Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Another look at the Toronto Buskerfest that Collette and I attended last week. A big day with lots going on, many pictures taken, much video recorded and therefore this is coming in installments.

If I was a good inter net reporter I would know the name of each performer, where they were from, how long they had been busking ... but I'm not an internet (or any other kind) reporter at all, so deal with it. Having said that though, the video starts with Matt James from Australia. This guy combined a Didgeridoo with a National steel guitar; an unusual combination that worked. Hell, he used a slide on the guitar so that works for me in pretty much any context.

The next performer is basic wunderkind, a 9 year fiddler from PEI, Liam McGlashom by name. Child prodigies normally make me want to vomit; talented or not they generally have the sincerity of a right wing religious leader a the Bunny Ranch. Precocious is not cute. Precocious is "open the window I'm going to hurl" But I liked this kid. He just sat there on his chair, kind of in a corner, picking away, changing easily from one tune to the next, almost oblivious to the crowd, like he was back home in his kitchen, playing for himself. No feigned smile, no snappy patter, no glittering costumes. And he can play.

You're going to see a couple of jugglers in the video, both of them on elevated unicycles and I really don't know who they are. Juggling is ok. Juggling on a super tall unicycle is ok. Patter that demands the audience love you while poking fun at a Toronto audience's lack of spontaneity is just way too obvious. I would be pissed by this treatment but I am far too blase. I'm from Toronto.

I'm keeping the videos short to maintain the quality and because I don't want the viewer to fall asleep on me. Yes, I know you do. I can hear you. Snoring, drewl on your chin. Close your mouth .. no, seriously, wipe your chin and close your mouth. I'll wait ......

Welcome back. So each of the videos will have a "featured act" The first one is the Velvet Mat and Charlie show. What you see in the video is severely edited for time. These two really liked to perform ... a lot. It starts out a kind of clown show, with Velvet Mat as the principal performer and Charlie as a crew member.

Some jokes, a little physical comedy, and nobody really believing that Charlie was a dude. Their centerpiece was the German wheel, this huge metal hoop that someone goes inside of while it spins around. Mat is the performer, that is the shtick. He gets himself all "spangly", he gets some big dude from Buffalo to don a shower cap, a cape and panties (hey, that requires guts, big dudes from Buffalo are scary) and take a turn in the wheel. Mat dances around, preparing to take the wheel and its pretty funny.

The real gag is, of course, that Mat is not going to touch the wheel. Charlie sheds her crew member costume and voila, she is a German wheel acrobat. This was the shortest part of the act and that was a shame because it was a pretty impressive thing to see. Look at this girl, can she weigh 100 pounds? The wheel weighed at least that and she tossed the thing around like it was a hula hoop. Apparently she gave birth a couple weeks before you see her here which made it official ... every woman in the audience hated her .

Toronto Buskerfest Part One from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.
Next installment will feature Squid. No, it's not seafood. Trust me, you will want to see this

Friday, August 22, 2008


Just a short post and a tease of things to come. This Thursday Collette and I attended the annual Buskerfest here in town. (Get the idea that Toronto is a city of street fests? Wait until the snow starts flying, then no life will be seen on these streets) It is staged around St. Lawrence Market, and features dozens of street performers from all over the world ... interesting how many of them are from Montreal, even if their country of orgin was someplace else. Toronto is still seen, I think, as a kind of dowdy matron whereas Montreal is a bit more New York City-like in its acceptance of artists.

So there were stilt walkers and jugglers and ribbon dancers .... oh my! Of course, there was a patio and there was beer but what event would I attend that did not include those essential elements?

But there was also the Pogo Dudes, three young skate boardy type guys who did some amazing tricks on these amped up pogo sticks. Extreme pogo-ing. Really, why does everything have to be extreme? I saw a documentary on a guy who did what he called "extreme running" which basically entailed him tearing through the bush at break neck speed, smashing through branches, bouncing off of rocks and looking like there was a crazed posse on his tail .... But back to Buskerfest . . .

Besides these amazing flying pogo dudes we found us a musical Squid; a drum core/piping outfit that we have seen in the past. Again, this is like extreme drum corps/celtic music; a high energy outfit with a sense of humour and some really amazing precision drumming.

As I said, this is just a kind of teaser post. Collette shot hundreds of pics with her Nikon and I shot close to two hours of raw footage with the XL1 ... so we both have some editing to do. In the meantime I did slam together this little video trailer, with just some of the highlights of the day.

Music is "Neh neh neh" by Vaya Con Dios

Toronto Buskerfest 08 Highlights from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Summer in Toronto is a seemingly endless stream of street festivals. This is a city of neighbourhoods and it seems that every four square blocks now has its own festival. The one that Collette and I always make a point of attending is Taste of the Danforth. Danforth Avenue is the heart of Toronto's Greek town so we are talking souvlaki, tazaki, ouzo and dancing .. so Opah!

This has been a crazy summer for weather in these parts. Any given day can go from warm and sunny, to hail, to funnel clouds, to pouring rain, to hot and humid. There have been tornadoes, there have been high winds and there have countless lightning strikes. The weather dudes on TV call this weather "unsettled" I call it: Build an ark and kiss your ass goodbye.

So that means when we got down to the Danforth it was pouring rain. Collette had brought her boyfriend (the D-80) and I had brought my Canon XL-1 ... a few grand worth of electronics that needed the tender protection of a covered patio .. the fact that there was souvlaki and beer is entirely coincidental.

The best thing about any street festival is that close off the street. The best thing about The Taste is that when you close off the Danforth it becomes magically lined with stalls selling souvlaki, spinach pies and baklava ... oh, it is a good thing there are many blocks to walk, you definitely need the exercise.

By the time we got off the patio the sun was coming out so we were able to wander around in comfort. This is a big festival. They close off something like eight blocks and you can have as many as half a million people milling around in there. The advantage of the weather was that it kept a lot of the crowds at home with the widescreen TVs and Kraft Dinner where they belong.

The nice thing about the Danforth, it is by no means exclusively Greek. There are some good Irish pubs there, a pretty snazzy Tex-Mex place and Allen's, home of the best burger in Toronto. But except for our escape from the rain, the whole point of this excursion was to wander down the center of the road, doing complex calculations that would put the maximum amount of food in our bellies in the shortest period of time.

We came across a dancing/singing troupe of young people from London Ontario ... which proves the brave if not foolhardy nature of the Greek people. I mean ... London .. on maps it says "Here there be people who got lost on their way to Toronto .."

They were pretty good, two girls doing the singing and the rest of them dancing, recreating a "tavernas" experience, which is when they would go out to taverns and sing and dance and flirt .. we call it clubbing .. often done with less clothing from what I can observe.

By the time these kids were finished their performance, the rain was back, reminding us that Toronto has somehow been transported to Rangoon .. and it's the rainy season. So that meant it was time to pack up the gear and go home.

Still, our bellies were full, our ears were filled with music and as the rain slashed down across Greek Town we knew we would be humming the Zorba theme and shouting opah! Only Collette reminded me that we really couldn't break any plates ...

Taste of the Danforth '08 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Monday, August 11, 2008


This is really Collette's post. This is her story. These are certainly her pictures (has anyone noticed that the number of photos on this blog has increased dramatically since Collette got her D-80?) and I tried to encourage her to write this but ... well, my name pops up somewhere on this blog so here we go . . .

Last weekend Collette went to visit her father, Nick, in the Parry Sound area. Nick's room mate, Fred, told her about a family of young foxes who had a den near a construction site he was working on. He graciously offered to take Collette out there so she packed up the Nikon and away they went.

The house Fred is building is near the Shawanga reserve. He has been working on site for a couple of months when he had noticed three young foxes in a den. No mother seemed to be around. The foxes here are perhaps six months old.

Over the time he has been working there, Fred had developed a kind of relationship with the foxes, mostly revolving around Italian sausage. With that as a lure, he began coaxing the foxes out of their den.

Here is the first fox being coaxed out of his den. He probably recognizes Fred, they were almost feeding from his hand at one point but now there is a stranger, and she has something in her hand but .. wait .. I smell sausage!

On second thought, this may require some careful consideration ...

. . . but gosh .. it's sausage!

Out for a quick snack then ...

.. back to the den with his prize.

Then out came this guy, definitely a male fox Collette dubbed "Blackfeet" for obvious reasons. He made a beeline for the prize.

This fellow was definitely more bold and seemed to treat Fred as his own personal house chef or something

"mmmm sausage"

He had a big appetite, Mr Blackfeet and was not shy about coming back for more ... are these Italian Canadian foxes?

Collette said this was a male because it was: Wham, grab, thank you ma'am ...

And there goes our black footed sausage connoisseur, fading into the sunset . . .

Sunday, August 10, 2008


For my readers in Ontario, and probably Canada, you will have some idea of the story that makes up this post.

Sunday morning/Saturday night, around 3:30 am. Collette and Hayley are in bed. I'm in the living room, on the computer working on... who'd a thunk ... this blog. Just typing away, half asleep (I know that anyone who reads this blog will not be shocked to learn that I am usually half out of it when I write it .. I just won't say which half) when .. well .. BOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!

I thought something had hit the house. The windows rattled. Collette said the bed moved. Miss Hayley instantly hit the deck. I swear, the ground shook. I realized nothing had hit us but my next thought was: There's been a plane crash, a big one, nearby.

I went out onto the front porch... Boom! Another one, not as loud, but as significant. I knew it was coming from the west, how far away I could not tell. I went back into the house and Collette and I knew it was not thunder. This has been a summer of big thunderstorms in Ontario but this was beyond anything either of us had ever before heard. Besides, for once it was not raining and there was no lightning.

I went back into the street. Now I could smell something, sharp and gritty and acrid. Plane crash was still in my head, I have never smelled burning airplane fuel but I knew it must be strong. Except ... it was still booming. Low, throaty, sub sonic booms, one following the other. For all the world like artillery shells. I had to find out what the fuck was going on.

Tied the hair back, slipped on runners and a jacket and I started running towards the sound .. ok, not running .. hobble quickly maybe. I went over to the Glencairn subway station which is on an overpass above the Allen Expressway. When I got up there, I could see the plume of black smoke that was hundreds of feet in the air. The explosions were still occurring. I could see the flares inside the massive smoke stack ... there was still a mushroom at the top of the cloud.

I could see that it was to the northwest and my first thought was the old Downsview airforce base that is now a federal park. But it still houses the de Havilland airplane plant. My mind was still thinking plane crash .. I knew that the ongoing explosions could not be one jet but maybe many ...

I realized that in my haste, I had not grabbed a camcorder. I was really thinking: Access the danger and decide if I need to drive my family to safety rather than worry about image taking. Collette, however, is more dedicated than I. I turn around and there she is, in bare feet and nightie, three blocks from the house, with the D-80. The night was not conducive to really quality pictures but she managed a couple.

You can just see the ball of smoke rising above the trees, somewhat to the right and at the top of the pic. That is about three miles away from we are on the overpass.

You can see the fire here, that is actually one of the explosions, overpowering the lights of the highway. These explosions just went on and on, some of them flaring up hundreds of feet. I wandered around and we heard Downsview again, but then someone suggested an oil refinery, up Dufferin somewhere .. that seemed to make sense.

We went back to the house and tried to find some info. Later, we learned that he explosion had occurred at a propane facility at Keele and Wilson .. not far from one of our old houses. It shattered windows for blocks around. Someone on the beach in Niagra on the Lake reported seeing the fireball from there. That's like an hour or so away. Over a thousand people had to be evacuated. Mostly minor injuries but unfortunately, at this point, a fire fighter passed away. And one person is missing, someone who may have been on site.

A few subway stations were shut down and, of course, the highways were a complete mess. That area affects the Allen, the 401 and access to the 400. We had images of hundreds of cars just parked in the express lanes .. really, not so different from an average rush hour. Yorkdale Mall was evacuated for some reason ... maybe they had to quickly restock the new fall fashions to compliment the tones of smoke and fire ...

As of this writing, no cause is being discussed. There was some rumour that some delivering propane saw something burning but it has the sound of an urban legend. Of course, these days everyone was thinking terrorism but that seems unlikely.

For more info try this but it has been all over the news, you may know more than I.


This past weekend was another beach weekend. It was Miss Hayley's idea. How do you know when your dog wants to go to the beach? Well, the little flip flops, straw hat with holes for the pricked ears and the sunglasses on the border collie were a give away.

If you read the last post about Hayley going to the beach well ... consider this a sequel. Like most sequels it reprises many of the elements from the original with a couple of new twists. All the original elements are here: Dogs running on the sand, dogs swimming in the water, dogs being herded because our border collie thinks they are water sheep ....

One of the new elements in the sequel was the introduction of a character from Hayley's park movies: This is Caine, part of the group of dogs that come to our local dog park. As always, when Hayley finds one of her doggie buddies in a new context/location, she was totally convinced that Caine was lost and it was her duty to herd him back home.

We also came across a guy with his own pair of border collies. One was a senior, around nine years and the other was under two . These are what I call "twitchy" borders; so wired for action they twitch. The nine year old female would bring me her ball to toss and would lay her head down, ball in her jaws, her mouth twitching the whole time ... I don't know if the ball was the sheep or I was. And I suspect there must be some kind of bi-law restricting the number of border collies allowed on the beach at one time; get too many and you'd have groups of sun burnt tourists all huddled together, up and down the sand.

One of the interesting things that happend while we were there was a bird behaviour I had not before witnessed. A long line of birds built up out on the lake, very close to the water, pretty much on the surface. The line of birds stretched almost across the entire horizon.

We think the birds were cormorants. As they flew along in this line, you could see them lifting and moving as they ... apparantly .. changed position. This went on pretty much for most of the three or four hours we were there.

Not really sure what this is all about. Mating ritual? Seasonal behaviour? Big sale at The Gap? Who knows.

So here is the little video of the day. There are a couple of good shots of the birds, I think. We are not positive that they are cormorants, the distance made it difficult to see . If anybody has any idea about what this is, please feel free to leave a comment or e mail. Me being me I have a theory: Either its the end of the world and the cormorants know it or: The day hold donuts just came on sale at Tim Hortons.

Beach Two from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.
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