Monthly Archives: May 2011

The New Face – and Feet – of the Music Industry

Simon Walls

I first met Simon Walls three years ago when I was booking bands to play at the Paradise Restaurant patio on Toronto Island during Wakestock as part of a Rock For Humanity fundraiser. While I was looking for bands to fill the bill we got a press kit in the mail from Simon Walls – a singer/songwriter from Montreal – with a short note and his second EP “Don’t Ask Your Eyes What the End Looks Like”. His music was personal, the riffs catchy and his work ethic inspiring. Simon wanted to play Rock For Humanity shows in Toronto and we thought he was a perfect fit for the Wakestock bill. Simon has a hectic work schedule working at a youth house in Montreal and couldn’t take much time off so he drove overnight from Montreal and napped in his car while he waited to meet up with us at the ferry docks.

Fast forward to the present. Simon is walking across Canada. He’s no stranger to blistered heels; Walls walked over 1000 km across Spain in 2008 and used some of his footage to create the music video for “Things I Will Give Up”. While Simon may have experience in roughing it, nothing could prepare him for his newest venture. Clocking in at just over 9,000 kilometers if he sticks to the route he’s mapped out in advance, Simon’s journey has seen the western tip of the country and will continue all the way east to the ocean. Throughout his walk, Simon documents his journey via updates to the blog on his website, plays shows wherever he can and lets his travels inspire him. When he reached the halfway point of his walk in Toronto, Simon took his newfound inspiration to the studio and will resume his walk across the country on Tuesday with a new record titled “Klein Blue”.  (Click on the link to buy).
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Despite all of his planning prior to his departure, Simon continues to be surprised with what his walk brings.  He couldn’t have anticipated the kindness of strangers he’s met who offer him food, money and sometimes even a place to stay. When he isn’t being hosted by someone he’s just met Simon sleeps in fields, parking lots, forests and campgrounds. He’s been surprised by a pack of coyote’s sniffing and snarling outside of his tent in the middle of the night and has endured sleeping in a field next to a tractor during a massive storm in the prairies. He’s spent lonely nights in his tent (which he carries on his back while he walks) recording new song ideas on his iPhone.

On the final leg of his walk, Simon is looking forward to swimming in the ocean when he reaches St. John’s, Newfoundland in September and meeting all the great people the east coast has to offer. He’s looking forward to walking through Montreal, his hometown, and is hoping to get a big group of people to walk with him there. Simon’s learned a few things from the first 4,800 he’s walked:

I really have to pace myself at first. Take it slow. I’ll have to really work on going slow all the way to Montreal, then I can pick up the pace. One of my goals is to meet more people, try and sleep in more houses as opposed to fields, in my tent.

The music industry certainly isn’t easy to make it into. With it’s future resting precariously in the hands of internet and new media, artists, management and labels are trying to find ways to still make a profit. With emerging artists like Simon, the future is clear. Imagine if all artists worked so hard at their art or traveled such great distances to promote their albums. No tour bus, no rider, no ego and no misplaced sense of entitlement; just pure, inspirational motivation and talent.

Whatever awaits him on the second and final part of his walk across the country, one thing is for sure – Simon will be charming the heart and ears of everyone he meets.

Simon is playing his last show in Toronto at the Cameron House on Monday, May 30, 2011 before he leaves for his walk on Tuesday morning.

Snuggie Sutra and Kitten Kuddlez

Of course I have a Snuggie. Are you surprised?

I got them for Jordan and I as a housewarming gift when we got our own place. Nowadays, the dog uses them more than we do. Until now…

A month or two ago I found another use for the Snuggie on the glorious interwebs:

Because cold arms have really been ruining my sex life and what isn’t sexier than this? You wouldn’t believe all the different things you can do with 2 blankets with sleeves and a pal, including the Matador, the Parachute and the Yes Ma’am. Personally, I’d go for these guys over the generic blue and red pieces:

Speaking of warm and snuggly

Have you seen this video of the mama cat hugging her baby kitten?

SO MUCH CUTE! CUTE EXPLOSION!

Dying For A Home

**This is an article I wrote for a non-profit organization I volunteer with, Rock For Humanity and can also be found on their website and blog.**

Last Thursday, May 19, 2011 Rock For Humanity attended the 5th annual June Callwood Lecture hosted by the Toronto Public Library.

June Callwood was a Canadian journalist and activist whose fiery passion to help others inspired and touched the lives of many. After her death in 2007, the Toronto Public Library established a lecture series in her name to honour her work within the community.

One of the women inspired by Callwood is Cathy Crowe; a nurse who took to the streets 30 years ago to help Toronto’s most vulnerable. Crowe is a local activist who has taken on the fight for a national social housing program. In 1998, Crowe co-founded the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee and declared homelessness a national disaster. Rock For Humanity was drawn in by Crowe’s passion for change 5 years ago and donated the proceeds of one of their shows to the TDRC and its initiatives. Since then, RFH has worked closely with Street Health; another organization Crowe has worked with that provides mental and physical health programs to the homeless and under-housed in Toronto. (Check out our beginners Photoshop skills via the handbill for our concert benefitting the TDRC…embarrassing!)

Cathy Crowe’s lecture titled “The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home” focused on the vulnerable men, women and children who are literally dying for homes while the government cuts funding and social programs designed to help them.
As a public heath nurse, Crowe’s home visits introduced her to men and women living in substandard housing without the basic necessities many of us take for granted. Crowe tells the story of one man who lived in a room that served as his bedroom, kitchen (with only a can opener and one set of utensils) as well as his bathroom (a pail). His weekly grocery list was short: canned salmon and strawberries. Crowe explains that the recent shortage of food at drop-ins, shelters and soup kitchens is just that – recent – and those with medical conditions, allergies or cultural food requirements are forced to eat whatever is available.

Crowe recalls the first Out of the Cold program in 1987 where shelters and church kitchens opened their doors to serve hot, home cooked meals to whoever showed up. While the food supply has declined, the Out of the Cold program continues with about 120 volunteers at each site and a growing number of people needing the service. For the first time since its inception, the program was forced to turn people in need away. The fact that we are still relying on volunteer-run, faith-based programs to provide food and shelter for those in need is astounding and a true reflection that our government does not prioritize the right to shelter or access to food.

Along with the Harris-initiated cuts to housing and social assistance budgets, there have also been rules created that prohibit city-funded agencies from providing food, blankets and supplies to those living on the streets without adequate housing. These rules prohibiting social supports were put in place in an attempt to stop “enabling” the homeless to continue living on the streets, while shelters are over capacity with people, viruses and bedbugs.  The controversial Tent City on Toronto’s waterfront was at one point home to over 100 men and women receiving support from outreach agencies like TDRC until these people were forced out of their homes to make way for a Home Depot.
“It used to be that someone dying homeless was an extreme event such as a freezing death … We eventually reached a point when we could no longer keep up with responding to the deaths – there were simply too many.”
The Church of the Holy Trinity now co-hosts a monthly memorial for those who die homeless and serve a lunch for everyone that attends. In one month this year 13 names were added to the memorial and that only counts the names the community has tracked. Obtaining these numbers is hard enough work since neither the Coroner’s office or Public Health track homeless deaths.

In terms of current initiatives, there are 7 affordable housing complex’s being built right now. St. Clare’s at 180 Sudbury Street will have 190 units on completion and will focus on housing families. It’s been sprayed against bedbugs, has a balcony for every apartment, a 24 hour security team and has the option of fully accessible apartments.

Homes like these are relatively rare as of late. The last federal budget did not address housing and the last provincial budget cut funding for affordable housing. Cathy Crowe’s describes the latest fight for housing as a different sort of fight. This fight will be waged in the courtroom. TDRC members have met with legal experts and have filed a Constitutional Charter challenge on the right to housing with the Superior Court of Canada. Updates will be posted to the TDRC website as they happen.
“Today, we continue to need kitchens of relief, the kitchens where loving hands stir soups
and chili to serve those in need…But we also need those same hands to stir the political pot, to make sure we get off this path.”
So what can we do?  Sure, it’s easy to sit back and feel helpless while doing nothing. Cathy Crowe suggests funneling donations (of time, energy, or funds) into three distinct efforts: front-line work like volunteering at a soup kitchen, housing efforts (raising awareness or donations) and supporting advocacy (such as writing letters to local politicians and attempting to influence systemic change).

Yesterday got a little Exotic…

After work yesterday Anita and I kicked Friday longweekendtraffic butt and jetted over to a party hosted by Eudora Fine Foods.

Eudora is a growing startup company by my old schoolmate/entreprenerd Steve who has put together a collection of specialty sauces and preserves inspired by his family’s Indian roots.

Steve showed us how quick and easy it is to make delicious and healthy meals in 10 minutes – he added raw chicken to a Eudora specialty sauce (we had the Khaldin) and let simmer for 10 minutes. While we waited for the chicken Khaldin to cook we were invited to sample the rest of Eudora’s sauces and preserves.

We tried the butter chicken, kofta, vindaloo, coconut curry, green curry, and chili chutney.

Anita and Steve even got together earlier this week and made some yum Eudora desserts. We had mango chutney and rosemary thumbprints as well as mango chutney and sharp cheddar palmiers. Anita is great at scheming up dessert applications for the chutneys and I’m already drooling over her next creations. She said they were super easy and quick to make!

The thing that I love about Eudora’s sauces is the number of different dishes you can make. I tried the Green Curry a few months ago and marinated some steak in it for 12 hours and then cooked it. I served it with some curried rice and chick peas and bam – dinner. I had a little Green Curry left, so I added it to my omelette that weekend. You don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing or marinating – Eudora is meant for people who want good quality, healthy meals in a rush. I tried the Butter Chicken and had dinner ready in 10 minutes so I didn’t even miss a Twitter meme exploding.

This time I bought the Coconut Curry and the spicier Vindaloo to see what fun stuff I can make! These pre-made sauces are great for people like me who would sometimes rather eat some peanut butter on a pita than spend my time making an actual meal. It’s probably also great for families who are looking for nutritious meals for their kids before soccer practice, baseball pictures and school bbqs because I know my mom always struggled to find new, fun things for us to inhale before our extracurriculars.

Other fun facts about Eudora:
They use fresh and local ingredients whenever possible. There are no artificial preservatives, colours or flavours, so you know exactly what’s in your food. Their products are available at the Blue Banana in Kensington Market or the Sherway Gardens Market. There’s also FREE delivery to the GTA! Steve’s always looking for new stores to carry his products, restaurants to use them, or people that want them delivered right to their door. You can make him smile by saying hi to him on twitter.

You can find Eudora recipes here and every jar comes with a recipe suggestion for its contents.

Introducing…The Darwin Awards!

Charles Darwin commemorates those who assist natural selection by removing themselves from the gene pool… Darwin Awards are given to honor those who do their best to ensure that the next generation is smarter–by one. These heroes sacrifice their very lives to give our children a better future…

I remember first learning about the Darwin Awards in Grade 10 Anthropology class. In attempting to explain Darwin’s theory of evolution to a group of teenagers more concerned about S Club 7 breaking up  (or was that just me? …Just kidding. Everyone knows they didn’t break up until April of that year) my resourceful teacher decided to tell us about a very brave, stupid and coincidentally dead, man. This man was determined to fly by creating a jetpack.

His “jetpack” was what most people would describe as a backpack loaded with explosives. The best part is it wasn’t the explosives that killed him, it was his choice of venue for the test-run of his “jetpack”. After setting himself up in a large field and realizing that his jetpack really DID make him fly, he realized he hasn’t anticipated needing to steer or stop before propelling himself head on into the mountains right in front of him. BOOM! DEAD.

There’s also this man who tried to turn himself into a human bottlerocket by shoving a firework up his butt. Or this big ball of impatience and anger who made an elevator wheelchair accessible all by himself.

They even give honorable mentions to these evolutionary throwbacks whose actions have only almost killed them.

What better way to make yourself feel smarter than reading about these fantastic, fatalic failures?