2012-06-23

[General] a birthday to celebrate

This week was one of my best friend's birthdays, and to celebrate?  The ROM, a fancy vegan restaurant, and the film Brave.  The day started off amusingly great when I slept in, dressed in finery, and ran to the bus, only to discover a mutual friend was there (who was also leaving for the festivities later than expected) and the birthday girl herself was also running late.  We had to stall the bus to wait for her.

To Toronto

Watching a friend do make-up on the bus is an activity fraught with terror, so I tried to distract myself from witnessing the consequences of turbulence by doing school work on my nifty phone.  I'm quite pleased with how easy it is to read on my Galaxy Nexus, and could only want for greater battery life at this point.

After arriving, we hurried to the Eaton Centre and enjoyed some Urban Herbivore, a vegan eatery in the EC's basement Urban Eatery (where the fellow was shot, I believe).  UH's staff sometimes seems like they were cast for a movie, and they fit in so well.  I almost wish I could be all their friend.
Sizzling Tempeh at Urban Herbivore

The birthday girl A departed to finish her preparations for the day while the mutual friend R and I shared ½ an hour in the EC.  I don't particularly like the EC any more after working in down town Toronto for the summer of 2010.  Materialism and consumerism at its finest.  I don't mind visiting it occasionally though.  We visited Sephora so R could pick something up: it's an interesting makeup store as my friends S and K both rely on its supply, but they employees have the unfortunate symptoms of demonstrating their products on their faces beyond reason.  :)  Then we found a Nutrition House (a chain my family has a history with) to feed my addiction to Clif Builder bars (so much protein... and minty chocolate!).  I'm curious about the employees' practise of wearing gloves the entire time.

On our way to meet back up with the birthday girl A, we encountered a street urchin doing tricks with an acrylic antigravity ball and chatted briefly.  It's nice seeing someone so well practised in something that they can confidently do it without an error.

The ROM

After that we marched a long march to the ROM and were thwarted in our quest for vegan marshmallows for the day.  Once there, we joined up with more friends of A: O, who also uses duolingo, and J, who is a comic book artist that I like a lot.  I was given the task of navigator by the group, which is a role that is bittersweet for me, and guided us through the amazing dinosaur exhibits.  I hadn't been to the ROM in about five years, so it was nice to create new memories.  There was an abundance of turtle throughout the natural wildlife and dinosaur exhibits.  I found a dinosaur that looks like Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown, my role model), and I dragged people through the bat cave (inspiration for a spare room some day).  The bird section was interesting, as though I'm not familiar with too many birds, I was glad to recognise some New Zealand-based ones.  None of my favourite Piwakawaka though.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, one of the few birds I recognised whose photo turned out

Triceratops, my favourite dinosaur

Bats in the bat cave: rodents WITH WINGS




Turtles, my favourite animal



I feel guilty that I claimed the student rate ($8) instead of paying the adult rate ($9) where the student rate only applies if you're no older than 25 years.
Pachycephalosaurus, the Doc Brown dinosaur
Once we had only ½ an hour left, I separated from the group and left them to find their own way as I sought the Asian exhibits.  The Japan exhibit was relatively sparse and small.  I contrast it with what I remember from New Zealand museums and the Royal Museum of British Columbia in Victoria.  I can't remember if I visited that section in Ottawa?  It was still lovely to see authentic artefacts of an era of great interest to me.  The other month I spent a lot of time reading up on Japan's history after finishing the funky anime Samurai Champloo, and it was nice seeing the displays fit into that, and fitting into what I've learned from iaido and jodo.  I also ran up 3 flights of marble stairs to quickly catch a sight of the European exhibits and their suits of armour, none of which are as pretty as the Lannisters' from Game of Thrones. 
Japanese helmets in the foreground, a daishō with katana and wakizashi in the background

lovely suit of armour


Vegetarian Haven

After that, we went to dinner at a vegan restaurant: Vegetarian Haven.  I actually independently discovered this place last week when I layed over in Toronto for 3 hours while catching a bus to visit another friend last weekend.  I couldn't eat there at the time as my bus departed before I'd be able to finish a meal there.  I did realise it was on a Baldwin Street associated with Kenginston Market.  I fondly remember the Baldwin Street in Dunedin which claims to be the world's steepest.  This Baldwin Street wasn't steep, but it was delightful: pretty, creative, and filled with neat cafés and restaurants and shops.  So many sushi restaurants, too!
Singapore Seitan
I was given the role of navigator once more, and led us through the University of Toronto's campus for its beauty, inducing us to stop for photographs.  It's rare that I sit down at a restaurant and have a completely vegan menu where I can eat anything I see.  I ended up ordering the Singapore Seitan which was surprisingly spicy.  I also had a Cookie Monster Smoothie which had a weird touch to its flavour but was otherwise magical and reminded me of Mel's Diner in Waterloo (reopened!) and getting Cookies and Cream + Banana ice cream milkshakes.
Cookie Monster Smoothie
Two more friends of A (J2 and P) joined the party as one (O) left.  J's becoming a doctor and P's a communist.  R and I remarked a couple times about how strange it was to be with a completely vegan and vegetarian group of people all day.  Some of the best discussion I've had with strangers in weeks was held thanks to the confluence of so many disparate and friendly views coming together.  I regret every time I've let a spirit of argument corrupt conversation before, oi vey.

Brave

Afterwards, J2 left us and we walked R to the bus terminal, before the remaining four of us (A, J, P and I) went on to the AMC downtown to watch Brave on its opening night.  Before going in, I had an interesting discussion with P about the relevance of movie quality experience.  I'd rather go see a film at Rainbow Cinemas because I prefer the context an environment I'm seeing it in.  He'd prefer seeing one at AMC just because the screen is larger.
Brave cut out (archery is awesome)
As is my wont, I'd avoided almost all foreknowledge of Brave, skipping tumblr discussions between my friends R2 and D (... 2?) and trailers so only really it involved a fiery haired heroine (hooray!) and a celtic/gaelic/Scottish backdrop.  To avoid spoiling things, I'll leave these points here and then link to a fuller response later:
  • some of the social challenges and relationships they presented felt stereotypical, contrived and clichéd, even perpetuating misconceptions about corsets
  • however, the major theme they dealt with was historically and currently relevant and pitiable
  • I can't help supporting self-determination even while acknowledging the pressures that pushed against that historically
  • I really enjoyed the role of romance in the film
  • animated pastries are delicious
  • I adore the Gaelic setting and Celtic/Gaelic culture ever since I was a wee lad, and I'll go on about this in my fuller response
  • it's worth waiting until after the credits
  • there's a lovely animated short with a boat called La Luna beforehand that features one of my favourite icons
Overall, despite some reservations about how some things were portrayed, I really enjoyed it and would enjoy a sequel.

Slumber Party

We went to a late enough showing that it wasn't feasible for me to get home last night so A and I stayed at J's for the night.  It was an epic walk away accompanied by some epic conversation about racism in science.  I didn't contribute much because my mind was approaching exhaustion, but I did have a lot of thoughts on the matter as I heard other people talk.  It's nice to be able to be quiet and not have conversation depend on me.

A was physically devastated by the walk, a symptom I'm sensitive too after previously engaging in many long walks with other friends and initially underestimating the its impact on them.  She was a trooper and refused the services of a cab or a bus, though.  I'm pleased that I wasn't so oblivious as I've sometimes been to the state of others, though.  On the walk there, we helped a likely drug addict use a drug phone, I suspect, and we stopped off at a Super Fresh market which initially looks like a dodgy convenience store but inside even has a wide variety of vegan edibles, Tim Tams (does anyone know if the Dark Chocolate ones contain milk chocolate?) and ... Clif bars!

Once at J's place, I was delighted to enter it through a tight residential alley and a back yard to discover a neat basement apartment.  J has a fellow artist as a housemate, M, who was not there.  However, M's cat Loki was, and Loki truly was the God of Mischief.  I think Loki self-mutilates, but that's another story.   There was great conversation, embarrassing moments, great sleep, and more nightmares, which featured my elementary school, iaido class, old friends and arguments, as well as compromising computer problems and peacefully revoluting Hitler.  Ahem.
Loki eating human food
The morning saw a cat sleeping on me, a delicious breakfast from J, and more conversation, this time concerning ownership and rights of content creators (hint: I don't think that a copyright holder should be able to restrict future access to a work they've already released into shared culture, or edit one and deny access to the original).  Finally, though, I had to return to Guelph to work and live, and I departed happy.
J's breakfast for 3
The weekend was beautiful, the days sunny and warm, the subway and bus rides were peaceful with drool accumulating on my shirt (sorry).  I helped return a lost set of keys once back on Guelph's campus and enjoyed the fresh air and green grass, evening finding a beautiful moth newly dead.
beautiful moth
A birth to celebrate

Celebrating A's birthday was important to me because in less than a year she's gone on to become one of my best friends and perhaps my best one in Guelph (Guelph readers may feel free to contest this).  She's made a lot of my occasions easier and happier like my own birthday.  I wish I could celebrate all of my best friend's birthdays with them, but most of them live too far away.  So, if you're reading this, know that I'd love visit St. John's, Auckland, Vancouver or wherever you are and contribute to your day's happiness.  Maybe next year when I'm totally rich? :)

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.