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As part of Saturday’s eighth annual World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR), over 100 Toronto cyclists stripped down and streaked through the city in protest against global oil dependency and the harm automobile pollution poses to cyclists, pedestrians and the environment. And they weren’t alone. The ride took place worldwide, with naked cyclists cruising through 70 cities in 20 countries.
I admit, I didn’t catch this year’s ride live. This photo is from 2010, when I’d just stepped out of a Kensington Market shop and was standing on Spadina, conveniently with my camera in hand. Suddenly, these naked cyclists rode by…and of course I couldn’t resist taking a peek, er, I mean pic.
This year’s 14 km ride started in scenic Coronation Park, by the lake, and did a loop, hitting major downtown landmarks, including city hall and Kensington. Cyclists were invited to gather together at noon to decorate their bikes and their bodies (body painting is a fun way to be a tad demure). At 1 p.m., riders of all shapes and sizes took off on what I imagine was a liberating albeit uncomfortable ride – for both the cyclists and onlookers!
I mean, really, how painful is it to ride a bike in the buff?
Apparently, not so painful that Toronto riders were doing so back in 1912, when this photo was taken of naked cyclists riding along the Don River (the original picture is from Toronto City Archives). As this year’s WNBR Toronto poster indicates, Toronto cyclists have been riding naked for a hundred years! Who knew?
But unlike the gentlemen in the poster, ride participants are asked to wear shoes and a helmet. They’re being models of safe cycling, after all. That, I think, is what’s so amusing about the sight: they’re au naturel but wearing gear!
So I ring my bell in solidarity. This city needs all the good cycling news it can get, what with our mayor, Rob Ford, wanting to remove bike lanes. While I’m fine riding with traffic (heck, I am traffic), I do appreciate bike lanes and would rather not inhale car exhaust while riding.
Info is already available for next year’s WNBR Toronto. If you’re keen on participating or you’re curious about the possibilities, visit the group’s Wiki page for deets on the June 15, 2013, event.
And remember, sunscreen is a must when all you’re wearing is shoes, socks and a helmet. Talk about cheeky!
“Our land, water and climate are all threatened by the latest federal budget. Proposed changes in the budget bill will weaken environmental laws and silence the voices of those who seek to defend them. Silence is not an option. Speak out today in defence of two core Canadian values: nature and democracy.”
To learn more, visit blackoutspeakout.ca.
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Happy belated May Day! Every May 1, or May Day, Morris dancers bring the spring celebration to the streets of Toronto, usually in front of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), as these delightful dancers did yesterday afternoon.
I came upon them as I was walking along Bloor Street, having just finished watching Nina Conti’s Her Master’s Voice at Hot Docs, an international documentary film fest I volunteer at. Crossing the street was a man with a big bass drum strapped to his chest, colourful streamers billowing from his body, and rows of brass bells decorating his shins (check him out below!). Bemused at the thought that hoards of oddly dressed one-man bands were congregating out front of the ROM, I continued on my way home, desperate to nap between films.
But when I spied a few more ribbon-bedecked people merrily marching their way along Bloor, I just had to ask one what was going on.
Morris dancers! They were Morris dancers! In truth, that meant nothing to me when she said it, as I’d no clue what Morris dancers are. After questioning a performer, I learned that Morris dancing is a traditional English folk dance based on stepping (that was obvious from watching them) and performed throughout the month of May. The dancers carry white handkerchiefs and wooden sticks in their hands and jingle bells (bell pads) on their legs as they step and hop about.
Dressed in torn strips of vibrantly hued fabric outfits called tatter jackets, these dancers were delightfully twirling around one another and whacking their sticks in time to the tunes played by their wee band: two drummers, two accordionists, an oboeist and even a girl skilled with an ugly stick (a traditional Newfoundland instrument made from an old mop handle, bottle caps and bells).
The colourful costumes really were a sight to behold and are historically based on the part of England the dancers are from. This one (below) looks like it’s made from recycled ties and shirts.
The dancers before the tatter-jacket-wearing group were still vibrantly hued, but a tad more subdued in traditional green vests or crossed baldrics (shoulder belts), crisp white shirts and black pants. They too were dancing up a storm with the wooden sticks, white kerchiefs and jingley bells!
Their dances were much more like the stepping I’m familiar with, with the dancers aligned in rows and performing in pairs.
It was such a fun and fabulous sight to come across, seemingly random but not random at all. In fact, various groups of Morris dancers can be spotted performing all around Toronto in spring and fall, particularly on May Day (as seen here) and on Labour Day. They practice year-round for these performances, which are akin to flashmobs, given that they came together unannounced and performed for about half an hour before just as promptly dispersing.
Abd when they were done dancing, traces of them walking in front of the Crystal was all that was left of them.
I’m going to keep an eye out for these mischievous musicians and dancers over the next few months. What a wonderful way to start the merry month of May (my birthday month, of course)!
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Out bike riding the other day, I came upon this mural featuring the final words of the Honourable Jack Layton’s letter to Canadians, written just hours before the leader of the New Democratic Party and Official Opposition passed away of cancer last summer. The mural wraps around part of a Toronto playground tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood not far from the bustle of Queen Street West and Ossington Avenue.
The mural’s colourful figures – each tagged with the name of what is presumably a student at the grade school – are simple and playful. Recalling artist Keith Haring’s style of painting, the bold, active figures convey a sense of unity, embodying the loving, hopeful and optimistic spirit that Layton called for in his letter:
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
Jack Layton’s final words are words to live by and continue to inspire all Canadians today. When I saw this mural, I almost walked by without noticing the quote, but when I recognized it, I sat down and just paused, soaking in the vision of this community of children full of love, hope and optimism, working and playing together to create a better Canada and a better world.
And I wanted to cry.
Because I do believe that’s possible. And the act of filling a public playground with such an optimistic quote truly was inspiring.
That’s right! That’s me on International Dance Day (IDD) 2011, dancing in a flashmob as part of the National Ballet School‘s celebrations in Toronto’s David Pecaut Square, in front of Roy Thomson Hall! Hard to spot, I know. I’m behind the ladies in red: look for purple hair, pink scarf, blue jacket.
I’m sooo not a dancer, yet for that very brief moment last spring – thanks to the National Ballet School (NBS) and International Dance Day – I considered myself one. Best. Experience. Ever. The NBS IDD flashmob was the coolest and waaay-out-of-my-comfort-zone awesomest (I know that’s not a word, but it rhymes and I’m going to plead artistic license here). Go on, check out my moves below! I come in on the second verse of Joel Plaskett’s “Penny for Your Thoughts,” but don’t worry if you can’t find me. Even I have a hard time spotting myself till about 3 minutes and 35 seconds in.
What: A flashmob, silly! Specifically, the National Ballet School of Canada‘s second annual flashmob on International Dance Day, April 29, 2011. I rehearsed for two months with the school’s teachers-in-training to perfect my smooth moves!
Where: Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In David Pecaut Square, beside Roy Thomson Hall, in the heart of the entertainment district. This year’s flashmob could be anywhere in Toronto! Psst…in 2012 we’re doing it Bollywood style!
When: International Dance Day takes place every April 29, with dance flashmobs occuring worldwide! There might even be one in your city.
Why: Flashmobs are a spirited way to celebrate a love of dance.
Last night, I saw the doc Calvet as part of Doc Soup, Hot Docs‘ monthly documentary screening series here in Toronto. Intense film, but, gosh, what’s stuck in my head is the short before Calvet: Benjamin Wigley‘s PS Your Mystery Sender. The quirkiest snippet of a film. I wish…I wish it were longer than its wee 9 minutes. It’s about Paul Smith. The Paul Smith! U.K. fashion designer Paul Smith. And how someone has been sending him random objects in the post for 20 years. No boxes. Just unwrapped seemingly random items creatively plastered with relevant postage stamps (a surfboard mailed with stamps of the ocean) and marked with his address, but no return addy. And he has no clue who’s been sending them. Items like an E.T. doll, a football, an orange safety pylon with “happy birthday” written inside the cone (LOVE!!!), a dressmaker’s judy, a watering can, a diorama of his studio…the list goes on. I sooo want to mail him something myself, but I don’t know how it could clear customs unwrapped. You could try it yourself, though. His addy is: 40-44 Floral St., Covent Garden, London, England WC2E 9DG. Tempting, very tempting, no? You can watch the whimsical trailers above and below – I dare you not to smile!
DAY 1 Sigh. This picture of the beach at Pirate Cove makes me want to go back there. Granted, Pirate Cove, the resort I stayed at in Bahìa Drake, wasn’t all picture perfect – this glowing sunset is softening the “natural” landscape of the Peninsula de Osa. This beach was rugged: noseeums would bite me, hermit crabs would scuttle about, volcanic rock formations would be buried under the ocean at high tide (which, BTW, makes for dangerous swimming if you don’t know they’re there!). No chaise longues to lounge on languidly, no oversize beach umbrellas, no striped cabanas. No, this is a beach in its raw form: two kilometres of deserted sandy shore that nearly disappears at high tide. In fact, this small stretch of beach right in front of Pirate Cove is so underdeveloped and unlandscaped, it’s cut off from those deserted two kilometres by the overflowing Rio Drake at high tide. The only way to cross the Rio Drake is to wade through it at low tide! And with caimans in that river, you’d only want to cross it when you can see what’s in the water. At the mercy of nature? Now, that’s rugged.
When I first sunk my toes into the sand, a thought popped into my head: “This isn’t what I thought it’d be.” And when a swimmer came out of the water and, in passing, warned me about the rocks, I thought: “Maybe this was a mistake.” No, my initial thoughts about Pirate Cove (and Bahìa Drake) wasn’t that it was a tropical paradise. But after a few days there, I realized that ruggedness was just what I desired. And thus, my three-day stay at Bahìa Drake turned into an eight-day adventure to kick-off my first foray into the wonderful Costa Rica. It was the best part of my trip. Had I been more astute, I would have realized that the difficulty in getting to the remote Bahìa Drake was part of its beauty. Continue reading
This video makes me want to live at Type Books, or at least have a sleepover there! The owners of the independent Toronto bookstore are clearly celebrating the joy of books. Not e-books, not e-readers: books. Physical. Tactile. Pages you can curl up with, dog-ear, write on, smell. A bold, solid-colour hardcover or pretty paperback. I could never give up reading or buying paper books. I like having my own to read again and again – sometimes just a phrase or a scene (Michael Ondaatje‘s novel ), other times cover to cover (humourist A.J. Jacobs’ memoir The Know-It-All). Books elicit happiness, sadness, anger, dread, frustration, understanding. And in this whimsical stop-motion video, made by the lovely owners of Type, books truly bring us joy.
Accept and embrace change. However good or bad
a situation is now, it will change. That’s the one thing
you can count on. So embrace change and realize that
change happens for a reason. It won’t always be easy or
obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it….
[And] above all, laugh when you can, apologize when
you should and let go of what you can’t change.
Life is short yet amazing. Enjoy the ride.
That’s from one of my favourite inspiring posts from Marc and Angel Hack Life: 18 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Was 18. It articulates exactly how I try to approach life. They’re words I live by. So should you. Love the ride.