Monthly Archives: October 2009


My hobby right now is taking advantage of snooty cultural things for cheap or free. Last night I happened to share that hobby with some good friends seldom seen (NotwithInk & OnHerToes). Our choice of restaurant was chosen by proximity to our next destination so it was not snooty at all but my drink was blue.

The main event was at the ROM Theatre; a documentary by the name “Voices of El Sayed”. Major low-budget but the quality of production was wholely irrelevant to the purpose. El Sayed is an unrecognized* Bedouin town in Israel with a large Deaf community. Almost every family in the village has at least one Deaf member and most have more. The village even has its own unique sign languge. The crew follows and interviews three main people/groups: 1) a young Dead man who is a central part of the Deaf community and proud of his way of life. 2) a young deaf girl who loves to be Deaf and aspires to cameraperson. 3) a family with 5 hearing children and one deaf boy (Muhammad) who gets a cochlear implant at 2.5 years old.

The film examines what it means to have an identity and a culture. The Israeli government visited the community to educate them on cochlear implants and offered to pay for the operation and therapy. Muhammad’s father decides to take advantage of the offer and his son is given the implant.

In the government’s haste to ‘cure’ deafness they fail to consider the case in context and, one may argue, cause undue hardship to the family. Instance A) Only after the toddler has undergone the surgery (that involves drilling a hole into his skull) does the medical team inform his family that the device must be plugged in to a power source at night. Um, they only get electricity for a few hours a day. The family manages to tap in to a generator.
B) After months of intensive therapy (with his oldest sister trained to work with him to develop language) and still no speech from Muhammad his family starts to worry. Not until now does the doctor play a sample for his father of what scientists believe speech sounds like through a cochlear implant. It is robotic. It is difficult to decifer. His father bluntly tells the doctor that, had he known how speech would sound to his son, he would not have chosen the surgery.

There is so much more I could say about the film but my favourite part of the evening was the sign language interpreter. The movie was subtitled but the question and answer period required interpretation for the hearing and non-hearing members of the audience. Sign is so expressive. So much of the meaning is related through facial expression that to a hearing person seems awkward or over-the-top, but it really is beautiful.

The question period was tense. The expected issues surfaced with a few hearing people asking the director about the potential for a cure, for genetic testing, why no one had tried to help this community. The Deaf audience members took great offense to the suggestion that they needed to be cured or helped in any way or that they were something to be prevented. Who decides what is a disability and what isn’t?

*80 000 Bedouin people in Israel live in villages unrecognized by the government because they are outside designated settlement areas. The villages have little access to services and only receive electricity for a few hours each day.


What you missed in GreekTown

The Danforth. Everyone talks about it but I finally visited.

You weren’t there. You missed:

Messini: Greek food (in Greektown!). Chicken souvlaki….with french fries inside? Somehow the authenticity plummeted but the taste was still Mediterranean-y with garlic-full tzatziki.

Jack Layton busking for quarters to give to Africa. His children dared him to sing on the street for money in response to the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Dare campaign*. He brought his guitar and a few musical friends (and the orange tent with his name on it). He isn’t bad.

Me. Posing with an “I [heart] Librarians sign” on the Danforth. It should be posted on their website: within the day. And it is true: I do.

*Premise: you dare someone (or someone dare’s you) to do something to raise money for the fight against AIDS in Africa.

Sugar Daddy

I keep finding money. In bathrooms. When I’m with Mark. The logical conclusion: he is sneaking into the women’s washrooms ahead of me and leaving cash on the floor out of pity for tuition-induced poverty. That must be love 😉

$10 in Spring Rolls (across from the Eaton’s Centre).
$5 in the Chatham Via Rail station (This one time in Chatham….I found $5).

Of course there is always the initial guilt about taking the money but with no one around to claim it I just enjoy the little bonus. Hummus and crackers with an orange juice on the train.

Nuit Bland

Last night was Nuit Blanche Toronto*. I didn’t get it. Of course I had a great time with the group I went with but the streets were SO crowded and I never could figure out what exactly was drawing such a huge crowd. Technically most of it was installation art but unless I asked one of the (very well-informed and relatively easy to find: check Scotiabank) volunteers I had absolutely NO IDEA what the point was of most exhibits.

Case in point: giant black puddle of vodka with change thrown in to it lying in a schmancy building on Bay St. Any takers?
My initial interpretations:
-Throwing our dreams/wishes into liquid brain toxification
-Looking for fulfillment in the wrong place
-Donating money to the Ontario government
The real one:
Apparently we were supposed to stare into it and contemplate….the financial crisis. Ooooh. The metaphor was that vodka = power (currency or exchange) in many places since the crisis. And it was on Toronto’s biggest financial district.
And the money in the pool (you’re thinking, oh I get it, money in the pool, yeah): NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THERE! Someone threw in the first one and everyone just followed suit. The artist was apparently pretty ticked off. Meh, it made more sense to me with the pennies.

There were a few neat interactive ones but the wait times were just intense. We did participate in an improv choir and make sounds with our voices.

This isn’t to say that I’m giving up on Nuit Blanche (and going home early like last night….in bed by 2am) but I will be making some adjustments for next year:

1) Be more organized. I just followed the crowd but with a big group it is harder to find something everyone likes so we ended up bouncing after a few minutes. Next year I’ll have a few key things I want to see/do and have it mapped out (with room for flex of course).
2) Get a nap beforehand
3) Have lower expectations of interactivity

One more exhibit:
We waited in line for a half hour to smell porta-potties. You couldn’t use them either. It was another one that made absolutely no sense until I asked someone and then it made almost no sense.
The Scene: A row of about 10 port-potties
Interactive: You go inside and shut the door for about 4 seconds (the volunteers rap on the side to get you out after that long). There is some sort of artificial smell, sometimes a prop (flowers, dirt) and a plexi-glass cube with little scrolls of paper that were too rolled up to read.
My interpretation: ……
The deal: Each was supposed to be a scene from Alice in Wonderland and the scents were to relate to that. If you looked really close (during the 4 seconds you had the booth to yourself) you could sometimes make out a few words from Lewis Carroll’s book. I feel like I maybe could have ‘gotten’ that one with more time. And maybe taking some notes. And if the little scrolls were legible. And if I were high.

Did I mention I think i’ll have to bring some potent weed next year? I didn’t get that memo before going out but it would have come in handy.

*An all-night event where art installations, talks, music and just random things are situated all over the downtown. Almost everything is free.

Not Underwhelmed. Not really Overwhelmed.

Can I just be ‘whelmed’?

It has been weeks (almost a month?) since I have updated here which makes it so difficult to describe everything that has been happening in the last few weeks.

Week 1: Orientation week. Saw my first baseball game (it was a record-breaking SMALLEST CROWD EVER at a Jays game). Went to a live comedy show (YukYuks) for the first time. Entrusted with a human skull.

Week 2: I cried. A lot. I’ve never missed home that much before. Instead of jumping right in I hung back a bit. People thought I was shy.

Week 3: Mark visited. For a whole week! It was wonderful! It actually helped me adjust. My milk went bad. Our taste buds went on a world tour. We had terrible shawarma (Mark’s first taste).
Saw my second baseball game. Both losses. Mark saw his 7th game. All 7 have been losses. The Jays won every game that week except the one we saw. They shouldn’t let Mark go to their games.
Bought my first lottery ticket. Lost my first lottery.

Now: Finally getting adjusted. Cooking meals. Packing lunches. Doing trendy things like buying organic rooibos tea in Kensington Market. Hit up Word on the Street. Reconnected with so many people; everyone seems to end up in TO.

That was just the surface of a very intense month (both good intense and tough intense). The burden of relaying so much information was keeping me away but I hope I’m back to blogging.