Tuesday, March 13, 2012


is need of a video montage!


Stay tuned

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hipster Marmalade

I've always been fascinated by the hipster. The modern day hippie come yuppie that yearns for unique experiences whether real or contrived. Zany coffee shops and off-beat bars are the habitat of choice. Their mating habits are incomprehensible and consciously complicated. A challenge once perfect for a farm kid like me seeking to experience life.

As hipsters embark on their 30s, they seek normalcy through the active pursuit of the 'perfect life'. An ideal characterized by an urbane lifestyle, perfect mate and affluence that affords them the ability to indulge the latest fad and novelty in perpetuity. So much as been written about inner-city gentrification as of late. Marcus Gee is the latest champion as he witnesses his west end neighbourhood's rise in monetary value. I can appreciate that. Everyone loves to feel the validation of making a successful life investment. He also claims that his neighbourhood is improving. He's right. Crime is down, investment is up, and people are clamouring for the inner city. The streets are busy.

These are all important things to a City so concerned with its image. Toronto has never been so shiny.

I moved out of hipster central a couple of years ago. Not because I didn't enjoy urbanity, but because I did not enjoy the emerging vibe. Vanity and pretence were no longer appealing to me. As a new wave refashioned communities to suit their tastes, I felt like I was missing something more; honesty and authenticity. I took what I learned and moved home and now apply myself to improving the quality of life for residents of a mid-sized City undergoing a transformation of a different and declining kind. Sure it's not as vibrant, but at least it's not contrived and commodified; and it's interesting.

In today's 'creative cities', hipsters are the new bellwether, that key determinannt of a city's success. Indices, cultural plans and a slew of other gimmicks are being thrown abut as means for smaller communities to have their piece of the elusive and apparently rewarding hipster pie. Sure, we have punks, foodies, environmentalists and urban professionals here. But they're embedded into the larger community and that's enlightening. Conversations are meaningful and direct, marketing and spin don't factor into the lexicon. Scenes haven't been codified. Bars are for everyone. It's not uncommon to see an e-bike or smartcar beside a 4x4 at the stop light. The diversity is thick. It's refreshing.

Food is the new fad these days. A dozen cobs of corn grown out back sell here for $2.50, yet bring in over $5 in the old hipster hood. 'Locally grown' costs an extra buck. And while the ladies at the church here make marmalade and drop it around with a lovely thank you letter, hipsters make marmalade to sell at kitschy overpriced nonsense coffee shops.

Oh the irony.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Detroit Needs a Revolution

The decay of Detroit is well documented. From burned out mansions to abandoned luxury hotels, the City is portrayed as the endpoint of our culture; a fallen empire based on the automobile and heavy industry. I don't even bother to take pictures anymore.

Built for a population of 2.1mln people, the City barely supports 800,000 these days. While thriving communities exist, the flight has been epic and entire sections of the City uprooted for the suburbs. The City is bankrupt. Left with crumbling infrastructure and no tax base, the powers that be are moving toward clearing entire sections and shrinking the City to pre-determined nodes.

These hinterlands are sparsely inhabited and require municipal services such as police, water and sewer. Holdouts that have been failed by governments through riots, arson and every other form of social upheaval are now threatened with the forced abandonment of homes that have protected them for a generation. They're angry.

The problem of Detroit is epic; epic in scale and how it must be tackled. Nothing short of a revolution is required. A complete rethink of community, economy and the environment. And it must be bottom up. The seeds have been sown, but its a long row.

Grace Lee Boggs is one of my favourite people. Don't know her, but she's a ray of sunshine in a troubled place. Building community is an art; that ever changing collection of interests that need to be harnessed for lofty goals.

I wish them luck.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Uncle Tom's Oil Run

A lazy summer afternoon is best served by staycation:

Steam Engine Appreciation
Warming Up...
A Pull from Above
Freedom Fact: Josiah Hensen was no Uncle Tom...
Which was followed by a booogey dance-off in his honour!!
Uncle Tom's Cabin

Peeping Uncle Tom???
The 3-D machine that makes those old two pictures amazing!

Jerker Line
A Gusher!

One Magical Tent!!!
What's Cookin'?!?!
Sheeps and Jerker Lines
Oil Heritage Cultural Heritage District
Oil Heritage!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Full Circle

12 years away and the world back home is just the same. Same landscape, same icons, same people... only older. Came back in time to watch it all change.

Maybe I'm just sentimental.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Toronto

My Winnipeg is a beautiful movie. While the storytelling is occasionally awkward, the subject matter is profound and the story universal. This 'docu-fantasia' follows Guy Maddin's obsession with escape from small-town Winnipeg - and ultimately why he can't. As such, it had the possibility to descend into nostalgic pap, but it doesn't, and that's what makes it so wonderful. It's a journey into the meaning of place through myth. A surreal love letter to my Winnipeg, warts and all.

A myth is a sacred narrative, a blending of the real and unreal to inform thoughts and values. In effect, a common metaphor. What Maddin understands is that fact is irrelevant as long as it helps us understand how history makes us who we are and more importantly what we can aspire to. He spins myth as poetry - and in the process realizes that this mythic pull of home makes Winnipeg the only home he can ever have.

Winnipeg is legendary for its self-deprecating spirit. At the middle of the middle of the North American continent, the immense distances and frozen landscapes make for a hardened frontier mentality that breeds a curious mix of disdain and fierce pride of what it is.

Contrast this with Toronto.

Toronto is a city which is no longer comfortable with itself. It has destroyed any semblance of myth in a drive to erase and rebuild anew socially and culturally. It has no foundation to build from, no understanding of what it was to determine what it is and perhaps what it could be. There is no overriding public interest. The results of this annihilation has even manifested itself physically.

Architecture in Toronto has achieved hipness in the civic mindset as of late. In a city disdainful of reference points, this social and cultural rootlessness has manifested itself in the 'icon'. Each new project seeks to capture this resignation and arbitrarily recreate the City in its image. Couching themselves in the laudable goal of intensification, developers are exploiting this disdain with interventions without any notion of context. This town has determined that there is no fabric to build upon, only a blank slate on which to project a brave new world. Rather than explore a uniquely Toronto-style, the fundamentals of the international style are alive and well in Toronto; the break with the past is complete. Tellingly, even the limited historical preservation is based solely on architectural merit.

Without myth and common metaphors, all that is left is cynicism. As Toronto guts itself of its former past, the locals are getting restless. While previous generations saw a break with tradition through an optimistic lens, a city without a rooted soul in this age is a City adrift. Passing cynicism is undermining the civic spirit and by extension civic engagement. Few people profess a love affair with Toronto - and the script in support does seems more like blatant boosterism than genuine adoration.

The Toronto of 1908 is fundamentally different than the Toronto of 2008. Methodist Rome has morphed into Multicultural City and that is a good thing. What is worrisome is the amnesia of the past. Cities are intricately layered and in that lies their beauty. Generations and generations of lives, work, hopes and dreams (real or imagined) provide a foundation from what to aspire to. While neither cool nor hip, that's who we are. Treating it as outdated and inconsequential is the real civic tragedy.

Something Guy Maddin completely understands.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Again, again and again...

Some days I wish there was the time to pontificate like there once was. Take this latest sack of excrement from my favourite moron:

"Hillier, a Progressive Conservative MPP who once led the provincial landowners' movement, said the problem is related to provincial legislation such as the Clean Water Act, the provincial policy statement on land use and other "stupid" measures that restrict rural communities and property owners, as well as an "atrocious amount of red tape."

"That pushes people out of rural Ontario into urban areas," said Hillier. "As a result, their schools have declining enrollment and are closing up."

While I have yet to figure out the connection between these 'stupid measures' and declining school enrollment, I am well aware of declining birth rates, changing rural economic trends and centralization. Most of us are also aware of the vast rural development imbalance between communities with amenity features and those without - that go well beyond simple space factors. I believe in the benefits of rural schools, and attended them... ones which have since closed. It's also true that their closing rips the heart and soul out of a community. What isn't true is that rural communities are emptying simply because one has to locate the well 50' from the house or can't level their wetland for a gun range. As I've said before, co opting a desperate population for cheap special interest political gain seems to be a reoccurring theme with this fellow. A 'Rural Yahoo' indeed.

It smacks of insincerity... or perhaps it's just mere stupidity. I hope the latter.

Yet another bullshit statement from this one-trick pony and now appointed as Opposition Critic for Rural Affairs and Municipal Affairs and Housing. With this moron as official critic, rural Ontario is doomed. If there ever was a reason to get rid of Tory, this more than anything has to be it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sign of the End Times

As of November 9, 2007, Levitt and Sons, proud purveyors of Levittown and quintessential cookie-cutter suburbia, has abruptly gone bankrupt.

As the bodies of the American housing bubble begin to pile up, one has to ask... what's so special about Manhattan?

Happy New Year.

Friday, July 27, 2007

This one is for the Planning Nerds.

Urban Morphology Online Journals. 1997-2001

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


My next Tiger's game will certainly include a trip to this place.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

'Keepin' it Real'

Who would have thought the Star would debase itself with such insensitive drivel:

In the days before the killings, Benoit and his wife argued over whether he should stay home more to take care of their mentally retarded 7-year-old son, according to an attorney for the WWE wrestling league.

As we all know, the proper term has been 'intellectual disability' since the Conference of '86.

Oh dear Star, how low have you fallen.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Well, I see it's been three months since I posted last. Amazing what a new job and a 100 acre farm will do to you.

Although, it isn't like much has changed... the London Fog is still all about the cheese, Edey's still frothed about the Frenchmen, and the Eponist is posting as frequently as I.

Frankly there's not much to say... just wondering really if my blogger account was still active.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Welcome to the Trough Mr. Hillier.

As predicted right here on the Velvy back in January 2005, Mr. Randy Hillier - professed savior of all Rural Ontario - is indeed running for provincial office. While we predicted the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean back then, Mr. Hillier has instead set his glorious eyes on the newly formed Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington. A hodgepodge of locales consisting mainly of commie Lanark County and its progressively minded environs.

Yet, like the Velvet Lounge, it appears that the provincial PCs are just as reluctant in embracing this apostle of the people. When the rube retired from the Lanark Landowners Association - not a month ago, mind you - he planned to 'take a needed rest and the time to enjoy his family'. But we knew better - the provincial legislature has just raised mpps salary 25%. Who could resist?

In the end, I hope he gets the nomination. If so, he's guaranteed a seat. And with Hillier having a seat, we're all guaranteed a few good laughs. The man is just not a carny, he's the whole damn carnival.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Oh the Humanity!!!

Fresh from the Edey blogroll dungpile, I am putting up this choicey lump of bullshit for posterity's sake... simply because I can.

It reminds me of the time the Dutchman's shit sprayer went haywire and coated the entire side of our 60' high barn.

The first comment is kinda funny though.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


The SCRCA has announced the 2007 installment of the great Sydenham River Canoe Race as Sunday, April 22nd.

This year should be excellent. After discussions with the Masteraid crew, it has been decided that the race itself will be a mere leg of a much greater 3-4 day journey.

50+km from Napier to Florence.

A detailed trip log will be in order.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Hey 'Canada's New Government', you suck.

Bring back the Collections.


In related news, resident rube retires and the King has a capital idea.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

When Bricks and Mortar Matter

The venerable Fraser-Hickson is closing January 31st. After 121 years of service to the working-class neighbourhoods of NDG, this privately endowed public library - the first public library in Montreal - is broke. Primarily volunteer-run and community based, a three-year municipal funding agreement dried up in October leaving the mainly Anglo facility in the position of depleting its endowment by $54,000 a month. To stop the haemorrhaging, the Board immediately put the facility up for sale.

As much a community centre as library to the under serviced neighbourhood, the locals are mobilizing through petitions, fundraising and protests (including mp3s) to protect what is collectively viewed as the heart (or 'living room') of their neighbourhood.

For those particularly interested, an excellent audio documentary will be appearing on this CBC website soon.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hip 'Hoods

While researching a trip to New York this weekend, I came across this. Equally applicable to Toronto.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

All Things Considered

It has been a raucous year for the Auld League. From reprehensible imports to ‘suspended’ franchises, 2006 has understatedly been an undistinguished season. My Tabbies posted one of the worst campaigns in memory, an excruciatingly drawn-out exercise only tempered by the Boatmen’s self-ruination in the Eastern Final.

Legends retired, expired and perspired. A Commissioner was overthrown and rule oversights have muted what little particular enjoyment was left of the game.

A seven months I'd - all things considered - prefer to forget. Let’s hope this year’s Grey is worthy - I know I'll be getting shit-faced... just in case.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Toronto Municipal Election Redux, courtesy of Spacing.

* Also note the much contested Brooke-Alvinston spectacle.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Christopher Moore - 1867: How the Fathers Made A Deal, p.251

The 1860s suggest powerfully that the problem of the 1990s (and moreso today - ed.) lies less with parliamentary government than with the fact that it has largely ceased to function in Canada. When the (1997) election was over, what seemed missing from Canadian politics was that dead, and dismissed, and derieded concept from Victorian textbooks, responsible government.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, responsible government meant that the survival of the prime minister and his cabinet depended, day by day, on the verdict of a vigilant parliament. Members of Parliament were chosen by, close to, and dependent on (for those times) a broadly based and well-informed electorate. Contemplating the results of the election of 1997, I found myself wishing we lived under conditions more like those.


With better things to do these past two weeks, my re-entrance into civilized society was highlighted with the news that Garth Turner was inexplicably sacked. Amid the rampant censuring of the Reformed Reform Party command-control machine (interpreted as 'party discipline' by some), Garth Turner often served as the lone constituent voice in a party which has taken perversion of parliamentary democracy to consistently new extremes.

Given that the good people of Calgary-Southwest are actually the only ones who elected Mr. Harper, I find it odd - and tragic - that simple disagreement is enough to warrant such an arbitrary dismissal of the elected Halton member of caucus. No Bush stomping here. Our system of government is pretty basic. Local people are elected to go and convey our views in the great national forum. Parties developed around representatives with similar political and policy interests with leaders dependent on the constituent minded support of caucus. Today's party practice has turned this fundamental notion upside down. The caucus has been degraded to the role of mere 'disciplined' disciples - sent out to blindly preach the gospel of whatever doctrine the top-down regime dreams up.

Mr. Turner seems to be the only one to understand the original concept:

"I have said here many times, and consistently since I was elected this last time, that I work for the voters — the people, the taxpayers. After that I heed my party and the political establishment. All are important, of course, but the people come first."

With such autrocratic machinery in place, are we to now blindly trust these characters to 'reform' the Senate 'for all of us'?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Thomas Jefferson - Notes on the State of Virginia, p.164-165

Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example. It is the mark set on those, who not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistance, depend on it the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the design of ambition. This, the natural progress and consequence of the arts, has sometimes perhaps been retarded by accidental circumstances: but, generally speaking, the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any state to that of its husbandmen, is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good enough barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption. While we may have land to labour then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Togetherness and Reconstruction We Trust

I'd considered a 'First 100-esque' diatribe. Yet on the heel of 'Red Friday', I ask Bev... where's the abortion debate... the Wheat Board showdown... senate reform? In effect, the burning issues of 'thirteen unlucky years of appaling pillage' that brought us this minority government in the first place.

Is the domestic agenda being forced off the radar?

UPDATE: As per the comments, a self-portrait is in order. I found that dapper hat in a kitschy store on Queen West:

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Morning has Broken...

With cup of coffee in hand, I found myself climbing a loaded hay wagon this cool morning to enjoy something I haven't seen in a while: