Vivek Shraya, An Exploration of Love and Pain

Vivek Shraya

Growing up gay was never an easy task for me. Society fills our heads with preconceived notions of who we should be, who we should love and how we should live our lives. To this day, I still struggle for validation of my actions and choices, often finding myself bound by the chains to conform and the need to please those around me. Reading Vivek Shraya’s first novel, She of the Mountains has opened up a world of self exploration, changing how I view love and pain and ultimately how I view myself and the world around me. It was personal and transformative.

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Vivek Shraya puts into words, many unspoken feelings and emotions I have found myself carrying over the years. I constantly had moments of familiarity, while reading the novel, despite the differences in narrative to my own. Vivek brilliantly constructs and breaks down his characters in such an intimate and quirky way, dropping any preconceived notions, bringing honesty and realism to his work. His protagonists are genuine in their triumphs and struggles, in their love, confusion and pain, that you feel like you actually know them, or perhaps are them.

She of the Mountains is a novel that crafts and weaves together two narratives, a re-imagined Hindu mythology and a contemporary love story. In both streams, Vivek breaks down what it means to love and to be loved, despite one’s environment or predisposition. He ultimately takes us, and me personally, on a journey of discovery, identity and self awareness.

Vivek Shraya - She of the Mountains

Vivek Shraya is a multidisciplinary artist; a writer, musician, performer and film-maker. Originally from Edmonton, he now calls Toronto home.

I had the pleasure of shooting Vivek for this blog post and attending his book launch in Toronto, at the historic Gladstone Hotel. The pure talent that exudes from Vivek Shraya is simply amazing. He is a smart, calculated, humorous, giving and genuinely humble artist. During his book launch alone, he read, performed, sang, and was charismatic and witty during his interview, a true jack of all trades.

During our time together, we talked about his music, his religion background, being queer and his role models growing up. But the more I dig into his body of work, I quickly realized that the person he is and the values he holds are all reflected and recreated in the various and varied projects he has completed over the years. So instead of boring you with details, I urge you to journey over to his website and discover the man and the artist that is Vivek Shraya.

Vivek Shraya will being touring across Canada and the US over the next 3 months, so find out when he is in your city and go see him.

She of the Mountains is published and sold by Arsenal Pulp Press and is also available for pre-order from Amazon.ca.

3 Things You Should Know About The TTC’s New Streetcars

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It’s been two and a half weeks since the TTC started running their new streetcars on the Spadina and I was lucky enough to ride one of the new cars the other week. I anxiously waited for one of the new streetcars to arrive at King and Spadina and the first one to show up was southbound, so I hopped on it when the intention of riding it down to Queens Quay and back up to Spadina Station. I was pretty excited when I boarded the new vehicles, but there were things I needed to learn before I could enjoy my ride, like how to pay. Luckily, their are TTC Ambassadors riding the streetcars to answer any questions people may have, but I thought I’d share these three important things that you should keep in mind if you plan on riding these new vehicles.

1: Carry your POP
Making sure you have Proof-of-payment is essential to riding on Toronto’s new streetcars. This includes day, weekly or monthly metropasses, valid transfers from your point of origin or a payment receipt from fare vending machines which are available onboard the vehicle or at select streetcar stops. If you plan on using tickets, token or cash You can acquire your proof-of-payment from the fare vending machine. In the future, these new vehicles will also be compatible with any future smart payment cards or systems such as PRESTO.

This type of POP system is already in use on GO trains and VIVA buses around the GTA and in other cities globally. But this is an important note for Toronto commuters who are unfamiliar with the practice. Especially if you are entering the streetcar from Spadina station. As a paying customer, you must remember to take a transfer if you intend on using the Spadina Streetcar line, as you may or may not end up boarding on one of the new streetcars. (Fines will be issued to commuters who are caught without a POP)

2: Board from Any Door
The beautiful streetcars consist of 5 connected articulated cars equipped with four doorways along the length of the vehicle. When the streetcars come to a complete stop, all doors will be unlocked and commuters will be able to use any of the doors along the length to enter or exit the streetcar. This is amazing, as it will allow commuters to load and unload more quickly, reducing the amount of time spent at each stop.

3: Get to know the Accessibility Features
The new streetcars are loaded with features that make the vehicle highly accessible, starting with the low floors, no more steps. A ramp is also available for people with mobility issues or commuters with strollers, these are deployed from the wider second doorway on the streetcar. Lastly, the vehicles are designed with wider aisle area, providing more standing room and locations to accommodate strollers, mobility devices and bicycles. Yes, I said bicycles.

(Note: on-board bike storage is limited to two bikes and is only available during off-peak hours; Mon-Fri before 6:30 a.m., 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and after 7 p.m. also weekends and stat holidays)

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Other Cool Features

– There are 70 seats on the new streetcars, which include 15 priority seats (blue seats for people with disabilities, elderly, and pregnant women) and small number of family seats (these are seats that are 1.5 times as wide as normal seats)

– There is a lot of standing room in the new streetcars especially in the articulation joints between each cabin. The maximum capacity for standing commuters in the streetcar is 181. This allows for a maximum of 251 commuters to fully load all 5 cabins.

– The new streetcars are fully equipped with heating and air-conditioning depending on whatever season we are in.

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Check out this interactive tour of the new Streetcars

What do you think of Toronto’s newest streetcars?

Angela Saini, Takes a Leap in Toronto

Angela Saini takes a Leap in Toronto

When I put out the call to find people to do profiles on, my fellow photographer John Meadows suggested Angela Saini. She is a local singer/songwriter originally from Calgary, Alberta, but now calls Toronto home. She originally started gigging in Calgary at the age of 14, played in a number of bands over the years. Her most recent band, Drive Faster, lead her to relocate to Toronto, so they could leverage more opportunities in the industry. These days, Angela plays shows under her own name, has two solo albums under her belt and works hard to continually gig, locally, nationally and internationally.

Just returning from a Western Canadian tour, I had the pleasure of meeting with Angela on a beautiful September afternoon in Christie Pits park. I asked her to bring her guitar and she graciously played two songs for me. The first is a song called U Turn, off her latest album Leap. The song is about taking fate into your own hands and making the changes in your life to turn yourself around. It’s the perfect piece of inspiration.

The second song was Dear Diary from her debut album, Cake and Callouses, a song she wrote about her quarter-life crisis.

Prior to meeting with Angela, I hadn’t heard any of her music, but was pleasantly surprised by her rousing voice, her determined outlook and her inspirational lyrics. Making it in the music industry is not an easy task, but she has the drive and talent to make that journey one gig at a time.

If you like what you hear, Angela Saini will be playing Bare Bones and Up Front 2 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts on Thursday, September 18th.

Bare Bones and Up Front 2

Her album Leap, is available from Amazon or on AngelaSaini.com

Universal Music Releases Disney Soundtracks as Exclusive Vinyl

Universal Music Releases Disney Soundtracks as Exclusive Vinyl

The Aladdin Picture Disc, B-side featuring the Genie

I was in high school when Disney released The Little Mermaid in 1989. I first discovered the animated film when we sang a medley of songs for choir and just like that, I was immediately hooked. Over the next 5 years, Disney wowed me with their release of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. These were my definitive Disney years. I had these albums in heavy rotation on CD and can sing most of the songs from these movies by heart.

Earlier this year, I started building my collection of vinyl. It’s been an interesting journey of discovering new music, rediscovering old favourites and collecting some staple classic albums from my youth. When I discovered that Disney released The Little Mermaid and The Lion King as a Hot Topic Limited Edition Picture Discs, I knew I had to have them in my collection. To my disappointment, they were only being sold in the US, but I managed to get a couple of friends to pick them up for me.

Disney Exclusive Picture Discs

Recently, Hot Topic expanded the series of releases to include Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. This obviously meant, that I would need to co-ordinate a trip to Buffalo or find a friend who would be US bound to get them for me. Luckily, while perusing Amazon.ca, I discovered that Universal Music were releasing the titles via the online retailer. I was ecstatic and proceeded to pre-order the records.

If you are a Vinyljunkie like me, and have a soft spot for these Disney films, I suggest you quickly make your way over to Amazon.ca and pick up these exclusive titles. The folks over at Universal Music have done a phenomenal job at creating these beautiful records.

Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin are currently shipping, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King are available for pre-order and if you are a fan for Disney’s latest film, Frozen, it’s also listed for preorder as a picture disc or regular black vinyl.

Visit Amazon.ca to order yours.

Michael Tamblyn Makes Waves with the Kobo Aura H2O

Michael Tamblyn Makes Waves with the Kobo Aura H2O

I’m a big fan of baths, especially after a long and stressful week, and I’ve been known to drag my smart phone or tablet into the bath with me. Precariously, I hold on to my device, hoping I don’t accidentally drop into the water filled tub. Yes, I’m crazy. How often do you find yourself doing the same thing?
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Laura Slade Wiggins goes for a Hard Drive

Laura Slade Wiggins

I believe the person we are, is an accumulation of the relationships we make and the people we meet. It’s the sum of our memories and experiences and despite the good and the bad, these things make us unique characters. This past week, I met the wonderful Laura Slade Wiggins (from the series Shameless), the female lead and unique character from the new Canadian Indie film Hard Drive.
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