Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Cult of Sanitized Urban.

Ever since the tender age of 16, I've had a penchant for the dive bar. I'm not really sure why, it just fits my working class upbringing I suppose. I'm not talking about those endless pseudo trucker cap places that pass for 'edge' in the new culture that proliferates downtown; I'm talking about that local booze joint down the street any self-respecting 'careerizing urbanite' would never dare enter. Unfortunately in their pursuit of maximum gratification in an abbreviated amount of time, weekend warriors and condo kids are missing the point; there's something communal about a watering hole. Its glory is that it is urbanism in its truest, unsanitized form. I've often found that in a large faceless city, it serves as the ultimate humaniser. The role of the dive bar has remained steady over time as a place for locals to gather and drink. Period. It's the place where you leave your ego at the door and proceed to get souced (for better or worse) with your butcher or ex-stripper neighbour. In short, one begins to unknowingly identify with the peculiar quirks of one's immediate community.

However, as the Dyl' is oft quoted 'the times they are a changin'.

It's just as tough in wannabe Toronto. The recent rash of closings and 'cleansings' reads like a who's who of neighbourhood character. The Drake, The Gladdy, The Connaught... hell, even Duffy's at Dufferin and Bloor is cleaning up its act. Ripe for redevelopment in a voracious market filled with a hip clientele hungry for the elusive 'authentic', these once plentiful places of leisure are nearly extinct as they are stripped in order to be more palatable to the monied 'creatives'. Replaced with chic tempered clones and chain schlock, cheap booze and low overhead gives way to $10 Martinis, Belinis and those yummy Orange Steve-O's.

In a city which ironically defines itself by its neighbourhoods, it's merely another symptom of the fundamentally homogonizing nature of the Toronto experience. No wonder this place gets such an ass reputation.

But then again, we'll always have Joe Merc's.

Monday, March 28, 2005

'Municipalis Non Grata'

Centralia Pennsylvania has been burning continuously since 1962 and is projected to burn nearly a thousand more years more. Some locals hold out undaunted.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

For the Fans

Raising your childhood daughter is tough business. While John may have had that refined edge concerning the whole matter, is this method perhaps the most effective?

The sad point is that no one watched his redeeming comeback - including myself - because it was formula pap. On the contrary, everyone at one point or another has spent a rainy random Saturday afternoon watching that perennial Superstation favourite. And unfortunately it is for this epic that we will remember him most. Granted, after that glorious stint at the top, that long twenty year fiasco in movies took its toll. C'mon, remember the good years!

Also from the Where are They Now File:

Q: Where's former Problem Child star Michael Oliver?

A: He's apparently crewing under the handle 'PC' as a Drum Tech/Stage Set Up/Computer Wizard for the Samples. Nice.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Jane Jacobs - The Death and Life of Great American Cities, p.243

A diversified mixture of uses at some place in the city becomes outstandingly popular and successful as a whole. Because of the location's success, which is invariably based on flourishing and magnetic diversity, ardent competition for space in this location develops...

The winners in the competition for space will represent only a narrow segment of the many uses that together created success. Whichever one or few uses have emerged as the most profitable in the locality will be repeated and repeated, crowding out and overwhelming less profitable forms of use...

Thus, from this process, one or few dominating uses will finally emerge triumphant. But the triumph is hollow. A most intricate and successful organism of economic mutual support and social mutual support has been destroyed by the process.

From this point on, the locality will gradually be deserted by people using for purposes other than those that emerged triumphant from the competition - because the other purposes are no longer there. Both visually and functionally, the place becomes more monotonous. All the economic disadvantages of people being spread insufficiently through time of day are likely to follow. The locality's suitability even for its predominant use will gradually decline, as the suitability of downtown Manhattan for managerial offices has declined because of this reason. In time, a place that was once so successful and once the object of such ardent competition, wanes and becomes marginal.

My Sentiments Exactly.

Second Floor Apartment, Richmond St. at York St., London, Ontario. 05/03/22

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The 'Diary'.

Living vicariously through the lens of Brian Battjer, jr.

From male stripping (‘we did it for science’) to girls schools (‘the “coming out” debauchery’), he puts the whole New York hipster experience into perspective.

It’s shit like this that makes the net bearable.

(Spidered via Google Images and What I See).

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

'Someday Children Everywhere Will Thanka Me!'

Thank Goodness for Chef Boyardee! (via Metafilter)

A folk Hero to I-talians everyhwere!

"Boiardi's spaghetti sauce soon became famous throughout Cleveland, and his restaurant patrons began asking him for extra portions of sauce to take home with them, which he doled out in milk bottles. Demand for his spaghetti sauce grew so large that he started producing it in an adjacent loft and selling it with dry pasta and packets of his special cheese.

Hector Boiardi later plunged into full-time pasta making, adopted the (for Americans) easier-to-spell "Boyardee" version of his name..."

Hey wait a minute, there's no 'y' in Italian!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Progress... 'Toronto Style'

Another victim of the rapidly materializing 'urban monoculture'?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Rise of Hipster Bland.

Fresh off his recent success evaluating Montreal (pdf), I'm finally prepared to entertain the works of our latest guru Mr. Florida. Nonetheless, before making any type of Jonestownian leap of faith, the following must be taken into consideration:

"These days every time I walk down, say, Rivington Street, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, or Fifth Avenue, in Brooklyn's Park Slope, I notice how the distinctions between the hip places are beginning to blur. One cool business district looks pretty much like the next, just the way one suburban mall looks pretty much like the next. And once you start thinking about creativity in terms of class, hipness as a monoculture seems like the inevitable outcome."

Monday, March 07, 2005


Ever wanted to travel in subterranean comfort from Long Branch to Rouge Hill - all the while knowing you can stop over in such scenic places as Rexdale, Downsview, Agincourt or Malvern on a whim? Nah, me neither - and neither apparently does our visionary mayor. While I'm not too sure about the $8 zillion price tag, I do have full respect for the author's ambition. I've literally poured over hundreds of these during the past decade and I've never seen anything as bold as this.

Hobby transit planning is a culture unto its own. Knowing maybe 1% of a utopian vision will ever be implemented, us diehards nonetheless trudge along hoping that one day this bad, bad world of funding cuts and efficiency will evaporate into a cultural epiphany of the importance of meaningful public transit. Happily, many 'routers' are finally seeing the benefits of modes beyond the mantra of heavy rail. Designs for cheaper forms of mass transit such as the rebuilding and expansion of the streetcar system and the proliferation of busways have fostered a new focus on projects which can result in realistic, tangible victories.

While I'm a big proponent of renewing before expanding, the idea of easing the burden on the overworked transit system is enticing. New construction would bridge the large swaths of the city which are not serviced by mass transit as the existing system fails to integrate large portions of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. In a city which is densifying, access will mean everything to future economic growth and employment opportunities. Reliable access to skilled and creative labour are fast becoming the cornerstones of the viable 21st century metropolis.

To many transit enthusiasts, it is this understanding of the significance of mass transit that drives their vision. It is a noble cause indeed.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ice Cream, Ice Cream... Everybody Loves Ice Cream!

After the Market.

Helsinki, August, 2004.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Motor City

Proof that every great place has a myth?