Sunday, February 28, 2010

The birds have been waiting for me all damn year

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Smells like February

Wind whipped through office towers,
rubbing sandpaper faces,
and freezing snot to upper lips.

While the elderly swept their driveways,
we dropped ash on the sidewalk,
offered no directions,
tugged our scarves tighter.

The gate was open,
lead to lazy animals,
unused pathways,
rows of graves.

The air was stiff, cool.
The feces lifted steam,
but didn’t stink.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Nearly naked notoriety

That's the mister all stripped down to undies and an undershirt for a recent Varsity editorial. Shot by the David Pike, this is the second time he's ended up in front of David's lens.

An open fan letter to these two men: nothing makes me more proud than pantless pictures.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Coding a food community
Image: cybernetnews

When it comes to the web, Greg Bolton is among the earliest of adopters. He learned to code as a student of Carnegie Mellon’s Supercomputer center in Pittsburg, back in the early ‘90s, when computers were still large grey boxes that relied on dial-up connections.

Bolton’s then-rare ability to write HTML won him a job at the digital marketing agency Henderson Bas, where he helped build user-friendly sites for clients. He eventually quit when business at Pantry, the College St. coffee shop he owns and runs with his wife Liz, started to pick up, but found that what he’d learned at Bas also applied to his new business.

Pantry is currently active on twitter, hosts a blog on its site, and has plans for a rewards program for users who check into the restaurant on foursquare. Social media has provided Bolton the chance to share Pantry’s story, and invite people into the store. “What twitter is neat at is that sometimes you can promote without looking like it,” Bolton says, citing the Rosedale sandwich shop Black Camel’s feed, which updates followers as to how many buns are left, showing how rapidly they go.

Bolton knows how powerful of a marketing tool twitter can be, but still can’t always find the time to tweet—and that’s ok, he says. “If you’re on twitter too much it can look like you’re trying to promote yourself [too heavily], or like you don’t have enough cooking to do.”

While social media has brought changes to the food industry, it’s also brought it closer together, Bolton says. “It’s tied Ontario, particularly Toronto, to Prince Edward County and Niagra,” he says. “It’s made that one big blob of food trends and issues. People are much more aware of things happening outside the city.”

Since the adoption rate of twitter has risen, Bolton has seen the food community become more connected. “I’ve always been on the web and wrestled with how to turn online communities into real communities,” Bolton says. “Twitter seems to hold a key. It’s so immediate and has that many-to-many connection.”

Next up for Bolton is foursquare, but first he has an obstacle to climb over. “I’ve checked in so many times I’m going to be the mayor of here for fucking ever,” he laughs from a table near the kitchen at Pantry.

Even with Bolton’s embrace of new technology, old rules of customer service apply. If regulars don’t use Foursquare, they’ll get special treatment, he says. “If people are in here that much, you should be doing that anyways,” he says of the free coffee he plans to honour future mayors with. “Any good place does that.”
SKINS has arrived in Toronto!

thanks Paiige

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In the end, the sun is shining

The snow is turning to rain. The traffic light blinks red, then green. He leans in across the puddle and says to me, “Call me tomorrow? I think I’m ready for the apocalypse. I just have to get groceries."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Street lies for lovers

“All the good ones are straight,” he breathes at me through the funnel of his cigarette. I nod, curl my lips, and give no details of the girlfriend I’m off to see. He tells me his friends have coupled off and dropped him downtown, where men at bars pay in compliments, fluff his self-esteem.

Life wouldn’t be worth it without the cocaine, he says. Wouldn’t be worth it without the drinks, the anti-depressants, the darts for that extra buzz. I stare at the half eaten pizza crust and downward paper plate that car tires have run into the road. The streetcar pulls up, and I step on.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Because parties with name tags are better. And one from the archives, featuring

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dear Wondergirls: welcome to the front row.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The author and the artist

Just try to get more meta than this: that's me behind one lens, in front of another lens, which is filming a video log (for a city blog) about an art show that is expressing how mass media distorts our perception of reality.

Get it? That's OK--I barely understand, and I was there. Maybe Kriistina Lahde is onto something. Or not.

Either way, check out the latest Art Stars episode, and well you're at it welcome the team to Torontoist, it's new super-syndicator.

*The resulting multi-media slide and some photographs can be found here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shhhh, this is a library.
Geeking out in good company

Marie Nicola is a nerd. Her friend Anastasia Tubanos is a geek. If internet rants are to be believed, the two terms are most certainly not synonymous. Still, the difference is debate-able. Some say it’s that geeks get laid. Others say nerds programs while geeks game. It’s all semantics.

Both women are social media nerds, gizmo geeks, fangirls for forums, twitter, foursquare and the like. You get the point. In recent years, Nicola and Tubanos have found something new to geek out about on the web: food and drink.

Nicola is editor-in-chief of Dine.TO, a dining guide to Toronto. Tubanos is producer of the Naked Wine Show, a minute long video blog that profiles a new wine each week. As journalists in the food and beverage business, they have had to learn the ins and outs of each community. They’ve done this the best way they know how, social media.

Over three cups of joe at Balzac’s in Liberty Village we talk about what hooked them on social media, the friends they’ve made on it, and how it’s changed the industries they report on.

Nicola attended the first foodie meet up, where she says she met an amazing group of people. “It was another event that showed there were people that are not just in the industry,” she says, adding that a boom of interaction between local food lovers followed the event. “There was a food explosion on Twitter. There was a lot of foodie pride at that time, and it hasn’t let up since.”

More so than individual twitter users, Nicola says restaurants are hoping to impress more established new media, like locals She Does The City, BlogTO or, as well as crowd sourced sites like Chow Hound, who she calls “a feared bunch.”

“A lot of restaurants fall prey to foodie opinion,” Nicola says. But keeping one ear open is smart, she says. Staying active in online conversations gives restaurants a chance to respond quickly to criticisms, adapt, and show the ever-vocal foodie community that they are being heard. “They need to be able to interact in these circles. If they have misstep, foodies cut them up.”

Tubanos chimes in with a wide-eyed taunt, “You don’t want to mess with the foodies,” she quips, only half kidding.

As a wine industry observant Tubanos has seen the age of the average wine enthusiast fall, a trend she relates partially to web 2.0, which makes information about wine more accessible and the conversation about it less stuffy. Meanwhile, she’s kept a close eye on beer, which she says is becoming more discussed and intellectualized.

The trend, she says: wine is becoming more populist, beer is becoming more elite-ist, and food is for everyone. Then the message is the same for geeks and nerds alike: eat up.

*This post is part of a larger feature I'm writing on how food and web culture intersects in Toronto. It's simulcast on Ryerson In The Moment and my temp micro blog Viral Vegetation

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bold whatever applies

Art Fags
Body Type: Emaciated, tattooed, usually with some sort of ironic facial hair and an enormous coif.
Description: The art fag is cooler than you. He's also cooler than all your friends, and he is not afraid to show it. He is usually an artist (duh), photographer, fashion designer, band member, or something that requires a degree from RISD, FIT, or some other art school that is an acronym. He dresses either in the most current prissy fashions or (and) like a homo version of Terry Richardson, in big glasses, flannels, and jeans that looks so thrown together that it took him hours to put together. You're more likely to find them at a gallery opening or model party, but every so often they'll be at a gay bar to rub elbows, and other parts, with the other homos.
Subcategories: Alternaqueers, gipsters
New York City Hang Out: The Cock Toronto: West of wherever you are
Diva of Choice: Peaches
Preoccuptions: The hottest club, looking down on things, cheap coke, being bohemian, the outer boroughs
Top or Bottom: Bottom

*Thanks to Gawker for calling them like they see em. And hey--at least we have the option of opting out of the '90s circuit and into another stereotype.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Viral Valentines

How did the hubby and I spend the fourteenth of February? Online, of course. Before a trek to Brickworks--where we wandered and watched the snow fall--we huddled up on my bed and typing to anyone who would talk back.

Enter Chat Roulette, the brainchild of some 17-year-old Russian, and our latest obsession. Proof that teens know best when it comes to of-the-moment web trends, Chat Roulette is coded to be everything a pint-sized lifecaster would want.

The site is nothing fancy, just three boxes for you, a stranger, and some text. Press "play" and your instantly connected to a random user. If unsatisfied, click next to be transferred to another random connection. If you don't want to be their friend, move on--just like real life, I later tell a friend.

We chat with Brazilian boys and drunk college girls in Boston; promise a girl from Jersey we don't believe in MTV's Shore. That night we met up with friends and showed them our newest social network. Soon the whole room piled behind a single screen, shouting obscenities at voyeuristic chronic masturbaters and loudly criticizing the opposing feed, not knowing they too could hear our conversation.

We'll be bored of this in a week when we realize we have so little to say to strangers. Until then, don't expect to see us. We're busy spinning the wheel of the web.

photo via @NYChoi

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentines vandals

The date is a week away so it’s time for arts and crafts. Paint and potato stamps are spread out on the table; we’ve got a stack of paper to fill with clever lines.

A young man sits down next to me, asks me what to write. I’m the idea-man, he says, can put his love to words. He points to a girl in the corner, explains that she’s the one.

In his left hand he’s got a stamp cut like lips, in the right a blank card. We slap on a pretty pink and stamp it down. I hand him the pen, tell him, “That colour looks better on you.”

He grins and says I’ve got it right, runs off show the beau. I push my pile to the middle, down my drink and go to take a leak.

When I walk back and by the lover’s booth the blonde’s eyes brighten in my direction. “Thank you for the card,” she says, smirking first at me, and then her man.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Eating our words

Not so many months ago Lauren Wilton was fresh to Toronto, yet another Winnipegger who uprooted her life to the big smoke to pursue bigger and better things. She enrolled in George Brown’s culinary program, rented an apartment in the city’s west end and opened a Twitter account using the handle @WhetMyAppetite.

Wilton’s Twitter feed reads like a mix between Gourmet magazine and a much racier Cosmopolitan. In between Tweets about her favourite coffee shops and brunch spots are stories of high times and hangovers. Here’s a taste: Just woke up from our serial killer extravaganaza with a friend from Winnipeg in my bed who I didn't even know was at the party.

People quickly started to take notice. Soon restauranters, critics, and other foodies were inviting Wilton to dinners, tasting, and demonstrations. She laughs and tells me she’s smoked joints with some of the city’s top chefs, and if you read between the lines, she’s even slept with some of them.

When Wilton tweeted that her apartment had been broken into the director of catering and events at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, Arlene Stein, offered her pro bono tickets for a $120-a-plate dinner hosted by TV chefs Michael Smith and Paul Finkelstein. Another of Wilton’s followers, the food critic Ivy Knight, forwarded her resume to Hank’s—a café on Church and Front—which offered her a job interview.

Not everyone is as willing to be as unedited and off-the-hinge as Wilton when it comes to scandalous tweets. One night Wilton was at a party at Niagra St. Café that produced a stream of drunken, misspelled tweets from a crowd that included Pantry co-owner Greg Bolton and Jamie Kennedy sommelier Jamie Drummond. The next day, the tweets had mysteriously disappeared.

Still a student, Wilton’s not worried about bad publicity—yet. If she lands in a respected industry position Wilton says she’d consider censoring some of her raunchier thoughts. Until then, her red lipstick and leopard printed persona will live on, online.

“This is my shtick,” Wilton says. “I’m inappropriate. It’s who I am.”

* This is the first of many meals to be discussed, dissected, and devoured. For my final feature in my final year I’ve decided to write about food. Lunch with Lauren started the discussion on foodies and the web. Over the next few weeks I’ll be interviewing restaurateurs, critics, and food bloggers about the local foodie scene, 2.0. Coverage will follow.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Second soles

The finds are far and few between, but still we keep on looking. Most are too big, too small, torn, or missing buttons. But there are the gems: Givenchy trousers, vintage blazers, a recently recycled trench--Viktor and Rolf for H&M.

With the latest shoes the lesson is learned: sometime you get what you pay for. These soles, which ought to be well worn-in, ripped during their first night out on the town.

Nevermind, you mutter, pull out the scissors.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pending academics

When the romantics begin, the end is near, as I’m reminded by that hyphen-optional blog. She and I both made the pilgrimage from Winnipeg four falls ago, without an end in sight. Well, it seems we made it, and when spring arrives we'll put down schoolbooks, grin and hold up papers proving what we've done.

By now we’re all talked out, have little left to say on journo ethics or content on the web. We’ve handed in our papers, projects, feature stories, and TV segments; are waiting to be judged. We crammed in as much as possible, will be released ready to un-learn.

But after those lengthy lecture halls I’m reminded that we had snack time, watched TV on each others' couches, shared coffee and beer. So Carli, you’re right: without this program, and you, and the lot of them, I’ll too will be a little lost.