Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Midterm Assignment

A photo posted by Ellen (@theellenshow) on
The location of this Ellen DeGeneres tweet is identified as California. Instead of using Twitter to search for the location of the sent tweet, I will embed an instagram photo of the tweet and get the location from there.

By getting the id number and inputting it into Instagram's API, I was able to find the latitude and longitude of the post.

By entering in the data to Google maps, I was able to create a map that identifies the exact location of the post.

With this information, I would begin building a story around celebrity sightseeing in California. I could make a graph of the spots in California where celebrities frequent the most, then turn that information into a comprehensive chart for readers looking to go stargazing during the next awards ceremony.
I have built a chart that will help provide a visual for readers. I would speak on the trends (which restaurants get the most famous visitors vs. which restaurants don't at all and whether closeness to the point of the post is related to the amount of celebrity traffic, which in this case does not seem to have a correlation)

I feel that the chart I've made is comprehensive, relevant, and useful for readers who are looking to spot celebrities at Hollywood restaurants. And it all started with a tweet about the Oscars!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

This Week in Toronto: LOL in the North Comedy Show

            Laugh-hungry audience members trekked in the snow to get to Toronto’s John Bassett theatre Saturday night for the LOL in the North comedy show. Headliner Faizon Love, alongside comedians Capone, Jay Martin, Trixx, Rip Michaels and up and coming Aaron Lewin performed in front of an audience of almost 1,000 people.

            Lewin began the show by warming them up with some hearty laughs. His natural ability to grace the stage with comfort and a comedic response for everything got the crowd in the mood for the rest of the performers. His performance included him removing some clothes, all except his boxers.

            While the move was gutsy, comedian Trixx agrees that taking risks is necessary to be a good comedian.

            “If you don’t take risks, you get too comfortable,” Trixx said during a pre-show interview. “If you’ve never taken risks, bombed a show or been booed, you never go home and think ‘what do I need to work on’?”

            This was Lewin’s second time at the John Bassett theatre. He enjoys performing there because it forces him to be a creative and comedic centerpiece for the 1,300-seat venue.

            Before shows, Lewin spends time in his dressing room looking in the mirror, dong push-ups, and mentally preparing himself for his skit. With a list of words penned into his left hand as just-in-case-cues, he takes on the tremendous responsibility of setting the stage for both himself and the performers after.

            When Jay Martin announced to Lewin that there was a switch in the order, he handled it with grace.

            “You’re up first, rooks,” Martin said to Lewin backstage shortly before showtime. “First, first.”

            The same ease and grace that Lewin had in this instance was brought with him to the stage. His routine included racial jokes, what it’s like being the only black guy in his suburb town of Richmond Hill, Bill Cosby’s news headlines, and of course, the difference between a white man and a black man approaching a girl in the club.

            The crowd enjoyed Lewin, as most of his audiences do. He meets the difficulty of stand-up with an impressive calm, one that forces the audience to feel calm, too, in between laughter of course.

            Lewin’s next shows are set for February 15th, 22nd and 26th.    


Saturday, 7 February 2015

This Week in Toronto: Wild About Whisky

                                                Basil Hayden's Kentucky Bourbon Whisky

Whisky events are taking place all over the world. The St. Andrew’s Society and McGill university are organizing their third annual Whisky Fete in Montreal and talks of specialized whisky bars are popping up in different demographics. Here in Toronto, we are celebrating the beverage too. Toronto has taken part in the newest whisky trend; pairing two of some people’s favourite things-whisky and food.

                                                  Eccles cakes (paired with Aaran Malt)

Gone are the days that whisky was just another reason to party. The alcoholic beverage has been making serious headway in becoming one of the most profitable spirits in the market. But the beverage is expected to reach its peak within the next few years. With the whisky industry making a whopping $3 billion in 2014, it is the spirit to beat.

Unlike wines and spirits typically known to pair well with food, whisky has yet to make itself known as a pairing beverage. Executive Chef at The Forth restaurant at 629 Danforth Ave. teamed up with beverage expert Emily Pearce to change that.

                                          Oysters on the half shell (paired with Laphroaig)

The World of Whisky Lounge took place on Thursday and featured craft whiskies from North American Basil Hayden Bourbon and Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee whisky, Scottish Aaran Malt and Laphroaig Scotch and Canadian Lot No. 40 Rye. The food menu featured exotic and vibrant dishes of eccles cakes, tuna tartare, and grilled lamb to match each whisky set up at the sampling stations.

                                                      India's Amrut Single Malt Whisky

The event also featured a Japanese whisky, Nikka Taketsuru. The popularity of Japanese whisky has been growing tremendously. It’s even a topic of discussion and debate in the Wall Street Journal, about whether it’s better than scotch. And according to Chef Albertsen, it just might be.

“It’s my favourite,” he said of the Asian whisky.

                                              Zach Albertsen, Executive Chef at The Forth 

The event, an environment welcoming to experts and newbies alike, set out to change the attitude about whisky.

“It’s really approachable because there’s such a variety of categories. You can go from something that’s subtle and sweet to something that’s really strong, smoky, smooth, a bourbon or whisky,” Albertsen explained.

At the event was Mark Bylok, author of Amazon’s best-selling Whisky Cabinet. “I think it’s kind of the next natural step. People love their wine, they love their beer, they love their coffee. Whisky has a lot of that character and a lot of that flavor but it just takes a little while to appreciate,” he said about why whisky is on the rise.

                                                    Mark Bylok's "The Whisky Cabinet"

But that’s just part of the reason the beverage is becoming more appealing. The drink, typically associated with being a man’s drink is being consumed by more and more women.

Jamie Johnson, who runs whisky events strictly for women in Caledonia, says whisky culture is changing. “It’s a powerful drink. It’s always been associated with masculinity.”

Women of whisky events are helping to make the process of learning whisky culture less intimidating. “Its only women, one of the brand ambassadors from Glenfiddich hosts the evening and it’s just a nice atmosphere for women to ask questions,” Johnson said. “You feel better about asking questions and a little better about ordering it. It’s a lot like when you first learn about wine.”

Johnson’s point about women and whisky illustrates a larger one than just more women at the pre-dominantly male events.

“It’s a new conversation now,” Johnson said. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Canada's Next Best Comedian: Aaron Lewin

Aaron Kadeem Lewin was born and raised in Richmond Hill. At the age of 18, long after he realized a passion in comedy, he pursued it. He began doing stand-up comedy after his friends constantly pushed him to make a career out of being the class clown.

During his first year of university, he produced his own show. Since then, he has gone on to perform in New York and throughout venues across Ontario.

Lewin has had the pleasure of performing with Spoken Reasons, Brandon T. Jackson, Capone and Faizon Love. He guest hosted the late night talk show Late Night With Michael Charbon, the Gemini award-winning executive producer from Rogers TV. From basement bars to the 1,300 seat John Bassett Theatre, Lewin doesn’t turn away a venue.

Lewin describes comedy as his own special way of expressing himself.

“It allows me to be a bright light in the darkest of rooms,” he says. “I want to be able to get my name out there because I feel I’m as talented and funny as any comic.”

Lewin’s comedy is hugely anecdotal. It’s based on the simple fact that he grew up being the only black guy in his community.

Some of Lewin’s biggest inspirations have been Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. He studies their performances like textbooks.

“I try to pick them apart, see what I can use,” Lewin says. “For example, Chris Rock taught me to always move on the stage, never stand still. That way, the audience doesn’t get an opportunity to look away from you.”

His goal? To be the funniest Canadian stand up comedian ever. Aware of the obstacles, he believes it’s still possible. He hopes to perform at the Just For Laughs festival held in Montreal.

“It would be a huge stepping stone for me,” Lewin says.

This Saturday, Lewin will be taking the stage at the John Bassett theatre. He is set to hit the stage to amaze the audience with his witty and charming personality. He’s looking forward to wowing his favorite group of people-Torontonians.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Why I'm So Over Black History Month


Every year, the shortest month of the year is dedicated to celebrating the history of blacks.

High schools all over North America put on assemblies and put on an ethnic fa├žade while some teachers just wonder about how they’re going to make up for the class time that they and their students are missing.

I know this because I went to high school. And I specifically remember one of my grade 10 teachers whining about the assembly, in a way that no one would have whined about a Remembrance Day assembly, not even a spirit assembly.

It got me thinking, even all those years ago, about why we still celebrate black history month. And about whether we even should.  And about why, this month, I will hear more about Valentine’s Day than I will about my people.

In my eyes, black history month is a sad excuse that society uses as a means of defending it’s systemic and widespread racial issues.

Kind of like the people that keep that one black friend as an acquaintance so that when they’re accused of being racist they can say, “I’m not racist, I have black friends.”

Thanks, but no thanks.

I don’t feel the way I do because of the teacher that doesn’t care. I don’t feel the way I do because I feel our history isn’t important. I don’t feel the way I do because I’m angry at white people. I’m not angry at all. I’m just hungry for some change.

History is taught very early on in the public school system. I learned my white history, my mom’s history-Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sir Francis Bacon, John Locke-all before high school and then even more once I arrived there.

I learned about Jewish history, the holocaust, the horrifying truths of Auschwitz, Dachau, Sobibor, and Ravensbruck, the inspirational and heart-wrenching story of Anne Frank, all before I hit grade ten.

I learned about Chinese empires. Canadian wars. How America became America. But it wasn’t until grade eleven that I, by chance, took an elective that was barely worth a credit in the eyes of administration and learned my black history, my father’s history. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Dr. Carter G. Woodson, to who we owe the pleasure of having a month at all.

The problem, or just a small, tiny sliver of it, is the way in which it’s taught, or not taught in most cases.

The public school system teaches us about slavery before they teach us about the African kings and queens that characterized the societies-the same ones that were stolen from their own soil. 

So what about the kids that don't take the elective? What about the kids that enjoy family studies more than they enjoy history, I imagine there would be a lot, for obvious reasons. More importantly, what about schools that don't even offer African history classes? I imagine there would be a lot, also for obvious reasons.

The point is, if I hadn’t taken that elective, I would’ve lived my life thinking that my black history was only about slavery. Thinking that it was only about the Transatlantic Slave Trade. They taught me all of this before they ever even mentioned the effects and the legacies of what this would do to black people, my people, most of which I had to discover for myself.

And to make up for it all, we are given a month, the shortest month of the year, to compensate for how robbed we were and still are.

In spite of all this, it’s an offer we shouldn’t accept.

I’m sick and tired of imagining all the little boys and girls who are taught that society is built to break them down, and that they should either expect to fail, or expect to have to work ten times harder than the average person. And by the time they reach the age of lost hope, it’s because of some reason other than what we promised them it would be.

I got lucky because I learned about my white history before I learned about my black history; I was built up before I was broken down. I was blissfully ignorant enough to believe that I was built to succeed because that’s what my people, well, half of my people, had been doing since the beginning of time, in one way or another.

But I remember my self-esteem plummeting when I learned about the tragic history of Africans. The tragedy that was slavery, the pain that was their kidnapping, and the sad realization that sure, I was from a long lineage of kings and queens, but I was also from a lineage of corn pickers, women who were raped and beaten and sold and traded and not free.

If I had learned about Queen Nzingha, Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ramesses II, and Hatshepsut before I learned about slavery, I would have understood that slavery wasn’t the beginning of my people. But more importantly, I would learn that it wasn’t the end of my people either.

Whenever a rumor breaks out in school, the subject of that rumor impatiently awaits the day where they can get back to their life as usual without being haunted by that rumor.

But if that rumor is all that person hears about day in and day out, they eventually succumb to the effects of that rumor and believe they are what the rumor says they are.

And the rumor about us is that we’re not kings and queens, not in the eyes of the people spreading it, anyway. We’re slaves, we’re niggers, we’re subordinate, we’re inadequate, we’re not meant to succeed, we’re less capable, we’re criminals, we’re from broken families and an even more broken society, hell, we are the broken part of the society; we’re the others.

I’m not saying to let go of our history, I’m saying to let go of the effects of how holding onto it has diminished much of what we are, the solidity of our family units, the strength in our men, the alliance between our women, and most importantly, the identity in which we assign to ourselves.

I’m saying it’s time to be, time to make, ourselves equal.

You want to fix this? Teach us our history. Give us promotions, not because you need more black executives for the sake of your company’s appearance, but because we earned it. Stop thinking that a black president means racism is dead.  Stop thinking that having black friends means you yourself aren’t racist. Stop thinking that you have to sing rap lyrics everytime we come around. Stop calling us “coloured”; black is fine. We don't call you caucasian anymore and everyone else gets grouped into the "coloured" group while white people still get to be white. Stop touching my hair and saying it’s “ethnic”. Stop thinking that living in a place like Toronto means you get it.

Because you don’t. And I’m not even sure I do.

Maybe I don’t. Maybe it’s because I’m half white. But if our history is going to be taught in a way that depletes the very essence of who we are, the approach needs to change.

But what I do get is that we need to take the burst of energy that comes around in February towards the education of our history, divide, then multiply that amongst the other eleven months. We need to take it out of the hands of just black people and put it into white hands, Asian hands, Middle-Eastern hands, and to put it into their hands is to put it into their minds. We need to stop treating each history-stop teaching each history-as if one is more important than the other.

And if that’s not true, tell me why Canadian kids can tell you every province but couldn’t tell you where human civilization began? Why do American kids, even the black ones, know every single one of the 51 states but couldn’t tell you the 47 countries in Africa? Why do North Americans spend hundreds of dollars on Jordans and Nikes but give weird looks to the kid that wears traditional African clothing?

White history doesn’t matter more in April than it does in May. So my history will mean just as much to me in March as it does in February.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Why I did better in university than college

When I switched into the joint program for journalism at University of Toronto, I was heart-broken to discover that I’d have to spend three semesters in college.

I’m not even too sure why to be honest.

I guess I felt like it was a downgrade. Maybe a lot of people go from university to college, but that was never in my plans. My parents were so proud of me for making it into one of Canada’s most high-ranked and elite universities, would they look down on me for being in college? Would my degree equate to less because some of my time in post-secondary was acquired in a college?

And, why am I still paying university tuition if I’m doing college-level courses?

The first day I got to college, I was so unimpressed my eyebrows couldn’t sink any lower into the middle of my face if I had been photoshopped. The campus was a bit smaller than my high school. It was a huge square with a small outdoor space in the middle and monotonous paint colours that made me nauseous after a while.

But the teachers were surprisingly lively.

In our first semester, we learned news reporting, copy-editing, page design, and imaging. The classes were so unlike anything I’d ever taken in university. We learned so much about the theory of journalism, the elements of journalism and transnational issues in university that I thought it would take me getting into the workforce to do things like this.

Our assignments came quickly and piled up even faster and challenged my peers and I in a way we hadn’t been challenged before. We had class discussions just as we had in university, but we did work. A lot of work.

After receiving high 70s and high 80s in university on essays and written assignments and 90s for my participation, I expected to be even better in college. After all, college is so much easier than university isn’t it?

The truth is, it’s not.

It might even be more difficult. For journalism anyway, and a lot of other courses that require serious hands-on training.

The thing is, university is all about theory. We sit in lectures for an hour or two and listen (perhaps) to the history of our field. We learn about the famous people who paved the way for the men and women hoping to make it, and we write essays, reflections, midterms and exams.

But in college, we write. We learn. We read. We talk to each other. We debate. We discuss. We engage. We indulge in news every single day. We write draft after draft and it still isn’t good enough. Our teachers are hard on us. They cover our paper in red pen and tell us we should know how to spell these words by now, commas don’t go there, and didn’t your copy-editor teach you this already?

I did better in university than I did in college because I was pushed in college, whereas whatever I handed in was "good enough" in university, and "good enough" gets you good grades.

A lot of people take the easy way out because it’s, well, easy. But there is nothing to be gained from easy. If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you. You don’t make it to the highest level in a video game by selecting the easiest level each time you play. You don’t improve at a sport by ensuring your opponents are less qualified than you. And you don’t make it anywhere, and I mean anywhere, by refusing to challenge yourself when necessary and even when not.

Sometimes we judge books by their covers. Sometimes we think we’re too good or too old to learn some of the simplest lessons that are relayed via Disney movies or Robert Munch books. But sometimes, if we just open our eyes we see the message that we missed the first, second and maybe even third time.

University may have taught me to open my eyes, but it was college that helped me to see.