New Discoveries: U of T Art Centre

During Orientation week I participated in an ask-an-upper-year panel as part of Kickstart Orientation that was held in the University of Toronto Art Centre (UTAC).

This was the first time I had been in UTAC and I was totally blown away at how great a space it was. Admission to UTAC is free so the other day I went in while killing time before classes to take a longer look. There are currently 3 temporary exhibits and 1 permanent exhibit to check out: one consisting of the photographs of Allen Ginsberg, one of the photographs of Robert Giard, one of the works of AA Bronson, and one consisting of Byzantine and Post Byzantine Icons from the Malcove Collection.

My favourite exhibit was “We Are Continually Exposed to the Flashbulb of Death”: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg (1953-1996)”. The photographs were amazing and there were timelines around the exhibit that illustrated his life as well as a recording of him speaking playing throughout the room. I also loved the healing tent (shown below) that was part of “AA Bronson: Life and Work” and had to resist the urge to crawl inside with a book.

I can’t believe that I didn’t know about this place for the past two years and I will definitely be going back very soon! AA Bronson, Tent for Healing, 2013 in the AA Bronson exhibit

Allen Ginsberg Exhibit: wide shot of the ginsberg exhibit wide shot of the ginsberg exhibit   photographs from the Ginsberg Exhibit close up of papers and  in the Ginsberg exhibit

Robert Giard Exhibit:photographs from the Robert Giard exhibit

wide shot of the Robert Giard exhibit

Have you checked out the U of T Art Centre in the past? What has been your favourite exhibit? 

TIFF: The Student Edition

The arrival of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) means a couple of things;

  1. All the Starbucks in the city will suddenly be filled with people clad in all black and over-sized sunglasses.
  2. There will be groups of people waiting in Yorkville, often at hotels and Holt Renfrew, awaiting a glimpse of their favourite celebrity.
  3. There are hundreds of opportunities for students to see the world premiere of movies just minutes away from campus.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 9.39.56 AM

I had never experienced TIFF first hand until this year. I had always know about it but I had never actually sat down in a theatre to watch one of the movies. So this summer, when the advanced tickets came on sale I decided to buy a My Choice 10 ticket pack and see what all the hype was about.

The cost of my 10-ticket package evened out to about $20 a ticket, and with the price of going to see a regular movie creeping up to around $15 anyway, I thought it was a good deal. A few weeks after I purchased my tickets I was able to scroll through the TIFF programming and choose my movies. I decided to opt out of any big-ticket movies and premieres to go with 4 smaller films with a variety of subject matter.


Hanging out at the TIFF Street Festival on King St. W.

The first movie I saw was Kabukicho Love Hotel, a foreign film set in Japan that was premiering internationally for the first time. Following the advice of many TIFF-dedicated blogs, I showed up an hour before my movie to line up as there’s no assigned seating. I was also immediately surprised by the diversity of the crowd. Everyone from grandparents to students like myself were in line, all dressed very casually.

Before the movie began a representative from the TIFF Selection Board came on stage and gave a background to the film we were about to see. She introduced the director, who came up and said a few words. Then the movie began, and I was completely captivated. The showing ended with a 1 hour question period in which the director answered everything from why he choose the lead actor, to where his favourite place to eat in Toronto was.

Director Ryuichi Hiroki speaking about the premier of his film Kabukicho Love Hotel

Director Ryuichi Hiroki speaking about the premier of his film Kabukicho Love Hotel

What I loved the most about my TIFF experience was that it exposed me to subject matter that I normally wouldn’t encounter in blockbuster films. Even if you’re not a film studies major, or don’t consider yourself to be extremely passionate about film, I would suggest checking out some of the TIFF programming that lasts until the end of this week.

The tickets can be bought at the TIFF Box Office on King, or online at The films premiere at  variety of locations, including the extremely convenient Isabel Bader Theatre here on campus! So experience one of the best events Toronto has to offer, and when you do, make sure to share it with me here on the blog and on twitter at @Rachael_UofT.

Hollywood North

My view of the "Pixels" movie set last week.

My view of the “Pixels” movie set last week.

My first clue that something unusual was happening on my walk to work last week was the trucks and trailers full of equipment. Once I saw the overturned cars (including some that were cut in half, surrounded by block-shaped debris), it became obvious: I was on a film set!

It turns out that the movie being filmed was Pixels, starring Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage and Ashley Benson, all of whom were spotted on campus near the Huron Street set. It’s apparently about a group of video gamers charged with fending off an 8-bit alien attack, which makes the giant blocks/pixels make a lot more sense! It was great to talk about the set with you all on the Life @ U of T Facebook and Twitter pages, especially when some of you got to meet the stars of the film.

The timing was perfect, since the week before I asked you on social media about your favourite movies and TV shows filmed at U of T (I’m not psychic, I swear!). Since my movie-related excitement hasn’t yet died down, I thought I’d share my own personal favourite on-screen U of T sightings.



5. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I’ve never actually seen this one, but the screenshot that @UofTGradRoom shared with me on Twitter was too good not to include! The film features the destruction of beautiful Knox College, and apparently also a military invasion of the Koffler Building.



4. Fringe (pilot, 2008)

The pilot of the science fiction show also features Knox College (understandable, it’s gorgeous there!), as well as UC and King’s College Circle. I remember crowding into a common room with friends in first year to watch this episode, solely to spot our new campus home.

3. One Week (2008)

I loved this movie about a cross-country journey in search of meaning when I was in high school. But since I was about to move to Toronto to go to U of T, the most exciting part was definitely the montage at the end, when the main character returns to the city. I can’t find a picture of it, but there were shots of both Trinity College and the statue in Queen’s Park!



2. Mean Girls (2004)

You saw this coming, right? Mean Girls is pretty much a classic. In case you saw it back before you were familiar with U of T, the mathletes competition towards the end was filmed in our very own Convocation Hall!



1. Orphan Black (2013-present)

Orphan Black is seriously one of the best things on TV right now. If you haven’t seen the science fiction thriller yet, your homework is to watch the first episode tonight! Tatiana Maslany plays a group of clones, and the range of their personalities and mannerisms is astounding. One of the clones is a graduate student studying evolutionary developmental biology, so she spends a fair amount of time at collegiate locations like the above St. Michael’s College.

What are your favourite movies or TV shows filmed on campus, U of T?

A Musical Treasure Hunt

John Southworth playing in St. Andrew's Church, Poor Pilgrim Island Show 2014.

John Southworth playing in St. Andrew’s Church, Poor Pilgrim Island Show 2014.

I spent this past Sunday on a musical treasure hunt on Toronto Island. The Poor Pilgrim Island show has been running for seven years, and I’ve made it a summer tradition for the past three. After a brisk ferry ride, a crowd of a hundred or so people gather at a series of scenic locations – Snake Island, Ward’s Beach, St. Andrew’s Church – to experience a diverse set of bands.

As I listened to Doomsquad build songs around windchimes, I found myself thinking about how live music has been the single most central and important part of my experience at U of T and in Toronto. Easy access to cultural events was a big part of why I chose to come here in the first place, and I’m glad that I’ve taken advantage of that!

I’ve always been a dedicated music fan, though my first forays into concert-going were defined by nervousness. I was still carrying many misperceptions: that all ages shows didn’t exist, that you had to go with friends, and that students can’t afford to go to many shows regularly.


Prince Nifty circa 2013.

Yet a week after my 19th birthday I heard about a show that I didn’t want to miss. None of my friends were willing or able to come along, so I was faced with a choice to venture out solo or stay home and watch a movie. I mapped out my TTC routes and went anyway, bringing along a book to fill the time in between bands. Doing what is normally a social event by yourself can be nerve-wracking at first, but seeing new and familiar musicians create magic live made me feel so full that I just kept doing it.

I started to write about the shows I was seeing for a local music blog and U of T’s music magazine. Mostly in an attempt to share how excited I was about the music I was seeing, but also to give me motivation to keep seeing as many shows as I could. At my high point in second and third year, I was averaging 2-3 shows a week and binge-covering major festivals.

OG Melody at Poor Pilgrim 2012.

OG Melody at Poor Pilgrim 2012.

The misperceptions I had at the beginning disappeared: all ages shows are everywhere (check out anything that takes place in a record store, or outside), no one notices if you’re on your own (it can actually be even better to not have to worry whether the friend you dragged along is enjoying the music), and ticket prices run more in the $5-10 range if you explore venues like Handlebar or The Silver Dollar rather than the ACC.

And though I’ve slowed down a bit to focus on other writing (anyone want to hire a full-time concert reviewer? No?), the most important thing I found in Toronto’s music scene is community. It’s been amazing meeting like-minded people to share amazing cultural experiences with.

It’s so important to find your niche at a big school like U of T, and you’ll find it by exploring things that ignite a fire in you. Be brave! Explore!

In case you need some places to find concert listings, try NOW Magazine, blogTO’s music section and Mechanical Forest Sound’s weekly concert listing roundups.

What Dreams Are Made Of (The Club Edition)

My second year at the University of Toronto has been the best year of my adult life.

I mean my first year was also a lot of fun, but this year…this year my friends, I was a second year. I had a whole year to make U of T my home. My confidence in myself as an individual had increased exponentially! In fact, I think I’m the most confident person at U of T right now (excluding third-, fourth-, and of course seventh-years).

My life now, basically. via:

I’m totally joking.

Well only a little. Being a student at Trinity College in second year truly increased my confidence not just as a student, but as a member of a community. Having the pleasure of associating with the small tight-knit community that Trinity College offered during my first year allowed me to become more than just a leader in my second year.

I grew into myself – I felt like I no longer had to hide who I was. I realized the importance of staying involved in the university community, and how crucial it was to get out of your comfort zone.

And I didn’t even have to read Harry Potter. (Note: Trinity College looks exactly like ‘Hogwarts,’ in case you didn’t know)

Anyway, having achieved my coming-of-age and whatnot, I decided I would create a club at Trinity – a club that celebrated my, and many other individuals’, interest in pop culture and satirical humour. “Societas pro gentibus qui linguam latinam non loquuntur,” or “a club for people who don’t speak Latin.”

Thus, the Trinity College Finer Things Club (or the Trinity College Contemporary Art Society for résumés) was born.

And to my surprise it was a success! I say “surprise” because other than a select few groups, many groups at Trinity are dedicated to professionalism and governance.

Although I do enjoy being professional, I soon realized that I don’t have energy to be an adult all the time. I needed an outlet for good-old, simple-minded fun.

I wish! Sadly, I’m not a terrible person (I think). via:

Through Facebook, I gathered a group of brilliant, yet quirky individuals to be executive members, and we drafted our mandate and budget plans within the same day. The next week we held our first event, a screening of the Academy Award snubbed film The Lizzie McGuire Movie. There were no snacks, but that didn’t stop the diverse groups of individuals that came from truly appreciating finer cinema.


Hey now! Hey now! This is what dreams are made of.

Our next events also had high levels of attendance, and I learned the true value of participating in my community. Stepping out of your comfort zone means other individuals with similar passions can do the same. To be a leader means more than just being a leader, it means that you can screen Space Jam as an official event.

With confidence, a great community, and a $400 pre-approved budget, you can make any of your dreams come true.

Dreams really do come true (AKA, we got our budget approved and held a KFC picnic)

U of T, what kind of clubs are you interested in joining? Are you thinking about starting a club of your own? Don’t be afraid! Remember the wise words of the great Hannah Montana!

Hey there, U of T!


Hey there, U of T! My name is Elena, and I’ll be one of the Life @ U of T bloggers this summer.

I have been viewing this school from an entirely new angle for the past few days. I’ve written my last exam, handed in my final essay, and will never attend a lecture in Sid Smith again. Over the past month, it was easy to forget the fact that I am graduating in the flurry of schoolwork, final club meetings, and planning for the future.

But as the door clicked behind me after my final undergraduate exam, I had a moment of elation mixed with a bit of trepidation. I’m extremely proud to have finished my degree and excited for where it will take me, but it will feel strange to no longer have a home base among these beautiful buildings on campus.

I’ve always been one for setting summer goals (shout out to 2012 when I saw 100 different bands play across the city!), so here is this year’s: to learn about and explore facets of U of T that I haven’t had a chance to experience in the past four years. I want to create some incredible memories about this place to carry forward with me, and I’ll be sharing them with all of you here each week.

This is local musician Man Made Hill, one of the 100 artists I saw, playing on Toronto Island. That's a sander on a drum.

This is local musician Man Made Hill, one of the 100 artists I saw, playing on Toronto Island. That’s a sander on a drum.

Let’s get to know each other, U of T! Here are some things about me:

- I double majored in Chemistry and Psychology, somehow without taking a single course on neurotransmitters or something that could combine the two. In my summers doing research with the Department of Chemistry I pipetted human urine, analyzed mass spectra of illegal drugs, and synthesized a sulphur-based compound (if you don’t know what sulphur smells like, you are a lucky person).

- I want to be a journalist. I’ve struggled with this decision for a while, being in a “practical” scientific program, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to try and take a shot at making a living doing what I love, rather than always wondering if it could have worked out. Besides, there’s a great need for people who know how to talk to and write about scientists! I’ll be attending Ryerson for a Master’s degree in journalism in September.

If you couldn’t guess from my 100-band summer, I’m quite in love with Toronto’s music scene. I write for a couple of blogs, have DJed on occasion (I can call myself a professional DJ if I’ve been paid for it before, right?), and was editor of U of T’s own music magazine, Demo. Exploring the city is one of the best things you can do as a U of T student – most of my exploring has taken the form of listening to synthesizers in off-beat venues.


Tell me some things about yourself, U of T! What are your goals for the summer?

Being Graceful 24/7

I’ve been going strong with my ballet classes at the Athletic Centre, but I can’t believe I’ve completed a semester of pirouetting. Honestly, it still has not hit me that I will no longer be going to the dance studio every week to practice my dance moves—however, that doesn’t mean that the dancing has to be over!

Over the course of the semester, I learned to incorporate one of the toughest type of sports into my daily life. I practiced the art of strengthening my core by correcting my posture while in class, I kept up with my planking, and I stayed faithful to my warm up stretches. When I was not in the dance studio, I tried my best to incorporate every graceful aspect of ballet in between dance classes. Now, I call that discipline.

I remember attending my first class and having to depend on looking at the wall-length mirror for guidance as the instructor called out positions. Now I feel as if I’m on autopilot when it comes to going from one position to another—it’s slowly becoming second nature to me.

1st position, feet are angled opposite from one another while touching at the heels.

2nd position, feet are still angled opposite from one another, but this time a few inches apart.

3rd position, one foot is placed in front of the other while still angled opposite.

4th position, same as 3rd position, but this time a few inches apart.

Are you noticing the pattern here?

Last but not least, the 5th position, where feet touch each other again, but heel to toe.

Dancing does not have to be an optical illusion. -VIA MOILLUSIONS.COM

See, I got this. And I’ve improved with each class!

With practicing straightening my posture while in and out of class, I’ve also found myself focused dancing gracefully. I decided to look at my participation in ballet as something more than just physical activity. After all, ballet is both a sport and an art form. As time went by, I learned that balance within my core is key when trying to perfect the plié and tendu. I found myself more in-control than ever and I’ve been able to twirl around the dance studio with a little more self confidence. Most of all, I’ve been able to relax while going to this class, which was much needed considering how exam season is here.

I started this class with sore feet, but I think I’ve been able to toughen up after all of that practice.
I’m never going to be a professional ballerina, but hey, one can dream.

One can dream though! -VIA 5-SECONDS-OF-IDOLS.TUMBLR.COM

What have you done to prepare yourselves for exams while staying active?


Get Your Adventure On

I hope everyone had a wonderful reading week! I spent most of my time eating, sleeping, and watching The Office. Some might say this was an unproductive use of my time, and I would have to agree. But it was awesome!

I regret, however, that I stayed inside so much. Last year, I went up north to South River to visit a friend who works near Algonquin Park. We stayed in a log cabin and went snowshoeing and saw a family of deer and got stuck in a snowstorm. It was a regular adventure, and it was GREAT!

Although reading week is over, there are still plenty of weekends left to get outside. An outdoor adventure is especially important at this time of year, because it can seem so difficult to actually GO DO IT. Luckily, there is a club designed specifically to help you. It’s called the U of T Outing Club.

Fifty-years old, the U of T Outing Club is committed to getting students, professors, staff, and alumni out of their classrooms and offices and houses and into the wild.

I got a chance to meet with an executive of UTOC, who helped explain what the club is all about. First of all, the club is about meeting people. With such a long history, the club has attracted a large number of people from different places in their lives. A lot of exchange program students join UTOC, because it’s a great way for students to explore Canada beyond Toronto. Every member, however, shares a love for outdoor adventure.

In addition to planning and hosting outdoor adventures like camping, canoeing, caving, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, and rock-climbing, UTOC also owns a cabin in the Niagara Escarpment that they use almost every weekend for group getaways. The club has also organized road trips into northern Ontario, around Georgian Bay and even Manitoulin Island!

The heart and soul of UTOC are its members. Trips and adventures are usually planned and lead by group members, while the executive team helps with the headachey technical stuff that can sometimes seem burdensome and difficult. It is UTOC’s goal to help students become comfortable and safe in taking the initiative to plan and experience outdoor adventures beyond the U of T campus. They’ve been doing it for 50 years!

The club website offers a detailed calendar of upcoming events, and they have office hours on Wednesdays 3-5 at Sid Smith. If you have an idea for an outdoor adventure that you needs help putting together, don’t hesitate to contact UTOC!

I’ve been reading Jean-Paul Sartre, and he writes that life becomes an adventure only in the re-telling of events. But I say there is much adventure in the real act of living, much, much adventure. So get out there, visit UTOC if you need some help, and get into it!

‘Til next time, stay diamond, U of T!

- Stephen.

* Photos courtesy of Michael Chahley

Pirouette is the new plank

Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to try out ballet. The graceful movements, spinning, and endless pirouettes inspired me. I wanted to learn how to dance like that. So I was thrilled at the beginning of this semester when I discovered the ballet class being offered by the Athletic Centre. I had to sign up!


Classes like Zumba and Nia are dance-like programs offered at gyms all around the Toronto area. Yet, for an instructional class like ballet, I thought the only way to take a class was at a dance studio. After researching online, I realized that both the Athletic Centre and Hart House have dance studios that offer many distinct fitness classes—even ballroom dancing!

The dance studio at the AC. VIA PHYSICAL.UTORONTO.CA

As I have mentioned in the past, the only group fitness classes I’ve taken at the gym were stretch-based like Yoga and Pilates, or cardio-based ones like Cycle Fit. So I didn’t know what to expect. However, once class began, my nerves went away and I became excited at the prospect of starting something new.

Following along with the dance instructor was easier than I thought. At some moments, I would stumble and fall out of place, but at this stage in my journey I’ve learned to laugh that off. I was ready for the challenge.

While I allowed my mind to wander while taking part in stretch-based classes, I quickly learned that in this class, I really had to focus. Ballet, quite like Yoga and Pilates, demands attention to posture and position at all times, but is even stricter with accuracy. If anything, this class teaches discipline by repeating moves again and again until they’re perfect. If the instructor saw someone struggling with a move, she would help them and if you were doing it right, she would let you know. It was encouraging to have the instructor praise you when she saw you nailing a move spot on. Hard work does pay off!

I tend to shy away from competitive sports, so I found ballet to be right up my alley. While you’re learning your steps, you’re also collaborating with the rest of the group. Everyone wants everyone else to do well. After all, a crucial part of dancing is for everyone to flow together. Near the end, all of us in the dance studio were prancing and twirling, but somehow we did it in unison. After only one lesson, I felt quite proud of myself!

After class ended, I left the warm AC building and walked back into the typical icy weather.
Once I got back to my room, I started practicing my ballet moves. Last semester, I tried to master the plank in between my Pilates classes. This semester, it’s the pirouette.

Have you tried any new fitness classes this week?


Making Mistakes at the U of T Public Speaking Club

On the fifth floor of OISE, in a large room full of wheely-chairs and a whole wall of windows, the U of T Public Speaking Club comes together. Every Friday from 3-5pm the club holds its general meeting, an open session for newcomers and regular members. Each meeting the club explores a new theme of public speaking, and last Friday the theme was making mistakes.

This was my first time at UTPS. I heard about it online before the break and made a mental note to check it out. As it turns out, the club is still pretty new. The president, Jeff Cui, created the club to give students a comfortable, welcoming space to practice the art of public speaking, a skill that Jeff, and the whole UTPS exec team, considers valuable in many ways.

Before the meeting began, I got to speak with Llyvell Gomes, the Vice-President, who told me more about the club’s real goal. It’s all about creating a warm, friendly environment, he said, where students from all disciplines and experience levels can come together and practice some vocal self-expression. Whether you’re working on speaking more in class and tutorial, or practicing the speech you’ve written for your brother’s wedding, UTPS is here to help and encourage you.

The club is all about active involvement. Yes, they want everyone to be comfortable, but they also want to push limits and move beyond comfort zones. Basically, public speaking is a fear. For most people, at least. UTPS recognizes that, and they want to overcome it.

We began with some vocal warm-ups. We had to strike a ‘power’ pose and shout out our name. They said sometimes they sing a song, anything to liven the pulse. Then we broke off into smaller groups of themed exercises.

The first exercise was to stand up in your group and talk about what you look forward to on your way home. While you were talking, however, you had to pick a moment to stop. You had to stand in silence. You had to feel your face redden and your hands tingle, as you look into the eyes of your audience. Then, once you’d basked in the awkward pressure and silence of your ‘mistake’, you got to sit down and the next person went.

The next exercise was to do something embarrassing before you start talking. I did a silly little dance. Someone else did an impersonation of Russell Peters. Another person sang She Bangs, William Hung style.

It was weird, it was silly, but it was a lot of fun. Everyone was laughing, and the environment was very welcoming and supportive. No one in the club is a professional. Some are more comfortable, more experienced, but all levels and perspectives are welcomed and appreciated.

The meeting ended with an opportunity for anyone to come up to the front and speak. I stayed in my seat. Maybe next time. I’m certainly glad that a club like UTPS exists at U of T (a little late for me), and I’d highly recommend it to every single person in the world.

‘Til next time, stay diamond U of T

- Stephen