May. 25th, 2017

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Before the Nightwalking Jane's Walk earlier this month, the last time I had visited Magwood Park by the east shore of the Humber was in 2015, when I visited in the search of old Iroquoian burial mounds. Walking around the park at night, when the only lights were the lights dimly appearing through the trees, was magical.

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  • blogTO notes the recent municipal vote clearing the way for the construction of the Downtown Relief Line.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly wonders, in the context of growing inequality and poverty, how workers in the United States can be free.

  • Centauri Dreams examines exoplanet TRAPPIST-1h.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the upset of Taiwanese homophobes with the idea of marriage equality and reports on the possibility of a million people dying on account of Trump cuts to HIV/AIDS programs internationally.

  • Language Log considers the use of the emoji in the Sinosphere.

  • The LRB Blog looks at terrorism and the ways it interacts malignly with the news cycle.

  • The NYRB Daily examines the anonymous "Berlin Painter" of ancient Athens.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer argues that the particular structure of health care locks it into certain plausible paths for reform.

  • Torontoist argues that indigenous writers' concerns about inclusion need to be addressed.

  • Towleroad looks at how some parents of gay children were pushed out of Shanghai's "marriage market".

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the relative strengths of Ukraine's two churches and looks at Russia's trade with North Korea.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell examines the post-war economic structures of the United Kingdom in the context of struggles between multilateralists and unilateralists.

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  • Metro Toronto's David Hains reports on a new interactive map of Trinity-Bellwoods Park designed to help users find other people in that large complex space.


  • You’ll never have to spend 20 minutes trying to find your friend in Trinity-Bellwoods Park again.

    New York-based cartographer (and former Toronto Star employee) William Davis loves Toronto, and so he knows this is one of the city’s great summer frustrations. It’s because of the geographically complicated, but very popular park, that he and Tom Weatherburn made an interactive map for Torontonians to share their location.

    All users need to do is drag and drop a “here” pin on a map of the park. It can be accessed for free at the MapTO website, a personal project with Weatherburn that features quirky and interesting maps on a variety of city subjects.

    The Trinity-Bellwoods map is overlaid with easy-to-read icons, including a dog at the dog bowl, a baseball at the baseball diamond, and beer mugs where people like to hang out.


  • The Toronto Star's Jennifer Pagliaro describes the catastrophic state of repair of far too many of the houses of Toronto Community Housing.


  • Half of Toronto Community Housing developments will be in “critical” condition in the next five years without additional funding for repairs, according to an internal database provided to the Star.

    Already, the data shows more than 30 social-housing properties are in serious disrepair. Of 364 developments — which include houses and groupings of low-rise buildings and towers — 222 developments are ranked in “poor” condition, with dozens edging on critical condition, based on a standard ranking used by the housing corporation.

    Those critical sites are homes for more than 3,000 individuals and families.

    The data shows a pervasive problem at a time when the city is grappling with how to keep thousands of units open with a $1.73-billion funding gap.

    Of the 364 developments, more than 100 were offloaded onto the city by the province more than a decade and a half ago without money needed to cover the repairs. Of the buildings in the critical and poor categories, more than a third were downloaded by the province.


  • Back in August, Yasmine Laarsroui wrote for Torontoist about the potential for the housing co-op model to help solve the Toronto housing crisis.


  • Those affected by the lack of rent controls left young professionals, like reporter Shannon Martin, with no option but to turn to more extreme alternatives, such as couch-surfing.

    Young people seeking more reliable housing options are turning to co-op housing—at least, those lucky enough to get a unit.

    Toronto renter Donald Robert moved into Cabbagetown’s Diane Frankling Co-operative Homes in September 2016 and speaks highly of his experience.

    Robert pays $1,300 for a large two-bedroom unit with access to an underground parking and a small gym, almost $500 cheaper than the average one-bedroom unit in Toronto. Robert explains that, “the best part though has been the community here. Everybody says ‘hi.’”


  • Also back in April, John Lorinc wrote in Spacing about the oft-overlooked musicality of the lost neighbourhood of The Ward.


  • If you try to imagine your way back into the early 20th century streets and laneways of The Ward — the dense immigrant enclave razed to make way for Toronto’s City Hall — you might pick up the sounds of newsies and peddlers hawking their wares, the clanging of the area’s junk and lumber yards, and shrieking children playing on the Elizabeth Street playground north of Dundas.

    Those streets would also reverberate day and night with a jumble of languages — Italian, Yiddish, Chinese. The dialects and accents of these newcomers were considered to be not only “foreign,” but also proof (to the keepers of Toronto’s Anglo-Saxon morality) of the area’s worrisome social and physical failings.

    But despite the fact that many mainstream Torontonians saw The Ward as an impoverished blight on the face of the city, the neighbourhood resonated with energy and culture and music — evidence of the resilience of the stigmatized newcomers who settled there in waves from the late 19th century onward.

    Photographers recorded fiddle players and organ grinders with their hurdy gurdies, playing as mesmerized children listened. After their shifts ended, one 1914 account noted, labourers whiled away their free times playing mandolins or concertinas as they sang rags and the Neapolitan songs so popular at the time.

    “When sleep in crowded rooms seems all but impossible,” journalist Emily Weaver observed in The Globe and Mail in 1910, “the people of ‘The Ward’ are astir till all hours, and the Italians amuse themselves by singing in their rich sweet voices the songs of their far-away homelands or dancing their native dances to the music of a mandolin or guitar in the open roadway beneath the stars.”


  • The Toronto Star's Azzura Lalani describes how the rapid growth of young families in Leslieville threatens to overload local schools. What will the Downtown Relief Line do?


  • As the mother of a 16-month-old boy, Michelle Usprech is looking to leave the Financial District where it’s just “suits and suits and suits,” for a more family friendly vibe, and she’s got her eye on Leslieville.

    But one of Toronto’s most family-friendly neighbourhoods may be a victim of its own success as signs from the Toronto District School Board have cropped up, warning parents in Leslieville their children may not be able to attend their local school because of possible overcrowding, school board spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed.

    Those signs warn that “due to residential growth, sufficient accommodation may not be available for all students,” despite the school board making “every effort to accommodate students at local schools.”

    [. . .]

    It’s a concern for some parents, including Kerry Sharpe, who lives in Leslieville and has a four-month-old daughter named Eisla.

    “It’s still early days for me,” she said, but, “it is a concern. Even daycare, that’s hard to get into, so I don’t see it getting any better.”
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    Writing in the aftermath of the Manchester attack, The Guardian's Alexis Petridis writes about how his understanding of the pop music concert changed when he saw the impact that it had on his daughter. It points the young child to the possibility of an exciting adult future.

    There was more to the magic than infectious enthusiasm. I have spent a not-insignificant proportion of my working life at pop gigs in arenas filled with kids and teenagers, usually in a state of mild bemusement. I have seen shows I thought were abysmal and shows I thought were impressively slick. I have seen artists treat their audience with something bordering on contempt (there is something incredibly galling about watching a singer who can’t even be bothered to pretend to mime) and artists who genuinely left me open-mouthed (Miley Cyrus, following her decision to abandon her squeaky-clean Disney image for something deliberately provocative). I could make an informed, objective critical judgment about them, but I never fully understood them, never really grasped what they were for, never really got what was going on in the audience, until I saw one through my daughter’s eyes.

    It wasn’t just that she was overawed by the spectacle, although she was: stuff I took for granted – lasers, pyrotechnics, confetti cannons, all the usual bells and whistles of a big pop show – were a constant source of overwhelming sensory overload. Nor was it the way her lack of cynicism made me reconsider my own feelings, although that happened too. I have always been deeply suspicious of the kind of rhetoric that modern pop surrounds itself with: all that platitudinous “just be yourself”, “if you dream it you can do it” stuff. But my daughter took it all at face value and I ended up thinking: Well, there’s certainly worse messages you can send out to kids.

    But mostly it was the way it gave her a first glimpse of a world that was previously outside her experience, a more adult, or at least more mature world than the one she knew, a world that would one day be her own, and how excited she was to see it, how – as she put it – grown-up it made her feel. She experienced something that transcended her pretty fickle and changeable musical allegiances. Jessie J has long been replaced in her affections – by, among others, Ariana Grande. The selfie she took that night is still on her bedroom wall. If that was true of a seven-year-old being chaperoned by her father, how much more true was it for the kids that were just old enough to be there without their parents, the ones who had relegated their mums and dads to waiting in the foyer or outside in the car?
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