Category Archives: City Life

Escaping Dreamland Or 5 things I learned by staying up all night

I finally have work. Which is great but as always it comes in a deluge. I went from having no work to having three jobs which meant that this weekend I ended up working from 4pm Saturday to 9am Sunday. While I appreciate the money, lack of sleep can be quite taxing on the body and mind.

Before I laid my weary self to sleep at midnight Monday (what? I got stuff to do) I learned a lot about my brain on conscious.

Number 1:

Keep moving. I have known this one for a while but it still holds. If you need to stay up all night, you can never stop. This one is generally more important if you need to do things the following day. As soon as you sit down, or let yourself relax in any way, you’re toast. The Sandman cameth and you’re being swept away to dreamland. The trick is to always be doing something. Preferably physical. (Walking is great). This keeps your mind and body engaged, preventing you from falling asleep.

Number 2:

Hydrate. I was working in a very dry building which I am sure had an effect but I feel that keeping that water intake high keeps things running smoothly. In addition to keeping you in frequent transit to the washroom (Moving keeps you awake, remember!), it mitigates some of the side effects of sleep deprivation, which for me includes headaches. As Sunday morning approached and the sun rose, ineffectively attempting to penetrate the walls of the MTCC and reach me so many feet below, a throbbing ache set into my skull. As the day progressed and I obtained that precious nectar “O of 2H,” I felt my pain subside.

Number 3:

Focus. I discovered that my head was strangely clear, as if  all extraneous processing functions had been shut down. I was more clear-headed than I had been in ages. Imagine an empty house. You can see the far wall and everything in between. A chair appears in the centre of it. You are able to focus on and describe the chair because you are not being distracted by the zebra print carpet beneath the chair or the table strewn with whirling, whistling, bubbling, and chirping gizmos. That is what my brain felt like.

Number 4 :

The second wind. And third, fourth, fifth… The danger zone is between 9am and 4pm. If you stop between these times, you’re done for. However, the second wind tends to kick in around 4-5pm leaving you feeling strangely refreshed and awake. This  carries you through til around 10pm, when you are hit with a fresh wave of exhaustion. This is the time to go to bed. If you miss this window, by 12am or so the third wind hits and you probably wont get to sleep until 1-2am screwing up your potential for productivity the next day.

Number 5:

A very odd relationship with food. I became simultaneously hungry and not hungry. When I ate, the food tasted miraculous, but as soon as I stopped eating, I immediately forgot the taste. I have no idea why this is but I would love to find out.

As you may have noticed, this post has been much delayed. I hope to get back on schedule next week, but I know that work will be taking up a lot of my time and I may have to shift to a more infrequent schedule.


Toronto Web Series Festival: Or How to Meet Cool People

Toronto Web Series Festival just celebrated its inauguration this weekend. True to form, I only found out about it the evening before via random coincidence.

Being the broke student that I am, I was drawn like a moth to flame by that effervescent tagline: “FREE!” Without paying a cent, I was able to attend the festival, see the screenings of all the shows, attend the actual awards ceremony, and go to the after parties. SCHMOOZE TIME!

But wait, there’s more! If unlike me you have some spare change rolling around, a festival pass is only $50 which allows you to attend 11 panel discussions on topics ranging from “Financing web series” and “Courting brands” to  “The web series soundtrack” and “Actors bringing it to the web.” (If you feel like mixing and matching, the panels are $10 each).

I attended all three days and met many wonderful people. On Friday, the festival opened with the screening of the official selection for the Sci-Fi category. This was my first introduction to the following video:

TO WebFest 2014 – Official Trailer by towebfest

I have seen that video so many times over this past weekend that it has lost all meaning.

The official selection was: Abigail, Aeternus, Chronicles of Syntax, El Gran Dia de los Feos, Olympia, One Hit Die, Out of Time, Pete Winning and the Pirates, Polaris, State of Syn, and The True Heroines.

During the talkback,  we were treated to some scrumptiously useful tips:

“Put your generator on ‘Eco’ mode”

“Don’t build huge sci-fi sets out of  Masonite”

“Fewer Locations!”

Saturday began with Children’s programming. I know we all expect kids shows to terrible, dumbed-down pieces of kitschy drivel, but this was not the case. I witnessed some of the best children’s shows I have ever seen. Some short and sweet, like “What’s Inside?,” and others longer, like “My Lupine life.”  I think my personal favourite was “My Lupine Life, ” although “The Invaders web series: Angie’s Logs” wins for sheer cuteness (But Angie does bring it). If you are a film and/or literature buffs, you should definitely check out “Rubber Chicken Players” (If you’re not, just do it anyway).

The official selection was: Kid’s Town, Kimchi Warrior, “My Lupine Life”  By Louis Pine, Out With Dad, Rubber Chicken Players, Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library, The Invaders web series: Angie’s Logs, and What’s Inside?

My talkback tips and bits for this category were:

“We started creating buzz a year in advance”  – Kid’s Town

“The crew donated a lot of their time” – Ruby Skye

“I got this Facebook message, written in broken English, from someone saying they wanted to fund our project. I was very sceptical but I played along and sent an email asking for details. …And then I received a  reply with a specific amount and a contract.”  – Out With Dad, on getting a broadcasting contract in France

“In web series creation, there are no rules.”  – Everyone

The next screening was the LGBT Programme. Unfortunately, I was unable to see this screening so I cannot tell you anything about the wonderful cinema revealed in the confines of that dark auditorium. But I can tell tell you what it was…

The official selection was: GAY NERDS, LESlieVILLE, Nikki  & Nora: The N&N Files, Producing Juliet, Re(l)azioni a catena, The Vessel, Vanessa’s Story, and Venice The Series.

Quick on its tail, the Drama programme made an entrance. “Libres,” a series out of Madrid, stole my attention when they incorporated Catalan. This was totally unexpected because generally a Spanish show would not. Having the Catalan slip into the conversation when the conversation involved Andreu, the Catalan character, was a nice touch that I wouldn’t expect to see on mainstream Spanish television. The series follows a group of seven youth  who, because of the economic crisis, abandon the city to squat in an abandoned village in the Pyrenees.

The rest of the shows were great and they continued the festival’s trend of shattering my preconception of web series as “Like TV but less production value.” Other than “Libres,” I think that my favourite would be “In Between Men.”

The official selection was: 3some, Big Country Blues, CUCKOO, Fight Night Legacy, In Between Men, LES BÉLIERS, Libres, Long Story Short, Someone Not There, Teenagers, and The Steps.

Tidbits and tricks are:

“Don’t shoot in November”

“Edit the script down”

“Know what you want to say”

“Get permission for locations”

“Have a ‘Social Media Person’”

And then the shadows fell, leaving all but the tiniest sliver of light to illuminate the horror of what happens After Dark. The Horror & Pulp programme was everything I hoped it would be.  From B-movie and black comedy, to thrillers and plain old WTF. I don’t know that I have a favourite, although “Bloody Cuts” is definitely up there. #noduds

The official selection was: After, Asset, Bloody Cuts, Esther’s Style, FUTURE DUCK!, Horror Hotel, Malice, Manigances: Notice Rouge, New Eden, Noirhouse, Stage Fright, La Grieta, and Who The F##k Is Nancy?!

“Pinhead, with a magnet”

“Freddy Kruger, I haven’t slept since I began working on this”

“The Mummy, with a pair of scissors”

— Some of the answers given by show creators when asked what  classic horror villain they would like to go up against and how would they defeat him.

The final day was full of hilarity with two whole screenings dedicated to comedy. On this day I again missed things. Namely: “Super Geeked Up Live”  and the Documentary & Lifestyle programme.

The official selection for Documentary & Lifestyle was: What’s In My Bag?, AsapSCIENCE, Burgundy Jazz, Garage Sale Diaries, Last Chance Saloon, Marriage Pressure Points, Often Awesome the series, Tailgate32, and Truth Mashup.

Hey there readers! {Insert funny joke here} Eh? Eh? Alright, I get that humour is perhaps not my strongest suit… But these people knock it right out of the park!

The official selection for Comedy was: Backpackers, Bad Indian, But I’m Chris Jericho!, Day in the Life of Death, Failed First Dates, Job Review with a Vampire, La Brigadière, LARPs: The Series, Last in Space, Miss Guidance, Missing Something, Mommy Uncensored: Confessions of a Real Mom, My Gimpy Life, Off2Kali Comedy, PARKED, Pretty Darn Funny – Season Two, Pretty In Geek, Research., Secret Diary of a Call Centre Girl, Super Knocked up, The Casting Room, The Monstrometer Report, Les Tout-Nus, The People That Touch Your Food, The Poke Folks, Under the HUD, Versus Valerie, and WRECKED.

Also got some juicy gems of knowledge from this one:

“What are you ok with your parents seeing?”

“Shoot a pilot”

“Set some money aside for ‘just in case…’”

“Trust the script”

“Know when you have authority/license”


Of course, the info you’ve all been waiting for is “Who won?”

The winners are:

And that’s the festival.

I had a great time this weekend: I made a whole pile of new connections (and friends!), stayed out til 5, and saw a lot of great film. I recommend for  anyone who is at all interested in web series to keep their schedule free for next year.

It only goes up from here.

Suddenly busy weekend

I had originally intended to make today’s post about
the economic state of students. Complete with much hyperbole. However, I was delayed by a series of wonderful opportunities.

I spent Thursday working on a new music video for Mother Mother.

Friday, I attended a series of lectures on Translation and the Multiplicity of Language  as part of inFORMING CONTENT 2014.

While there, I was able to sign up to participate in the workshops. Which led me to spend Saturday and Sunday creating and performing a beautiful piece of performance art with some very lovely new acquaintances.

Then, Sunday evening, I went to participate in a cold reading of Kenneth Lonergan’s This is our Youth at Howland Company’s bi-weekly reading group.

I tried to have the other post ready for today but the time lost was unrecoverable. Check back Wednesday!

Next Exit for Cabbagetown

You are sitting in a secluded nook, isolated from the tumultuous cacophony of the city by a dense, bushy, hedge. The sun pours down, coating your body in its thick summer warmth, and you recline luxuriously in your lawn chair. Suddenly, a slow meandering wisp of a cloud, which has been drifting lazily across the azure sky, catches your attention. You briefly consider its resemblance to your brother… or perhaps a turtle… before taking another sip of Pimm’s and closing your eyes as you bask in the glorious heat.

Cabbagetown has the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in North America. The neighbourhood gained its name c. the 1840s from an epithet, used by Toronto’s prosperous British residents, disparaging the Irish immigrant’s practice of converting their front lawns into cabbage patches. The area reached its peak of prosperity just before WWI but the war and its aftermath had a devastating effect, throwing the neighbourhood into rapid decline. Long before the great depression, it had already devolved into slums. In the late 1940s, a large swath of the neighbourhood was razed to make way for the Regent Park development (A social housing initiative).

Cabbagetown, before 1940, was the home of the social majority, white Protestant English and Scots. It was a sociological phenomenon, the largest Anglo-Saxon slum in North America.1

It wasn’t until the 1970s, when Victorian architecture was coming back into vogue, that the neighbourhood was revitalized. The current Cabbagetown is actually the neighbourhood immediately to its north, named Don Vale, which was renamed during the revitalization. Cabbagetown is now among the most gentrified neighbourhoods in Toronto and has been the home of celebrities such as Avril Lavigne.2

I live on the edge of Cabbagetown, the west side of Parliament. The place seems to have been frozen in time, feeling somehow separate from the rest of Toronto. This timeless nature makes many things, that would otherwise leave me in a stunned state of disbelief, appear normal, invoking only the slightest twinge of oddity. The day I moved in, while on my way to get some groceries, I encountered two men yelling at each other across the street. One had both hands full with loaded shopping bags, the other a trolley full of recycling. Their incoherencies growing ever more vehement, neither quite managing to step off the curb, as if held back by an invisible force field, the event reached its climax when the man with the bags gently set them down and started  angrily across the street. The other man promptly pulled a bottle from his trolley. Sending the first man scurrying back to pick up his bags and head on his way.  Later that same day, I had another encounter. This time a solo act:

The man is muttering to himself as he walks down the sidewalk. Emitting a loud bark, he begins loudly, if nonsensically, ranting and gesticulating as he walks calmly out into the middle of traffic. He continues to wander down the road, traffic impatiently weaselling its way past him. He stops. He raises his hands above his head. He turns around, fills his lungs with air, and foghorns his distaste for the world. Kicking off his shoes, he finishes crossing the road and disappears. Leaving only a tattered pair of Nike’s to mark his passing.

The compression of culture that happens in Cabbagetown leads to a very tight knit community.  It takes care of its own. The dichotomy of “insider” vs. “outsider” can be seen clearly in the store with its goods on display outside and unwatched, across the street from the Beer Store with the steel shutters, the cop on duty, and the beer locked away in the back room. I have only just started living here and already I have been enveloped.  It also breeds art. This is exemplified by the annual Cabbagetown  Street Festival and its accompanying short film festival.

My experience; however, has been tinged blue  by my dungeon-like home. Living in a basement apartment is not inherently terrible. In fact, it can be quite pleasant. My apartment, which I share with two other people, is small. But it has been exempted many of the flaws of its kind: It is dry, bug-free, bright, and has high ceilings.  Nevertheless: I live where  the sun don’t shine.

This seeming inconvenience led me to discover two wonders of the neighbourhood. The first being Allan Gardens, a botanical wonderland in which I spent many an afternoon completing schoolwork. The conservatory, open 10-5/7, is the perfect escape from the dreary Toronto winter and without it I would surely have gone insane. The second place to spring me from residential captivity was Cafe 650. A delightful little bistro with glorious bay windows surrounding a table I have claimed for many an hour. I became fast friends with the owner and spend almost as much time there as I do at home.

“Allan Gardens used to have a problem with drug dealers who would loiter around outside the greenhouse waiting for clients. That stopped when the city passed a bylaw allowing dogs to be off-leash in the park; the dogs would sniff out the drug dealers.” – Sam, a man I met in the greenhouse.

Now at last summer seems to be arriving and I will no longer be reliant on these little refuges. I will be able to luxuriate on the sun filled deck outside my home, watch the clouds go by, and drink my Pimm’s.

1. Garner, Hugh. Cabbagetown; a Novel. Toronto: Ryerson, 1968. Print.