January 16th, 2017


[PHOTO] L'occasionelle of Montréal vs the Metropass of Toronto

L'occasionelle vs Metropass #toronto #montreal #montréal #stm #ttc #loccasionelle #metropass

I've just come back from a very enjoyable long weekend in Montréal. I first got the idea to head east down the MacDonald-Cartier Highway when I heard that the new touring Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit, Focus : Perfection, would be making a visit to the Musée des beaux-arts. Once I recognized that it had been far too many years since I had last been in the city, I had more impetus to go. When I realized that the weekend before the exhibit closed contained my birthday (the 14th), I realized that I had to go. So, I did. I will be sharing a lot of the photos that I took here in the next weeks.

One thing I was interested in doing was comparing the transit services offered by the Société de Transport de Montréal with those of the Toronto Transit Commission. The two transport networks are generally comparable but the STM has an edge in a few areas. The rubber wheels on the subway trains of Montréal do save passengers' ears from the occasional screech of metal against metal that's background noise for Torontonian passengers, and the level of investment put into making Métro stations not just functional but attractive is something rarely found in Toronto.

The one STM artifact that I was most taken by was not the trains and not the stations, but L'occasionelle. This RFID-equipped smart card, printed on durable cardstock, is a revelation for someone used to TTC Metropasses with their dumb magnetic stripes and Presto cards which keeping failing to work. For just $C 18, I was able to buy a card that let me travel everywhere within reach of the STM for a three day period. It's really nice. Perhaps Toronto can try to emulate Montréal on this?

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Beyond the Beyond shares Voltaire's critique of early globalization.

  • blogTO reports on how TTC streetcars are failing earlier than expected.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about her trip to Philadelphia to see art.

  • Centauri Dreams
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<li>Beyond the Beyond <a href="https://www.wired.com/beyond-the-beyond/2017/01/voltaire-regretting-globalization/"><U>shares</u></a> Voltaire's critique of early globalization.</li>
<li>blogTO <a href="http://www.blogto.com/city/2017/01/new-ttc-streetcars-are-failing-sooner-than-expected/"><U>reports</u></a> on how TTC streetcars are failing earlier than expected.</li>
<li>The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly <a href="https://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/an-art-adventure-nyc-to-philadelphia/"><U>talks</u></a> about her trip to Philadelphia to see art.</li>
<li>Centauri Dreams <a href='http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=36955"><U>talks</u></a> about discovering streams of stars connecting the Sagittarius dwarf spheroidal galaxy to the Milky Way.</li>
<li>Crooked Timber <a href="http://crookedtimber.org/2017/01/16/is-trump-a-president-with-precedents-would-you-rather-brexit-or-mr-brexit/"><U>talks</u></a> about Donald Trump as a president with or without precedents.</li>
<li>The Dragon's Gaze <a href="http://thedragonsgaze.blogspot.ca/2017/01/the-fate-of-exomoons-in-white-dwarf.html"><U>talks</u></a> about the fate of exomoons in white dwarf systems.</li>
<li>The Everyday Sociology Blog <a href="http://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2017/01/sociology-science-and-fake-news.html"><U>takes</u></a> a sociological perspective on fake news.</li>
<li>Language Log <a href="http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=30382"><U>mourns</u></a> the death of pinyin inventor Zhou Youguang.</li>
<li>The LRB Blog <a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/01/16/marina-warner/at-the-gogol-centre/"><U>talks</u></a> about the pleasures of incomprehension.</li>
<li>Lawyers, Guns and Money <a href="http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2017/01/vietnams-turn-to-the-sea"><U>talks</u></a> about Vietnam as a maritime power.</li>
<Li>Marginal Revolution <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/01/seasteading-deal-french-polynesia.html"><U>notes</u></a> that seasteading is set to have a go in French Polynesia.</li>
<li>Window on Eurasia <a href="http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.ca/2017/01/even-if-west-recognized-russian-sphere.html"><U>argues</u></a> Russia is too weak to keep a post-Soviet sphere of influence, and <a href="http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.ca/2017/01/when-it-comes-to-china-putin-needs-west.html"><UI>suggests</u></a> Russia is set to be dominated by China and so needs a Western alliance.</li>

[URBAN NOTE] "Cannabis Culture accused of attracting anti-LGBT clients to Toronto’s gay village"

James Goldie's Daily Xtra article caught my eye on the trip out, not least because of Cannibis Culture owner Marc Emery's comparison of the plights of LGBT people and marijuana smokers.

The smoke is beginning to clear following an online firestorm that appears to have spilled into the street — over a marijuana shop in the Church-Wellesley Village, with allegations it’s been attracting a clientele unfriendly to LGBT people.

On Jan 3, 2017, the Cannabis Culture shop on Church Street received a one-star public review on its Facebook page, alleging that some of its customers have routinely been making homophobic and transphobic comments, both in the store and outside, causing some LGBT community members to feel unsafe in the village. Three days later, someone splashed blue paint on the shop’s storefront.

Joey Viola, who organizes FML Mondays each week next door at Flash, wrote the review, kicking off the controversy.

“When I had my patrons coming up to me and confiding in me that when they go outside for cigarettes or whatever they’re being harassed by certain loiterers that are outside next door, that prompted me to take a closer look,” Viola says. “Now I don’t see it to be [Cannabis Culture’s] fault, however, they are bringing in some clientele that are not necessarily down with the LGBT lifestyle.”

[. . . Marc] Emery, who is featured prominently in Albert Nerenberg’s 2005 documentary Escape to Canada, which examines the battles to legalize both gay marriage and marijuana, says he was hurt that LGBT opponents to his store’s presence in the neighbourhood don't stand in solidarity with the cannabis community, given the persecution both have experienced historically.

“We’re still being arrested every day in Canada. We still haven’t had any equal rights for 50 years, the cannabis community.”

[URBAN NOTE] "Cardinal Rule shacks up with Glad Day on Church"

NOW Toronto's Natalia Manzocco describes another good reason to go to Glad Day Bookshop: Roncesvalles diner Cardinal Rule is setting up shop in the location's kitchen. I really like this addition to Glad Day's business model, not least because the idea of indie businesses collaborating for greater profit for everyone has a lot of appeal for me.

Even with all the cultural clout that comes from 47 years in business, Glad Day Bookshop had to face up to a tough truth last year: It's tough for a business to survive on book sales alone.

With a move to spacious new digs in the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village (499 Church, at Wellesley, 416-961-4161, gladdaybookshop.com) at the end of 2016, the world's oldest surviving gay bookstore gained a few new titles – bar, cafe, and multi-use event space.

Its latest sobriquet: restaurant. Before the shelves of books (several of which are on wheels – all the better to make room for dance parties!) were brought in, the ground-floor unit was home to Byzantium, a martini bar and Continental kitchen that served the community for 23 years.

"Byzantium was mostly known as an eating spot. It was a bit of a martini bar in the 90s, but in the last 10 years, most of the people came for the food," CEO Michael Erickson says. The space was already fully outfitted for cooking and backing, and though meal service was always in the cards for the new space, they weren't sure if they were up to the task themselves.

"When we talked about what we wanted to do for food, we were like, ‘We want it to be like Cardinal Rule'," Erickson says. "And then we thought, 'Why don’t we just ask them?'" Looks like it all worked out. Last week, the beloved queer-owned Roncy diner (co-owners Katie James and chef Marta Kusel are a married couple) debuted its first slate of menu items out of Glad Day.

[URBAN NOTE] "Toronto asks Ottawa, Queen’s Park for help in Regent Park development"

It goes without saying that the news shared by David Rider's Toronto Star article, and echoed at blogTO, is not at all good for Regent Park's regeneration. How did this shortfall happen?

Toronto is inviting senior governments to a “conversation” about how they can help fund the third phase of the successful, but costly, Regent Park revitalization.

Mayor John Tory, councillors Pam McConnell, who represents Regent Park, and Ana Bailão, the city’s housing advocate, make the case for provincial and federal help in a letter dated Thursday and obtained by the Star.

“The plans to expedite the complete of Phase 3 are ambitious and require creative financial solutions to bring them to life,” they wrote to local MPP Glen Murray, Ontario’s environment minister, and local MP Bill Morneau, the federal finance minister.

“Any delay in proceeding with the current construction schedule for Regent Park revitalization will disrupt the momentum that has been built and demoralize the tenants who are waiting to return to new units.”

The redevelopment of what had become a troubled 69-acre Toronto Community Housing project started in 2005. TCH and lead developer Daniels Corp. are reaching the midpoint of its five-phase remake into a vibrant, mixed-income neighbourhood of condos, rental units, sports and community facilities, retail and more.



School board defends practice of diverting money that it’s given specifically to serve the needs of disadvantaged students.

A volunteer deposits dishes in a bin during a breakfast program at a Toronto-area school in this 2016 file photo.

A volunteer deposits dishes in a bin during a breakfast program at a Toronto-area school in this 2016 file photo. (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star) | Order this photo

By Edward KeenanColumnist

Mon., Jan. 16, 2017

Imagine if a neighbourhood community group was given a grant specifically to set up a food bank to feed the hungry and impoverished among them, and instead it spent half of that money on local park improvements. When asked, they’d point out that they couldn’t otherwise afford the park improvements, and they benefit everyone, including the hungry and impoverished. Would that be OK?

Well, no, I don’t think so. Because they were given the money for the explicit purpose of serving a specific need. Because it was supposed to be targeted to the neediest, not to the general benefit of everyone. It was an attempt to level the playing field, not to re-sod the entire yard in its existing imbalanced state so everyone could enjoy the nice lawn at whatever relative height they already stood.

I think this it is analogous to the situation at the Toronto District School Board, which is taking money it is given specifically to serve the needs of socio-economically disadvantaged children, and using 48 per cent of it instead to balance its general budget. That’s the inescapable conclusion of a report from Social Planning Toronto my colleague Andrea Gordon has reported on last week, based on numbers provided by the school board itself: that in order to pay for things across the system – like elementary school principals’ salaries, regional outdoor education centres and classroom computers – it has been diverting money given to it by the province that is intended specifically to provide special programs and resources for those at risk.

This is funding the needs of everyone — including the most affluent and advantaged students in the city — by raiding the funding given for the most disadvantaged. It’s shameful.

Yet board director John Malloy didn’t express shame when speaking to reporters, the Star reported. Instead he sought to defend the practice, saying, “It is directly connected to student achievement. It does support our students at risk, but it also supports their classmates as well.” Some of the money, he said, was used to pay for things that support students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, which, he “emphatically” pointed out, is in line with what the “regulation expects.”

[URBAN NOTE] "Legalized skating on Grenadier Pond a small win for Torontonians"

While skating in High Park does sound delightful, I do hope for the sake of--among others--The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee that Grenadier Pond turns out to be consistently solid enough for skating. Sometimes regulations are a burden; sometimes, they're life-saving.

About a year back, breaking with custom, Toronto city council actually did something sensible: it ended a ban on skating on Grenadier Pond.

Skaters have been going out on the long pond in the southwest corner of High Park for a century and more. Archival photos show women in long skirts and overcoats lacing up their skates.

It is a wonderful Toronto experience. When I took to the ice on Monday morning, a middle-aged man with his shoes in a backpack was sailing around on long speed skates, his hands linked behind his back as he took big swaying strides. A couple of guys were playing shinny, using their bags as goalposts. A woman in a parka with the hood pulled up against the stiff breeze was skating alongside her dog.

One of the delights of pond skating is simply observing the ice, so different from the monochrome man-made stuff. Grenadier’s went from a cloudy white at the shallower end to an almost translucent black in deeper parts, marked here and there with circular white patches that looked like miniature galaxies in deep space. It is no wonder that Grenadier regulars wait with sharpened blades for a cold snap that will turn the pond into the city’s biggest outdoor rink.

In recent years, city officials concerned about safety and (more the point) liability issues tried to shut the party down. “No skating” signs went up. Those who ventured onto the pond sometimes found city bylaw officers hollering at them from the shore to cease and desist. They were, after all, violating Section 608-21 B of the Toronto Municipal Code, stating that, “No person shall access or skate on a natural ice surface in a park where it is posted to prohibit it.”

[URBAN NOTE] "How Toronto Is Dealing With Its Waterfront Pollution"

Torontoist's Nikhil Sharma takes a look at the state of pollution in Toronto harbor, and Lake Ontario generally.

The Toronto region was designated an area of concern by Environment Canada in 1986. In particular, the government noted issues with Lake Ontario: “Overflows of stormwater mixed with raw sewage are a serious problem following heavy rains in the lower portions of the Don and Humber Rivers and along the waterfront.”

Forty-three areas—12 of which are Canadian—have been identified as having high levels of environmental harm under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the U.S.

For some local environmental groups, that’s a concern.

According to a survey done by environmental advocacy group Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, out of 166 water samples collected from the city’s harbour last summer, a third failed to meet federal standards for safe boating and paddling.

The group made 10 sampling trips between July 15 and September 27. Samples were taken and tested for the presence of E. coli bacteria at Bathurst Quay, Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre, and the marina by PawsWay.

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper founder and president Mark Mattson says the Toronto Harbour is not monitored regularly, so his group did their own monitoring program. He says Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is encouraging the City to monitor other areas of the waterfront where there aren’t beaches.

[URBAN NOTE] "Ripley's Aquarium hosting epic adult-only beach party in Toronto"

blogTO's Phil Villeneuve reports on Beach Bash in the Six, a party held on a themed beach inside Ripley's Aquarium on the 27th of this month.

It may be cold and miserable in Toronto these days, but you don't have to head to the Caribbean to get your fill of beach vibes this winter.

[. . .]

Starting at 8 p.m. with the aquarium closed to the public, the night will feature food stations, a surf simulator, photo booth, and signature cocktails from a Malibu Rum bar.

DJ Shamz will be spinning (he recently closed for Diana Ross when she was in town) and your ticket includes a photo and coat check so that you can wear your favourite beach outfit, uninterrupted by winter layers.

This sounds not uninteresting, I do admit. Certainly it's cheaper than a plane ticket to Cuba.

[URBAN NOTE] Alex Bozikovic on the library as a centrepiece of Canadian architecture

The Globe and Mail's Alex Bozikovic reports on the central place that the library has taken in Canaidan architecture, as a locus for experimentation. As someone who likes the Toronto Reference Library and loves the newly-encountered Bibliothèque nationale in Montréal, this article makes perfect sense.

Imagine a slab: a low box clad in limestone and glass. Then place it on the crest of a hill and split it down the middle, one piece pressed down into the earth and the other slanting up to the sky. This is the three-dimensional drama that animates the new Waterdown Library and Civic Centre in Hamilton.

Inside, more twists. Walk in the door, and you can wind your way to the top of the hill: climbing a series of ramps lined with generous windows and slats of Douglas fir, past green roofs and through six levels of a library filled with colour and dashed with sunlight on all sides. At the top, the payoff: long views from the height of the Niagara Escarpment, taking your eye beyond the suburban road to the broad topography that defines this place, the arcing shore of an ancient sea.

The latest in a string of excellent public buildings from its architects, RDHA, the building is fresh proof that libraries are the locus of creative architecture in Canada. Waterdown brings together an elegant metaphor and accessibility with a sense of place – and shows how excellent art can emerge from constraints.

Plus you can find books here, or pay your taxes. The 23,500-square-foot facility combines the library branch with a seniors’ recreation centre, and smaller functions including an archive and a municipal customer-service office. These are folded neatly into those two boxes: library above, and other functions below.

[. . .]

Librarians – at least Hamilton’s – understand metaphor, and the architects won approval for the complex scheme. The key was linking the building’s two entrances, and the six levels within the library itself, with a series of low ramps, at a 1:20 slope. This makes “a kind of public landscape,” Sharp explains, “that you ascend to reach the different public programs at different levels.”

[LINK] "Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit aims to revive photographer’s work"

Robert Everett-Green's long article in The Globe and Mail, published this September past at the beginning of the run of Focus : Perfection at the Musée des beaux-arts, places the exhibition and Mapplethorpe in their proper contexts. Recommended.

The outward focus of today’s culture war is what Muslim women should be permitted to wear on their heads or at the beach. In the late 1980s, it was whether a publicly funded museum could show art that some elected officials considered obscene.

Robert Mapplethorpe was a key figure in that fracas, which peaked when Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art backed out of a touring exhibition of the American photographer’s works, and police raided Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Cente (CAC) for going ahead with it. The radioactivity of those events, which included an obscenity charge against CAC director Dennis Barrie, clouded discussion about Mapplethorpe for years afterward.

Now that we have burkinis to quarrel about, the art tempests of a quarter-century ago seem almost quaint. But Mapplethorpe’s photos still have the power to startle and even to shock, which is why the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts put part of its retrospective Focus: Perfection – Robert Mapplethorpe behind barriers of smoked glass.

Mapplethorpe, who died at 42, shortly before the Corcoran cancelled his show in 1989, would probably have been pleased to know that some of his work is still hot to handle. He often said, when talking about his shots of faceless men encased in vinyl or fisting each other, that part of what thrilled him about the gay porn magazines he saw while growing up in Queens, N.Y., was that their explicit contents were slightly hidden: inside a plastic cover, with black bars across the models’ eyes.

The current campaign to reset the discussion about Mapplethorpe began a decade ago with a couple of serious shows in Europe, and continues with the MMFA’s iteration of a joint double exhibition by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, drawn from a huge cache of works acquired by those institutions in 2011. An HBO documentary about the Getty/LACMA shows aired last spring, and production has started on a Mapplethorpe biopic, directed by Ondi Timoner and starring Matt Smith.

[URBAN NOTE] "How far is a Montreal mile?"

Writing for CBC News, Montréal writer Sarah Lolley has a lovely essay looking at the issue of subjective distance in cities, modified by weather and mass transit and construction and all sorts of other factors. Lolley's experience has been mine, too, and I think others' experience as well.

Back when my husband was still my boyfriend, I used to joke that we lived 13 subway stops and a good book away.

His apartment was close to the Jane Street subway station in Toronto. Mine was beside the Mont-Royal Metro station on the Plateau.

The actual distance was more than 500 kilometres. But with the STM, VIA Rail, a Dick Francis mystery novel and giddy anticipation propelling me forward, the miles disappeared.

My accountant, on the other hand, was just a 20-minute walk away in Mile End, but making the dreaded trip to his office at tax time could take days. Even weeks.

When I wasn't seeing him (my boyfriend, not my accountant; although both, really), I was typically hanging out with my friends Melanie and Nat, whose apartment two kilometres east of mine was either just around the corner or an insurmountable distance away, depending on the weather.