THE TTC, DAWN OF THE DEAD & YOUR SENSE OF CHARITY (and a wine tip!)

Greetings,

I was on the TTC yesterday on the Yonge subway line for multiple meetings downtown. One of the fascinating aspects of public transit is how everyone, regardless of their income, gender or race or any other personal qualities, gets extremely uncomfortable when bunched up against others during rush hour.

I get on at the Bloor station stop to switch lines. I squeeze in, for everyone is feeling like a sardine: you’re getting to know someone up close and personal, whether you want to or not. You stare at the subway billboards, reading poetics and ads for community colleges in the city as if it all means something to the average person. You look around, wondering what certain people are doing today and where they are going. Indeed, the subway in Toronto is one of the few truly universal experiences of living in this great metropolis in the making.

The other interesting habit is how people are so self-directed on the subways that they view other people in a detached way, as if they exist only in a physical state and not an emotional, cerebral way. It’s almost as though you’re trying in desperation to find a private, personal space in a public arena by ignoring others. And the TTC doesn’t make it easy to feel comfortable around others or want to turn the subway into a more social experience: there are huge painted-on advertisements in stations for a certain electronic device that plays a whole whack of MP3s and other digital music files (I promised no more rampant advertising on this site – let’s just say it’s a product that a certain company with a fruit as its namesake and has a man named Steve Jobs as its CEO) On that note, I have a perfect segueway into a new movie that is released today…

DAWN OF THE DEAD: The much-anticipated remake of the 1978 horror classic is being released today to generally mixed reviews, although most critics agree that it’s a bloody, gory romp of a film. Shot last summer here in T.O., it stars T.O.-born and raised Sarah Polley of Road to Avonlea fame, Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Con Air) and Lindy Booth, an Oakville-born and raised actor also profiled in the new Toro Magazine.

It’s amazing how zombie horror is starting to become a mainstream genre; 28 Days Later was a huge hit last summer here in Canada and the U.S., and the new Dawn of the Dead could be the U.S. answer to the British-helmed 28 Days.

My brother Tim is hugely excited about this film – a whole bunch of us are going tomorrow to see the movie.

CHARITY: One of the lessons that university life teaches you is a sense of humility. It’s normally part of the University of Life curriculum but let me explain why universities can teach you to become a better person.

Undergraduates are some of the biggest complainers on earth. Sometimes those complaints are valid, such as the never-ending rise of tuition fees or inaccessibility issues, some are annoying, such as the predictable chorus of “residence food sucks” come October.

Yet at Queen’s, most students spend an incredible amount of time devoted to those “life lessons” that only come through experience. I’m a case in point. This sounds almost spiritual, but my greatest lessons came when I felt at my lowest, wondering what all my work had been for and if it even mattered. People can find their greatest salvation at the pit of dispair, given that the human spirit will, in spite of the odds, always move forward and won’t be broken.

My spirit hardened and became more self-referential as time went on while at Queen’s. I became more aware of my fragility and the fact that, while I couldn’t change Queen’s completely, I had contributed a small piece of myself to the great social agreement of history and prestige that is Queen’s. It was important, worthwhile and meaningful. I made myself better by giving myself freely to Queen’s as much as I did, and I hope Queen’s became better because of it. That may sound pompous and self-serving, but I hope I became a better man because of Queen’s.

Yet most importantly of all is that others can benefit out of your suffering. That’s why I’m still, even with the clock ticking towards my eventual journey to Halifax come August, contributing to life in the city that will always be home – Toronto.

Last night I became an active member of Habitat For Humanity, a non-profit housing charity that builds homes around the world for families in need. I’m hoping to help build a home soon and become part of something that provides tangiable, real results for people truly in need.

So the lesson is simple: sure, as an undergraduate, you’re paying a tonne of money and privy to the whims of people who don’t really care about you personally or even know you. But you’re learning something more valuable through the hard work, the late-nights, the bad instant coffee.

You’re learning to see yourself as a small part of a greater purpose – the drive for a more just, happier, equal society.

The Wine Tip of the Week:

One of the biggest problems people have with wines is that they know little about the differences between “types” of wine. Yet these differences are important, because it will determine which foods go best with which wine. For this week, here’s the red wines.

Before I give the run-down, it is generally common knowledge that red wine is the choice of wine drinkers for meaty dishes, specifically roasts and other meat products. Yet certain types of reds will allow certain flavours to emerge, which will make your food & drink experience that much tastier.

Cabernet Sauvignon – The richest kind of red there is. Full-bodied flavour; perfect for red meats and other “heavier” foods. Ideal for a roast.

Merlot – Much fruiter taste than the Sauvignon and easier to take when not accompanied by a meal. Very good with garlic potatoes and peppercorn steak.

Pinot Noir – very fruity/nutty wine with a wide variety of flavours. Medium-bodied which makes it less harsh on its own. Excellent choice for chicken or fish (although as a general rule, fish is better with a white wine).

Shiraz – Smokey red that is based in both France and Australia. This is a medium-bodied wine with a slight kick to it. A terrific, all-purpose red. A good choice for a rich pasta dish or something with a lot of tomatos or tomato sauce.

Zinfandel – Definitely the most peculiar of the reds. Zinfandel isn’t a “red” in the most traditional sense of the word, given that it can be fermented to create what’s known as a “blush wine” (not red, not white, but somewhere in between) all the way to fortified wine (I would strongly recommened against fortified wine during a meal – it’s not as good as it sounds, so wait until your dinner goes down and have a glass of port while just relaxing and chatting). This is a “summer” wine of sorts because when it’s a blush wine, it’s much easier to take than a heavy red and summer isn’t really a time for ultra-rich reds, especially when you’re eating outside with a slight breeze and the sun setting.

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