Sunday, December 14, 2003

Shameless self-promotion

Saw a book review in the Star people might enjoy. I think the writer has a nice touch.



Thursday, September 04, 2003

Just in case anybody is worried that I've died of mojito poisoning, I want to reassure them all's well. I'm not dead, I've just been in Cleveland.

Once known as "The Mistake on the Lake", Cleveland's actually a pretty good place to spend a short while. Their downtown reconstruction efforts really seem to have gone a long way towards turning that city around, although everybody told me that the city was headed back to a downward spiral. It seems they haven't managed to convince very many people to actually move downtown.

What's really impressive about Cleveland is the way they've managed to keep the waterfront connected to the downtown core despite a highway cutting it off. Unlike Toronto, where the Gardiner really makes the Harbourfront a completely seperate and distinct community, the planners in Cleveland decided to put things on the waterfront that people actually want to go to like the Browns stadium, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a science center.

Not being all that big of a rock and roll kind of guy, I was sort of hesitant to go to the Hall of Fame but went on the grounds that when everybody asked me if I was going and when I responded negatively thay asked "Then, why Cleveland?". So I figured it was a pretty big deal.

It was well worth it -- for David Cassidy's jumpsuit alone -- but what was really great was watching middle American septugenerians going into the "Are you Experienced" theatre; the very same people who might have taken Jimi Hendrix's music to be evidence of Satan on earth about 30 years ago. It's amazing how quickly and easily things can be sanctioned and accepted.

There was also a fantastic 20 minute movie called Video Killed the Radio Star about MTV that was one of the best nostalgia pieces for my generation I've ever seen. I asked the gift shop if they had a DVD for sale, which would have made a very good gift for The Flea, but alas, no such thing was available.

Also went tequila shopping (one of my favourite cross-border activities), caught a Blue Jays game at Jacob's Field which is a beautiful park and got to see a fair bit of a really stunning two day airshow. I'll admit to some naivete and inexperience here, but those fighter jets really blew me away. Shock and awe indeed.

So that's it for now, more regular blogging will resume, but for the moment I have to go meet my football pool partner and get set up for the coming NFL season. My pick tonight is the NY Jets and over. It's a bold choice, I know.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Anybody reading who might share my bizarre Joyce quirk might be interested in the new Joyce weblog recently added to my blogroll. He promises to try to add something new every day until the centennial -- June 16, 2004.

link via Literary Saloon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Much eulogizing in the papers today about the loss of Greg Gatenby, the major force behind the Harbourfront International Festival of Authors. No, he's not dead, just going to Germany.

Gatenby seems to have resigned over creative and budget differences with the board. Reaction is mixed, however, over the loss of the visionary who turned the festival into one of the biggest, most reknown literary festivals going.

Some regarded him as a bit of a tyrant - one of his more outrageous policies was insisting authors not read at any other festivals for four months before they came to his. Now I know you can't do Leno the night before Letterman and vice versa and that this is not a unique policy, but four months! I feel fairly certain Christopher Hitchens did not agree to any such policy when he came here last October.

The most bizarre story comes from The National Post's Shinan Govani who just might have entirely run out of people in Toronto who will talk to him. Otherwise, why would he have an "unnamed source" come up with a line like this:

"It's the Moses Znaimer-ization of it all," the source said. "The egomaniacal, eccentric characters are out. The bureaucrats are in."

Surely, the unnamed authority means the opposite?

And if that weren't bad enough, he has to turn to Sky Gilbert as an authoritative voice on the festival.

Sky Gilbert, a Toronto author, said Gatenby's departure could have the positive effect of providing more room for less traditional voices. "When it comes to actually responding to the small press energy in Canada, I think the small press community didn't feel very well represented," he said.

Let's see if I have this straight. By inviting less internationally acclaimed bestselling authors and representing unknown small-press Canadian hopefuls, we will create a much more vibrant literary scene. It's obvious, really. The world will surely flock to our festival to hear readings by a bunch of people they have never heard of. That's why bad $2 (suggested donation) poetry night at the local on College Street gets so much press and worldwide acclaim.

Hopefully the new director of the festival, Geoffrey E. Taylor, will take note of Mr. Gilbert's suggestion.

P.S. I have been posting irregularily and it may unfortunately continue that way for a short while -- hopefully just long enough to get my seemingly unending computer problems fixed.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

If Lexington, Kentucky goes non-smoking, I suspect Toronto's chances for non-compliance are toast. If this is all we can expect from a state that hosts the Bourbon Barrelama art show (which I desperately want to attend), and has constituents who "...may not be farming now, but for a lot of those guys, tobacco paid for their college to get them off the farm or paid for presents at Christmas," I'm afraid the writing is on the wall.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

So long Jagermeister!

The LCBO has finally allowed absinthe into the province. Real absinthe, wormwood and all, as Jennifer Bain explains in The Toronto Star today.

Last week, I was excited to have a car so I could go to a drive-in movie. This week, the car comes in handy to chase down a bottle at one of the very few Toronto LCBOs that actually carry the stuff. Life is good.
I'm often resistant to the portrayal of Canada as slightly more humane and progressive than our neighbours to the South but I have to admit that Vancouver's new safe-injection site leaves me impressed. This, in combination with other recent events, has me wondering if we are finally living up to our reputation.

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell was quoted as saying:

"There's a part of me that says I'm prepared to try anything to save people's lives and to help them overcome addiction," he said.

"We're not going to get rid of drug trafficking and drug addiction in the city of Vancouver," added Campbell. "That's not going to happen.

"What we will do is get it under control and those people who are addicted will be in a position to get the help they want."

This all just makes Toronto's mayoral race yet more disheartening.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

I was going to have a nice sesame ginger grilled chicken over bok choy for dinner this evening, but I think I'll order Swiss Chalet as the Ontario environment minister is urging us not to use our Barbecues.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Reports that the Grand Central Station Oyster bar is being told they have to go non-smoking is a travesty. Can't we get some heritage group working on this sort of thing?

Next they'll be telling Nat Sherman's they can't have a smoking lounge.

link found at Gawker.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Something about having a car (when you don't normally have one) makes you crave junk food. Drive thru's are way more appealing when you don't have to yell at the speaker box on foot. Although you can get much closer. So I betray all my principles around food preparation and pick up McDonald's on the way to the drive-in movie theatre.

Now despite the on-line advertisement that Matrix Reloaded was the flick of the evening, we got there only to find 2Fast 2Furious or whatever it's called. Quite the dilemma. Do you actually face the dissapointment of having been at the dirve-in gates and leave? Or, do you sit through that movie waiting for Bruce Almighty to begin?

Well, to make a long story short, I have now seen one more of those suspense/action movies where you have no interest in whether or not the characters actually live. Bruce Almighty wasn't a total disspointment though, better than the Truman Show, but not nearly as good as Groundhog Day, the movie that obviously inspired it.

Steve Carell steals the movie though. I know I'm not the first person to say that.

All this rambling to that the movies aren't really the point of the drive-in experience. In a way it only makes it better if the movies suck.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Monday, June 16, 2003

Today is, of course, Bloomsday. I haven't begun celebrating yet, but will be into the Jameson's in a moment or two.

I've been planning a trip to Dublin for the centenary (next year) but often fear that I have already missed my opportunity, what with every Joyce fan on the planet wanting to go do the famous walk on June 16, 2004. Fears are somewhat allayed by this report that Davy Byrne's pub is only prepared to sell 400 gorgonzola sandwiches.

Could it be that there are only 400 people fanatic enough to travel to Dublin in order to travel in packs eating pork kidneys and gorgonzola? Seems there would be a wider market for that.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

You'd think I'd be inspired to write about something what with the new fall television schedules for Global and CTV coming out today. Funny, I'm not. I guess that kind of says it all.

So instead, I'm planning my dinner. Tonight we'll opt for the simplest thing possible, I'm going out to the local market and picking up some Atlantic salmon. I don't have the energy to hike it to get organic salmon tonight which, I swear, is worth the price and effort.

I get some arugula and baby spinach greens and cover the plate with it. If I have time (which I likely won't today) I marinate the salmon in rice vinegar, tamari and a bit of sesame oil. Then I wrap it all up in tinfoil and put it on my rapidly disintegrating barbecue.

I always make sure the salmon isn't overdone; it should still be pink and tender in the middle. Occasionally, I'll just sear it and leave it quite rare in the center. Parasites don't scare me in the least - after all, Maria Callas successfully used a tapeworm to lose 80 pounds.

Then, the sauce (and this is the key to the whole dish). I finely mince garlic, ginger and some green onions, throw it all in with a dab of sesame oil, a good tamari soya and Nakano rice vinegar. It's important to get the right rice vinegar and while there are some better vinegars out on the market, I have yet to experiment with all of them so rely on Nakano. I got some truly hideous stuff a couple of weeks ago when I strayed. It was pretty much tasteless.

Throw the salmon on top of the greens, the dressing on top of everything on the plate and dinner is served. This is my fallback recipe but it's really very good.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Many interesting things emerging about food at a moment when we are re-evaluating our production and consumption of edibles. The Toronto Star books section had reviews of three books of interest this weekend. The first, by Stuart Laidlaw, puts agri-business on the hotseat, pointing to unsafe practices like feeding animals to animals.

This all seems pretty obvious to me, my Dad having grown up in Argentina, I have known since I was weaned on wine that the beef we have here in Canada is inferior and that the pracitce of feeding cows anything other than grass or alfalfa is reprehensible from aesthetic and saftey points of view. This, of course, does not mean that I don't eat beef. Rather, I walk considerably out of my way and pay full price for my organic beef raised without hormones or by-products. Whole Foods does the trick nicely.

However, The Atlantic Monthly points out that I'm still not getting the best bang for my buck -- a tasty cow is raised on grass, whereas a lot of organic meat is grain-fed (cheaper and more enviro-friendly) which makes the beef fatty.

Laidlaw's book apparently goes further, tackling the GMOs as well. Personally, I'm on the fence here. So far, the only solid evidence I have heard about GMOs is that they feed a lot of starving people and produce inferior tasting tomatoes.

The Star also has a review of two new books about the culture of food, reviewed by Nora Young.

Young says: Not that this obsession means we're interested in doing any actual cooking. Most of us are more removed from the actual process of planting, reaping, and cooking than ever.

This pretty much sums up my point of view on one of the fundamental problems with North American food. I remember a line from The Economist a year or so back that claimed that the number of hours spent actually preparing food in England had declined in an almost direct inverse proportion to the number of hours spent watching cooking shows.

I haven't decided what's for dinner tonight, but organic veal chops have got my taste buds tingling.