I Haven’t Been To The Science Centre in 10 Years

Yesterday Nash, my cousin William and I went to the Ontario Science Centre to check out the Game On 2.0 video game exhibition. The exhibit, located on the level 6 of the Science Centre featured vintage game art, pinball machines and of course playable games.
One of my favourites was Space War. The premise of the game was there were two space ships controlled by two players. I really liked the sounds and the shiny lights that the ships used as bullets. The three of us also spent a great deal of time playing Gauntlet (which I forgot to photograph), a hilarious 1985 hack and slash where we could play as a warrior, wizard, valkyrie or elf. The most entertaining part of the game was the game voice that announced things such as “Your wizard is about to die” or “Don’t Shoot the Food”. All the games in the exhibit were free to play so we continued the game until we got stuck in a maze.
Tron had the coolest music, but we had no idea how to play the game. Most of our lives were lost in less than five seconds. Thank god we weren’t wasting quarters!
I forgot that in Donkey Kong if you fall down the holes, you die.
They had this Virtusphere thing that sadly wasn’t opened to public yet. We talked to the staff and they said it was a virtual gaming simulation that was to open in April. The sphere was to simulate walking in a game.
Here are some other games and things we saw in the exhibit:

After we were all gamed out we ventured through the rest of the Science Centre in no particular order. Here are some photos:

We’re all in our 20s and probably a bit too old to be there, but we still had a ton of fun walking around.

Hey Meatball

Located across from the Mod Club, Hey Meatball is known for their meatball dishes of all kinds. Guy Fieri even visited the joint recently.Most of their dishes are around $12 and vary from sandwiches, pasta to polenta.
We started things off with some homemade soda. I originally ordered lime and Nash had orange. We ended up switching because we preferred each others’. You could tell by the pulp in the drinks that they were made fresh.
I tried the meatball, rib and sausage polenta, which was pretty much exactly as described. I loved the sausage and there was a good portion of it hidden beneath the potato mash!
Nash had the Rodfather sandwich which had three pork and beef balls with a veal bolognese sauce. There was a salad on the side. While delicious, it was a bit expensive for the portion size.

Hey Meatball I love your juicy balls, but I wish there was more of it!

Hey Meatball on Urbanspoon

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

mrpenumbra I always wondered what it would be like to write fiction that took place in today’s world. Robin Sloan pulled it off in his mysterious novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore.

The premise is the main character, Clay Jannon, works in a bookstore that is open at all hours of the night. He soon realizes the books in the “Wayback” catalogue are full of strange codes instead of text and story. There is a strange cult of people that take out these books and of course Clay decides to find out more about them.

Sloan writes in a way that is so believable I had to look up if some of the things actually exist. It takes place in a strange San Francisco book store, one of the characters work for Google and it also involves a reddit-style mystery man.

It’s a short easy read for those looking for a geeky codebreaking adventure in the present-day. It wouldn’t surprise me if this ever turned into a movie one day.

Ryoji Ramen and Izakaya

Last week, I had a craving for ramen so I turned to my trusty Yelp app and searched for places close to where we were. It led me to Ryoji Ramen and Izakaya.
Located in Little Italy/Portugal, the place is relatively new. The decorations were modern, warm and colourful. When we went in, we were greeted by the people in the kitchen but not to the crazy extent as other izakayas in the city.
The menu consisted of mostly tapas and ramen. Of course we came for the ramen and we both were craving the Tonkotsu ramen. They asked us if we wanted it soft, regular or hard and we had no idea what that meant until later.
The ramen broth was probably one of my favourites in the city. However, I found for $12 the bowl itself was lacking in something. It was just two pieces of pork belly and ramen with a bit of mushroom and scallions. There wasn’t even like an egg or those swirly fish ball thing in the bowl like the ones you get at Kenzo Ramen for a fraction of the price.
Ryoji Ramen & Izakaya on Urbanspoon

How to Photograph a Funeral

While photographing a funeral may seem morbid to some, it is normal in some cultures to want to capture the moment. Funerals tend to be one of the very few times where entire families and friends gather in a room, even those who haven’t seen each other for 10 years. Asian funerals tend to have a lot of tradition and are quite interesting to document.

To be honest when grandma asked me to photograph grandpa’s funeral, I thought it was weird. I thought I would be shy, break down (well I did occasionally), or that it would be awkward. However, I learned a lot from this experience and think I became a much better photographer because of it.

Here are a few tips:
1. No Flash
Having a photographer at a funeral can be awkward enough for some visitors, don’t be intrusive with a giant flash. I used my 50mm 1.8 lens for the majority of the shots so that I could absorb the most light as well as purposely blur backgrounds.

2. Be Considerate
Funerals can be a great opportunity to be photojournalistic, but at the same time you have to still be sensitive. Don’t stick cameras in people’s faces and be as invisible as possible. In my case, it was a little bit more difficult because I was part of the immediate family.

3. Edit Photos to Fit The Mood
Photos shouldn’t really be high of contrast and colour, that doesn’t really fit the mood of a funeral (or at least not the ceremony/wake). Don’t “bloom” your photos, apply appropriate filters that aren’t too bright and cheery. A mix of black and white and colour is okay too.

4. Watch People Interact With Each Other
Chances are if you’ve been asked to photograph a funeral, the person doesn’t just want to remember the deceased, but also all those who came out.

5. Be Confident
If you act like you are unsure you are supposed to be there, than it makes it awkward for everyone else too. If you’re confident than people will know you are doing your job.

If you ever get asked to photograph a funeral, treat it as a honour to help someone keep their last memories of a loved one. For now, most of the photos are for my family’s eyes only but they are some of the most intimate and emotionally beautiful photographs that I have ever taken.

That Time We Almost Joined A Cult

On Tuesday, after my grandpa’s wake ceremony, my grandma’s friend had suggested we go eat vegetarian food at a temple. Eating vegan/vegetarian food is a normal occurrence in Chinese culture during special occasions including deaths and their anniversaries so my entire family  thought nothing of it. We said sure, and were given the address.

When the twenty of us arrived, it was not a temple, but a corner lot with a gigantic white house. Inside we had to remove our shoes or put coverings on our footwear. There were people dressed in robes listening to a person reciting stuff and some people kneeling on the floor. At first inspection it looked like some sort of private Buddhist temple, except for what happened next.

The entire family was given forms and was pressured into signing them, including the young children. Real Buddhists don’t do this. In a Buddhist temple, it is peaceful and people come and go as they please. Our family goes to the Buddhist temple regularly, in fact there was one couple streets down from this house. Pens and papers were shoved in everybody’s faces. Why was it so important that we filled out these forms?

Instantly, me and dad thought this was kind of fishy so we refused by pretending that we had already done this once before. I actually had faint recollections that my parents and me had been involved in something similar before my sister was born and knew that if we put our names down we’d be heckled into coming back. Everybody else did fill out papers convinced it was just part of a procedure we were required to do to honour grandpa.

The rest of the family was led up the stairs to another room with wooden floors. In the middle of the room was a Buddha and its accompanying statues, much like the ones you can find in regular people’s houses. Like me, my parents and my sister did not sign the papers but we tagged along to watch what was going on.

The boys and the girls were to go through separate initiation ceremonies that involved a lot of name calling and bowing down to teh ground. There wasn’t too much mention of grandpa. Since my family wasn’t really participating, we were led to the dining area to wait. We weren’t allowed to eat until everyone was at the table. Dinner was in fact vegetarian, but it was only satisfactory. There were too many things pretending to be meat but were obviously not meat. I had better vegan food at Hogtown Vegan.  After dinner, we were supposed to finish with another chant or ceremony.  Everybody was shoved up the stairs. The four of us ran away while nobody was looking. We escaped.

What aggravated me was that they were quick to pocket grandma’s money and they also took this mourning period as an opportunity to prey on people’s beliefs in order to get new members. I know that can happen in more than one specific religion but it’s not right. I love my grandpa. However,  worshiping at a place that may be taking advantage of us is something I refused to do. The majority of us had been at the wake ceremony from 11am-7pm. We were hungry and exhausted. We arrived at this “temple” at 8pm and could not leave until 10pm. We had the funeral ceremony and burial the next morning. Whoever suggested this wasn’t thinking about us, but for the cult.

I looked up that house on Google and learnt that it was listed as a temple for organized Taoism. What is weird is that my cousin had interrogated some members and they denied that it was Taoism or a religion in general. They just said it was “the truth”. Taoists are generally proud people so that was strange. Taoists also stress “the natural way” and being humble. My aunt who also refused signing papers wanted to watch her children (who just blindly signed it) go through ceremonies, but it was not allowed. They even put a screen in front of her to block her vision when she followed everyone up to the ceremony room. At the end of the night all people over 16 were required to pay $10.  Being so forceful doesn’t seem natural to me. Maybe this was some form of organized Taoism or the Taoist thing was just an image for tax purposes (that would make the forms make sense) and this was in fact a cult.

I delved deeper into Chinese religions, secret societies and cults and found that the closest thing to what we experienced was something called Way of Former Heaven. This supposedly combines Taoism, Buddhism and Confuscianism and best matches the mismatch of what we got that day. I consider myself an atheist, but I don’t mind partaking and learning about the beliefs of others as long as nothing is forced upon me. In the above case it seemed like it was.

A Gallery in Memory of Grandpa

Last week grandpa passed away, partly due to old age and also because he had a cancerous tumor in his liver. Our family didn’t know until he was too fragile to cure. He was 90.

My mom’s father was a lover of beautiful things. He loved to garden, care for his exotic fish and loved decorating the house with nicknacks and birds that were the source for an old photo collection of mine. He liked to sew clothes, taking old pieces and turning them into something new.

He was also a fine artist who hung his work proudly in the living room, kitchen and hallways of his house. He drew in various mediums including watercolour, pencil, crayons and sparkles. Besides canvas, he also drew on any surface he could find including old cardboard. I didn’t realize until recently that there were tons of them.  Grandpa wanted his work to be seen by visitors. He never understood what the internet was, but I think he would have loved to share his art with the world. Below are a collection of his works I uploaded using Genius Scan for the iPhone.

Yim Pui Ng (1923-2013)

This one is drawn on the back of a ping-pong table. You can even see the legs sticking out in the photo:

Photo 2013-03-09 3 51 12 PM

As you know, I’m also a lover of the arts whether it be music, photography, fine art or written word. I now know, I have grandpa to thank for that.

Ruby Princess 2013: Day 7 & 8- Another Sea Day and Fort Lauderdale Mansions

Day 7

On the last 2 days, the boat was making its way back to our starting port in Fort Lauderdale. When we went to breakfast Saturday, there was a Chocolate station. Mom got mad at me for eating chocolate everything for breakfast:

Ruby Princess 2013

Since it was our last day, I walked around the ship and took some more random photos including the jazz bar and a dessert cafe (which you didn’t have to pay additional for).

Ruby Princess 2013
Ruby Princess 2013
Ruby Princess 2013
Ruby Princess 2013
Ruby Princess 2013

Mid-day the kitchen staff held a hilarious cooking show and then took us on a tour of one of the kitchens. It is so incredibly spotless!

Ruby Princess 2013: Day 6 – Grand Turks

Grand Turks

We didn’t arrive at Grand Turks until later in the afternoon. We spent the morning at an outlet sale and another art auction. Since we had time we also went to the dining room for a fancy meal. I had calamari, gazpacho, lamb and a cherry trifle for dessert.

Ruby Princess 2013
Ruby Princess 2013
Ruby Princess 2013
Ruby Princess 2013

When we arrived at Grand Turks around 1. I totally get why people can spend a week here just relaxing.

Grand Turks
Grand Turks
Grand Turks
Grand Turks
Grand Turks
Grand Turks
Grand Turks
Grand Turks
Grand Turks
Grand Turks

This conch tells the weather.

Grand Turks

My sister wanted to go shopping so her and mom stayed in the tourist area while me and dad went exploring. We took a 5 minute taxi to Governor’s Beach. It was far more quiet than the area by the boat docks. Though it was around 29 degrees on the island, it was the perfect temperature when you immersed yourself in water.

Ruby Princess 2013: Day 5- Saint Thomas & Saint John

Saint Thomas

We woke up very early on Day 5 too find ourselves at Saint Thomas, one of the US Virgin Islands.

Saint Thomas
Saint Thomas

My parents had already been here on a previous Caribbean cruise so we took a boat 30 minute boat ride to another island called Saint John. Here are some things I saw on the boat ride:

Saint Thomas
Saint Thomas
Saint Thomas
Saint Thomas

Alligator rock:

Saint Thomas

Somehow got this pretty straight photo despite a shakey ride:

Saint Thomas

At Saint John, we took an open safari (bus with no windows) tour to views that looked like true paradise. I’ve never seen water so beautifully coloured in my life.