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In Tokyo: i am robot and proud

Posted by Matthew Hayles / May 18, 2009

i am robotI hung out with Shaw-han Liem in Tokyo this weekend, which is cool. The Mississauga native and Toronto electro-pop artist, who performs under the name i am robot and proud, flew into Japan's largest and best-lit city, my new hometown, for a performance collaboration (which I missed) and an energizing solo show (which I didn't).

A curious combination of live instrumentals and dude-and-his-laptop-ness, i am robot and proud has been quietly working the Toronto scene for five years. His latest album, Uphill City, was released in the fall on darla in Canada and & records in Japan, where he's been booking consistent gigs up and down the country. I caught his show at SuperDeluxe in Roppongi to snap some pictures, and caught up with him the next day at a live performance at Tower Records to talk about his work, his teamups, and inevitably video games.

You've been spending a fair amount of time over here recently. You toured Japan in October, and you're coming back to Tokyo in September with a new band. What are some of your favourite places to play here?

Shaw-han: The festival shows are always fun cause it's just a total experience. You're just one of 20 bands that are playing so it's kind of relaxed. The festival that we played last summer was in a nature area, it was close to Mount Fuji and we played in front of thousands and thousands of people. It was actually our first show of the tour and it was a new band. It was myself and a guy called Jeremy Strachan who plays with an avant guard jazz duo called Feuermusik in Toronto. And then Jim Guthrie who does his own solo stuff, he played guitar.

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Wise Daughters Will Save the Economy

Posted by Matthew Hayles / March 28, 2009

wise daughters toronto mooseIf you don't work, make: that's the message Mary Breen, owner of Junction craft hub Wise Daughters, is trying to pass on. It's no coincidence that the first major crafting revival since the 70s is coalescing around the largest recession in a good long while. Crowds of Torontonians are sourcing their artistic side to supplement their dwindling incomes with the assistance of online arts + crafts kiosks like

Wendo van Essen, one of the 40 Canadian artists whose work is sold at Wise Daughters, told me that bust economies are boom times for DIY crafts. Toronto crafting hotspots like The Knit Cafe and Wise Daughters are part of a budding DIY movement that's way bigger than gimp or friendship bracelets were. A surge in interest has meant that craft meetings, like the moose-head-trophy felt-sculpture-making workshop Wendo led at Wise Daughters last night, sell out.

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Geotagging Toronto

Posted by Matthew Hayles / March 11, 2009

cityhall_11032009.jpgWired Torontonians have an embarrassment of well-mapped riches: in just the last two weeks alone, we've seen the launch of two major user-defined maps. 360EXtENdEd matches personal stories to neighbourhoods across the GTA, and the The Star's neighbourhood map 2.0, which divides Toronto into 170 (at last count) cleanly delineated neighbourhoods. The Star's web editor Patrick Cain has been a powerhouse of cartography, producing a Map a Week since June 2008, including one of the first homicide maps on a North American website.

360EXtENdED and Map a Week digitally remap our city in new and interesting ways. Now there's a third geotagging platform adding to our urban fervour in 2009: The ChangeEngine, where users will be able to show-and-tell neighbourhood issues like needed street repairs. On Monday night its creators tweeted an open call for user-contributed sample data. They've gotten nearly 100 submissions in a 24 hours period. The e-vangelists like Ryerson President Sheldon Levy, may be right... is Toronto becoming a hotspot for digital urbanism?

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Desecrating the Atheist Bus Ad

Posted by Matthew Hayles / March 6, 2009

atheist ads toronto subway ttcDoes atheism need be considered sacred, for defacing of an atheist ad to be considered desecration? I noticed this on my way home on the subway last night, and am actually surprised it's the first I've seen (considering the Athiest Bus ad campaign has been around since the middle of February).

Clearly atheism ads on pubic transit are a contentious issue.

This one had a black marker taken to it:

There's probably no god.

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Czechoslovak Baptist Church to be sold in March

Posted by Matthew Hayles / March 2, 2009

Czechoslovak Baptist Church torontoThe historic Czechoslovak Baptist Church building at the corner of Annette and High Park is to be sold in March after a conditional bid was placed on it this past week. It is the second church, of five on the strip immediately west of Keele, to go on the market in the past year - Victoria-Royce Presbyterian Church just down the street is being renovated into lofts. The church, whose cornerstone dates to 1888, is avoiding the death knell of condofication for now, and will be purchased by an as yet anonymous congregation.

But the Junction is changing fast, and its uncertain how much longer the building will maintain its holy designation. In December, a private inquiry was placed with Toronto building Division to see if the current zoning would allow a dance studio to set up in the building ("private" means the City doesn't have to tell you how they answered).

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Great Aunt Ida's Toronto Fortress

Posted by Matthew Hayles / February 23, 2009

greatauntida_23022009.jpgIda Nilsen, the multi-instrumentalist and songwriter behind the ex-Vancouver project Great Aunt Ida, packed her bags for Toronto in 2007. The Victoria-native decided to make the shift after ten years in Vancouver, seven of which she spent booking shows at the iconic (and now-defunct) Sugar Refinery.

With a number of projects now behind her (Buttless Chaps, Radiogram, an "all girl improv thing called Cunt"), and new backup from in and around Canada's biggest city, Great Aunt Ida is busy assembling mellow demos for a fresh summer album that combines her new crew and her old one (whom I refer to as Great Great Aunt Ida).

Ida and I met at Tinto on Roncesvalles, where she will be playing solo tonight at Parkdale's monthly roundup of local storytellers. We talked about the west coast city we have both adopted, jobs for teenagers, her upcoming plans, Sudbury, and Armenian music.

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