Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sweet Jane

The Albany Street Empress has expired.

It was a good run.

Update: Fine NYT article.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Since I've been small, I've had a fascination with big projects - the city building aspect I suppose. Turning industrial cities into thriving machines and then resurfacing when things turned sour. Consequently, the list has been light since the early 80s... with one exception:

The Big Dig.

In Boston last year, I walked it. In fact, I remember forcing K.E. Moffatt to drive its length through the usual protest; fresh from another sojourn to 'Krappy's' and on our way to a delightful family summer barbeque in the burbs as I recall - at the 'woman's' aunt's house. Anyways, the sheer mass of the Big Dig undertaking was spectacular - from Chinatown to the Fleet Centre - the place was chaos. Tunnels dug, subways relocated, centrepiece bridges built. Boston had ripped up its downtown in order to reconnect itself. The project meant once to save was being upgraded from Spadina Horror to Park Avenue fantasy and finally the downtown could be one again.

But now how to reconnect it?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A True Son of the West

The Story of Ian Tyson. With rodeo hopes dashed, he went east and became a star - only to give it all up and pack for home...

to this.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


John Raulston Saul - Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, c.10, p.263-264.

It isn't suprising in this historical context that rational structures, moral beliefs and representative government have been confused as on one in people's minds. Nor that today, while structures reign supreme, man's sense of right and wrong is in frenzied confusion. And that democracy in the West, after a gradual rise over 150 years, is in sharp decline. Not that there are fewer elections or fewer politicians or less talk of politics. There has never been so much voting and campaigning and talking throughout the developed world. But the direct effect of citizen politics upon policy and administration seems extremely tenuous. Parliaments have become colourful circuses and to the extent that they attempt to exercise power, it is incresingly as the public arm of lobby groups.

None of this would have been possible had the people themselves not been seduced by the religion of reason. Once they had accepted that such things as expertise, administration and efficiency were irrefutable values, they couldn't help but look upon their own assemblies - chosen by their own vote - as old-fashioned, talkative and inefficient gatherings. These were no longer places where all good citizens would aspire to serve for a time. Instead, the people took to watching their ministers dash schizophrenically about, lost between attempts to become both administrators and stars. As administrators, they assimilate themselves with their bureaucrats in order to prove that the result of the democratic process is rational action. From there they somersault over and ever deeper into the light show of personality politics. They learn to project their looks, the whiteness of their teeth, their sporting abilities, their love for their wives and their ability to create fully formed children. Elected to set policy and govern, they flip frenetically from attempts at bureaucratic administration to embarrassing and irrelevant displays of "personality". Whatver policymaking aim they do manage to bring to power seems to wither away with experience.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


When I came to Toronto, I chose to give up my car... and now that I want to go see to the McMichael Collection, it suddenly becomes a hassle. But that is a lot less hassle than the everyday grind for the thousands who take the 35 Jane from Weston. While the Regions have GO Transit, Rexdale has this. And now in its bid for suburban love, the Province is making a big pitch. Thankfully, the TTC is dragging it's feet.. it's not nobility, it's the fact this bankrupt city has to cough up nearly an equal amount to the province - plus future operational costs.

But is the Province pushing the affluent suburbs down Toronto's throat? With the newly minted Greater Toronto Transportation Authority coming out - and federal funds for the York extension questionable - perhaps the Province is giving the TTC an ultimatum. Either support the elephant and remain independent, or cry financial 'excuses' and suffer the wrath of another round of regional amalgamation.

Not only would one regional system be bad for the insular power politics at the TTC, but more importantly it would be bad for the Weston's and Long Branch's. When the Commission went Metropolitan, it was the political dissolution of the zone system, regionalism and the introduction of the suburban bus routes that turned the TTC into the financial orphan it has become. A history of politically compensating for low ridership suburban lines with reduced frequency on profitable lines does not make good business sense.

And now we're buying into it all over again as the system crumbles.

Is it worth the $1.5 billion to satisfy the heady dreams of 'city-builders', heavy-rail enthusiasts and glad-handing politicians alike? There are other means to serve low density, car-oriented Vaughan without extending a full-fledged subway 6.5km into a windswept field doubling as a future suburban downtown... and for much less I'd think.