crystal and have a sold thick base.  What also caught my eye is they’re made in Germany. Now for that quality what would you except to pay? I thought 60 dollars for a set of four was pretty great, especially since I love them.

Not only are there several patterns to choose from (Glen Plaid, Argyle and I think two others), you can also opt for the highball set, shot glasses or a very lovely scotch decanter. I’m going back for the decanter as soon as I can.

Esquire Cover August 2011

Esquire Cover August 2011

And of course, now that I have finally found them, I’m seeing them everywhere.

 

The Closest Experience to a European X-Mas Market Torontonians Can Get

Posted on December 14, 2011

Toronto Christmas Market Distillery District High-res version

If you not familiar with the European Christmas Market concept, it’s basically a really fun outdoor experience in which friends get together to sip hot mulled wine while they try to keep warm.

European Christmas Markets traditionally pop up in city squares around the beginning of December. They’re a great place to get local handcrafts as well as backed goods and meats from small businesses that set up shop in little huts.

The coolest handcrafts the Toronto Christmas Market were at Handcrafted Coinart by Cordo & Emily. They take antique coins and turn them into pendants for a necklaces by carving out the images in them so they’re free floating.

The highlight though, at least for me, is the mulled wine. It goes by many names in Europe. For the Austrians it’s Glühwein, the Scandinavians call is Glögg and the variations continue. The base of the drink though is all the same. Hot red wine simmered with various warm spices like cinnamon and some added sugar.

Recently markets in Europe have started experimenting with mixtures adding rum and other flavors but the mulled wine served at the Toronto Christmas Market is closer to the traditional recipe.

If you’re interested in making it yourself it’s a great touch at a Holiday party and there’s a really easy ‘cheat’ to making it. Most people in Europe buy “mulled wine teabags” full of all the right spice that you drop into a pot of simmering red wine on the stove top. Luckily, you can pick up these teabags at the Reithers Fine Food International booth. For a liter of wine you just need to use two bags and you should use a red wine you would actually drink on its own (don’t go too cheap). Once the teabags have steeped for about 15 minutes, add sugar to taste. One cup should be plenty. Too much sugar and you’ll feel it in the morning.

Make sure you checke this Christmas Market out, it’s all over on the 18th December and makes a great change of pace!

 

Graz: In the Heart of Styria

Posted on December 3, 2011

Its “Old Town” is one of the best-preserved city centres in Central Europe. As a city, Graz was culturally important for centuries and was added to the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage Sites. It’s about an hours drive southwest from Vienna and you don’t need more than a day to have a look around. I got lucky on a day with some sunny weather which is not too common.

 

The Best Flea Markets Are in Berlin: Flohmarkt Mauerpark

Posted on December 2, 2011

For quality vintage you would pay a fortune for in some cities, Berlin’s got it in bulk and cheap. My must go-to market when in town is the one at Mauerpark. I even arrange trips around being there on a Sunday (the only day it’s open).  Trust me, you’ll wish you hade a shipping container to load up when you visit this market.

Mauerpark Flea Market

Mauerpark Flea Market

We showed up before noon on a cold and rainy early spring Sunday in a part of town that seemed industrial and barren. After a short walk from the subway station to Bernauer Strasse we finally we fell into the hordes of people, both locals and tourists, funneling into the grounds to spend the afternoon.

You don’t have to worry about showing up hungry to this market. There are plenty of venders offering tradition Berlin style eats as well as Turkish and international. I would suggest grabbing something at the beginning because you may not find your way out again for a while.

Mondi Glasses From Mauerpark Fleamarket

Mondi Glasses From Mauerpark Fleamarket

My best score of the day was a pair of vintage Mondi eyeglasses circa 1980 made in Germany I had my prescription put into. I paid 30 Euros for them! There were actually several stalls at the market full of vintage glasses and sunglasses. I should have gotten several pairs. I also got a lovely silk scarf from a “1 Euro pile”, a 60’s dress and a Fuji instant camera for 7 Euros.

Also if you are into Soviet memorabilia, vinyl, German flatware or German film cameras, you’ll have a ball here.

What I absolutely could not get over though was the amount of late 60’s and 70’s style furniture. Even some nice Dutch Modern. The majority of it was in good condition and extremely cheap.  We’re talking 10 Euros for a couch or set of four chairs, 20 Euros for a hand made dresser.

The market can seem to go on forever and it is huge. So if you are a serious ‘antiquer’ I would leave your Sunday wide open for this one.

Mauerpark Flea Market

Mauerpark Flea Market

Mauerpark Fleamarket
Bernauer strasse 63-64, Mitte
Tel: 0176 29 25 00 21
Open: 10-18 Sundays