Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

An early interview with Simu Liu (“Shang-Chi” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe)

For those of you whose first exposure to Simu Liu was through Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, you may not know that we’re both handsome Asian gentlemen who grew up in Toronto.

A lot of us know him as Jung from the Canadian TV series Kim’s Convenience (which you can find on Netflix), which in turn is based on a play that debuted in the Toronto Fringe Festival back in 2011. Kim’s Convenience has come a long way in ten years, and so has Simu.

Karim Kanji is a third handsome gentleman from Toronto, whom I know from my time as a developer evangelist at large in Toronto (we met during my Microsoft years). Back in 2017, when Kim’s Convenience was still in its first season, Karim interviewed Simu for his podcast, and you can find it here. Give it a listen, and find out about Simu not just before his hitting the big time!

(There are a lot of very “Toronto” references in the interview. Got questions? Need context? Let me know in the comments.)

The Current Situation Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Steal this idea: Toronto restaurant renames its burgers as office supplies so you can expense them

This story’s been making the rounds in my former home town of Toronto: Good Fortune Bar (currently operating as Good Fortune Burger during the pandemic) has cleverly renamed their burgers so that they look like office supplies you can expense:

This burger… …goes by the expense item-y name:
Diamond Chicken Burger Mini Dry Erase Whiteboard
Double Your Fortune Burger Ergonomic Aluminum Laptop Stand
Emerald Veggie Burger Wired Earphones with Mic
BYO (build your own) Burger Silicone Keyboard Cover

Jon Purdy, Good Fortune Burger’s Director of Operations says that it’s all in good fun and hints that you probably shouldn’t try expensing them: “There’s no malice intended in it, it’s all just fun and games.”

Seminole Heights’ seal, which depicts a two-headed alligatorStill, it’s a fun idea that’s worth stealing for your own food or drink business. Seminole Heights eateries and drinkeries, do it! I’d love to buy some HDMI Cable Stout from 7venth Sun Brewery or a Webcam Ring Light Burrito Bowl from Xtreme Tacos!

Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

My Short Electric Bike Rant

electric bike on bloor

I took the photo above on Monday afternoon at the corner of Bloor Street West and St. George while biking towards downtown…under my own power.

There’s something that’s just plain wrong with the many young, healthy, able-bodied people I’ve seen about town using electric bikes in increasing numbers. Use your damned legs, slackers!

It Happened to Me Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Course Marshal at the Pride and Remembrance Run

pride and remembrance runOne of the big events of Pride Week in Accordion City is the Pride and Remembrance Run, a 5K run that raises money for a number of good causes. One of the causes for this year’s run is two undergrad scholarships in Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, a study program administered by the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, where Wendy works.

Rock star that she is, she gave up some of her time to help out with the logistics of the run. Rock star spouse that I am, I volunteered as well – I was a course marshal. My job was to stand at a specified spot on the course, point the runners in the right direction and encourage them on.

I was assigned a nice location: the corner of Yonge and Wellesley, which the runners would pass through twice: just after the start of the run, as they ran westward towards Queen’s Park, and again just before the end of the run, as they ran the final couple of blocks back to where they began at Church and Wellesley.

If the race began with a starting pistol, I was too far away to hear it, but from my station, I could see a cloud of balloons released from the starting line, followed about a minute later by the fastest of the runners:


Then came the larger group in the middle:


Followed by the more casual bunch. What they lacked in speed, they often made up for in costumes and atypical running outfits:


A run on a downtown street isn’t possible without the assistance of the police. Three cops stopped the traffic on Yonge Street so that the runners could pass, and they were the exact opposite of the cops that we all saw in the G20 footage: good-natured, non-antagonistic, and even downright helpful and cheerful. It’s more evidence for the increasingly popular theory that the thuggish cops from the G20 weren’t locals, but out-of-towners raised on the small-town-stupid notion that Toronto is the Big Bad City full of Big Bad People.

These guys appeared just after the last of the runners passed through the intersection:


Oh shit, was my first thought. This had better not be the Fred Phelps crowd.

They numbered about two dozen, most carrying white placards with messages that were very clearly not like those that Phelps’ jerks carry. Instead, they were more like:

  • Love is humble
  • Love is sacrifice
  • Love is forgiveness
  • Jesus is love

…with not a single mention of the story of Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah or how God nuked those twin cities (or, for that matter, Lot’s wife getting turned into a pillar of salt and the distasteful sequelae). They were a quiet, well-behaved bunch whose only out-of-the-ordinary characteristic was a white clown-like smile painted over their mouths. The term “Jesus Juggalos” popped into my head.


I had precious little course marshalling to do until the runners made their return trip, so I picked up a large lemonade from the Starbucks at the corner and waited. About twenty minutes later, the first of the runners came back:


And after him, a trickle of runners:


And the Jesus Juggalos took their position. Like me, they encouraged the runners on – but in silence and with a different message:


I didn’t have the heart to let the guy in the photo above hold his sign upside the entire time. I just wanted this photo, and then I told him.

The rest of the runners followed:


And the Jesus Juggalos just held up their signs and offered bottles of water:


Some of the runners accepted the bottles, others politely declined, a couple pointed out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and a couple said “I forgive you!” to the Jesus Juggalos. I told a number of runners “Forgive the guys with the signs; they know not what they do!” which got some laughs from the runners.


The intersection of Pride Run participants and Jesus Juggalos went without incident, despite the chasm that divided the two groups, both philosophically and class-wise (the runners were by and large white-collar; the Jesus Juggalos blue collar) and each groups went on its way afterwards without any apparent effect on the other.


With the last of the runners gone, I thanked the cops who helped cordon off traffic at the intersection, shook their hands and made my way back to the run’s volunteer station.

Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Seen on the Street: The Ethnic Show

Poster: "The Ethnic Show, featuring Mo Mandel (the Jew), Aron Kader (the Palestinian), Bret Ernst (the Italian), Ron Josol (the Filipino), Wil Sylvince (the Haitian)"

Here in incredibly multicultural Accordion City, where it’s okay to wear your ethnicity on your sleeve, you can do a poster for a comedy show like this.

I took this photo on Bloor Street near Christie yesterday afternoon.

Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

The Latest Threat to Hit Toronto: Vuvuzela Vendors

vuvuzela vendors 1

As if the annoyances both minor (tornado warnings, earthquakes, blackouts and a heat wave) and major (riots and police chiefs with Stasi fantasies) weren’t enough. Now Accordion City faces a new threat: guys selling vuvuzelas, the latest in a long line of scary products from South Africa (including apartheid, District 9 and Johnny Clegg).

These guys were hawking their wares at the corner of Yonge and Dundas. Don’t encourage them by buying one.

vuvuzela vendors 2

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods Geek It Happened to Me Music Play Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

Joey deVilla playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" on accordion at Loser Karaoke

One of the songs in my MP3 collection that’s on heavy rotation is Cage the Elephant’s Beck-ish, slide-guitar southern-rock-y ode to “doin’ what you gotta”, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. It practically begs for an accordion version, so I’m learning it in order to add it to my repertoire, which could stand a little refreshing.

Joey deVilla playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" on accordion at Loser Karaoke with Jason Rolland in the background

While I haven’t learned the song well enough to perform it unaccompanied, I’ve had just enough practice to do it as an accordion karaoke number, which I did at last week’s Loser Karaoke. Loser Karaoke is a regular Thursday night event at Tequila Sunrise where having a good time trumps singing ability. It helps that Jason Rolland is an entertaining karaoke host. As an added bonus, it’s where a lot of the people from Accordion City’s high-tech, startup, social media entrepreneur scene come to cut loose. For more on Loser Karaoke, check out their Facebook page.

I should feel ashamed to say this, but a decade’s worth of public accordion playing has attenuated my ability to feel shame: the reason I know about Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked isn’t because I’m dialed into the alt-rock music scene. Thanks to middle age, I used to be with it, but they’ve since changed what “it” was. I know about the song because of…well, a video game. Namely, Borderlands, which uses the song in its intro sequence:

For the curious (and the fans), here’s Cage the Elephant’s official video for Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. Enjoy!