Upfront Reviews: Float Toronto

Upfront Reviews: Float Toronto

by Cameron Brtnik

    When you enter into Float Toronto, you’re entering into another world… If you haven’t “floated” yet, do yourself a favour and get buoyant! 

    If you haven’t tried it, you’ve most likely heard of it: known as “float pods,” “isolation tanks” or the more ominous sounding “sensory deprivation tanks,” they’ve started to amass a cult following amongst its practitioners. It has also been called “floatation therapy,” and is anecdotally said to cure a multitude of ailments. Joe Rogan claims he sleeps in one every night. As Float Toronto – one of the few venues that carry float tanks in Toronto – say in their promotional video, “Your experience in a float tank is about everything you won’t be doing.” I personally always go in with some intent: think on my goals, focus my energy, reflect on my actions or simply to meditate.

Welcome to Float Toronto!

    You are greeted by a chill receptionist who is more than happy to give you a tour of the spa. In fact, it’s more of a “do it yourself spa.” What comes to mind when you think of the word “spa?” Relaxation, meditation, and healing – and that’s exactly what you’ll get during your float. In fact, I’ve found floating to be far more relaxing than a traditional massage. I believe it’s because your body actually relaxes, I mean fully relaxes, without friction against your body, and your muscles for the first time can fully relax. That’s the problem with traditional massage: your body is still lying against another surface so it’s impossible for your body to completely relax. Because the water is heated to the same temperature as your body, you don’t really feel it after a while and your mind becomes “untethered” from the rest of you. As Joe Rogan says, “Your body is a distraction.” Now it’s time to travel to the centre of consciousness…

    As you enter your own private room complete with personal bench, tiled shower and your very own float pod, you’re overcome with a sense of relaxation before even stepping into the glimmering abyss… The dim lights and their sapphire glow make it feel as if you’re stepping into a spacecraft – and that’s exactly what you’re doing. After a soothing shower (there’s no rush as you have a whole hour to float), you step into your personal pod and it feels ethereal. At first you’ll feel slightly nervous to lie down on a bed of water. Don’t worry: each tank has a thousand pounds of epsom salt which gives the water a buoyancy akin to the Dead Sea. You fully lie back – yes you can even rest your head on the surface of the water – or you have the option of using the provided halo cushion for your neck. You have the option of earplugs if you get swimmer’s ear, soothing body cream to rub on your skin after your session, and your very own robe; you’ll feel like you’re staying at the Hilton. If you are claustrophobic, not to worry; the tanks are easy to exit at all times by just pushing up on the pod door. But don’t fret: Float Toronto’s tanks are much larger and voluminous than most, so even the most claustrophobic guest should’ve have a panic attack.

    There is heavenly zen music playing as you enter the glowing hull. As you descend into the warm glow of the lights, it’s nice to just lie in it for ten minutes to get fully immersed into the experience. You can control the settings from inside the tank if you want to control the lights and music, but this floater recommends trying the full experience: FULL SENSORY DEPRIVATION. Oh, and one very important tip: never rub your eyes! Don’t put your hands even near your eyes. Doing so will result in a disruption of your meditative state and quickly propel you back to reality. In case of this scenario, there is spray and a towel provided in the tank which will quickly remedy the situation. As you’re in a “sensory deprivation” tank, after about ten minutes you’re encouraged to turn all these distractions off…so you’re floating in pure blackness, like the blackness of space, the thick water fully supporting your weightless body. At first you may feel helpless, anxious, or even nervous…but slowly a relaxing feeling encompasses you like a warm blanket. As you lay there naked – oh yes, I forgot to mention you are encouraged to go “au naturel” to get the full experience – typically your mind will start racing to all the things you have to do that day: go to work, pick up milk, take the dog out, watch the season finale of Game of Thrones. In today’s age you may even have a full-on panic attack that you can’t whip out your phone to check your notifications and like your favourite insta posts. But eventually these thoughts fade and suddenly, for the first time in forever, your mind becomes empty…or at least void of any trivial thoughts. You begin noticing your environment and because there’s no light to “influence” your vision, you may even start hallucinating. I have envisioned that I am floating in space with stars hovering above me (these experiences are heightened by a quick hit on the ol’ vape before floating. I feel this enhances the experience but is not necessary.)

Top 5 Things I Like To Do While In The Tank 

  1. Listen to my knuckles crack underwater
  2. Hum and chant underwater. Your voice is intensified so that it sounds like it could fill a stadium. (One time floating with a friend he heard me chanting from an adjoining room. He thought he was hearing things in the tank!)
  3. Force myself to be creative. If I have an upcoming project that I haven’t reflected on yet, I simply focus on that one thing and – boom – ideas come streaming in
  4. Pretend I’m a frog swimming around in my own private pond
  5. Massage my body. The salty, viscous fluid helps with this

    Because you won’t be “fighting gravity,” it’s hard to tell where the water ends and your body begins… You became “one” with the water and the space around you, as if you’re a naked astronaut floating through space. I am usually fully relaxed halfway through the float, and that’s when my mind starts being creative. I like to use the tank time to think, create and brainstorm ideas – like a literal think tank! But each person’s experience is subjective, and you may prefer to just relax and enjoy the experience. With around twenty minutes to go, I often pass out due to feeling so relaxed. You may call that a waste of a float, but trust me when I say when you wake up you will feel like a new person, and I guarantee you will have never slept like that in a bed before. The music comes on again at the end, sort of like a heavenly alarm clock, to wake you. But if you find it hard to snap out of the trance you’re in, the water will start gushing around the tank to “nudge” you awake. You’ll want to take another shower to wash all that salt off your body. One thing you’ll notice is how smooth your skin feels: “Like a baby’s bottom,” is the best way to describe it. Another thing I find is that, ironically, my muscles are sore, almost like I just ran a marathon. I think it’s because they’ve never fully relaxed before. But it’s in a good way, like that feeling after a good workout at the gym.

    After getting dressed, you can enjoy some hot herbal tea in the lounge and share your experience with the staff. They even provide a journal where you can share your experience by writing a poem, drawing your visions, or writing a short diary of your experience. I’ve heard from people who have had very visual hallucinations (particularly one guy who did mushrooms in the tank. But I don’t recommend that, at least on your first float!), to those who have none and just find it to be a therapeutic experience. I recommend you book a float to find out what you’ll experience. They also sell bags of epsom salt in the lobby so you can enjoy the health benefits in the comfort of your own bath. Whatever your reasons for trying it are – therapeutic, spiritual or psychedelic – I believe floating is the best way to achieve it. Bon voyage!

Book your float here: https://float-toronto.com/ and use their online calendar

Recommendation: Book a package of ten floats and it’s almost half price! Tuesdays are “clean for float” days where you can volunteer to come in and clean for a few hours in exchange for a float! 

Float Toronto on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=3nHbY3lNOJI

Post-float reactions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI_EL3IvmKQ

Joe Rogan on Sensory Deprivation Tanks https://player.vimeo.com/video/97880537

Cameron Brtnik is a freelance writer and blogger based in Toronto, and a practicing “floater”


Upfront Reviews: Showcase – JE Art@SAVVY.TO

Upfront Reviews: Showcase
by Cameron Brtnik
13217445_1118920584815893_1421022272287190095_oArtist Jason Ebrahimi
You walk into a small, brightly lit gallery – small, cozy, inviting. And the first thing you see is a large scale portrait of Frank Sinatra with an ear-to-ear grin in a top hat simply entitled, “Sinatra.” It vibrates with colour, almost as vivid as an lsd trip. I discover that this art style is what Jason likes to call “Abstro-Realism,” or abstract realism, and it is what he is using to create his latest works. “I got into Abstro-Realism because this medium allows me to paint what I see..in a more colourful, layered and abstract way. My admirers really like these paintings.” A quick glance to the left side of the room reveals two more Abstro-Realism pieces, although of an entirely different nature: two large, gay nudes dominate this wall. When asked if these are self portraits Jason replies with a laugh, “They’re just from my imagination…perhaps too vivid for some tastes.”
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     After what seemed minutes imagining it was me in the nude portrait entitled, “Take Me Now”: rock solid eight pack, bulging muscles, and impressive fully flaccid member. I then move on to the next section – a sharp contrast to the bright and vibrant pieces I’ve seen so far – and there is a vast and impressive canvas of three wolves entitled, “The Great Outdoors.” These wolves are intimidating at first; as they’re facing the viewer, it seems as though they’re scouring the arctic tundra looking for their next meal, and that you’re it, and you get the overwhelming sensation that one of their snowy paws could reach out and slash at you if you get too close. I really like this piece – it probably heralds back to the days I used to (or I was forced to) wear the iconic “Wolf Howling at The Moon” sweaters (which by the way have made a comeback among the more “hip” members of the hipster movement).
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    Soon after we’re greeted by the friendly gallery owner, Duane Shuttleworth, who takes great pride in displaying Jason’s pieces. When asked how the two of them met he explains, “My niece contacted him online and commissioned him to do a piece, a portrait of a lion head, and he did a fantastic job. I was impressed so my niece put me in touch with Jason. I was delighted to discover he had many more pieces in his portfolio…too many to showcase in my small gallery! I can’t wait to work with Jason again on future exhibitions.” After chatting to Duane about his background that includes an impressive mix of Ojibway, Dakota, British, French and Scottish heritage, I ask him if he has any other projects on the go outside of the gallery. “I’d like to get the Learning Centre component of the business operating.
    SAVVY.TO will offer the public awareness training on the topics of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and Lateral Violence. By engaging people in active learning, pushing their emotional buttons, we begin to give our awareness and energy to a seed of hidden knowledge.” Duane explains, “This kind of training includes an introduction to the traditional sweat lodge ceremonies, a place for healing, learning and affirmation. After spending years with the Elders, they have given me permission to build a lodge and share what I have learned with others.” After ensuring Duane that I’d like to take part in one such aforementioned ceremony (I hear that one can experience vivid hallucinations), I imagine a viewing of Jason’s work under the influence of the sacred peyote plant and make a mental note to come back. Duane then directs us to a mouthwatering buffet supplied by Alternative Cafe. I quickly down my fair share of the scrumptious heirloom tomato and goat cheese tarts, and move on.
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Alternative Cafe  443 Richmond St W, Toronto
    The final pieces are all of landscapes, particularly in wooded areas. There is one entitled, “Early Dawn,” where the sky is so realistic it’s hard to tell it’s a painting. It’s that twilight sky, the kind that can only be experienced in the moment – or through an artist’s eye. “When I look at a photograph of a place, or building, or cityscape…if I get inspired I can just zone out and focus. And I can bring what I see to life on canvas.” This work reminds me of one of my favourite childhood painters Bob Ross, and all of a sudden I get the urge to paint some “happy little trees.” I think Bob Ross would be proud; Jason’s trees have made me feel happy.
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    I finally ask Jason an important question: Which of all your paintings would you have the hardest time parting with? (I’ve already made my guess.) His answer shocks me: “The one with the cabin.” Entitled, “Isolation,” it is a small 24×18 painting of a single cabin in the woods. Nothing special, I think, among all his work. “There’s just something about it, something that draws me in…” I understand what he means. Staring at this solitary cabin in the woods something calls out to me too, and suddenly I want to be there, isolated, away from all the chaos of the city, away from my computer and my smartphone and to reconnect to nature. Perhaps one of Duane’s sweat lodge ceremonies just might do the trick.”
Jason Ebrahimi’s work will be on display at SAVVY.TO from March 1 – April 30 2018. You can view more of his work here: https://jaso81.wixsite.com/jeart
SAVVY.TO Gallery
114 Sherbourne St, Toronto
Open Mon-Fri 9-5pm, Sat-Sun 10-7pm
Cameron Brtnik is a freelance writer based in Toronto. You can find some of his work here: cambrtnik.wordpress.com
***For your very own “UpFront Review” just send me an email at cbrtnik@gmail.com or via Instagram @instacam81

No WiFi – A Critique by Virginia Kyriakopoulos

No Wifi

a Critique by Virginia Kyriakopoulos

     No WiFi is packed with metaphors, depth of tone, and feeling. The unkempt, ignored, sullied and covered up ( with air freshener,) room in a no-name hotel reflects the inner state of the protagonist, also nameless. He places himself in an environment that is barely alive, which reads also as soulless, like the town itself. But, unlike the children whose uninhibited playing is admired and coveted by the protagonist, what the reader here can glean is a connection, and therefore not soulless since the relationship suggests a genuine exchange; learning from the kids and admiring their authenticity. The other brief relationship presented in the story is the one with the voice. Is it a hallucination? Perhaps as the man doesn’t want to say out loud that he’s crazy, but is willing to utter the word when he’s scared. Fear of being crazy is brought to the surface when the environment suggests something crazy is happening.

The vodka is another relationship we see unfolding; this is the relationship the man has with the bottle, suggesting the one he has with himself is one of sedation. The recognition that the vodka serves only a temporary creative outlet reinforces the man’s sanity as this thought is rooted in rationality. The other thoughts of insanity are merely extensions of his fear. The blend of self awareness and a creepy, mysterious, unidentified voice or noise is an effective way of depicting drunkenness. The man’s desire to, yet fear of, connect to this ghostly voice ends on a positive tone. The words, “Thank you,” are an expression given in acknowledgment of some good done, and the lucky number eight both express that positivity. This is what the story is all about: The man’s desire for acknowledgment! I think the air conditioner serves as a symbol for that; As the man postulates that, “Even flies don’t appreciate persistent efforts, we see its efforts go unthanked. That the story ends with the voice giving thanks is full of validation, connection and hope.

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Critique by Virginia Kyriakopoulos 5.03.18 – Virginia is a freelance writer, poet, and literary critic

Read the original short story here: Short Story – No Wifi by Cameron Brtnik

Upfront Reviews – The Bomb-itty of Errors

Upfront Reviews – The Bomb-itty of Errors

by Cameron Brtnik


All the world’s a Bomb-itty of Errors
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man (or woman) in his time plays many parts…
     And in The Bomb-itty of Errors, the actors sure play many parts! A show filled with ill rhymes, sick flows, dope beats and Shakespearean slang is sure to amuse Shakespeare fans and hip hop heads alike! The play originating in New York, and adapted here by Brook Hall, is currently being showcased Nov. 18-Dec. 4 at The LAB Space in Taipei (by Qilian station on the red line) as part of his Butterfly Effect Theatre Company. “When I saw The Bomb-itty of Errors for the first time in NYC in the year 2000, I immediately put it on my bucket list for must-do shows.” If you’ve witnessed any of their past stage productions – God of Carnage, Ives’ Shorts, Tuesdays With Morrie – you know you’re getting top-notch entertainment, and high value for your money (700 NT). Living in Taipei, our dramatic arts and alternative entertainment choices are few; this is the best ticket money can buy. Coming from Toronto – a city highly praised for its arts and entertainment – one can appreciate what Brook is doing, raising Taiwan’s arts culture to world standards.
      Starring Airy Liu as Dromio, the feisty, ill lyric-spitting identical twin of Dromio, Meg Anderson as Antipholus of Ephesus (try saying that three times fast) and other comical characters – notably as the hilarious bumbling “emcee wannabe” postal boy, Steve Coetzee as Antipholous of Syracuse, and the memorable Hendelberg, a rhyme-dropping rabbi, the prolific Charlie Storrar as Dromio of Ephesus, and the hysterical Luciana, Adrianna’s sister (the initially confusing plot becomes more apparent as the story emerges), and last but definitely not least, DJ Cross Cutz dropping the beats and spinning the turntables throughout this lively, fun, and frantic farce. With such a limited cast playing such a vast array of characters, you’re sure to see characters do quick-changes that would impress Clark Kent, wigs flying off mid-performance, comical voice changes, all immersed in impressive emceeing that will leave your head spinning. When asked if it was difficult to memorize the lyrics, Charlie Storrar replied, “When I first read the script, it looked intimidating – very different to lines I’d had to learn in the past. But in the end the fact that the words are generally rhyming couplets made it like learning song lyrics, even the spoken parts. Being able to listen to the soundtrack on repeat also helped get the words into my head. I was off book in about a month.”
     I first witnessed The Comedy of Errors at a “Shakespeare in the Park” event held in my hometown of Toronto two summers ago. As only a perfunctory fan of Shakespeare – I hadn’t read any of this plays since high school – it resparked my interest in the bard and especially live performance of Shakespeare’s plays (and helped me greatly in following the plot more sensibly this time around). So if you have 700 NT in your wallet (about $20 Canadian) and you have your heart set on spending it on the next X-Men movie, do yourself a favor and emerge yourself in the cultured forum of performance art. You’ll have an amazing time, meet like-minded people, and be smarter for it. With teeth, with eyes, with taste, with everything.
For your very own “Upfront Review” just send me a message on WordPress or via Instagram @instacam81
Cameron Brtnik is a freelance writer, reviewer, blogger and revived Shakespeare fan

Upfront Reviews: April 2 is International Pillow Fight Day!


Upfront Reviews – April 2 is International Pillow Fight Day!

written by Cameron Brtnik For Taipei Trends

    WHAT DO feathers, linen, and all-out-war have in common? Pillow fights of course!!! And yesterday, media entertainment group Taipei Trends proved that wars don’t have to be bloody but rather benevolent, and fought with feathers rather than bullets…This was “history in the waking.”

    On this warm April day in Taipei, about 500 warriors, spectators, and curious onlookers gathered in the improvised arena on the grounds of Taipei’s historical Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, a national landmark and tourist attraction in Taiwan. There were attendees of all ages (even some brave kids!) and nationalities, making this a monumental event that brought together the diverse melting pot that is Taipei’s multicultural charm.

Gladiators donned their fluffiest weapons: pillows of all shapes, sizes, and colors stuffed with the most comfortable of fabrics from foam to feathers, fleece, fluff and faux-furs. Hundreds waited in anticipation, hungry for the taste of fowl, and the chance to pummel their opponents into a feathery pulp. At the sound of “Go!”, chaos erupted as hundreds of what looked like escaped insane asylum patients raced towards each other in some sort of narcoleptic nightmare; thousands of birds flocking towards each other on a collision course. It was “every man for himself”, and even women and children weren’t safe….

In the end, there were no casualties, except for the remains of some massacred cushions… As for me, my futile weapon met its end committing pillow-cide as it exploded upon some unsuspecting victim’s noodle. The remainder of my time spent gathering the innards of a once-cushiony sack of cotton…a tragic end, but it must know it gave its life for a higher cause, say then a comfortable night’s sleep: It contributed to bringing hundreds of strangers together on a warm, spring day in Taipei. And, in “wake” of the “Battle of Bed-lam,” for those brave warriors who are still standing, if you are feeling “down” and need a “doze off shut-eye,” “rest assured” you can get some well-deserved sleep tonight – Sweet dreams.

See photos from the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/624185041062561/

Apple Daily News: http://m.appledaily.com.tw/realtimenews/article/life/20160402/830526/

Follow Taipei Trends on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaipeiTrends/

Cameron is a freelance writer living in Taipei, Taiwan cbrtnik.com

***For your very own “UpFront Review” just send me an email at cbrtnik@gmail.com or pm on Instagram @instacam81

Upfront Reviews – The Goonies

                                                                                                                                                                          Trip Home – Summer 2015                                                                                                                                August 21, 2015
Upfront Reviews  
by Cameron Brtnik
Sugar Cinemas sit-in theatre presents:
     I went to the sit-in theatre today located at Sugar Beach at Queens Quay and Jarvis, Toronto. I was pumped; They were showing Goonies, possibly my favourite childhood movie of all time – Steven Spielberg, Chunk, and Rocky Road…It was definitely a nostalgic trip down memory lane. I often take time to watch my favourite movies from my youth – online torrents, streaming sites, and even YouTube make this easily possible – Hunt to Witch Mountain, Short Circuit, Batteries Not Included, The Navigator to name a few of my treasured talkies.
     The free event was put on very well: street performers, contests, free food! (including sweetened popcorn and some delicious butter cookies), plenty of outhouses, and bum boxes – no, they are not a solution to the city’s homeless – an ingenious idea, it’s a box that folds out into a portable seat that you can actually lean back in. We grabbed a couple and took them to a comfy, sandy area to sit down on. But there was a problem: our view of the screen was hindered by permanent, plastic umbrellas, not to mention the obtrusive heads of viewers sitting in cottage style chairs that the smart, early crowd nabbed up in an instant, rendering the aforementioned bum boxes obsolete.
     And then there was the movie screen: It seemed big enough for a small-sized movie theatre; not for a sold-out crowd. I could barely see the screen – stationed in the water, on a dock – even though we were sitting, bums in boxes near the front. Another trifling problem was visual quality; It literally felt like I was watching an old VHS tape. At times it was so dark on screen I couldn’t make out who Mikey was from his brother Brand (played by a young Josh Brolin) or Chunk from Sloth. And there was the issue with the sound: At first it was loud enough but so echoey you could barely make out what the Goonies were saying. Then the loudspeakers blew out and all that was left were the stereo speakers positioned at either end of the beach. The sound was actually clearer, but too quiet for the number in attendance. The staff fixed the speakers fairly quick, but by then some moviegoers had had enough; about a quarter of the audience just got up and left.
     Overall it was a good experience (enhanced by the fact we had snuck in a bottle of wine which has a nice way of increasing the nostalgia effect), and I was on a date so they could have been playing Labyrinth for all I cared. But a little advice Sugar Cinemas: Test your equipment before you put on such a large event! And maybe even get an HD version of the the movie you’re playing. There’s not enough free popcorn in the world that would make a shitty cinematic experience better.
Upfront Reviews
Cameron is a freelance writer
For your very own “Upfront Review” just send me a message on WordPress or via Instagram @instacam81

Upfront Reviews: LookBack – The Wire

The Wire

by Cameron Brtnik

{WARNING: Spoilers ahead!)

So I’ve finally finished The Wire (10 years late, I know). It will go down as one of the most memorable TV series I’ve ever seen (next to House – if you know me you know I’m a big fan of the mischievous MD). I’ll have many memories from the show: Mcnulty, Bunk, hoppers, runners, and of course Omar. But the story, or lesson, that will remain with me is that of Reginald’s, aka Bubbles, in Season 5. Out of anyone in the show, he made the biggest transformation. And isn’t that what we’re always looking for in characters, a transformation? More importantly in ourselves? He was the most notorious of drug addicts, a heavy user until he regrettably kills his “adopted son” by accidentally poisoning him. He actually quits using for good (not before unsuccessfully trying to hang himself). The lesson I learned was this…

Bubbles did three things:

1. He stopped blaming others for his problems.

2. He took one hundred percent responsibility for his problems.

3. He sought out help in his community.

All these steps combined helped him greatly in his transition, transformation, and sticking to it. Bubbles, or someone like him, may always struggle with addiction. But he took the steps necessary in battling it. He’ll always be a better man for doing so.


Cameron is a freelance writer and fan for life of The Wire