April 30, 2012

Hope Rises

Today, One World Trade Center (previously known as the "Freedom Tower") edged out the iconic Empire State Building to become the tallest building in New York City.

Although still some 500 feet from completion, the addition of steel columns earlier today put the tower at 1,271 feet.

When completed the tower is expected to rise to 104 stories with a symbolic height of 1,776 feet, a commemoration of the 1776 Declaration of Idependence.

It's hard not to be moved by the incredible visual impact and symbolism of the new One World Trade Center. Anyone can understand how important it is for Manhattan to once again scrape the clouds and reclaim a space so tragically undone.

Still, Robert Sardello argues in his book Facing the World that skyscrapers are manifestations of a self-centered ego--designs that turn architecture into "egotecture" and create a wasteland of hollow, inflated, monotonous, lonely, and defiant spaces.

Sardello is certainly on to something in his notion of "egotecture". The World Trade Center twin towers were targeted in 2001 precisely because of their status as the pre-eminent architectural representations of American ego. It is the same phenomenon that drove the UAE to build the behemoth Burj Khalifa, itself a reaction to other recent nationalist ego projects Taipei 101, the Petronas Towers, and Jin Mao Tower.

In fact, the erectors of the Burj Khalifa are so enamoured with their, ahem, erection that they proudly feature a comparison chart on the building's official website. It's hard not to snicker at the underlying message here: "See, mine is bigger than yours".

Ah well...let the Big Apple enjoy its new spiky landmark. They deserve it. Rise up!

April 29, 2012

Cafe 1901

We decided to stay in our own neighbourhood--Liberty Village-- today for a low-key day. Since it was so sunny and warm I put together a small little afternoon snack (pictured at left) for us to enjoy on our patio. Being 19 floors up we figured we had a better view than just about any other spot in town!

We did make a small trip over to West Elm to pick up a lovely planter. Mark was over the moon when we spotted Golden Apple Confectionary, which had just opened on Friday. Mark bought an apple dipped in caramel and covered in Skor bits.

Here are some pictures of the view we enjoyed as we sat in our little cafe, sipping wine, and watching the city alive and in motion below...

Conjunction Junction

After a few false starts over the weeks due to bad weather, we finally made the trip up to "The Junction" neighbourhood with a lovely couple I met through work named Katherine and Darren.

Named for the junction of four railway lines in the heart of the area, The Junction was a manufacturing community in the 19th century, and populated by immigrants from Italy, Poland, Macedonia, and Croatia. As of the 1920s the area is home to "Little Malta", due the large Maltese population. I was surprised to learn that until as recently as 2000, The Junction was "dry", meaning that the sale of alcohol was banned.

Today, The Junction is enjoying a renaissance of sorts as a destination for incredibly large warehouse spaces home to a litany of industrial salvage and antique dealers, as well as curio shops, and furniture stores. There were a few used book stores and a couple of galleries that also looked interesting. The Junction is being touted by its BIA and others as the next West Queen West, although from what I observed today it's not sufficiently infested by hipsters just yet to successfully wrestle the crown away from all things within an ironic stroll from the Gladstone or Drake hotels.

We started our adventure with an excellent brunch at Littlefish, a quaint eatery you could miss if you blinked. We then hit the 'hood, starting at Eclectic Revival, a store devoted to vintage lighting, then on to Metropolis Living, for those looking for vintage industrial merchandise to decorate their pads, a stop at Mjolk, home to stunning minimalist home accents from Japan and Scandinavia, and also Post and Beam Reclamation,  home to reclaimed architectural details and fixtures.  We enjoyed our exploration of this up-and-coming neighbourhood and look forward to visiting again.


April 26, 2012

Leo vs. Leo

As the villainous "Calvin Caddie" 
Leonardo Dicaprio will be duelling himself come Christmas Day 2012, as he has two highly anticipated films opening that day. Both are period pieces helmed by markedly diverging directors.

In Quentin Tarantino's stylized Western Django Unchained, set primarily in the pre-Civil War South, a slave-turned-bounty hunter (Jamie Foxx)-- with the help of his mentor (Christoph Walz)-- sets out to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner (Dicaprio). The films also features Samuel L. Jackson, Sasha Baron Cohen, and Kurt Russell.

Promising to be far less violent but no less dramatic is Baz Lurhmann's upcoming 3-D adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Set in New York and Long Island in 1922, the movie is anchored by Dicaprio in the titular role with Carey Mulligan as "Daisy Buchanan" and Toby McGuire as "Nick Carraway". This promises to be a stylish and gorgeous production. 

As the enigmatic "Jay Gatbsy"

April 24, 2012

A matter of taste

With season 5 of "Mad Men" now in full swing, the show's website now allows users to update their avatars. So here is a slightly improved version of how I would look if I worked at Stirling Cooper Draper Pryce.

I guess it's convenient to blame pop culture for behaviour, but I have indeed increased my Scotch whisky consumption since we started watching "Mad Men". My current Scotch of choice is The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old. Mmmm...

We inherited a stunning set of 40 year-old whisky tumblers from Mark's mother before we moved to Toronto.  Don Draper would certainly improve. To ensure we do not damage the balance of flavours in the Scotch, we use whisky stones, made by the oldest soapstone workshop in the U.S. We store them in the freezer, so they cool down the whisky, but since they do not melt there is no unnecessary dilution of the single malt.

My god, it's full of art....

I have seen more art in my 6 months in Toronto than the 39 years prior! At least once a week we are hitting an art opening or touring the many galleries scattered across the city.

The largest exhibit we have seen recently was on Thursday night at the Toronto Art Expo, which was mixed at best in terms of overall quality. The stand-out artist for Mark and I was Tara Krebs, whose exquisite paintings from her "Curio" collection really captured our interest.

We are watching closely the career and output of emerging sculpturist Nicholas Crombach, whose whale series really enthralled Mark. We just saw his newest show, "On the Fence" over the weekend. We first met Nicholas in Kingston, where he was exhibiting in the annual Creative Arts "Art in the City" show.  Our friend Patrick represented Nicholas at his first gallery in Kingston and then his new one in Toronto

Two galleries that we regularly frequent are Angell Gallery and AWOL Gallery, both on Ossington Avenue. A recent discovery was Don't Tell Mama, a second-floor walk-up we had missed on previous walkabouts on Ossington Ave. Their current show "Under the Influence" is a truly through-provoking, awesome exhibit, with in-your-face political work from street artist Deadboy.
In food news, we checked out Sadie's Diner on the weekend. This is a vegan diner, which was hard for me to believe but I was game. I tried their vegan bacon with my eggs breakfast, which was an...um... experience of textures and tastes. Not my cup of tea but I am always up to trying new things.

We also went to Red Tomato on the King Street strip in the heart of the Entertainment District. Normally, I would shy away from these restaurants but our friends Patrick and Raymond discovered over a year ago that the restaurant has a $5 only at the bar menu from Tuesday to Saturday!!! I have to say the food was great. Mark and I were very impressed. 

April 15, 2012

Get Him to the Geek

After a fun Saturday hitting the galleries around Ossington Street/Queen West, Mark and I joined our friend Dana for a full day of geek glory at the Wizard World ComicCon. The primary celebrity guests were Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, together for a "Quantum Leap" reunion.

The three of us went to Bakula/Stockwell panel, and scored seats in the second row. I was not a huge fan of the show but certainly enjoyed watching once in a while during its original run from 1989-1993. The panel was actually great and Dana, a massive Dean Stockwell fan, lined up to ask a question during the open Q+A session. They were both well-spoken, hilarious, and had great chemistry. Dana got her picture taken with both of them, an event that was truly memorable for her.

Other celebrities we saw included Amy Acker, best known from the great Joss Whedon shows "Angel" and "Dollhouse", Sean Maher from Whedon's brilliant "Firefly", Sam Witwer from "Smallville" and "Being Human", and "The Last Starfighter" co-stars Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart. The biggest comics celebrity in attendance was "The Simpsons" animator Phil Orbitz.

There were tons of folks dressed up in all sorts of costumes from various films, comics, and anime and it was a great deal of fun to check out all of the products. It was a great event that warmed us up for the mega geek event Fan Expo happening in August.