Archive for the ‘good bad ugly’ Category

The Greying of Toronto | News | We don’t deserve this horrorchitecture

I loved the words Christopher Hume uses to describe the new structure finally arising out of the ashes of Yonge Street’s old has-been, city-expropriated architecture: “nasty dark grey bunker”, “galactic coal-carrier”, “lumpen excuse for a building”, “dead and inert”. And what is this lumpen grey bulky coal carrier called? “Time Life Square.” I had no idea. Did you?

I haven’t see it. But it doesn’t surprise me that a city that thinks cluttering up our sidewalks with garbage bins once a week and converting our neighbourhoods from flora to trash showcases would A-OK horrorchitecture. After all, a city hall that couldn’t care less about the downward spiral of our collective living space from being the cleanest and greenest on the continent to littered and stinky, is not going to care much about what the buildings look like. We really are dependent on individuals, corporations, and developers to ensure we have architecture that one can admire and that provokes (good) thought. For the most part, they’ve been letting us down.

Still, there have been a few shining lights, especially recently. The Crystal at the ROM is a masterpiece that adds to Avenue Road and Bloor, no matter whether one likes it or not. The new opera hall elevates the intellectual life of our city. And Citytv, now owned by Rogers, its iconic building stormed by CTV, may yet save Yonge and Dundas.

The Yonge-Dundas Square is attractive, in a urban, hard-edged way, until one looks to the east side and sees that rather messy temporary structure. It really brings the whole place down. How about erecting a permanent stage of beauty, like the shell at the CNE? (Perhaps Citytv with their penchant for taking over the area around their building may do just that.)

But no matter what a few good corporations do, somehow the citizens of Toronto are going to have to find their moxie and counter the efforts of city hall to turn our urban oasis into a grey dump.

Hogtown Once More | GTA | Bigger bins no small problem

My response to that article was succinct and not for public consumption. Living in this city is becoming more exhausting with each pronouncement by city council. The reason why people look to the past and sigh that life was simpler back then was that life was less regulated, less stressed by government, less infantalized, freer. I’m sure government started imposing rules and regulations before I was born, but I swear they’ve accelerated like a druggie on a logarithmic curve. Take garbage (yes, please, take my garbage!). Back in the bad old simpler days, everyone put out all their garbage in whatever receptacle they wanted. On Wednesdays huge items that didn’t fit in bags or bins were picked up. Twice a week everything — that’s right folks EVERYTHING — was picked up. The streets were clean, gardens were gardens, and people didn’t waste time and brain power sorting their garbage. Everyone could participate, no matter how infirm or poor or overworked because bags are lighter than bins, brain power wasn’t required as everything went into one bag or bin and everything went out the same day of the week, the poor and overworked didn’t have to spend what adds up to hour or hours each week sorting and hauling out the garbage. For the infirm, poor, and overworked, garbage was quick and easy and even they could participate. Then recycling was introduced.

Falling onto the Tracks at Union…Almost | News | Subway hits rough patch in customer satisfaction

While waiting for the Yonge subway last week, a reader said he watched “an elderly woman stumble on an uneven part of the platform and come unbelievably close to tumbling onto the tracks.”

Union and Yonge stations are the most dangerous ones on the line, I’d hazard a guess, because their platforms are way too small for the numbers of people that now crowd onto them. They were built decades ago for a smaller city, a smaller population. This city council likes to trumpet being green; but instead of practical solutions that will ensure greater safety and greater use of a technology or service that already reduces CO and CO2 emissions, they gallop after ideological ideas that just makes our lives more of a headache.

Apparently New York is one of the most green cities per capita. That’s because it has an extensive subway system as well as comprehensive bus service and wheelchair accessible buses. We don’t. After several cuts and fare hikes, our bus service is inadequate to our needs, even in spite of some reinstatements. Decades after New York bought and started using accessible buses, we’re just getting them, and many bus drivers still haven’t figured out how to press that down button so that users infirm and with strollers can get on. I have no idea if people in wheelchairs can get on. Our drivers have even forgotten how to use their vocal chords, so instead of spending the money on widening the platforms at Union and Yonge, something that was needed to be done yesterday, they’re spending it on vocal chord replacement technology. Not only does it signal the fact that we have bus drivers hostile to their customers and too lazy to aspire to doing a good job (unlike their predecessors), and not only does it signal the fact that clearly management has no control over the unionized workers (which really means customer complaints mean SFA), it also breaks the connection between driver and customers. No longer do we get to hear the cheery subway driver call out the stops, or the chatty bus driver add a little extra to stop announcements. Even listening to a clearly peeved driver is more interesting as one can fill the time by speculating what ticked him off. Now it’s the mechanical female voice. Oh well, at least we can hear her.

The TTC used to be a good system for this city. But when an elderly woman almost falls on the tracks, I think we can safely say it’s past its best before date.

Selling out to the American Thanksgiving…


It’s that time of year again for me to head south of the border to spend a US thanksgiving with my American relatives. Two thanksgivings a year, yay! Why does it seem that our Yankee friends are more into thanksgiving then we are ours? Our turkey day has now long past but for some reason right now seems to be the right time for such an event. Do our children dress up as pilgrims and take part in things like harvest lunches at school during our thanksgiving? More and more I like the US version just a little bit better. It almost has that Christmas festive feeling to it, filled with great football games and great Boxing Day sales.

I will probably be doing the Black Friday thing, lining up from the night before to get in on some of the great deals. And now that I have seen some of the online flyers they are definitely great deals. Why don’t we these deals here? A part of me feels bad for making the loonie and spending it in America but hey, the dollar is good, things are cheaper there and I am gonna be there anyway.

During my trip I also plan to catch a NFL game on the same day the Grey Cup will be taking place in my home city. Selling out you might say but I believe a NFL team is much needed in our city and I have never been to a NFL game so you could say I am just checking out what all the hype is about. Don’t get me wrong, the CFL and the Argos I adore but the NFL, to me, is just a little more entertaining.

So, have I sold out to the hype around American Thanksgiving? Or am I just doing what anyone else would do, be drawn near to a more festive and entertaining holiday. A long-long weekend, very festive atmosphere, good football and great deals are just a few things our Thanksgiving seem to be lacking. So have I selling out? Probably but looking forward to the weekend, I am excited to having a wonderful American Thanksgiving with family and friends. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about anyway right? See you next week!

Photo by Chapstickaddict on Flickr

From Both Sides of His Mouth

Mayor David Miller speaks:

“Ultimately, the quality of our natural environment relies on government and citizens doing what they can alone and together to reach the highest levels of environmental achievement.”

“We also know that Torontonians very much want to do the right thing.”

“We’re doing our best to deal with Toronto’s fiscal situation in a way that causes the least damage, and that’s within the city manager’s authority to manage.”

Heritage preservation is recognized throughout the world as a fundamental component of a liveable city,” from Toronto website.

According to Leslie Roberts on CFRB, Mayor David Miller and his minion Councillors want to expropriate from its great-grandmother owner the Matador Club near College and Dovercourt for $800,000 so that they can tear down this heritage building and build 20 smog-producing parking spaces.

I couldn’t stop laughing when Leslie told us all about this latest idea from our City Council, else I’d start crying that the green, fiscally-prudent Mayor’s solution to restoring an old heritage building is to replace it with a parking lot.

Toronto Councillor Comes Round to Roundabouts

City hall eyes traffic circles

I can hear every British immigrant or first-generation Brit going, “Finally!”

The Gardiner is Falling Down


Remember to bring you umbrella the next time you decide to walk under the Gardiner Expressway. Chunks of concrete continue to fall onto Lakeshore Blvd. Umm, here’s a question. How long ago was the Gardiner refurbished? And how much did it cost? Or should I ask, how good were the band-aids and how much did we save buying the cheaper brand.

Toronto Hospital Hygiene in Practice

After SARS swept through the city, some bright researcher polled airports all over the continent and discovered that most men in Pearson’s bathrooms, unlike everywhere else, washed their hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the facilities. Can I just say, ewww gross, to all of you who don’t! This remarkably high level of hygiene was probably because practically every night on the news we saw a doctor from a certain downtown Toronto hospital talking up the fine points of hand washing and hygiene as the best way to prevent the spread of illnesses like SARS and colds. This same hospital was probably the one that spread the gospel of hand sanitizers as a good alternative to old-fashioned soap and water. Bottles of hand sanitizers popped up in hospitals all over the city, appearing at entrances and exits, next to doctors’ offices and neonatal care units, anywhere a human being might be.

Since then every year, during flu season, we get regular updates from that certain hospital’s infectious diseases specialists, about the benefits and necessity of good hygiene to prevent the spread of deadly illnesses like the flu, and when the news gets slow and they want to frighten us, they also include the fact that hygiene is probably the only thing that will save us from the avian flu.

So why then do the bathrooms in this particular downtown Toronto hospital look like a cesspool?

Scarborough Thief

This is just scary.

A gun robbery is, sad to say, common in Scarborough, but the other news story is, well, news to me.

I have lived in Scarborough for a while now and this is the first time I’ve heard of anyone kidnapping a 14 yr old kid, driving them to an ATM, and forcing them to withdraw money with the purpose of stealing it.

How did the thief know that the kid had an ATM card? Was it even worth it? How much money can a 14 yr old have? A kid walking alone at night is not the best target. That thief smells of desperation.

Bomb Threats and False Fire Alarms Continue at York University


At 8pm last night the evacuation alarm sounded in the Technology Enhanced Learning Building (TEL), on the Southside of the York University campus, prompting everyone inside to evacuate the building. We were told to stand at a great distance from the building as the security conducted there investigation in the mater. Security had secured the building and was very tight lipped about what was happening inside. Surprisingly, there were no fire trucks or police cruisers at the scene before or after the alarm was disarmed.

False alarm and bomb threats are a regular on campus throughout the school year, the majority of them coming around the exam months of December and April. Exam time false alarms at YorkU have been down since 2005 according to Gragan Spasojevic, manager of security operations at YorkU, but are still playing the disruptive role to student, faculty and staff. In 2005 the university paid a bill of $162 189.62 to the Toronto Fire Services for responding to false fire alarms. In an April 6th YorkU News Wire Spasojevis stated,

“In responding to false fire alarms and bomb threats, emergency services such as the Toronto Fire Services and Toronto Police Service are tying up valuable resources which could be used to respond to real emergencies, thus placing other members of the wider community at risk.”

The question “What if…?” always remains in the minds of those who work and study at YorkU. What if there was a real bomb? What if it did go off? Would that now constitute a “real emergency?” In a post 9/11 and Virginia Tech world one can never be to certain. Just because these instances happen during a time were these threats are more common I don’t think they should be taken lightly. I understand that the cost of the false alarms may be taking away from the university’s lavish spending on new buildings, subways and archives, but the security on hand last night should at least have been able to tell us what was going on so we could take the proper precautions. Instead were instructed to stand over there and wait. Did I feel safe? Nope, not at all…

Photo: February 21, 2007 Exam false fire alarm
Courtesy: orbz on Flickr

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