Sunday, 27 June 2010

Cupid has an angel's touch. Teaching visitors to the Science Centre about the heavenly sounds of the Pan


Scotiabank Caribana Programming at the Science Centre in June 2010

The secret to playing the steel drum? Don't bang the instrument with your "sticks", roll them across the surface of the metal ... or so says pan expert Salmon Cupid.
Cupid, a music teacher within the Toronto District School Board is also the inventor of the E-Pan, the world's first electronic steelpan. On Friday morning he was at the Ontario Science Centre with 20 sets of steel pans and his E-Pan.
The Ontario Science Centre has become a partner in the annual Scotiabank Caribana Festival. The Science Centre sponsored Salmon Cupid's visit to their building.
Cupid had the help of a number school aged players and also called up members of the auidence to come up and learn all about the steel pan.
The steelpan, also known as the steeldrum, is an invention that was made in Trinidad and Tobago. It is an acoustic musical instrument indigenous to that nation which remains to this day, the only such invention of the 20th century and with the dawn of this new century and millennium it manages to retain that title.
According to Cupid "the inception of the steelpan can be traced back to the 1930's. Since then and throughout the decades, the "cause célèbre" has witnessed advancement through numerous innovations. Considering the track record and history of most musical instruments, to accomplish that much is such a relatively short period of space and time is a remarkable testament to the talents, skills and creativity of the people of T&T."
Pictured above, Salmon Cupid calls out instructions while visitors to the Science Centre try their hands on the pans.
you may download this photograph from my Flickr site:

Friday, 25 June 2010

G20 - One Billion, The Arts - No Score. Ancient Terracotta Warriors will have to wait a bit longer to be discovered by the media


G20 - One Billion, The Arts - No Score. Terracotta Warriors will have to wait to be discovered by the media

Everyone was there for the press preview of the Terracotta Warriors this morning at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
There was the Cultural Minister from the British Columbia provincial government, Michael Chan, Ontario's provincial minister of culture and tourism, the head of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the head of the Glenbow Museum, the head of the Montreal Museum, vice president of the Bank of Montreal, a gaggle of high ranking Chinese government officials (and their translators) but, not counting the Chinese language TV and print, there was no mainstream media.
Good show. No Hollywood (like the Art Gallery of Ontario's Tut exhibition -- with the voice of Harrison Ford and movie set entrance doors), just a dynamic, well thought out and tastefully presented exhibition. The media should have lapped it up.
According to Wikipedia,"The Terracotta Army is the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.
"The figures vary in height (183–195 cm - 6 ft–6 ft 5in), according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits."
The exhibition at the ROM has about a dozen statues of soldiers and horses on display. None of have been exhibited in Canada, some of them have never been shown before.
Why did every single English language TV station in the province give it a pass? G20 to blame. I had to walk through a wall of armed RCMP and plainsclothed CSIS officers behind the Continental Hotel to get to Bloor St and the museum.
"We are the only attraction between here and Front Street that is open right now," said William Thorsell,in referencing how the G20 has emptied Canada's busiest city.
The media hasn't left Toronto though. In fact, just as the ROM event was ending there was a demonstration by 100 women carrying 3 coffins and 3 coat hangers in Allen Gardens. News 680 radio reported that with so many foriegn journalists in town the camera crews and photographers covering the protest out-numbered the protestors.
The PR department at the ROM is not worried. They figure that the Teracotta Warrior story will stayed buried for so long. They expect that newsrooms will exhume their press invites early next week.

Cutline: Two Chinese visitors wait for the press preview of the Royal Ontario Museum's Terracotta Warrior exhibition to open. Although the press event was well covered by Canadian Chinese media TV and print reporters, no Ontario based English language TV or radio station covered this major exhibition.

Above: Terracotta Horse
Qin dynasty, 221-206 BC
Emperor Qin Shihuang's Terracotta Army Museum
Right:Terracotta Soldier (right)
Qin dynasty, 221-206 BC
Emperor Qin Shihuang's Terracotta Army Museum

Cell Phone Picture Right: Last press conference for William Thorsell? ROM CEO stands (2nd from left) on stage with a number of Chinese officials at the Friday opening of the museum's new show. Thorsell is expected to leave the museum later this month.

Always ready to hand out quotes - Torontoist article on G20 protests


Demonstrators Already Claiming Victory in G20 Battle

Boarded-up shop windows surround King Station. Photo by Stephen Michalowicz/Torontoist.
Unless you've been living under a rock this week—and let's face it, with the security clampdown, lots of people downtown feel as though they are—you've noticed that the core of the city has been brought to a virtual standstill. Some streets are so vacant, you could use them as bowling alleys. Employees have been told to stay home. Shops are closed (some are even boarded up), the daily subway commute feels more like a Sunday afternoon than morning rush hour, and people are talking openly about leaving town for the weekend.
Turning the country's biggest city into a ghost town is quite a feat. To some protesters, that's a major victory—and it's been won before the actual summits even begin.
"Definitely the Harper government and the G8 and G20 summits have proven our point," says Dylan Penner, spokesperson for the Council of Canadians. "These are closed-door meetings that exclude the world... Everything's cancelled pretty much, except the protests."
Just about nobody believes the demonstrators will achieve their ultimate goal—to shut down the two summits this weekend. But some believe they're getting the next best thing: public attention pulled away from the summits' agendas, and onto to the subjects they believe are important.
"We are definitely winning the argument," says Penner. "In the face of this intimidation, there are still thousands of people taking to the streets for water and climate and social change. That's a victory in and of itself."
But not everyone's so sure that the demonstrators are winning the battle for the public's hearts and minds completely. Stephen Weir is a veteran public relations consultant, and he says the streets may be vacant because the authorities have been trying to demonize the protesters.
"If you work in the defence industry or if you work for the armed forces, or the police or even government, if you come out and say that you are going to spend a billion dollars for a conference, and most of that is to keep everyone safe, most citizens are going to believe you," he says. "If you say that people will be wearing masks and throwing bricks...people are going to stay away."
Trying to sway public opinion is one thing. Accomplishing it is much more complicated. Who's ahead so far?
"The protestors. Hands down," says Weir. But he points out that public opinion could shift "quickly if somebody actually does more than march, wear masks, or burn flags."
"My 86-year-old mother-in-law is behind the protestors."

It could be that a clear-cut winner never does emerge in the battle between summit organizers and demonstrators. It could just be that people are staying home this week because they're equally fed up with both sides.
By J. Smee
cutline: The city of Toronto prepares for the G20 conference by erecting huge fences and blocking public access to a large part of the downtown core. Above is a view of Front Street looking eastward. You can see the Royal York hotel in the distance. What was once a wide-open sidewalk is now a narrow corridor. Photo by Andrew Weir

Friday, 11 June 2010

Hocus Pocus, Kodak High Def Underwater Video Camera Still in Focus


The World’s Worst Underwater Magician
Hocus Pocus, Kodak High Def Underwater Video Camera Still in Focus

Story filed with Diver Magazine June 8, 2010
By Stephen Weir

The Pixel Wars are over, picture resolution can’t get any higher. Now the race to produce pocket sized high definition waterproof video cameras is on. One of the first out of the box is the Kodak PlaySport.
In April the venerable film manufacturing company began selling in Canada and the US, a High Def video camera that looks like a cell phone, works underwater without a housing and easily links in to You Tube and Facebook.
“It is brand new and just became available to consumers,” explained Kodak’s PR console, Carla McFarlane.” Major retailers are just receiving their inventory now since the product is so new (but soon it should be available everywhere). It is available in purple, blue and black.”
According to Kodak their PlaySport is built for people who enjoy the outdoors. It is waterproof to 3-metres without a housing. Because people will be in motion when taping with it, the camera has built-in image stabilization, which reduces shaking and blurry footage.
“The PlaySport is made in China. How much does it retail for in Canada? $159.95.” explained McFarlane. “The PlaySport is great for water activities like snorkelling, a day at the beach, swimming in the pool, and shallow diving. It is also great for snow sports like snowboarding and skiing.”

Diver Magazine tested the camera in a Toronto swimming pool with members of the Etobicoke Underwater Club (EUC) last month. The EUC, one of Ontario’s longest running scuba clubs, has for years had the use of a public pool one evening a week to teach scuba lessons to new club members.
What can you film underwater in a 4-metre deep pool? Not much. We had to come up with a shooting script that didn’t include showing scuba neophytes, could be shot in the deep-end and wouldn’t involve props that could damage the public pool.
Armed with a $20 budget and the assistance of club executive Marianne Collins and PADI Canada’s Dave Noble, the PlaySport was used to produce a video called the “World’s Worst Underwater Magician.”
Marianne Collins was the sub-surface Houdini and Dave Noble her faithful assistant. Using a wand, a magic flowerpot and a few bubbly incantations, Collins was able to make a bouquet of flowers suddenly grow at the bottom of the swimming pool.
The PlaySport filmed the breathtaking trick without interruption. The cameraman (me!) held the mini high-definition camera in one hand while directing the action with the other. I was neutrally buoyant and as a result I drifted up, down and sideways as I waved at my volunteer actors. The built-in stabilization programme, worked well, covering up my unscripted underwater movement.
The camera’s backside has a 4.25 cm x 3.25 cm playback LCD display, which combined with the magnification of the diver’s mask, made it easy to see while filming. PlaySport has five control buttons, but underwater there is just one that you need to tape – it starts and stops the camera and zooms its 5.54 mm lens in and out of the action. This control button is easy to work on the bottom of the pool.
There was a 4GB memory card in the camera, enough to film for almost 90-minutes. The You Tube movie runs for less than 2-minutes. The trick itself took just 20-seconds, so, after making magic, Collins and Noble were taped playing with some of the rubber fish that the Etobicoke Underwater Club uses for sea critter recognition. After about 10-minutes of playing for the camera, they (literally) drifted away from the underwater set and onto the pool deck and the taping ended.
The day after the filming of the World’s Worst Underwater Magician, the raw footage was easily transferred to a computer and within an hour my son, Andrew, had created a YouTube video. (The camera also comes with built-in editing software). Hocus Pocus. Out of Focus. To date the Diver Magazine You Tube video has been seen by close to 500 unsuspecting divers (
The camera performed well … in a pool. In a “real” body of water, the PlaySport has a huge limitation; you can’t take it very deep.
The camera has a 1-year limited warranty. However, if a diver takes it below 10 ft or (3.1 metres) that warranty, according to the company spokesperson, will not apply. Diver Magazine has taken the camera below the 3-metre mark and it continues to function, but, again according to McFarlane, “PlaySport isn't pressurized to function properly beyond the 10ft depth level.” Kodak isn’t saying if it is working on the next generation of PlaySport that can be taken deeper.
The camera is fun to use. Looks great. It is perfect for the never-dry environment of a dive boat. And you need never have to worry about being rained on, dropping it in the snow or magically getting pushed into a Toronto pool.
CUTLINE: Top. Stock footage shot of the PlaySport. Note that there is functioning PlaySport in the fish bowl.
Left: Frame grab from the video - The World's Worst Underwater Magician - taken with the Kodak PlaySport. Taken by Stephen Weir.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Toronto's Finest Open a Mas Camp For Jane Finch Kids


Police, children, volunteers and the Scotiabank Caribana Festival stakeholders were at the Jane Finch Yorkgate Mall in Toronto to open the Toronto Police Junior Mas Camp

Senior Officer Superintendent Sam Fernandez from 53 Division officially opened the Metro Toronto Police Force’s Mas Camp for Children on Monday May 31st at the Yorkgate Mall (Finch Avenue East at Jane St). He was joined by children were at the camp to learn how to make mas (masquerade) costumes for this summer’s Scotiabank Caribana/Yorkgate Mall Junior Carnival Parade. The camp is located in an empty Macdonald's Restaurant on the second floor of the Mall.
Toronto Revellers Mas Band leader and NBA star Jamaal Magloire was at the Mall to help open the Metro Toronto Police's first ever Mas Camp for Kids. He spoke briefly to the children and the press and then signed autographs.
Tony Ishmael, one of the founders of the Caribana Junior Parade and a costume designer for the Toronto Revellers Mas Camp, spoke at the Monday launch of the Police Mas Camp for kids. Mr. Ishmael briefed the press and the children on the roots of the Mas costume. (Mas is short for masquerade).
Also speaking at the launch were Superintendent Sam Fernandez (53 Division), Denise Hererra-Jackson co-chair - Scotiabank Caribana and Toronto Mas Band Association's John Kam. Teenage pannist Brittany Dardaine performed at the launch.
The Scotiabank Caribana Festival is an exciting three-week cultural explosion of Caribbean music, cuisine, revelry as well as visual and performing arts. Now in its 43rd year, it has become a major international event and the largest cultural festival of its kind in North America. As Carnival is an international cultural phenomenon, the great metropolis of Toronto and its environs will come alive as the city explodes with the pulsating rhythms and melodies of Calypso, Soca, Reggae, Chutney, Steel Pan and Brass Bands. The Festival Management Committee oversees the running of North America’s largest outdoor festival.
This year the Official Launch for the Festival will take place at 12 Noon on Thursday July 15th. The Scotiabank Caribana/Yorkgate Mall Junior Carnival Parade will be held on Saturday July 17th from 11am to 4pm. The adult parade will be staged Saturday July 31st; 10 am to 6 pm. For complete listing information, visit the only official website for the Festival.

Top: Members of "Toronto's Finest" were at the Jane Finch Yorkgate Mall in Toronto to open the first ever Toronto Police Mas Camp for kids. Officer Mike Cassidy dons part of a newly minted Mas costume at the Monday launch of the Toronto Police Children's Mas Camp at the Yorkgate Mall
Left: The opening was held on Monday May 31st in a second floor space at the Mall.Pictured left, Jamaal Magloire talks to the media and more than a dozen school children.

Right: Tony Ishmael, one of the founders of the Caribana Junior Parade and a costume designer for the Toronto Revellers Mas Camp, spoke at the Monday launch of the Police Mas Camp for kids. Mr. Ishmael briefed the press and the children on the roots of the Mas costume. (Mas is short for masquerade)
Below: Teenage pannist Brittany Dardaine (left) performed at the launch of the Police Mas Camp. She then posed for media cameras with Superintendent Sam Fernandez from 53 Division ( second left) Denise Hererra-Jackson co-chair - Scotiabank Caribana Senior Officer (third from left), and unidentified children and police officers.