Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Art of Kensington Market

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The Art of Kensington Market, a set on Flickr.

Home to artists, artisans and alternative thinkers, Kensington Market is a vortex of creative energy and grassroots enterprise. In the last five years, shopfronts have been transformed into brilliant works of art with the support of local merchants, much like Brick Lane in East London.

Block Party Raises Fun in Concrete Jungle

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Solid Apparel, Solid Soldiers aiigghht!!

Last Saturday, I had the good fortune to stumble upon Block Party 2012, going down at that parking lot on College 2 blocks west of Spadina. A line-up of DJ’S playing drum and bass, breaks, hip-hop and live bands made it look intriguing, yet attendance was sparse. That was really too bad because the music was quite good, what with jungle going steady like old times. Stewards jingling buckets asked for a minimum donation of $1, with proceeds going towards fighting epilepsy. Can’t argue with that! I missed DJ Marcus‘ set but returned just in time to catch MC’s Killah, Dax, See and Lucky General blowing shit up in da parking lot.  Nice to see the junglist massive bringing it live and direct! Gotta love the little raver girl dancing up a storm with her L.A lights at 1:57. Big ups to Solid Apparel for helping to sponsor this event and for hooking me up with some dope stickers.

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

2C-B: Party Drug or Potent Medicine?

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2C-B image courtesy of erowid.org

When people suffer from depression or anxiety, doctors often prescribe anti-depressants such as Zoloft and Prozac, both of which practically guarantee a death sentence to the libido. Goodbye sex life, hello stability! Screw that – I’d  rather roll around in Saran wrap on hot coals. But what if there’s a drug that enables you to access the roots of those nagging problems with total awareness whilst tripping out with said libido fully intact? Enter 2C-B (4-Bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine), not to be confused with 2C-D. Popular amongst psytrancers, 2C-B was first synthesized in 1974 by Alexander Shulgin, aka The Godfather of MDMA. In PIHKAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved), Shulgin gives a detailed description of how to synthesize the drug, its recommended dosage and effects.

Also known as Nexus and Bees, 2C-B was first used successfully in psychiatric therapy before it became known as a recreational drug.  Shulgin himself observed, “Many of the reports that have come in over the years have mentioned the combination of MDMA and 2C-B. The most successful reports have followed a program in which the two drugs are not used at the same time, nor even too closely spaced. It appears that the optimum time for the 2C-B is at, or just before, the final baseline recovery of the MDMA. It is as if the mental and emotional discoveries can be mobilized, and something done about them. This combination has several enthusiastic advocates in the psychotherapy world, and should be the basis of careful research when these materials become legal, and accepted by the medical community.” Unfortunately, 2C-B has been placed in Schedule III of the CDSA, which makes possession of this substance illegal. Prior to its placement in List I of the Opium Law, 2C-B was widely available at smartshops in the Netherlands as a legal substitute for Ecstasy. 

2C-B is widely distributed in gelcaps or pill form

At milder dosages (5-15 mg), 2C-B’s entactogenic properties become more pronounced. It’s no surprise then that it was once peddled as an aphrodisiac named Eros by Drittewelle, a German pharmaceutical company.  It seems the Germans are always onto something; heck, even MDMA was first discovered in Germany! Up the dosage to 25 mg and more, and shit starts to get intense. Light trails, candy coloured clouds, rippling bushes, an achingly deep affinity with nature and music manifesting itself visually are just some of the many wondrous effects one can expect from this dynamic drug. Commercially sold as a brownish white powder (usually in capsule form), 2C-B can either be ingested orally or insufflated. When swallowed, it takes much longer for the effects to be felt (1 – 2 hours from the moment of ingestion), but the trip lasts significantly longer (4 – 8 hours). This is best done on an empty stomach, as 2C-B can induce nausea. Insufflation produces rapid results, usually within a matter of minutes, but your nose will pay a painful price for5 minutes or more while you wonder, “WHAT THA FUCK HAVE I DONE TO MY FREAKIN NOSE!!! AAARRRGGGHH!!!” However, the onset is intense but the ride will be much shorter. It is really a matter of individual preference coupled with how much mileage the user wants to get out of the experience, that determines the method of absorption. 

What’s truly unique about 2C-B is that it combines the psychedelic properties of LSD with a hint of MDMA’s warm glow, while eschewing the sometimes unpleasant side effects one usually experiences with LSD. When used correctly, it allows one to remain in a lucid frame of mind, observing thought processes in minute detail with the understanding that the Self is separate from one’s thoughts. For this reason, 2C-B has the potential to help the user to address repressed emotional issues, release negative thought patterns and experience one’s connection with other sentient beings, namely plants and animals. If done at a party, expect some far out visuals and hours of transcendent hula-hooping or contact improv if that’s your  kind of scene. Do it outdoors and you might find yourself skulking and snarling in the underbrush as you become one with your totem animal. Nevermind that badass raccoon that looks like it’s about to fly right off the frickin tree and make a beeline for your face – you’re in your element! Suddenly, you know beyond a doubt that wild animals hate cars – I mean, really fucking hate ’em.

Ultimately, 2C-B can empower you to make brave decisions you wouldn’t normally do, like ditching a co-dependent relationship you’ve been dying to end but didn’t know how to. Or chucking your worn out shoes in the garbage and going home barefoot. Or pissing on whitey’s lawn. Be forewarned: 2C-B  is a very powerful psychotropic substance, best used on its own. DO NOT COMBINE with marijuana or alcohol. Overdose and you may find yourself bawling in the psychiatric ward as it can seriously skewer your perception of reality before you even come back to Square 1. Respect for this powerful medicine as a shamanic intermediary is key to having a positive experience. Many may find it helpful to have a sober, trustworthy person present to act as a guide in case things get dicey. A more equipoised individual might choose to dose privately in a natural environment with few distractions. The majority seem to prefer taking it at parties, so the effects of blacklight visuals and music is intensified, but this is drastically different compared to dosing in the woods for example. Setting is of utmost importance when using 2C-B as it can have a profound effect on what the user gets out of it. For a more introspective experience, it is best taken outdoors. Effects may include: 

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety attacks (which subside when addressed rationally).
  • Headaches
  • Feelings of isolation / introversion.
  • Greater insight into the roots of one’s problems.
  • Improved sense of well being and confidence.
  • Acute observation of one’s environment in minutiae (similar to LSD).
  • Colours become noticeably vibrant and dynamic.
  • The ability to perceive auras (coloured vapours around people and flowers).
  • Kinship with nature.
  • Subsequent rejection of materialistic societal values.
  • Recognition of one’s power animal and the ability to see what that animal sees.
  • Intense hunger (when coming down).
  • Reluctance to leave the vicinity (hence it is advisable to let someone you trust know you’ll be tripping out!).

So far, no fatalities have been reported from taking 2C-B. However, if you have a history of mental illness / psychosis, you definitely should not take this drug. Too often, people approach these substances with a trivial attitude, thinking it’s all fun and recreation, but 2C-B has the potential to give you a serious reality check.  A resounding bitchslap to the ol’ noggin. This is not something you want authorities to be aware of if you should end up screaming your head off at a busy junction because you took twice the recommended dosage despite warnings from your friends. Respect 2C-B for its medicinal properties, and you may gain remarkable insight into what makes you tick.

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

Hot Box Café vs Big Money Squeeze

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If you’re looking for a safe space to spark an L in Kensington, light one up at Hot Box Café. A mainstay of the Market, Hot Box’s green approach to urban living has made it a popular destination for artists and potheads for over 11 years. It has provided a platform for artists, DJs, musicians and comedians to showcase their talents. On a perfect summer day, one might find the backyard patio packed with an assortment of sunworshippers and tokers. But now Hot Box is being forced to move from their current location at 191  Baldwin to Roach-O-Rama at 204 Augusta. Naturally I wondered what the hell’s up with that? I heard through the Grapevine Press that the building was up for grabs and some suit with hipster aspirations is going to throw up a Jimmy’s Coffee in its place. Ewww….gross. You’d think these people would know better after what happened when Starfucks tried to set foot in the Market but I guess somebody grew one bigass set of donkeynuts. Just means there’s more scrotum to kick, but anyways where was I? Oh yeah, for those of us who’ve watched Hot Box Café grow from a tiny headshop into a downhome restaurant / café over the years, this is sad news. It marks the end of an era for one of the few remaining greenspots in the heart of Toronto, and the beginning of a disturbing trend that has been stealthily creeping up on this vibrant community. I caught up with Abi Roach, owner of Hot Box Café to get her side of the story.

F: Recently I received news that Hot Box is going to be moving, and I’d just like you to explain why this is happening.

A: Well, the building’s been for sale for seven years, since we moved in here essentially, and it’s finally sold after all this time and the guy who bought it is a real estate guy. He’s not willing to make compromises ,or be nice or be polite or anything of the sort so we gotta go, you know? We have one month to move out.

F: How do members of the community feel about this move?

A: Well, they think that for a business that has been here for eleven years to have it be kicked out this building by someone who’s been nothing but rude to the community, is kind of a slap in the face to the community, and not a great way to come into a neighbourhood  that’s so close-knit. And then the people that have been in this building are really upset because they’re going to lose $400 or $500 a week each, and that’s a big hit for the market. Come wintertime there are not a lot of people here and they’re not spending a lot of money. Having businesses losing support for almost  a decade is a hard hit for them to take as well. So in this neighbourhood, if there’s one business that has a hard time, everybody has a hard time. So it’s not just a problem of one individual business, it’s a problem for the whole community.

F: As a result of this, do you think Kensington Market is in danger of being gentrified?

A: I think Kensington Market has become gentrified.  And it’s not because we’re moving, it’s because of what’s happening. Rents are too high, the taxes are too high, people can’t afford to stay. As soon as their lease runs out, the landlord gets a commercial lease and just jacks up the rent. People who own the businesses around here and own their buildings can’t afford the land taxes; they’re too high, we’re not getting the services we used to get in the neighbourhood, so the taxes we pay are even more difficult. European Meats was here for many, many years and it had a lot of people coming down to the neighbourhood. When European Meats moved up to North York, the community lost probably 10,000 people a month that would come down to the neighbourhood to go to European Meats and buy groceries. So you’ve lost a huge portion of people that come down to the neighbourhood  for the purpose that it’s meant for, which is a market, and then you walk around here on a Pedestrian Sunday, quote on quote, and it’s a whole bunch of people from the suburbs with lots of cameras and kids but nobody’s got a shopping bag in their hands and this is the problem that this neighbourhood is running into, is that now it’s a tourist attraction. People don’t want to spend money here because they’re just here to gawk and take pictures and say, “Oh, we’re in Kensington Market, it’s so coo!” So in the end, they don’t spend any money and that puts us all as the risk at being gone, so it’s not just me, it’s everybody you know? What’s happened here is that it’s not a marijuana problem, cuz it’s no issue with the marijuana, it’s a city problem, you know?

F: As a result of this move, how do you plan to adapt to this change?

A: Well we’re not going to be a restaurant anymore, since we can’t have a patio and a restaurant license. We’re just going to sell bottles of pop, chips and things in bags that are healthy, support people in the neighbourhood and buy locally like we always do instead of going to the wholesalers  uptown like Costco or whateve. We’ll go around in the neighbourhood here and buy cases of Malta and Ting and Caribbean Corner  and still support the neighbourhood, rather than going to Costco’s. That’ s what’s very important for me at The Hotbox ; it’s supporting the community.

F: Are you still going to continue holding your artistic events?

A: Yes of course! Yes, well everything’s going to be the same. It’s just going to be in a different location with new artwork and a different deck, and it’s orange and green the same way. It’s got the same vibe and it has dimmers , the lights, which I’m very excited about so that’s going to be very nice and we can dim the lights whenever we want and I think it’ll be great and more private – it’s nice. It’ll be good; I think it’s a good change. I’m not so upset about the fact that we had to move, we’re more upset about the fact we that had no time and no notice to move, you know, and for someone who’s been in the same place for eleven years to get no notice from her landlord or from the new building owner and had to find out through blogto.com that we had to move out, that’s a sad fact for me.

F: Do you plan on having a housewarming shindig at the new location?

A: At the old location on the 14th of September we’re doing an All You Can Eat blowout, so it’s going to be like $10 – $15 and all you can eat cuz we have to get rid of all our food and on the 15th of September we’re going to do a “See ya later” kind of party here, and then when we’re ready over there next month we’ll do a grand opening party.

F: How do you see Hot Box Café evolving in the future?

A:  I think now it’s evolved a lot and it’s going backwards which is okay;  we’re downsizing to a smaller size. Rents were out of control last year so much that we were spending almost $15,000 a month just to pay the landlord. So I think for now we’re going to keep going with what we have and just make it the best way we can and see what happens from there.

F: When you first started out, what was your biggest obstacle that you had to overcome?

A: I was 20 years old and I didn’t know anything about anything! And I thought I knew everything. Now I’m 34 and I know a lot more and I’ve experienced a lot more and that obstacle’s gone with age. With age comes intelligence and experience.

F: Wonderful! Thank you for your time Abi.

A: No problem!

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

Javid Exalts The Divine Feminine with Alaama

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Revolution is silently brewing in the heart of Kensington Market. And it entails more than pissing off the landlord with a brilliant piece of social commentary on Toronto’s embattled mayor, Rob Ford titled, “We Can’t Afford This!” I’m talking about none other than Market resident, Javid (pronounced Jah-vid), who is changing the world one brushstroke at a time. This amazing street artist has been painting murals since 2000, and hasn’t looked back since. Javid was educated at the University of Toronto and the University of British Colombia, with exhibitions of his work in New York, Bombay and Johannesburg. According to his biography, Javid’s interest in Arabic calligraphy and graffiti drives his expression as a painter, incorporating a range of media from brush and palette knife to aerosol and marker. His work blurs critical lines between graffiti, mural art, vandalism and revitalization.

Co-founder of Under The Radar, Javid is committed to mentoring emerging artists. He is now entering his third year of the Masters of Architecture program at U of T, aspiring to establish a practice focused on user-driven, grassroots architecture for marginalized communities.On August 23rd, Javid held a solo exhibit of his work at his studio in Kensington called Alaama (which is Arabic for “She Knows”).The turnout was tremendous, resembling a clubnight more than a reception, minus the attitude. Intrigued was I by the ostentatious display of talent and courage from this formidable artist. So naturally, I interviewed him. What followed was an outpouring of deep inner realizations not only about the role of the Divine Feminine in Islam, but on art as an instrument of self actualization and social change.

F: Javid thanks for taking the time out to speak with me today. I would like to ask you what inspired you to become an artist?

J: Seems to me like it’d be a complicated history to tell a story that would be like a recipe on how to become an artist. Everyone obviously has their own path. I was inspired by activism more than anything. I was inspired to find a creative way to get involved with helping people. Murals made a lot of sense, cuz people always told me I could draw. I never thought I was that good at drawing to be honest; I thought my sister was way better.

F: Did your sister encourage you to follow this path?

J: No, she encouraged me by resisting me from getting her on the path, so everytime I was telling her, “Oh Zara that was amazing, you should go further,” she wouldn’t really push it. People said to me that I’d have to work harder. But I was inspired by being on the streets, I was inspired by the idea of hustle and making it on your own through your own hands and intelligence and means, and I was inspired by activism, change.

F: When you talk about activism, what kind of activism are you referring to in particular?

A pair of shades handpainted by Javid…cool!

J: I guess in the context of  mural art it was Diego Rivera I felt was a mobilized school of art, but then when I learned about this process and I learned about the idea of painting collaboratively in terms of groups, that seemed like a wicked way to get young people involved in things. In Toronto for example, you need people to be active, whether through music or sport. You need to be culturally active to be focused and grow as opposed to just hanging around and doing unemployment; all those things lead to stagnation in the community, right? And so much of the immigrant community that doesn’t choose the professional side to pursue it because of pressure from their parents, they need to have those opportunities to express in alternative means. It’s kind of a throwback to when people say, “life back home” and the things you need that are very simple. You don’t need as much spending power as a professional, as a corporate job might earn you. You make like 3, 5 million dollars that’s great, but do you really need that much to live? People are living way beyond carrying capacities that don’t need to do that. That’s time which translates into money into creative means which are nurturing for the spiritual and material well being, know what I mean?

So I mean the idea of change for me was providing opportunities to people that were on the fringe of poverty to be engaged in processes that made them feel successful, and I think the ultimate means is the ultimate thing there is; just making money for artists, simple as that. How do you create industries? With t-shirts, we have to make our own prints, we cut out our own business cards, we have to paint people’s shoes and sell them for $100. What kind of a next gimmick, not even gimmick, but trick can we pull? And I think murals made the most sense cuz they can be lucrative. You can make 5G’s ($5000) for painting 2 to 6 days, but it can also be enough people involved in terms of  film, music, the event, the community coming out to support; it’s like very holistic interactive for activists. Holy…I talk for like, so long man. Holy! (Laughter). When people start poking me and asking me things I just go off.

F: Before you decided to pursue this path as a professional artist, did you get started by doing murals as a graffiti artist around the city?

J: I think they’re one and the same to me. Yeah, I mean what happened with me was I did this thing where I painted with organizations as first a volunteer, then as the leader of a youth group still {as a} volunteer, still as an employee that someone had to write the grant for until I was the artist who is working with other artists hired by the centre, and now it’s come full circle to the point of social enterprise, so actually running a business, that is a graffiti crew but also provides mentorship to the artists, so we work with different organizations and government bodies that give funding while we get private funding for independent murals.

F: It’s interesting that you mentioned funding because I wanted to ask you about that. How did you go about getting the support from the government in terms of grants to assist with your endeavours?

J: Everything started for me with umbrella organizations like back in ‘03 I got an organization that hired me

Javid’s take on Rob Ford

as an intern and we had to fundraise to go to Tanzania to paint murals. That was ’03. By ’05 I worked with Mural Routes and they are the organization that provided the platform for me to get the government funding and they provide the platform for artists to be hired and to work on their projects. Finally, I think by ’07 I was working for the Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre which is an established, nonprofit, charitable organization that has a stream of core funding from United Way and the City of Toronto so they made it easier for me to work with Robert Bailey who was my boss, who is still my mentor, to write grants for programs and provide our own twist on how the grants run, but use the reputation and credibility of organizations to get your foot in the door. After that, now I have enough of a repertoire, enough of a portfolio to apply independently and not have an umbrella, but I think having an umbrella really helps, even a trustee. You have to have a trustee.

F: What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome when you were first trying to establish yourself as a professional artist?

J: I think you have a certain confidence that you know you just gotta go in…you know the point of no return?There’s a point of no return in an artist’s life. Once you go past that point that’s it. If you go back it’s gonna be soft. People will see through it. Graffiti has that point of no return where it’s like, “I do graff, I’m a writer,” and once you pass that point I don’t know how you can go back. So that gives you confidence but you’re still trying to look and find a style; you know the pressure of the art world to find a style: can people identify you? How do we know that it’s you? So I think a big thing for me in terms of establishing the biggest obstacle was finding a style that could be identified with me and a niche within graffiti or calligraphy which I saw as, sort of, you know the Arab Islamic influence in my sort of personal research, and then love for Arabic mixed with my writing on the streets and Arabic coming out in mural paintings…I call it calligraffiti. But I’m not the only artist that does that or claims to have been a proponent of it. El Seed in Montreal, he’s ill, he’s really ill and he rocked it last year. He just finished minarets in Tunisia. So I can’t even begin to claim that. I would probably say that 8 out of 10 artists who know their shit, whatever that means, would say the biggest obstacle is promotion. Business sense, marketing, you know what I mean? Having access to that world and having to use an agent or a storm of social media or whatever it is, that exposure is such a critical component of an obstacle to an artist being successful.

F: What inspired you to choose an Islamic theme for this particular exhibition? I noticed that you’ve called it “Alaama – She Knows.” Would you care to elaborate more on that?

J: Sure. I think it had to be natural for me because I’m Muslim, born Muslim, my parents are both Muslim and we grew up going to prayers regularly so it was definitely a part of my life. I claim to be Sufi, {it} comes from the word Tassawus which means secrecy. Sufis practice devotional love of God, it’s an expression of a search for light through poetry, dance, music, art and prayer, not just prayer. And meditation. My painting for me is part of my prayer. That’s how it’s connected to Islam but the actual show “Alaama – She Knows” is a direct questioning, it’s like an obvious skepticism about the nature of God in a man. Both in the sense of Christianity being God is a man and Jesus, and in the sense of Islam where God is a He with a capital H – ذكر من الإنسان (pronounced how-ah). الأنثى من الحيوان أو الإنسان (pronounced hali-ah) which is She relates to the political idea intention of how women are treated in Islam, and so the whole lack of matriarchy and the subjugation of women in popular representations of Islam were also forced. It’s like, ok, if the female now is the Divine, how does that change and could it be expressed through Sufi Islam and can this affect the way that contemporary societies address the role of females in the development of society. For example, in the ‘50’s, our Imam, Aga Khan II I believe, addressed our community of Ismaili Muslims: “If you could only afford to send one child to school, make it the girl.” Which is contrary to mostly what happens and the idea there is that the woman is really the thinker in the household, and not to say that in a disrespectful way to women, just that if that was to be the case, then at least she has the understanding that we assume you’d get from an education to be a better role model and lieutenant if you will, of the household. So the idea of switching, putting “She Knows” instead of “He Knows” so there’s so many layers within Islam itself, which is why I wanted it to be about reconceptualizing females in the sense of divinity.

F: Would you say that your work is partially influenced by African sculpture because I’m getting a very strong impression of that influence just from observing most of your pieces.

J: It’s the first time I’m hearing sculpture, and African…my mom always said that the females I drew were African looking, and she wondered if I had a thing for black women or what was up with that. She knew I loved hip-hop and basketball so thought that was just natural. I questioned it but I realized that in a sense, it’s easier to draw those shapes and I didn’t like the rigidity of what would be seen as a Caucasian or Aryan or not Oriental, but any of the Euro races of facial structures. I thought that the fact that my parents were born in Africa could have had an influence on my life, maybe African, and I meet people sometimes and they’re convinced I’m African. I’ve been to Africa, meaning Kenya and Tanzania where my dad and mom are from respectively. I’ve been to South Africa and I definitely believe I’m African, but finding how it translates into why these pieces could be seen as African is a whole new ballgame. I can’t make that connection necessarily, although I do see the resemblance especially in the wood pieces.

F: On a final note, what sort of advice would you give to up and coming artists that want to make their art a profession in terms of making a decent living from it?

J: Well I’m giving advice to myself still because I’m still up and coming, still struggling to pay for all this shit and to go to school; I start school again in less than a week or something. I mean, I think the number one thing is you have to have faith, number two you gotta work your ass off, number three you have to be open minded. I definitely believe that you have to have a strong team because there’s no way I’d be sitting here right now. The support network I have is ridiculous. So props to that but at the end of the day, you know, it’s just yourself believing that you have something to achieve or a higher purpose to your journey. You definitely have to believe in that. You don’t have to be religious – you just have to believe it. And work your butt off.

F: Excellent! Thanks Javid.

J: You’re welcome.

Javid’s work is currently on display at Loft 404, 263 Adelaide St. West, Toronto, M5H 1Y2

For more info on Javid and other amazing artists, visit http://www.185augusta.com

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.