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Saturday, February 28, 2009

final projects

It wont be long until I graduate.

Four years of writing, reading, recording, filming, and learning the art of journalism are coming to a close.

As our final project we are putting together a documentary. Documentary journalism is an amazing way to tell stories and I have been dying to do this for years. And yet, as school comes to an end, I am so eager to get out of here and working that I need to remind myself to put everything I can into this project.

My group has decided to do a story on the subculture of ticket scalpers. It took me a while to be convinced on this subject, as naturally I wanted something food or culture related. But, as we dig into the underworld of men standing out stadiums selling tickets, there seems to be a story worth looking into.

The other night we went to investigate before the hockey game. The crowds were swarming in and the scalpers were well armed, "you want tickets? how much?" Knowing I only had $20 in my pocket I teased, "Anything for $10?" They thought I was crazy. We kept walking and feeling out the scene. We got talking to one scalper in a bright red jacket. After a little prodding, we got cheap tickets for $20 a piece. Then the man in charge showed up. The man in charge, name yet to be disclosed, seems to organize all the scalpers. He drives a lamborghini. "These lovely ladies deserve better seats. Come back in twenty minutes and we'll see what we can do."

We returned 20 minutes later with a cinnamon bun as a thank you. In return we were given gold seat tickets, valued around $200, for $20 each. This kind of deal is practically unheard of. Not a bad way to experience my first hockey game.

leafs hockey game
great seats

Another friend of mine is preparing to graduate from the photography program. I have helped her with a few projects, and will be modeling for her final shoot.

The theme is old hollywood and will involve some professional hair and make-up artists to take it to the next level. With a bit of magic, I may come out as a bit of a Marilyn in the end.

We spent yesterday doing test shots and practicing lighting. She is as unfocused as I am, ready to get out of here and into the work force, but as soon as a print turns out the way she wants her eyes light up.

We're almost done and we've got to give it all we've got.

natty in studio
fixing lighting
test shots
old hollywood

Hard to believe we'll soon be out there, doing our best to use the skills we've acquired.

No matter what I end up doing it will be impossible to regret what I've learnt over the years. If nothing else, I've gained some great technical skills and have learnt how to deal with people better.

I've also made friends that I hope will last through my life, and will soon have a degree to my name.

For now, I've got to keep digging, tracking down ticket scalpers, and finishing off my last year with as much grace as possible. I want to leave this place feeling proud of myself.

After that, it's a whole new game.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

flying home with lighter baggage

I felt good walking into the Toronto airport, snow covering the city outside, a bright sine shining through the windows.

Every time I go away I feel like I come back with something. Travel, no matter how far, always manages to get me excited about life.

I just spent my reading week in Vancouver, exploring the beautiful West Coast, eating well, drinking well, and working as an intern on a food and lifestyle TV show.

From buttering hundreds of slices of bread, to shot listing, to grazing recipes and making grocery lists, even the small jobs were enough to get me excited. They had to do with food. More than anything I observed, made mental notes, and tried to figure our where I can fit in this industry.

The stay wasn't long enough. There were people I needed more time with. Someone special I had trouble saying goodbye to. The week was condensed and I felt I couldn't stretch myself out in all the ways I wanted to. Regardless, I'm glad I went, and I did come back with something. I am richer with experience and have a better sense of what I want to do.

My last night we made spicy crab cakes with mango salsa and brought them over to a friend's for an Oscar party. We clinked glasses, ate decadent finger food, and cheered and groaned over this year's winners. The show was well put together, at last, and I enjoyed the ceremony for the first time in years.

At the end of the night my emotions won me over, and I cried. I cried for my future, for my fears, and for my excitement of what's to come in every aspect of my life. Family friends embraced me, poured their love over me, and reminded me that I am young. I may be young, but I'm anxious to kick my life into gear in the right direction.

It was still dark when we drove to the airport in the morning, the city slowly waking up. But in Toronto the sun was shining, and I made my way to Mary's house to get a welcome home note. I am lucky to be welcomed by open arms wherever I go.

I flew to Vancouver with many questions in my head, and flew back with a few more answers. I will always be asking questions, and I don't want to rush the answers, but to continue to experience them, to learn, live, and remain curious until the day I die.

My suitcase was heavy when I flew in, but I left some things at home, figured a few things out at home, and came back to Toronto a little lighter.


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Saturday, February 07, 2009

making winter as de-licious as possible

It sounds too good to be true, restaurant's you can't afford with three-course menus and dishes laced with French names.

Did you say mushroom veloute, duck rillete and potato souffle, all under $35? And then they get you, always with the creme brulee.

I have sat through many of these menus, but never without wary taste buds. Having lived and dated a chef who knew the ins and outs of Winterlicious and Summerlicious, it is only natural for me to be apprehensive.

It's not a coincidence most menus will feature items like couscous, pasta and cheap cuts of meat. Restaurants used to an expansive budget for food are forced to tighten their belts like the economy is crumbling and make your cheap piece of steak look as good as it can. And while most chefs can pull this off with a little creative flair, a lot of it is made in bulk to prepare for the masses. So if you're food doesn't taste fresh off the grill, it probably isn't.

Even the waiters I know cringe at the thought of it. Their usual dining crowd disappears as penny pinchers walk in the door, leaving behind smaller tips and smells of cheaper perfume.

The Star and torontoist wrote some helpful pieces on Winterlicious, with a few pointers on what's worth your winter budget.

On the bright side it's a great chance to check out some new restaurants, eat like the French with several courses and dine at prices you can afford. I have had Winterlicious meals not worth talking about, and ones that leave melt-in-your-mouth memories in the back of my mind.

My only problem is that if my meal is cheap, I usually overcompensate with wine or martinis, thus enhancing my meal but also killing the budget aspect. So this year I will be making delicious meals at home, enjoying the fruits of my labour, and a bottle of wine to my leisure.

Quartet of shrimp

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Friday, February 06, 2009

walk softly

I had an English teacher who asked the class "Do you ever wish you could go completely unnoticed?"

I was the only one to raise my hand. "Yeah, me too," she said.

The past month has been good for me. Coming back here and starting from scratch, moving in with a loving stranger, learning to spend less money, bundle up for cold weather, and walk around this city with a scarf wrapped around my face has put my heart and mind in the right place.

People I haven't seen in months keep coming back into my life, and have been so loving and heartwarming towards me that I feel I must have done something right in the past few years.

With my school life coming to an end I am nostalgic of my time here. It has been an adventure, a twist and turn of friendships, of partying hard, of catering events and retail jobs, of lugging around film equipment, radio equipment, or a notepad in my hand. And now my four years of journalism are coming to an end. One more major project, a few classes to get through, and then a hat and a robe, and that highly coveted degree. Wherever my life takes me I won't regret this time.

But it's not over yet, I'm still plotting my documentary, writing essays, and walking to class in all kinds of weather. I've gotten used to wearing double. Double pants, double socks, double sweatshirts, a toque and a hood.

I'm still getting back to myself, remembering how much I love to explore this city, how important it is to spend days walking and exploring markets and food stores. I feel at home in my favourite Korean grocery store, or buying bulk gourmet goods at St.Lawrence.

I'm enjoying this time. I'm trying to live mindfully, to listen to people when they talk to me, to be honest with myself and others, to taste my food, and to welcome the cold air outside on my face.

I have no urge to speak to loudly, to make a statement or be noticed by strangers.

I am walking softly and taking in all I can.

winter has come