Blog Archives

Calling All My Artistic Friends #CVCollective

Calling all my super, spontaneous, creative, artistic friends…because I just found out about this cool opportunity to have your art displayed on three high traffic Toronto billboards! You can also submit your art for the chance to have it displayed at one of those uber trendy galleries you see on Queen West, courtesy of the Courvoisier Collective.

Am I the only person who immediately thinks of this every time they hear the word “Courvoisier”?

Not gonna lie…was fully expecting a party like that to break out when I had my first sip. It wasn’t ghetto fab, but it was pretty damn good.

I know it’s not surprising for me to be talking about a liquor brand in this space but I think you guys would be really interested in what Courvoisier has been up to since we’ve been singing “Pass the Courvoisier” with Busta (and even way before that). Courvoisier is committed to the revolutionary spirit, craftsmanship and innovation that led to their own cognac’s success. This is why they want to support the local artist community and renew the revolutionary nature of art. Plus, the connection between liquor and art is quite obvious, am I right?

Okay, enough of my lollygagging so you can get to the drawing boards. If you want your art to be considered for the BILLBOARD FREAKIN’ SHOWCASE you need to submit by TOMORROW! I know, I know, it’s last minute. But I know you artistic folk thrive under pressure and maybe you’ve already been working on something that fits the theme for this really awesome opportunity. Did I mention there was also CASH PRIZES?

But maybe you’re busy right now and you don’t really like billboards. Totally not your style. I get it. You can still submit your stuff to be showcased in Gallery 1313 from August 11-September 4, 2011. The deadline for that isn’t for another week – July 15, 2011. You can even sell your work at the show to raise some extra duckets for yourself.

So let me get down to the nitty gritty deets:

Artists are asked to explore the theme of “Renewal” in relation to the revolutionary role of art. You can explore the theme either with respect to art’s capacity to revolutionize its own content and form OR art’s potential to challenge the status quo. EASY, RIGHT?!

You can explore a bunch of different mediums, whether you’re comfortable with photography, painting, mixed media and printmaking, etc. All you have to do to submit is upload an image in digital JPG, GIF, TIF, or PNG format at www.courvoisiercollective.com. It’s super easy, and you can see what other people have submitted there too.

So get on with your artsy selves! I want to see your art in public! I want to take pictures of me in front of your billboard or me checking you out in Gallery 1313! And I want you starving artists to make some money so we can all go out for drinks 🙂

 

Why I Don’t Drink & Drive

All of the uproar on the Casey Anthony verdict got me thinking. I have refrained from commenting on the verdict because I don’t know the facts or what transpired in that courtroom. I do believe if Casey Anthony truly is guilty she will be found out and punished for her actions in a court of law.

But I am also a strong believer in karma and I think people do really get what they deserve. I’m going to tell you a more personal story then I usually do… This issue really hits close to home and explains why I feel VERY strongly about drinking and driving. That’s one reason why I’m so happy to live in a city like Toronto where public transit and cabs are so readily available and I don’t need to worry about getting a bit tipsy and having to drive myself home.

In the summer of August 1995, I lived in a small townhouse complex in Malton. I was 2 doors down from  my best friend, and across the street from 2 of my parents best friends. My parent’s friends had a 17 year old son named Mike and although we didn’t run in the same crowds (I was only 8 years old at the time!) I hung out with his family a lot and frequently watched him play ball-hockey with the other boys his age in the park attached to our complex. He babysat me and my brother a few times and I adored the puppy-love relationship between him and his girlfriend, Anna. I thought they were both so beautiful.

Mike and Anna in 1995

Mike’s grandparents had a cottage on Rice Lake, near Peterborough. We spent a lot of time at the cottage and I learned to fish and bury my head in a good book until the sun set and the bonfire started. Mike spent a lot of time at the cottage too, hanging out with his friends who lived in neighbouring cottages or around the lake.

In the summer of 1995, Mike was walking home with two twin sisters he was friends with. They walked the dark, country dirt-roads home together. On their walk home, a truck went by them. The driver was the twin’s brother and one of Mike’s best friends. He swerved towards the three teens as a joke. He was drunk and his judgment was a bit off. Mike saw what was happening and pushed the girls out of the way, saving their lives. Mike was hit and although I never learned the details, it wasn’t good. He died a few hours later.

The driver was caught. He fled the scene of the accident after hitting Mike, but the cops showed up at his house a few hours later. The laws surrounding drunk driving weren’t as advanced as they are now and while the drunk driver had his license taken away for a long time, he barely served any time in jail.
Sidenote: This is what Mike’s parents wanted as well: the drunk driver rotting away in jail would not bring their son back. A suspended license would ensure that he couldn’t hurt anyone else.

Just a couple years ago I heard news of the drunk driver who had killed Mike. He was partying on Rice Lake, in the same community he killed Mike in. He was driving a boat and had too much to drink. He lost control while taking a sharp turn  and fell over the side. As the boat went over him, the motor cut off both of his legs.

It took a long time, but karma really was a bitch. He may have kept his life, but we will forever be reminded of the life he took away, and what his poor choices involving alcohol brought him.

Mike wasn’t so lucky. He paid for someone else’s poor choices, which is why I will never make the choice to get behind the wheel after I’ve had anything to drink.

Mike in 1995

 

An afterthought: I didn’t tell Mike’s parents that I planned on writing this. My parent’s are still close friends with them and see them often.  I hope that if they ever read this, they don’t mind me sharing the story of their loss especially if it leads to more people making smarter choices and not driving drunk.

Don’t let Mike’s death be in vain – please don’t drink and drive!

Has your life been affected by drunk driving? Please feel free to share your story in the comments.

Cottaging with Rob Ford

The internet was all abuzz yesterday with reports that Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford would not be attending this year’s Gay Pride Parade in order to fulfill long-standing family commitments to go to a cottage. His family trip to Muskoka is a yearly event held on the same weekend every year – and who are we plebes to argue that the Mayor of Toronto could re-schedule such an important tradition?

According to an article in the Globe and Mail:

Mayors of Toronto have been marching in the parade since Barbara Hall wore the chain of office. Police Chief Bill Blair makes a point of being there to build bridges to the gay community. So do provincial and federal cabinet ministers of all political stripes. Brian Burke, general manager of the Leafs, is marching.

(image courtesy of the Globe and Mail)

Initial reactions to Ford’s announcement were negative. In fact, the article referenced above is titled “Mayor misses out on opportunity to celebrate diversity”. The Toronto mayor’s first commitment should be to support Toronto’s gay community by attending a parade that is historically linked to improving gay rights in our progressive city. Some argue events like the Pride parade led to increased rights and acceptance of the gay community in Toronto, and even Canada.

@corecorina’s thoughts shared on Twitter echoed the sentiment of many:


Others argued that Ford should support something that, if for nothing else, feeds a lot of money ($MILLIONS$) into Toronto and garners positive attention to the city on a national scale, which is especially important after last year’s G20 disaster.

It wasn’t long before the other side spoke up. He has commitments! Family commitments! Shouldn’t we respect the fact that he has put his family before his job?! Isn’t that what we would all do? This is a long-standing tradition!

Now everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I am also entitled to think that opinion is, well…stupid.
Rob Ford’s job as mayor is TEMPORARY. It relies on the fact that Torontonian’s are happy with him as mayor, and happy with his choices. Unfortunately, sometimes that includes his personal choices and the community’s judgment of his priorities.

He is the mayor of the largest cities in Canada. Toronto just so happens to have a large gay population. Assuming Rob Ford is enjoying his new position as MAYOR of the damn city, he may want to keep said position. This means he should probably try to appeal to every segment of the population that he can to ensure his position is a little less temporary.

More importantly, in my opinion, is the fact that this even became an issue. Where are this man’s handlers? His media people? Maybe even a publicity rep? ANYONE?! Surely he has been coached on how to speak to the media.

All Ford needed to say to make this a non-issue is that: No, he regrets that previous obligations to his family would prevent him from attending the parade itself, but he would be attending ___________ event or hosting ________ event to kickoff the Pride festivities in Toronto, because he understands the important of this event in Toronto and he fully supports it. (Assuming he does support it – am I going too far here?)

(image courtesy of Slap Upside the Head)

Now let’s see what other commitments Rob Ford has to keep him away from Caribana Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival…

This is what I tweeted today about the Ford Pride Parade controversy:

 

 

And seriously, before you judge Rob Ford you should really google “cottaging”. Because maybe he’s a much bigger gay pride supporter than we thought…

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).

Lionel Lovin’

Spotted: at Spadina and College in Toronto…This amazing piece of work! I have a secret thang for Lionel and I love when people use public space creatively like this.

Full credit goes to my friend Ziyan for spotting it and posting it this morning.

Full credit goes to my man Lionel for being 1 part creepy to 9 parts awesome.