Friday, March 28, 2014


Thanks to a friend, I decided to come on out to the 650 Café and Bistro to try some delicious Mediterranean cuisine.

First of all, what astonished me is that for the price you get at a McDonald’s, Harvey’s or a food court meal, you could get a five-star restaurant quality meal for the same price in this café.   It was so economically reasonable that I ordered a satisfying main and a couple of classic Greek delicacies which awoke my senses and treated my tastes to a new and exotic culinary adventure.

First off I ordered the Lemon and Thyme Chicken dish.   The chicken was well marinated with a mix of olive oil, thyme, lemon juice and lemon zest, and it was well braised to lock in its juices and intact flavour.   It was well paired with a serving of fresh rapini and roasted potatoes.   At only $8, food courts and fast food places should take note that you can serve quality food at prices that people can afford.  

I also tried two Greek delicacies along with servings of free coffee.   First was the savoury spanakopita which was crispy, flavourful, and light in texture.    The other delicacy, which is called bougatsa, is vanilla-honey custard wrapped in phyllo pastry, baked and dusted with icing sugar and cocoa.   It was a nice sweet finish to the meal and for both $3 and $3.50 respectively; you can easily add it on to your meal without breaking the bank.

Restaurants need to marry quality food with affordable prices so people can find other healthy options versus the unhealthy fast food options that are prevalent today.    Cafés such as the 650 Café and Bistro show effectively that quality and flavour can be enjoyed without spending $20-$50 per plate on a meal.   This restaurant warrants repeated visits and I will definitely come again to check out the great offerings that this café has in store.

650 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 1M8


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


But they who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.   For the Love of Money is the root of all evil:  which while some coveted after, they have erred from the Faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
-      -  I Timothy 4:9-10

The financial crisis.   The job market.   The NHL Lockout.  The prosperity gospel.    These four phenomena is not only big news, but a reflection of how Western culture has evolved into the state of where it is right now.   Money seems to make the world go round and round.   But to what expense do we allow money to control our lives?  Does it make us happy?   Does the lust for more money help people as a whole or to the one who has all “the toys”?

My goal in this short expose is to analyze these four key points of                                                                                                                            contemporary culture to effectively show that greed, whether for power, fame, or money, does not serve the good of the individual or society, but it is a deterrent to the conscious development and harmony of the individual and society.   In other words, greed ultimately kills, destroys, and tears apart both the individual and society if the reins are not pulled in time.


The NHL Lockout is a classic, contemporary example of illustrating why greed is not good for the whole of society.   In this case, the ones who are affected the most by this strike are the fans who pay money to go game after game cheering on their favourite teams and athletes.   However, what we see in this lockout is a tug of war between the millionaires and billionaires who won’t agree to budge in any direction.

This lack of budging shows their complete and utter stubbornness and lust for more money and monetary power.   This really shows that they do not care about the fans, the game, or serving one another.    All that it is you have a group of billionaire owners versus a group of millionaire players fighting for a piece of the pie in terms of gross revenue sharing.

I say that the easiest way to get this resolved is to go 50/50.   It seems fair, just, and will make everybody in the end.    But to cancel a season where both parties want more of the pie, it just shows sadly it is not about the love of the game and love of the fans anymore.   It is for the love of money, which is rooted in all kinds of evil.


One of the most banal examples of greed portrayed in recent memory is the onslaught of televangelists declaring that monetary gain is a blessing from the Lord.   They would go as far as to say that if you give enough, pray enough, and decree it enough, you can ask God to give whatever your hearts desire for without any regard to moral or spiritual consequences.

I do not think we have learned after the scandals of the two Jim’s, Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.   I think that televangelism has evolved into a gospel that is palatable to the trends of the day.   NO repentance, no simple living, no giving until it literally hurts.  Basically the prosperity gospel is a Christianized version of the Las Vegas casinos where the receiving end has all the benefit, not the giver.


Layoffs.   Out-sourcing.   Early retirements.   Cost Cutting.   Work is not what it used to be many moons ago, where hard work and company loyalty were things to be admired and rewarded.   In the era of greed, work is not about who works the hardest, but on who screws the hardest.   

It is saddening and maddening when one gives years of employment to a reputable company only to have it snatched away over the advent of company restructiing.  I say why fix what is not broken?   I feel that the capitalist job market should have its regulations set in place by the government.    The government should step in to ensure that jobs are protected and not fall onto the onslaught of company greed.   The main purpose of work is to ensure the well being and survival of the common man, not for the sake of producing a few dollars more.


Finally, the fourth main cause of greed not being good, is the whole financial crisis that started in 2008.   It all started when predators wanted to bank on the reality that people cannot pay back their mortages and loans given to them by the banks.   Thanks to this example of greed, people are losing their livelihood and their futures thanks to a legally operated casino style operation put on by the banking systems of the world.   

I say this and I will say this again.  It is time for governments to impose standards and controls over the free market system.   Capitalism must be regulated, must be standardized, and must be reigned in to avoid people’s lives being crushed by the gambling rich.  With such regulations, we will have a better system, a better market, and a better means of achieving wealth that is ethical, practical, and doesn’t lead itself into a state of total collapse.


Money has a funny way of defining ourselves and society as a whole.   What we fail to realize that money is just a tool in which used the right way, can do a whole lot of god for society (i.e. charitable giving).   It can also be a tool for evil, as outlined briefly in the four points that contribute to the moral and spiritual crisis of our times.    In order to make ourselves better citizens and a better society, we should rethink money and possessions and means of accumulation, but as means to benefit, nurture, and build a better society where we can secure a better future for those that dwell therein. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014


One of my favourite trombone players, composers and fellow “Heavyweight” Christopher Butcher landed at the Pilot Tavern, leading an acoustic quartet through a pot-pourri of grooves, rhythms, and soul.

Backed by the incomparable Robi Botos on piano, my fellow York University alumni James McEleney and drummer Lowell Whitty, it was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, filled with forward thinking, tight jazz at its best.

They first started things with the classic Herbie Hancock staple Cantaloupe Island, warming the audience for the afternoon of groove and soul being offered by the band.   Next is an original by Chris’ called “Bone-in”, a blues that brings it back to the days of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with its classic drum shots, and bluesy solos.   Fungi Mama, a Blue Mitchell staple, is provided the island treatment with a tight calypso groove from start to finish.   Things cool down on the moody side with another original written for a film called “Hogtown”, capturing the downtown atmosphere very effectively.   To close things off, they play an effective groove-oriented take on “Check the Rhyme”, climaxed by a very soulful and groovy piano solo by Mr. Botos himself, infusing even hints of gospel into the predominantly hip-hop and funk oriented number.

It would be nice that for the next step for Christopher Butcher’s quartet is to record a CD of this music because it is rare to have a pure quartet of just trombone and rhythm section.   Christopher Butcher is a musician who is committed and serious to pushing the music and grooves of jazz forward and at a young age the possibilities are endless as to what he can do in the jazz world and beyond.



If you are ever in Kensington Market and looking for a good place to indulge in some comforting food for lunch, head down to Fresco’s Cuisine Inc. to have a sampling of great pub fare such as poutine, chicken wings, and of course, fish and chips.

Having the usual wide selection of halibut, cod, haddock, salmon and crab cakes, I decided to opt for the Haddock combo which includes fries, tartar sauce, and a side of coleslaw.   The fish was battered in an extra crispy batter made with Miss Vicki’s Sea Salt potato chips.   Overall, it was an innovative, fresh, and very tasty take on the usual battered fish and chips, and because of that alone the fish rewards repeated helpings (but not too much).    The fries are fresh, well cut, and always never frozen, the coleslaw was crispy, lightly dressed, and complimented the meal very exceptionally, and the tartar sauce was well homemade, tart, and very plentiful to complement the fish.   To wash it all down I has an Orange San Pellegrino which really gave the meal a nice accompaniment for its tantalizing flavours.

Among the great fish and chips places in the city I must say that due to their extra crispy innovations, Fresco’s fish and chips is one of the best places to go for fish and chips in the city.   The price, albeit pricy, is worth it for high quality, high caliber comfort food and the ambiance of Beatles posters adds to the trendiness of being in Kensington Market.

213 Augusta Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 2L4


Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Vancouver native and student vocalist Laura Swankey performed a daring 45 minute set of forward thinking vocal jazz in which instead of singing straight lyrics, she treats her voice like a well oiled instrument.    She is more reminiscent of singers like Betty Carter and Norma Winstone, especially through her wide selection of original material and the way she does “vocalize” musically and very effectively.

Despite showing 15 minutes late for the recital, I was encouraged and blessed to hear that students such as Laura Swankey ensure that the future of creative jazz music is alive and well, and there are options to succeed versus the MTV route where fame and fortune is definitely fleeting.

Backed by a stellar band of student musicians such as Mike McCormick on guitar, Connor Walsh on bass, drummer Mark Ballyk and trumpeter Morgan Gardner, they provide a very modern, fresh foil for her explorations and compositions.   I managed to catch her original piece “Quiet”, a straight-8th’s piece where she does an avant-garde, free jazz introduction before getting into gear with her quintet mates.   Morgan’s trumpet was very complimentary and probing, Mike McCormick provided excellent comping patterns and a moving solo, Connor Walsh kept effective time while playing around with it for a little while and Mark Ballyk provided colour, movement and musicality on the drums.    The piece segued into a one-chorus reading of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark”, which was highly emotional and even brought tears to my eyes since she conveyed the timeless lyric and melody so well.

Upon hearing her recital, I wish nothing but the best for Laura Swankey as she pursues her professional musical endeavours as a vocal artist.   She is a creative force to be reckoned with, and she is a very unique vocalist that has something worthwhile to say.   I have heard (and worked) with MANY singers, and the majority in my opinion are just safe and under the radar.  Laura Swankey is a vocalist that blows the radar off the roof and takes her music into very vital and otherworldly directions.