Monday, January 25, 2010

Wintercity Festival: Wow! Wild on Winter

The stage is being constructed and the fire & sculpture craftsmen and Superior Propane are on site in Nathan Phillips Square getting ready for the spectacular opening night celebration of Wow! Wild on Winter on Friday, January 29, 2010. Wow will run from January 29 to Feb 7. See more info on their website.

The fun starts Friday night at 6 and this is what the City is planning on the opening night: "The 2010 edition of Toronto's WinterCity Festival opens with an evening of fire, feasting and performance in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Dragon lion dancers wind their way beneath hundreds of red paper lanterns. Experience the premiere of Time Is… by Compagnie Les Passagers, a spectacular aerial dance performance inspired by contemporary and traditional Chinese culture. The celebration culminates with the Angel of the Apocalypse fire performance by the Flaming Lotus Girls, and a stunning fireworks finale."

This celebration is part of the Wintercity Festival which is scheduled to run from January 29 to February 11, 2010 and also includes the Winterlicious Culinary Event. This description is from the City's website.

WOW! Series at Nathan Phillips Square FREE! Beat the cold with a spectacular fire installation, gravity-defying aerial dance performances, ice sculptures and themed skating parties.

Five special performances and events produced by Toronto-based artists and institutions.

Winterlicious at Toronto Restaurants Presented by American Express. Experience a series of mouth-watering culinary events or indulge in great food at great value with the ever-popular prix fixe promotion.

The weather has been balmy lately and in Nathan Phillips Square the warmth and the recent rain has flooded the outdoor ice rink. The City's Zamboni was trying to pick up most of the water to allow the freezing to get the rink back into skating trim.

You can see him ripping around the rink on my YouTube video.

UPDATE January 28, 2010: The fire sculptures are nearing completion and the crews are making sure the show will be ready for the opening ceremonies on Friday. The flames will provide welcome warmth for the cold weekend.

UPDATE January 30, 2010: Joe Fresh got some nice photos and video of Friday's Opening Celebration, see Your Average Joe at

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Canadian Motorsports Expo - Paul Tracy

The last time I saw Paul Tracy's car it was hoisted in the air being carried by a tow truck in the IRL Honda Indy Toronto event, bringing his latest run in the open wheel cars to a crashing halt. As I recall the crowd booed the driver that ran him into the track barriers.

Paul has always had a loyal following of fans and many were at the Canadian Motorsports Expo for his Q&A and autograph session at the Toronto International Centre.

First up for the day was a live interview onsite with Raceline Radio.

Then Paul was shown to a few of his cars which were being displayed in the show.

Next Paul went to the Canadian Tire podium where he fielded questions and then sat down to sign hats, shirts, cars and anything else people brought up to him. Paul was upfront with his major issue - he needs the sponsors to be able to get a seat at the racing table. He noted that the costs of open wheel racing is up and the exposure is down. Asked about possible NASCAR races he said his current focus is putting together an Indy program. Here he is on the podium in front of the large crowd.

Of course there was more than just Indy or NASCAR at the expo. A number of racetracks were represented such as Mosport and Delaware Speedway.

The different types of races in the show included motorcycles, speedboats, dirt racers and late model, NCTS, raleigh cars. Here are some lovely girls at one of the dirt track racing cars from Moose Racing.

And here are a few more pics of me taken by Joe Fresh.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Canadian Motorsports Expo - 2010

The halls of the Toronto International Centre were full of race fans attending the weekend long Canadian Motorsports Expo sponsored by Inside Track Motorsport Magazine. I dropped by on Saturday with a media pass courtesy of Greg MacPherson, editor of Inside Track and got to meet with some NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (NCTS) drivers, NASCAR Champion Matt Kenseth (pictured above) and even CityTV's own Mark Dailey.

NASCAR's #17 DeWALT (and now #17 Crown Royal) car driver Matt Kenseth has won the 2003 Sprint Cup and the 2009 Daytona 500 and the fans lined up for hours to meet and get an autograph from the American Champion.

A meet and greet of several of NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (NCTS) drivers was also well attended by local racing fans. 2009 Series Champion Andrew Ranger (pictured below) of the #27 Tide/Wal-Mart car also had his 2009 car on hand at the show. Team owner Dave Jacombs noted that in Quebec Andrew is treated like a rock star. NCTS driver Robin Buck says that "Andrew is the best driver he has ever raced against."

The NCTS driver panel from left to right: Derek Lynch, Brad Graham, Anthony Simone, Steve Mathews, Andrew Ranger, Ron Beauchamp Jr, Robin Buck, Dave Thorndyke, Mark Dilley.

One of the highlights of the show was the meet the media session with racing press superstars Dean McNulty of the Toronto Sun and Norris McDonald of the Toronto Star. In the picture below Erik Tomas of Raceline Radio playfully puts up the peace sign behind Norris McDonald.

The media members were from left to right: Todd Lewis Pit Reporter and Broadcaster, Jeff Pappone Globe and Mail, Dean McNulty Toronto Sun, Tim Miller Hamilton Spectator, Russ Bond Inside Track &, Norris NcDonald Toronto Star and Erik Tomas Raceline Radio. Among the topics discussed on Saturday was the proposed Ft Erie racetrack Canadian Motor Speedway and NASCAR relaxing their contact rules.

Wide Open Motorsport Solutions held a press conference to introduce NCTS #02 driver Kerry Micks and his sponsors Micks Motorsports and Beyond Digital have been joined by sponsor Dickies for 2010 and 2011. The team is also promoting prostate cancer awareness. The new car was unveiled for the public at the Motorsports Expo.

Sponsors Bill MacFarlane, Dickies Vice President of Marketing and Court Armstrong, Director of Beyond Digital pull back the cover on the new #02 car.

Driver Kerry Micks stands beside his new ride for the 2010 season.

Mark Dailey attended the show for the unveiling of Kerry Micks new Dickies, Beyond Digital, Micks Motorsports NCTS 02 racecar. CityNEWS anchor Mark Dailey has been with CityTV for over 30 years and I certainly consider Mark the voice of CityTV, in fact his comments and voice are the most recognizable part of the station. Mark made a very public fight against prostate cancer and helps to promote awareness with the group Prostate Cancer of Canada.

Mark Dailey, the tall good looking guy, joins me near Kerry Micks car (photo by Joe Fresh).

Hooters girls provided some beautiful atmosphere while promoting their restaurant chain at the show.

Tomorrow (Sunday January 24) Indy driver and Canadian Paul Tracy will be on hand for an autograph session.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Photo Vault - Free Hugs

There are some great ways to bring cheer to people in the big smoke including the pay it forward movement - or random acts of kindness, where you do a good turn like buy a coffee for the person behind you in line. Another way is what these young kids are doing just outside the Eaton Centre in December of 2007 - giving free hugs.

The free hugs is another popular movement and I have received a few hugs over the years from various small groups of people willing to go that extra mile in getting along with strangers. It is funny to watch the groupe eager to give out hugs and hundreds of pedestrians passing by, unsure if the offer is real, or to shy to go for a hug. Eventually people will stop, feeling the emotional need and get a nice individual or group hug.

Don't forget to pass it on.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jacked Photo - Anne Mroczkowski

Update April 28, 2010: Anne Mroczkowski will join Leslie Roberts to anchor the Global Toronto News Hour starting June 1. National Post has an interview with Anne regarding her layoff and new job with Global.

Global Toronto's website says "Leslie and Anne are an unbeatable team," said Patrick O'Hara, Vice President, Eastern Stations & General Manager, Global Toronto. "Their collective experience, knowledge, and deep connection with viewers in the Greater Toronto Area make them a winning combination. We are very pleased to welcome Anne to Global Toronto and are confident that our viewers will love our new co-anchor team." It's great to see some of our on air stars getting a chance to get work in Toronto.

At the same time the Toronto Star continues to steal my photo and use it for this new development in the Anne Mroczkowski story. Here is a screen shot of their website article by Rob Salem using my photo without my permission.

Original blog post....

The recent media carnage at CityTV with the downsizing of staff has been picked up by a number of online players. I noticed my photo of Anne Mrroczkowski, co-anchor of CityTV News and one of the recently fired, has been taken from my site and used without permission or credit on The Toronto Star site and now on their subsiduary Eye Weekly.

Here is another of the series of pictures that I took of Anne - I didn't use it the first time, even though she looks foxy, because it focused more on the camera man.

I have asked them to credit and link to me or pay me or remove the photo so I will see what they choose to do. You can see my photo on these pages (maybe more to follow).

The Toronto Star:
and here:
EYE WEEKLY: UPDATE January 22, 2010. EYEWEEKLY updated their site and added my credit and a link to my site - thanks EYEWEEKLY.

No wonder many media companies are laying off staff - they keep finding content free online!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

No GO Transit - Signal Problems Bring Delays

I was heading out to Union Station when a coworker showed me an email saying that signal problems had temporarily shut down some GO Trains - just in time for rush hour.

This is what Transit Toronto said of the issue "A major disruption to all GO Train service is currently underway. As a result of problems affecting CN’s signals and radio communications, GO Transit has had no choice but to suspend all GO Train service at this time, affecting thousands of commuters heading home during the afternoon rush hour."

Hoping that the problem would be fixed I ventured out in the very light snow that had started earlier in the day. I went in the entrance off of Bay Street and noticed that there were a ton of people around the customer service area. They really weren't announcing any problem over the intercom, however the display boards showed a number of Wait and Cancelled status alerts. Not knowing if things were soon to be fixed or if I should look at alternative ways of getting home I just hung and explored.

Eventually trains started to come into Union and they announced each one over the loudspeakers. My train showed up about 30 minutes after it usually arrives. Lining up on mass on the platform, standing 6 or more deep, we waited for the train to stop and the doors to open and then the river of people poured into the two sets of door in each train car. All in all we left Union Station only 15 minutes past the official departure time so the delay was minimal. As a bonus the bus arrived at the last station just after we arrived.

PS You can check the status of GO Trains and Buses on their website here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Photo Vault - More Buskerfest

The St Lawrence Market Scotiabank Buskerfest festival continues to grow in popularity every year, so much so that it is hard to walk through the streets and you must pick your spot ahead of time - before the performers start their show. Held annually in August this event provides plenty of colour and excitement and lasts the entire weekend. Here are some pictures from 2006 to the 2008 festival.

In 2008 an intense rain shower cleared the streets in a matter of minutes. The rain soon went away and the crowds came back to watch the street performers continue their shows before an appreciative and moist audience.

Besides being highly talented the buskers usually say, right before the finale, that if you stay to the end you should pay $20 to watch the show and then they invite people to leave if they don't agree. Usually nobody leaves but few give the performers $20. People are asked to tip the artists whatever they can as I don't believe they are paid by the festival and must survive on the generosity of Torontonians.

During the 2007 Buskerfest one of the acts was the Russian Bar Trio, seen below in the photo and on my YouTube video - this video has over 67,000 views as of today.

Ducks and Swans at Lake Ontario

We went down to Lake Ontario to check out the ducks and swans that stay in Ontario rather than grab their passports and head into the States. The population of birds that do stay is remarkable. A great spot to find swans is at Cherry Beach and Humber Bay. In winter the ducks, geese and swans look for areas of the Lake that are not ice covered altohough even the swans can take off and land on the ice - see the three Trumpeter Swans taking off above.

Further to the west is a large colony of swans, geese and mallard ducks. They feed the birds to try to tag the swans. At feeding time the swarm of birds dive into the corn and if they are lucky one swan will come close enough to be wrestled to shore and tagged. Sometimes the birds get spooked and take to the air in a wild melee of wings.

The Trumpeter Swan (black bill) is a Canadian success story as they were started from eggs and captive couples placed into the wild and now continue to spread and thrive. The other swan is the Mute Swan which has the orange bill.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bloggers Unite for Haiti

The small nation of Haiti has been hit with a catastrophic earthquake and needs help. You can help support Doctors without Borders which has been working in the country for a long time and has ramped up efforts to help the survivors of the damage.

I have added a widget at the right side of this page which links to the Doctors without Borders organization. This is how they describe themselves; "Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971.

Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need. MSF reserves the right to speak out to bring attention to neglected crises, to challenge inadequacies or abuse of the aid system, and to advocate for improved medical treatments and protocols."

It is sad that the Caribbean island, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, continues to suffer so much.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Photo Vault - Canadian National Exhibition (CNE)

When you think of the end of summer you have to think of the CNE. That old beast that hides downtown by the lakeshore for most of the year and then comes to life as kids are ready to head back to school. Going to the CNE was always in cycles, sometimes you would go a couple times in a year, or every year and then you would have enough of the rides and crowds and give it a break for awhile.

I remember being at the EX during the last day, many years ago, and being scared of the mobs that gathered, waiting to run wild through the fair grounds, wreaking havoc and stealing prizes as they swarmed the game booths. There was a group of police officers in this huge crowd, formed in a circle with there backs together facing outwards. You could feel the crowd building in anticipation of the coming violence and you quickly decided that it was a good time to get out of the CNE. That lasted a couple of years but you don't seem to hear about it lately, thank goodness.

The jingles that they made up for marketing were sometimes especially catchy - "Like always, like never before, the EX you remember and a whole lot more" and "Let's go to the EX, oh baby, let's go to the EX" were some songs that you had stuck in your head all summer.

CTV News Anchors at City Hall

CTV television network news anchors Ken Shaw and Christine Bentley were wandering around Toronto City Hall Tuesday. I think they were shooting some promo spots for their news show.

I also saw a curious squirrel there today, but he wasnt't shooting a promo or anything, lazy bastard.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fandom - help make a movie

I attended a small, initial blogging event at the Toronto Production Offices of Raining Thoughts where they are pioneering an interactive (or crowdsourcing) method of making movies - "Fandom - be part of the experience." The event was hosted by Fandom Creator and Director Tim Martin, photo above, who showed us around the large video production office and sometimes film studio and told us about Fandom. Here Tim relaxes early in the evening before the start of the event.

The concept is simple, become a member of Fandom at a low, one time cost of about $20 USD and become involved in the entire process of making the movie. And when they say involved they really mean it. Want to act in a feature film? Make a YouTube video audition and you could be acting in the movie. It's your turn to be a star - or maybe a face in the crowd (hello movie extras)! Help decide script, casting and shooting locations, create film trailers and design posters, apply to be a production assistant. After the movie is made members will receive a DVD and graphic novel at no extra cost. Unless you want to buy your own movie studio this seems like a great way to exercise your creative desires involving the big screen.

Now many movies use focus groups and test audiences to review their completed films and changes are sometimes made based on audience reactions. However the Fandom interactive film development concept allows input from the beginning. The question is whether everyone's input will make a better movie or a creative mess. Will film making democracy have too many voices? Raining Thoughts will answer that question with your help. Maybe it will end up in Toronto's own film festival TIFF. You can also check Fandom out on Facebook.

Toronto is no stranger to film and video production, I took this picture of someone filming in Nathans Phillips Square just this week, so I hope that the Fandom members choose Toronto for the filming of the movie.

The movie will be written, shot and produced in 2010 and Tim describes the film as a coming of age comedy about two young, carefree friends working in a comic book store who take over and run the store after the owner dies. Co-writers Tim Martin and Tyrone Felix (below) are currently writing the screenplay.

Fandom will provide me with a complimentary membership so I will continue to blog about my experience with this adventure. I can't wait for the premier screening, so until then lights, camera, action!

The production team from left to right: Wlodek Redzej, Valerie Croft, Tim Martin, Eris, James Rollo and Tyrone Felix.

Doors Open

Scarborough Bluffs





Lake Ontario

Nathan Phillips Square