My new blog!

I am happy to announce that I have started a new blog!

It can be found at

https://fourpointstravel.wordpress.com

My new blog will have a wider range – arts and culture wherever I happen to be, along with outdoor and travel photography.

Hope to see you there!

Happy New Year to you all!

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It’s been so long…

Hello everyone!

I am sorry for my long absence!

The first reason for my MIA status is that I am in school full-time and it takes up all of my time. The other reason is that WordPress has informed me that I have used up 99.9% of my free plan. In other words, if I want to post anything with pictures ever again, I will have to pay them a monthly fee.

I am a student (as I just mentioned), so between buying textbooks and instant ramen, I have no money to pay WordPress. Hence the lack of posts.

I am planning to start a new blog in the near future. When I do, I will post the link here…because I know that you will all want to follow my new blog! Right?!?!

In the meantime, please follow me on Instagram at @hotaruchan20 and on Twitter at @Nicolechan1 .

I hope all of you are having a wonderful November.

Stay tuned!

 

Gatsby Garden Party 2017!

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A few weeks ago, I attended the annual Gatsby Garden Party at Spadina House (Museum).

It was my fourth year attending!  Below is my gentleman friend in front of the historic home.

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Spadina Museum is a historic house and grounds in the city of Toronto. In my opinion, it is Toronto’s best historic site.

To read more about the history of the Spadina (Austin family) home and previous Gatsby parties, please visit my previous posts on the event here and here.

On to this year’s event!

While it was a cloudy day,

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that did not keep the garden party-goers away.

Here are a few finely-dressed ladies watching the costume contest:

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Below are some of my favourite 1920s looks from the contest.

My friend Missy’s opium den girl look is sublime!

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My gentleman friend’s whiskey-smuggler look is the bee’s knees!

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Other honourable mentions:

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Here are the costume contest winners!

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Those two adorable dogs in the front row were even dressed up 🙂

This little girl told me that she was “a black and white photograph.”

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I also entered the contest, to no avail (however, I did win two years ago!)

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The kimono is an antique. I think it is actually from the 1920s or earlier.

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Here are my fabulous friends Sapphyre and Missy showing off their outfits:

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Other than the costume contest, activities included strolling the grounds and exploring the Austin home.

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One could also enjoy the gardens, vineyard, and orchard.

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Observing or participating in a Charleston dance lesson was a popular choice,

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as was listening to one of the many 1920s style bands.

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Partygoers could also enjoy music being played on antique gramophones.

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I can’t wait to relive the 1920s again for a day next year!

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival 2017: Part One!

Five Toronto Fringe (theatre festival) shows in one day?! I am so tired. But it’s a good tired. They were all comedies too. Not one dud in the bunch. Them’s impossible odds, people.  Here’s a list of what I saw today.
Round One!
Graham Clark's Not Here
Graham Clark’s Not Here (Laugh Gallery) – one-man comedy show.  He was wearing a bucket over his head and the whole thing was on a screen showing his face, which was placed over his face. It worked, oddly. The screen also showed clips from Mad Max: Fury Road and Predator “when things got dull.” Oh, and the dialogue of the show – the part on the face-screen – is available for download, so anyone can put a bucket on their head and do this show in the future. For free.
Round Two! (vaginas)
The Moaning Yoni
The Moaning Yoni (Joylyn Secunda Productions) – one-woman comedy show, very funny. This woman (Joylyn Secunda) has serious physical comedy and singing talent. She acted the parts of herself, her New Age-y teacher, and her own vagina. A show about societal expectations concerning sex. And vaginas.
Round Three! (I got to drink alcohol during this show)
Vasily Djokavich: Russia's #1 State Approved Comedian
Vasily Djokavich: Russia’s #1 State Approved Comedian (Morgan Cranny and Mike Delamont) A one-man show, very funny, deadpan as hell, about Russia and Russian society. A bunch of jokes could not be said lest the performer be “shot in face” by the KGB or whatever the KGB has morphed into these days. Oh, and I got to drink Russian vodka onstage with the actor. Wooooo!
Round Four! (more vaginas)
Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch
Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up the Notch (Heartichoke Arts) – Ok, so this one-woman show is probably the raunchiest show I have ever seen. Also one of the funniest. Shirley is actually a great singer and guitar player, and the songs (about love, sex, and, well, physical anatomy) were absolutely hilarious. Not for those that are easily offended…she actually sang a charming little song about this, saying that it was OK for people to leave if they wanted. No one did.
 Round Five! (outer space)
Earth Tourist
Earth Tourist ( Chandelier Factory Productions) – This show actually had two actors in it! Whoa! It was about an alien named Sparklemuffin the Space Unicorn and her companion, a radio time-lord, trying to get back into the Astral Plane. A look at our society through the eyes of aliens. Why climb that corporate ladder? Why put a photo of yourself doing yoga on Instagram? Why pay attention to linear time at all? WHY?
It’s interesting to note that ALL of the shows I saw today (with the exception of Earth Tourist, which is from Newfoundland,) were from theatre companies in Vancouver! There must be a ton of talented, funny people there, who happen to like to make shows about vaginas, putting screens over their faces, and the KGB.
Stay tuned!
Photo credits: All photos are from the Toronto Fringe website.

Review: Midsummer (a play with songs) – Tarragon Theatre

A couple of weekends ago, I was lucky to see Tarragon Theatre‘s production of Midsummer (a play with songs) with my friend and fellow blogger The Culture Fancier.

It had been a while since I saw a professional theatre show at one of the big three Toronto playhouses dedicated to presenting new Canadian work (Factory Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille being the other two). I usually go to theatre festivals such as Fringe and Summerworks, attend contemporary dance shows and concerts at Harbourfront Centre and see operas at the COC, but I do not attend as much (non-musical, professional) theatre as I would like to.

Seeing Midsummer made me wonder why I had stayed away so long, and reminded me why I fell in love with theatre in the first place.

The show was marketed as a kind of romantic comedy; so I wasn’t sure what to expect, since that is not my favourite genre.  I was therefore pleased to discover that while the show is romantic, it is by no means syrupy, cavity-inducing sweet.

The main characters are flawed, slightly cynical, world-weary people who have been-there-done-that as far as youthful romance goes. They are now a bit older – I would say mid 30s, and are not necessarily looking for romance when they happen to meet one midsummer’s night.

Bob (Brandon McGibbon) is a petty criminal and failed poet/musician. Helena (Carly Street) is a divorce lawyer in a failing relationship who drinks too much. They meet in a bar in Edinburgh, and are not each other’s type, but something draws them together. What starts as a one-night stand turns into a wild weekend of adventure and rap video-worthy spending sprees courtesy of a large amount of illicit cash that Bob acquires. Will the have a future past this wild midsummer’s night?

The two actors are wonderful.  They play all of the characters in the show – not only Bob and Helena, but Helena’s nephew, Bob’s criminal boss, goth kids they meet in the park, et cetera. The actors also frequently explain the characters’ thoughts and set up situations for the audience. This is all done seamlessly.

The set consists of four metal trunks (the kind roadies use to put sound and lighting equipment in for shows). Two of the trunks are pink, and two are black, with the words “Mary,” “Jesus,” “Spike,” and “Buffy” printed on them. These trunks, with the help of a few simple props, become everything that is needed for the play – a bedroom, a bar, an expensive wine shop, the staircase outside of a church. The actors manage to arrange the trunks and props throughout the play while in character, and without missing a single beat.

The songs, performed mostly by Bob (Brandon McGibbon), are more like blues/pop tunes than musical theatre type songs. They work very well in the production and are often prefaced by Bob’s poetry, which I thought was quite good. In fact, I would like to get my hands on the script of this play for future reading.

Midsummer is like a tonic for the world-weary romantic. Highly recommended.

Details:

Midsummer is playing at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave, Toronto) until May 28th, 2017. Shows begin at 8pm nightly; matinees are on Sundays at 2:30pm.

For more information, visit the Tarragon Theatre website.

Credits:

Photo of exterior of Tarragon:  www.theatromania.ca/sites/default/files/imagecache/400×300/Tarragon.jpg

 

 

High Park Cherry Blossoms 2017!

This past weekend, I went on my annual pilgrimage to see the flowering cherry trees in High Park.

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According to the High Park Nature Centre website, “the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo” in 1959.

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“The trees were planted in appreciation of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War. Many of these trees were planted on the hillside overlooking Grenadier Pond (southwest of the Grenadier Café) and around the east shore of the pond.

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In 1984, a grove of Japanese cherry trees were planted along a pathway west of the Children’s Adventure Playground in High Park. The trees were donated by Yoriki and Midori Iwasaki as a special gift to the people of Toronto and “a joyful symbol of life”.

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Through the Consulate General of Japan in Toronto’s “Sakura Project”, 34 Yoshino ‘Akebono’ and Kwanzan ‘Fugenzo’ Sakura trees were donated to High Park in 2001 on the east shore of Grenadier Pond near the Maple Leaf garden.

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In 2006, 16 additional Yoshino Sakura trees were planted near the original 1959 planting site.”

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The park was quite crowded as the trees were in 100% bloom.

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Despite the crowded atmosphere, seeing the cherry blossoms remains an important tradition for a lot of Torontonians – myself included.

Many other beautiful signs of spring were also on view at the park.

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Here is a young mountain goat at the High Park Zoo.

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I have saved the best for last…the baby capybaras.

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Huey, Dewey, and Louie were born to parents Bonnie and Clyde in late winter 2016. As you may remember, Bonnie and Clyde are the two capybaras who escaped their enclosure in the summer of 2016 and spent most of the summer on the lam in the High Park woods. Despite efforts to catch them, they remained elusive and were often seen swimming in the park’s ponds.

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They were a media favourite and became town heroes of a sort. They were finally recaptured in the fall and have since settled into domestic family life.

Have you seen the cherry blossoms in High Park, or at another location? Had you heard about Bonnie and Clyde’s escapades before now? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Stay tuned!

Sources:

https://www.highparknaturecentre.com/high-park-cherry-blossom-watch/history/?doing_wp_cron=1493808152.7276589870452880859375

Toronto Light Festival 2017

I attended the Toronto Light Festival a couple of weeks ago.

This festival had its first year in 2017 and was a free, outdoor event. It was held in the Distillery District from January 27th to March 12th – “during the dark, cold days of winter” in the hope that “city residents will be drawn out of their traditional indoor habitats to experience Toronto in a way they never have before.”

 

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This installation was entitled “Our House.” Artist Tom Dekyvere (Belgium) meant to show “another example of how life and its natural environment can be manipulated into a new form. The installation refers to the balance between electronics and nature, people and their network.”

 

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This piece, called “Angels of Freedom,” is by the OGE Creative Group from Israel. Visitors were encouraged to “turn themselves into a real angel” by posing in front of the wings and halos. For every photo shared to FB, Twitter, or Instagram, the group donated $1.00 to the Daily Bread Food Bank.  Social media for a good cause!

 

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“The Love Locks”, by Toronto Light Festival creator Mathew Rosenblatt, “requires the participation of lovers to come together to express their enduring love for one another.” (Visitors could write their names on a lock and add it to the exhibit).  “This simple action not only reinforces what is already in their hearts, it also acts to create an intensely positive environment and inspiration for others.”

 

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“The Magic Dance Mirror” by Kyle Ruddick (United States) “creates a graphically styled mirror image of those using it with dynamic animated visuals based on a user’s movement, audio, and social interactions.”

It was really good to see visitors not being afraid to dance and act “silly” in front of strangers in order to interact with the artwork. I could have stayed in there all night – it was such a fun, positive environment. Now – how to get one of those installed in my house?!

 

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Another interactive piece was “A Dream of Pastures” by Studio F Minus from Canada. It was a “mechanical sculpture and light projection inspired by the history of moving images.” Visitors could pedal a stationery bike, which would power a projector displaying a moving image of themselves riding a horse.

 

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IT” by Michael Christian (United States) was the somber piece in the festival. “IT rises over 40 feet tall and is constructed of 12,000 pounds of steel. Inspired by H.G. Wells’ War of the WorldsIT was commissioned by Black Rock City Nevada’s 2006 Burning Man Festival and over 50,000 visitors viewed it when it was first unveiled.”

 

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“Run Beyond” by Angelo Bonello (Italy) was my favourite of the festival. It was “a work about the jump we all have to take in our lives: the jump to freedom. Bonello does not tell us what kind of freedom, the spectator has to make up their own mind. Bonello: “To me this work is about the power of imagination, a power so strong that it makes individuals conquer their fears and limitations and causes them to open up to other cultures, new friendships, and unknown worlds.”

 

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“Digital Origami Tigers” by LAVA from Australia “started their world travels in 2010 in celebration of the Chinese New Year at Customs House in Sydney, Australia. The Digital Tigers were adopted by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) to bring attention to the international campaign to save tigers. The crouching Digital Tigers combine ancient methods of lantern making with cutting edge digital design and fabrication technology, bringing together east and west.”

 

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“The Uniting Lightstar” by Venividimultiplex (The Netherlands) “is a dodecahedron which…consists of twelve pentagonal surfaces….you see numerous strings of blue light, which connect all of the points of this artificial star. The Uniting Lightstar demonstrates…the human capacity to boost friendships and let them grow.”

 

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I am hoping that Toronto Light Festival returns in 2018!

Stay tuned!

Sources:

All quoted text and information is from Toronto Light Festival 2017’s printed festival brochure.

Oscar Predictions 2017 !

I have been watching the Oscars since I was about 12 or 13 years old.  I have always loved film, although my perception of Hollywood has changed over the years. Nonetheless, I still look forward to watching the biggest event of the movie awards season.

 

 

I usually enter an Oscar pool with a few friends, but in the past I always lost because I chose who I thought was most deserving over who was realistically going to win. A few years ago I stopped that, and as a result I have won a couple of times.  We will see how I fare this year.

Without further ado, here are my predictions on who will win the Academy Awards in 2017…or, as Jim Carrey put it in an Oscars telecast years ago,” Who will get to take home THE LORD of all knick-knacks?!”

Best Picture – La La Land (Moonlight SHOULD be the winner; it’s a far better movie. However, Hollywood loves pictures about itself more than anything).
Director – Damien Chazelle, La La Land (but Barry Jenkins should win for Moonlight).
Actress in a Leading Role – Emma Stone, La La Land (but Natalie Portman SHOULD win.)
Actor in a Leading Role – Denzel Washington, Fences (Casey Affleck has too much controversy right now, although he was the favourite in this category.)
Supporting Actress – Viola Davis, Fences
Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Foreign Film – The Salesman (Iran)
Makeup and Hairstyling – Star Trek: Beyond
Cinematography – La La Land (but Arrival should win).
Film Editing – La La Land
Live Action Short – Silent Nights
Sound Mixing – La La Land (again, Arrival should win).
Visual Effects – The Jungle Book (Kubo and the Two Strings SHOULD win…the visuals are so unique and interesting).
Original Score – La La Land
Original Song – City of Stars, La La Land
Sound Editing – Hacksaw Ridge
Original Screenplay – Manchester by the Sea
Adapted Screenplay – Moonlight (YES!)
Costume Design – Jackie
Documentary Feature – O.J. Made in America (I Am Not Your Negro SHOULD win).
Documentary Short – White Helmets
Production Design – La La Land (but it should be Arrival).
Animated Feature – Zootopia (but it should be Kubo and the Two Strings).
Animated Short – Piper (I have actually seen Piper and Pearl! But I think Piper will win. It’s pretty awesome).
There you have it! What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Or do you think the Oscars are just self-congratulatory nonsense (AHEM: La La Land?!) Comment below!
Stay tuned!
Photo credits: https://www.europalace.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/www_europalace_com/2016/08/Oscars2017predictions.jpg

 

 

 

Vancouver! Part Four: The Vancouver Art Gallery!

Ok, first things first. When I compiled my Top Ten Movies of 2016 list, I made an omission.

American Honey is a three hour roadtrip through the American Midwest with a bunch of ragtag teens who go door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions for a living. It’s a coming-of-age story that, as it goes along, examines the social issues of contemporary America. While this film deals with a subject and a genre that most of us have seen before, it is not predictable, Hollywood-ish, or cliched. This film is refreshing, new, original, and gripping. Yes, it’s long, but it’s worth it (much like a real road trip).

Pictured is newcomer Sasha Lane in the leading role. She is an absolute revelation.

A more detailed review can be found here.

Now on to the Vancouver Art Gallery!

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The Vancouver Art Gallery had an exhibit entitled Juxtapox x Superflat when I visited. The exhibit’s function was to “offer a unique insight into contemporary art and its place in cultural life.” Juxtapox x Superflat “is a survey of the most exciting visual art to emerge in recent years, with an emphasis on artists who operate outside the central hubs of the global art world.” The Juxtapoz portion focuses on “artists who have been featured in the magazine Juxtapoz Art and Culture over the last 20 years and whose work references and expands on the subcultures – skate, surf, tattoo, punk, graffiti, comic, design, illustration – from which they emerged.”

As I walked up the staircase and entered the first exhibition space, these creatures awaited me…

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Artist Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor “creates eccentric works that elevate the discarded, the overlooked, and the abject to the realm of “fine art.” She “creates creatures that are at once cute and terrifying, subverting the supposedly benign nature of childhood culture.”

 

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Next was a snack stand complete with familiar treats, constructed entirely out of felt by artist Lucy Sparrow.

 

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Why the felt? The artist uses this material in an attempt to “combine the ethos of street art with a craft methodology to question the nature of artistic production” and, in so doing, to “comment on the rampant consumerism…that characterize[s] our contemporary moment.”

Here is a more detailed description:

 

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Next up was Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei…dead on the floor.

 

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The sculpture was so lifelike that for a moment I actually thought someone had collapsed in the gallery.

 

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Artist He Xiangyu has created this work, called “The Death of Marat,” as “a physical manifestation of the persecution experienced by Ai Weiwei for creating art that is critical of the political regime; situated face down, the artist is silenced – a powerful symbol of the human rights struggle in China.”

The next piece, “Monument to Thieves” by artist Ben Venom, combines “the craft and handmade aesthetic of quilting with heavy metal, skate, and punk subcultures.” In doing so, the work “actively subverts gender stereotypes ….by provocatively fus[ing] traditionally feminine craft techniques with imagery and symbols drawn from typically male and often misogynistic subcultures.”

 

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This next work was featured on the promotional materials for the exhibit.

 

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The painting is called “Anatomia” and the artist, Mark Ryden, is one of the founders of contemporary Pop Surrealism. His work “embraces the macabre, the bizarre, and the unexplained.” For a detailed explanation of the work, see below:

 

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The exhibit was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable and unique art gallery experiences I have had.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump is a terrorist.

Hello my dear readers.

I was going to publish a post today on the Vancouver Art Gallery, but I just can’t seem to focus on it considering what has been going on.

In case you have not heard, here is a summary.

On Sunday, worshipers at a mosque in Quebec City were attacked by a lone gunman, who killed six people and wounded 19 others.

On Friday, President Donald Trump (that still sounds very wrong to me, by the way) issued an “executive order temporarily blocking travel for immigrants from seven “terror prone” Muslim-majority countries.

The order imposes a 90-day ban on travellers from

  • Syria
  • Iran
  • Sudan
  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Yemen
  • Iraq

Additionally, it suspends the US refugee programme for 120 days and indefinitely halts acceptance of refugees from Syria.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/31/donald-trumps-travel-ban-not-nazism-many-muslim-countries/)

To me, all this means that intolerance and terrorism are growing. When I say terrorism is growing, I mean the person who killed those six people inside the mosque that were minding their own business (praying, actually). The person that killed them is a terrorist. And yes, I now consider Donald Trump to be a terrorist as well. His executive order came out of nowhere  – it was a total surprise – and his order caused fear, uncertainty, and chaos en masse.

Here is the definition of terrorism, according to Google:

ter·ror·ism
ˈterəˌrizəm/
noun
  1. the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

It seems to fit.

And in regards to my sentiment that intolerance is growing, here is an article that sums up the atmosphere in Quebec:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/ethnic-nationalism-quebec-1.3960340

I am not saying that all Quebecers are intolerant, or that the majority of them weren’t shocked and horrified by the terrorist attack. I am simply agreeing with the article’s author when she says that Quebec culture includes the notion that  “non-white, non-Catholic “others” must assimilate into the Québécois identity.”

And I would argue that intolerance is a big part of what brought Trump into power in the United States (I think most people would agree with me there).

What is also very disturbing, though not unexpected, is that Donald Trump himself is intolerant of dissident opinions. When the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, refused to defend the (travel ban) order because she was unsure that it was lawful, Trump fired her. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, said on Monday that “I think that they [the dissidents] should either get with the program or they can go.” (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/white-house-to-state-department-dissenters-quit)

I have to admit that I feel very down about all this. It is hard to know what it is that I can do. To any Americans who are reading, please contact your senator and voice your concerns. Consider attending a march/protest. And to my fellow Canadians, please do not let fear cause an atmosphere of intolerance. Please contact your MP or our PM Justin Trudeau with any concerns you may have regarding our own policies. Lastly, I would encourage everyone to consider joining a human rights organization (such as Amnesty International) who speaks up on behalf of people around the world whose human rights have been infringed upon. We need human rights supporters now more than ever.

Stay tuned!

Sources:

http://www.amnesty.ca/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-city-mosque-shooting-inside-1.3961234

http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/ethnic-nationalism-quebec-1.3960340

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/white-house-to-state-department-dissenters-quit

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/31/donald-trumps-travel-ban-not-nazism-many-muslim-countries/

https://www.google.ca/#q=terrorism+definition