Feb. 18th, 2017

rfmcdonald: (obscura)


Facebook's Simon tagged me with André Masson, and I picked his Pedestal Table in the Studio. This work of his speaks to me, what can I say?

If you want to take part in this ongoing Facebook event, just like this post.
rfmcdonald: (photo)
Nelson's Column stands just to the west of Montréal's Second Empire Hôtel de Ville. The two constructions, one slim and tall and the other much the larger, made a eye-catching pair for me.

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  • blogTO notes the amazing spike upwards in temperatures for this weekend.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of some stark war memorials of the former Communist world.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on brown dwarf HIP 67537b.

  • The LRB Blog looks at Donald Trump's interest in a Middle Eastern peace settlement that looks as if it will badly disadvantage the isolated Palestinians.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen reflects on his reading of Julius Evola and other hitherto-marginal writers.

  • The NYRB Daily notes the potential health catastrophe that could result from Donald Trump's anti-vax positions.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer suggests that the corruption marking the relationship of France and Gabon over that country's oil is finding an echo in the Trump organization's involvement in Filipino real estate.

  • Torontoist calls for regulation of road salt on grounds of its toxicity.

  • Transit Toronto looks at the various scenarios for King Street.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia's economic growth will lag behind growth elsewhere for the foreseeable future, and looks at protest in St. Petersburg over the return of an old church to the Orthodox Church.

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Torontoist's Erin Sylvester tells the story of downtown Toronto's Draper Street.

The future site of Draper Street, which runs one way from Front Street West to Wellington Street West, first appears on a map in 1833. It didn’t yet have a name or building lots, but it was the start of what has become a carefully preserved district to reflect what Toronto looked like in the late 19th century.

The first houses—Empire-style cottages—were built on Draper Street between 1881 and 1882. These were paid for by Jonathan Mandell, a developer, and designed by Richard Humphries. These early houses are all semi-detached and one-and-a-half storeys. A new phase of building started in 1886 with semi-detached houses built by the firm Smith and Simpson. The final phase was a row of houses built in 1889 on what was a lumberyard for Wagner Ziedler and Company, the firm that, among other things, did the woodwork and speaker’s dais in the new Ontario Parliament buildings at Queen’s Park, which opened in the 1890s.

Draper Street is part of the King and Spadina neighbourhood, which became an industrial centre in the growing city of Toronto. King and Spadina was the heart of the textile and garment industries, a heritage now reflected in some of the remaining industrial buildings and a giant, colourful button and thimble at the corner of Richmond and Spadina. The area also saw early labour agitation in Toronto, most notably from the Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union strike in 1931.

Although Draper Street sounds like it fits right in to the textile industry in the neighbourhood, it was actually named for William Henry Draper, a lawyer and local politician who had died in 1877.
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blogTO's Ed Conroy reintroduces readers to the origins of Wayne's World in Mike Myers' suburban upbringing in Scarborough.

After a long-ish period of dormancy, it seems Scarborough native Mike Myers is everywhere these days. He published a book last year – Canada – which chronicles his early years growing up in Scarborough, and the affect that offbeat Canadian culture has played in all of his work.

Perhaps even more (in)famously, President Trump referenced his most popular character Wayne Campbell’s “Not!” joke in a tweet recently.

Wayne’s World turns 25 this month and aside from being appropriated by Trump, is being celebrated roundly for holding up and reminding us of a time when Saturday Night Live was actually funny and not a one-note partisan chainsaw.

For many, Wayne’s World the movie (or the SNL sketch) was their first introduction to the Wayne character, and even after all these years it comes as a surprise that Myers had been honing Wayne for a decade previous on local Toronto television.

Myers created the Wayne character as a “bit” to do at parties to impress girls. “Wayne” was a stereotypical Canadian guy, loved hockey and beer, and was cut from the same cloth as classic Canadiana hosers like Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas (SCTV and Strange Brew).
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blogTO's Derek Flack points readers to some of the video clubs and songs, even, used to promote Toronto to the wider world back in the 1970s.

While the 1980s might have been the heyday of Toronto tourism advertising, there's something wildly compelling about the version of the city that was sold in the decade prior. Here was a city in the midst of massive transformation just getting its bearings on what it might become.

Two clips in particular serve as touchstones for the manner in which Toronto was coming into its own as a city that deserved mention on the international stage, one of which came from abroad and one of which was a homegrown product.

At the outset of the decade, Eastern Airlines produced a promotional reel for its service to Toronto that's rich with references to the booming metropolis the city had recently become. It's pre-CN Tower, but full of scenes featuring City Hall, the TD Centre, and the still new-feeling Bloor-Danforth subway.

The whole two minute clip is dazzling for the way that it boldly proclaims Toronto's place on the world's stage, from shots that look like old buildings being torn down for new ones to an at times haunting soundtrack that changes pace in manner reminiscent of the Chinatown trailer.


The media clips are ... remarkable.
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The Toronto Star's Ellen Brait reports on how first-year engineering students at the University of Toronto came up with a solution to save the books of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

When 750,000 volumes of rare books are imperiled by condensation, it’s time to think outside the building.

Since at least 2004, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library – which houses books including all four of Shakespeare’s folios and a papyrus from the time of Christ – has had a condensation problem. The insulation inside the library has been slowly degrading and condensation has been building up, according to Loryl MacDonald, interim director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. This also resulted in fluctuations in the temperature, something that can be detrimental to books that need climate controlled environments.

“Over time with those types of conditions mould can grow and affect some of the rare books,” said MacDonald.

The library consulted numerous architecture firms and was told the same thing again and again: construction had to be done in the interior. This would require the books, some of which are in fragile condition, to be moved and the library to be temporarily closed.

Desperate for a different solution, John Toyonaga, manager of the Bindery for the library, saw an ad for a first year problem-solving engineering class and decided to throw the library’s problem into the mix.
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The Toronto Star's Laura Beeston describes a fantastic-sounding farewell weekend of parties and celebrations at Honest Ed's. I must get in on this, somehow.

A group of volunteers had a mission when they got keys to the city’s most famous bargain department store in the first week of February.

Toronto For Everyone didn’t want to just throw the “first, last and only farewell” to Honest Ed’s as we knew it. The group wanted to imagine what inclusive city building could look like moving forward.

Honest Ed’s “was one of the first businesses in the city that thought about how to incorporate philanthropy,” said #TO4E co-producer Hima Batavia, 32.

“A big part of it is, yes, saying goodbye to a physical building, but how do we bring those values forward?”

It was more than a store but a place that welcomed everyone, said co-producer Negin Sairafi, 31.

“How can we extract that, bottle it, and use it throughout our city building in the future?”
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In another article, the Toronto Star's Laura Beeston suggests that a Toronto museum of local neon signs is a viable idea. My attention is piqued, at least.

Mark Garner has a neon dream.

The executive director of the Downtown/Yonge BIA believes the time is now for Toronto to immortalize iconic businesses of days gone by. So he’s collecting, restoring and replicating signs from classic city storefronts for a potential open-air museum.

But he needs help to turn the dream into a reality.

“Where are all the signs?” Garner asks aloud. “Why isn’t the cultural contribution that this signage made on anybody’s radar?”

He has spent the last five years tracking them down and slowly generating interest in his project. Yonge St., Garner explains, was once “a rite of passage” and hot spot for neon lights.

Today, he thinks there’s a return of interest with the forthcoming Sam The Record Man reinstall at Ryerson University and the Honest Ed’s marquee finding a new home on Victoria St.

“Signage is en vogue right now.”
rfmcdonald: (cats)
Rebecca Tucker's review in The Globe and Mail of Kedi, a new film looking at the cats of Istanbul, has me hooked. Where is it playing locally, I wonder?

Read almost any piece of travel journalism about Istanbul, and there will be mention of the cats. The city is literally crawling with them: unquantifiable felines, prowling the streets at all hours, climbing through windows uninvited and stealing fish from street vendors. But unlike other major cities that might consider the enormous feline presence a plague or pestilence, in Istanbul, the cats are an integral part of daily life. “Being a cat in Istanbul,” a Turkish musician told The Wall Street Journal in 2015,” is like being a cow in India.”

Kedi, the Oscilloscope Laboratories-produced documentary getting a limited release this week, is a gentle meditation on the strange symbiosis that exists between humans and cats throughout the Turkish city. Over the course of 80 minutes, the film – through a combination of interviews with locals, quiet shots of city life and scenes of cats in action (climbing to the top of local churches, say, or protecting a brood of kittens) – comes close to painting a complete picture of a city in which animals known for their autonomy and independent spirit have basically persuaded an entire population of people to take care of them, to gradual mutual benefit. Cats, despite what any dog people reading may suggest, do make great friends, especially if you give them a whole city’s worth of space.

There are seven cats who get almost exactly 15 minutes of fame in Kedi, and each has a name, but if you blink, you’ll miss it. They’re not always front and centre – whenever the film pulls out for a great panorama of Istanbul, or focuses specifically on its human inhabitants’ daily activities, it becomes increasingly tempting to seek out the cat in the frame (and when there’s not one immediately visible, to wonder how many must be hidden from view). It’s part of Kedi’s charm that it pulls back from anthropomorphizing its feline leads too much; their individual personalities are observed, rather than prescribed, and any attempt on the part of humans to quantify and articulate their preferred cat’s charms falls sweetly short.
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The Toronto Star's Ben Spurr reports on the depths to which the Metrolinx-Bombardier relationship has descended. Is there anything at all salvageable from this ghastly mess?

Metrolinx executives ripped into rail manufacturer Bombardier at a meeting of the transit agency’s board on Friday, depicting the company as an organization in disarray and accusing it of spreading false information.

Reading from prepared remarks, board chair Rob Prichard criticized the company for taking Metrolinx to court in a dispute over a $770-million light rail vehicle order that has been bogged down by delays.

“Bombardier’s behaviour in going to court is not that of a trusted partner,” Prichard said. He slammed allegations the company made last week in a press release blaming Metrolinx for the delays as “false.”

Over the course of the contract Bombardier has cycled through at least two presidents, three vice presidents and five project managers, and Prichard said that had undermined the company’s ability to deliver vehicles on time.

“Bombardier needs to stabilize its business and the leadership of its business, focus on meeting its commitments and schedules, stop blaming others for its own shortcomings, and to start delivering its overdue vehicles,” Prichard said.
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David Rider in the Toronto Star describes how budget shenanigans may hurt a plan to make a large part of Yonge Street in North York, far north of the downtown, more usable for non-vehicular traffic.

City council’s sometimes chaotic 15-hour budget meeting included dozens of choices that won’t generate headlines but can shape Toronto neighbourhoods for years to come.

A 24-20 vote in favour of a Councillor David Shiner motion has thrown a wrench in a long-fostered community plan to remake a stretch of Yonge St. in North York, from Sheppard to Finch Aves., including the addition of bike lanes.

Councillor John Filion, whose Ward 23 encompasses almost all the proposed “Re-imagining Yonge Street” project, says it “might be dead.” He pins much of the blame on Mayor John Tory, whose note to council allies — recommending how they vote on various 20 7 budget items — backed Shiner’s motion.

“This project has been in the works for at least two years, enthusiastically supported by the community and city staff, including the chief planner, to change the bleakness of that strip of Yonge St. — to widen sidewalks, put in bike lanes and other features to try to turn a sea of high rises and storefronts into a real community,” Filion said in an interview Thursday.

“My extreme disappointment is in the mayor — (the Shiner motion) only passed because he was actively supporting it. The mayor’s office was pulling votes away from me.”
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The Globe and Mail's Alex Bozikovic looks at the import of the proposals for a revamped King Street, as a portent of the future of the city meant not only for cars.

Who is a street for? For people in cars, or for everyone?

That’s the question at the heart of the City of Toronto project to remake King Street. The three options for the bold pilot project, revealed at a packed public meeting this week, would each give priority to streetcars and pedestrians at the expense of private vehicles.

Each would save untold hours for the 65,000 people who crawl along on the King streetcar each weekday; each would shift some of the space along the street from its current arrangement, in which the 16 per cent of users in cars occupy 64 per cent of the space. Any of these schemes would make King Street safer. They make sense.

So get ready for an endless opera of complaint. Whether City Council can tough out the inevitable car-centric whining, and defend a more just and sensible approach to the streets, will be an important indicator for the future of the city.

In Toronto, it’s not traditional to think about road users as equals. The primacy of the car is still unquestioned in city politics. Just look at the recent decision, championed by Mayor John Tory, to spend nearly an extra $1-billion to rebuild the eastern Gardiner as an expressway, to save a few minutes a day for 3 per cent of downtown commuters. You could add a lot of transit service for that kind of money.
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Earlier this week, djw at Lawyers, Guns and Money wrote a blog post criticizing how inhabitants of Mercer Island, a very well-off lake island in the east of the Seattle metropolitan area, have been trying to stall or avert altogether light rail access to their island that might diminish their privileged position re: roads running across this island.

For those unfamiliar with the topography of the Puget Sound region: Seattle is a long, thin city; around 20 miles from its northern to southern border but about 3-6 miles East to West, bounded by water on either side: Puget Sound to the West, and Lake Washington (which extends slightly beyond Seattle both North and South) to the East. This lake sharply separates Seattle from its Eastern suburbs, which have for some time been the location of many (but not all) of the wealthier sections of the region, with the middle class and historically more downscale suburbs generally located to the North and South of the city. Lake Washington has but one island: Mercer. At approximately 13 square miles and a population of around 25,000, Mercer Island is the most populous island on a lake in the United States. Culturally and economically, Mercer Island belongs squarely on the Eastside, as it has become one of the wealthier towns of its size in the country, with an average household income well north of 130,000 and an average home value of 1.4 million. It enjoys excellent schools and parks, and is made up almost entirely of low-density single family homes.

Long ago, Mercer Island was primarily rural. One of the first major projects was a Gilded Age opulent resort, the Caulkins Hotel, for Seattle’s elite. In 1908, a “Japanese houseboy” (sic) in the employ of the Caulkins took offense at some unspecified act of verbal abuse from hotel management, and in retaliation stuffed a large number of oily rags in a chimney, causing the hotel to burn down. Left behind, however, was an extensive dock that spurred some development in the island’s Northwest corner, which eventually incorporated as “East Seattle.” The island remained accessible by private boat and by steamboats such as the Atlanta, which connected Mercer Island to Seattle well into the 1930’s. A bridge to Bellevue on the Eastside was completed in 1928, and, following pressure from prominent islanders, the construction of the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial bridge, named for WSDOT’s second director and journalist Edward Murrow’s older brother, in 1940, then the largest floating bridge in the world. (Today, it is second only to the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, a second Lake Washington crossing that doesn’t connect to Mercer Island, just a few miles to the North.) In 1976, the bridge became part of I-90. A much wider second bridge was added in 1989, dramatically increasing capacity. This was Followed almost immediately by the sinking of the original Murrow bridge in a storm over Thanksgiving weekend–a dramatic event I recall watching live on television as a teenager. The Murrow bridge was repaired/replaced, at great public expense, by 1993, giving I-90 its current capacity. The 1940 bridge was largely paid for by a bond paid off by tolls, which ended after about 10 years. The new bridges were not.

Presently, these bridges and the freeway segment they form give Mercer Island residents, on average, the shortest commute times of any city in the region, a particularly remarkable statistic for an island connected to the mainland via a high-traffic bridge, with virtually no residents who work on the island itself. How do they pull off this remarkable feat? Location is part of it; the island is very close to downtown Seattle to the West and Bellevue, the largest city and second-largest job center on the Eastside, to the East. While traffic on the bridge can be quite brutal during rush hour, Mercer Island residents have a unique arrangement that allows them to access the HOV lands Westbound to Seattle as SOVs. This arrangement, codified via a memorandum of understand during negotiations over the construction and future plans for I-90 in 1976, was always meant to be temporary: the center lanes of the new bridge, reversible for increasing peak direction capacity, were designed explicitly with eventual light rail in mind. (The temporary nature of the arrangement was, in particular, highlighted by the Federal Highway Administration, whose regulations don’t generally allow for this kind of arrangement). Several decades later, the time has come: construction is scheduled to begin on Eastlink, which will take these center lanes for rail from downtown Seattle various Eastside locations, with a stop on Mercer Island.

Construction of Eastlink necessitates taking the center lanes currently used for HOV, and last month WSDOT told the city formally that their SOV freeloading days are over: they will no longer have uniquely privileged access to HOV lanes, and will be forced to access the city the way the rest of plebes do: in normal, high volume SOV lanes. (Or by bus, but who are we kidding?)


Seattleites?

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