the travels & travails of an escaped lab rat


I was born in Toronto. I grew up and went through the public school system in Toronto. I met my oldest friends in Toronto. My parents, sister, and some members of my extended family still live in Toronto.

Returning to Toronto is literally coming home.

No matter where in the world I might be at any given time, I find myself subconsciously comparing my surroundings to whatever the closest Torontonain equivalent might be. And while Toronto may not always come out on top in these many comparisons, it still remains a yardstick by which I measure my globe-trotting experiences.

Toronto has a bit of a self-image issue, though.

Despite Toronto being the largest population centre in Canada (and the fifth largest in North America), Torontonians — or at least the politicians ostensibly in control of Toronto — seem to constantly want to sell themselves on how “world-class” their city is.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Toronto and all of its wonderful neighbourhoods, parks, hidden gems, and cultural spots. But in my mind, if you’re truly world-class and all that, you certainly wouldn’t need to go around telling people. They’d already know, right?

Personally, it doesn’t matter to me if Toronto is world-class or not. The people are great, the diverse foods and cultures on display are readily accessible, and generally it’s a clean and safe place to go about your business (or leisure). The climate is relatively mild (compared to the rest of Canada), and the standard of living is high enough that I can reasonably expect to get whatever I’m looking to find.

Toronto is one of the most cosmopolitan and international cities in the world, with over 49% of its 6 million plus inhabitants originally born outside of Canada. Founded as the Town of York in 1793, it was incorporated as Toronto in 1834, and has since evolved into one of the world’s first “megacities” when the five surrounding municipalities (East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, and York) were amalgamated with Toronto to form the new City of Toronto in 1998.

Toronto’s cultural diversity make for great eating. Whatever cuisine you’re in the mood for you’ll find it, and in whatever price range you desire. Greasy spoon Mexican? Check. Upscale fine Italian? Yup. Run-of-the-mill pan-Asian? You betcha.

Toronto is also one of the largest cities in the world by area, with an urban core covering 630 square kilometres and its metropolitan area spreading across 1749 square kilometres. Frankly, I’m still discovering places and things in Toronto that are new to me but have, in fact, been around for ages.

I’ve travelled quite a bit in my time, and though I’ve been to bigger cities, more modern cities, more beautiful cities, more historic cities, and more “world-relevant” cities, I keep coming back to this city.

Toronto will always be home.

I suppose you could say it smacks of overcompensation…

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Event: Anime North 2010 (Toronto)

Started in 1997 and attracting only 800 attendees at that time, Anime North has since grown into one of the larger North American fan-run conventions for all things anime/manga-related. It now draws approximately 15,000 attendees over the course of each year’s 3-day run.

Actually, in all honesty, I hadn’t planned to go.

But as things would have it, I happened to be free and in the area during this year’s event, so I decided to drop by and roam the show.

The Dealer’s Room was crowded, hot, and uninteresting for me, so for the most part, I ended up wandering the venues (note to organizers: spreading programming across 3 non-connected locations != good idea) and snapping photos of various cosplayers and random hall-costumes. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the whole Masquerade on Saturday, but I did manage to make it in time for the last few entries.

On the whole, there were a fair number of decent costumes and cosplayers, a few excellent ones, and the usual collection of total fail (which we’ll all agree to pretend we didn’t see). All things considered, I’d rate AN2010 a “B-” for its overall costuming/cosplay experience. And while I’m pretty certain I didn’t catch all the costumes and cosplaying that was going on — such is the nature of convention-crowd Brownian motion — I’m confident I saw enough of a sampling to consider my assessment generally accurate to within the standard margin of error.

The weather was undeniably stellar, and it ended up being a rather pleasant stress-free weekend (my not being tied up with work for a change certainly didn’t hurt). I caught up with a few friends I hadn’t seen in years, and made the new acquaintance of several nice folks during my many walkabouts.

I took so many photographs over the weekend that I’m just going to dump the pictures into the gallery in no particular order and with the barest of post-processing (correcting only for color, exposure, and red-eye). If you happen to be one of the people I took a photo of and would like a larger (high-resolution) copy of the picture, please feel free to drop me a note and I’d be most happy to oblige.

Lions and tigers and 15,000 anime fans…oh my.

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