Thursday, June 11, 2009

The New York Times Needs A Real Taste of Toronto

Beauty Bar Hipsters
Last month The New York Times covered the TDot in a column called 36 Hours in Toronto. The author Danny Lee covered a few bases in downtown and Leslieville then seemed to find all the hipster haunts, like Oddfellows, Sweaty Betty's and Communist's Daughter, too. If you're from New York are you really going to come here for hipster leftovers? Is it just me or can everyone just get over this hipster bullshit already, I mean is that a way to describe a restaurant? You are what you eat right? Not what you sit next to.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Toronto versus Vancouver

toronto weather

About a month ago I packed up my life in Toronto and made the move to Vancouver. I didn't want to be one of those people that lives and dies within a 20km radius from where they were born. I also appreciate that being Canadian means that I have the opportunity to explore and experience several other livable cities in this great country. I chose Vancouver, frankly, because of the mountains and the ocean. So for now solitude will replace socializing as I build a life on the west coast.

One can try not to compare too much - I think it annoys people really - but I'm already finding there are several things about Toronto I miss. [If you're from Vancouver and hate to hear this stuff go back over to 604style and read about the the finds in your great city.]

1) Graffiti. Toronto has so many interesting back-alleys and bridges covered in street art. Vancouver alleys and walls are begging for it. Seriously thinking about designing some stencils to spray over. Something cute or socially motivating?

2) Food prices. Everything costs a fortune in Van. Try and make a cheap pasta and you'll be paying 3 times as much for a basic bag of rotini. Go out (in Kitsilano especially) and you'll be paying about $5 more for plate of Palak Paneer. The food, however, is pretty good in Vancouver. I know Torontonians think they've got that market covered but there is no lack of options for tasty treats.

3) Nightlife. I'd been warned and people in Toronto were right. There are only so many nights I can get so wasted that I no longer care where I am and what music I'm listening to.

4) The weather. Ha! Just joking, Vancouver has been beautiful so far. Don't remember ever having such a dark tan in Toronto by mid-May.

What passes for heterogeneity in the downtown skyline.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Three Good Things to Start the Week Off Right in the Tdot

Didn't do much this weekend 'cept bummed around Toronto and found a few sweet deals to pass off to the female readers of 416style.

First, while you're reading this, go to the itunes store and pick up either Lily Allen's new album It's Not Me, It's You which just came out last week, or her first album called Alright, Still, especially if you're new to the saucy Brit who busted her way into the industry backed by a huge myspace fan following. Though I do play it often and everywhere, it does seem the perfect album to blare in your car while driving the curvy beach roads up north in the summer. Mark Ronson did a brilliant job producing Alright, Still and giving her a unique sound while she pushes through her own gutsy lyrics. Love that she's got so little to hide. All 11 tracks are only $7 CDN right now.

I spent one sunny day this weekend wandering about the Distillery District. Wonder how the pricey shops will fare during this bust-up in the economy. Seems they're willing to offer a few breaks to buyers. Lileo, a clothing shop which isgreat for browsing and books but usually out of my range has great deals on jeans right now. Brands like Tommy, Goldsign, Joe's and Sass & Bide would usually run you $250-300 at this shop but most of the denim is currently marked down 50%. That's pretty sweet.

From there I went to Queen's Quay near the Guvernment for some groceries and swung into a shop called Joe; it's Loblaws own super cheap clothing label. I've found a great jacket there and a felt laptop bag I got alot of use from. Was wondering if Joe had any goods worth grabbing this time around. Best deal were the socks - stripes, solids and argyle styles, 3 for $6. Best thing is that they're like my fav snowboard socks, with double padding for the feet. I usually pay about $20 a pair for Burton or Volcom snowboard socks so this was a steal. Tried on a few things too, no luck, lots of too short jackets, not for me. Left my Prada shades behind in the changeroom too. Bummer.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Top 5 Things That Annoyed me in Toronto This Week

1. Since Toronto had a major dump of snow this week which only led to more mess with a typical slushy thaw, I decided I'd give in and get myself some waterproof Sorels (winter boots). Everybody who's got 'em on these days is proudly jumping through puddles while billboards all over the city seem to be looking down on me laughing everytime I get a soaker. I dragged myself down Queen Street from The Bay to Get Outside and all I heard from all the shopkeepers is how every place selling Sorels in the city is out of most sizes, which annoyingly also includes mine.

2. I'm staying at a friend's at Spadina and Queen these days where the wireless is surprisingly spotty. Figured I'd fork out $30 for the month to join Toronto's open wireless network One Zone. Figured it would be good to keep data rates on my iPhone down too. (Everytime I log onto Safari it hooks up to the One Zone site so I always have to play around to bypass it as it is.) Jumping onto Safari I went straight to the site, picked a hanle, filled out all my personal details including credit card info and waited to be registered. Three minutes later a warning typed in red told me that my credit card info was invalid. I typed it in again but no luck. I tried another card and the same thing happened. I did this whole thing again using Firefox but it still wouldn't sign my onto the wireless network. I figured I'd call so they could register me over the phone. Their tech guy told me to clear my computer's cache and try again since he couldn't help me over the phone but that if his solution didn't work it must be that their server is down. Forty minutes wasted and now I've given up using the network at all.

3. Parking has been a nightmare downtown but this I'm used to. I parked in a lot at Spadina and King (Impark) one day for work. I figured I'd get all my work done on time so I paid $13 to park until 6PM. It's only $1 more to stay until 8PM but I didn't see anything keeping me late. Well, 7PM rolls around and I'm still in an edit suite with 3 editors working to complete a project. When I finally make it out to my car I find that Impark has given me a ticket for $39.59 even though all I really owe them is $1. I've got 7 days to pay or it goes up to $68.90, then to a collection agent. Anyone know if Impark really has the authority to make people pay or are they just a bunch of scammers? I figure I'll just mail them a cheque for the buck I owe and see what happens.

4. After the crazy week I'd been having I decided to unwind with some shopping last night and also meet-up with my sister. Bloor Street Diner in Manulife Centre was packed so we headed up to Panorama for a sweet city view. Over half the tables were empty, including some nice spots next to the massive windows but the hostess told us all the tables were booked and we'd have to wait 15mins. We were there for an hour and a half and no one was seated at any of those tables at any point. For some reason it annoyed me even more when the hostess cheerily told us to "have a good night" upon leaving. I wanted to snap back but I figured it'd probably be an awkward wait before the elevator came up.

5. With a brutal windchill making the temperature in Toronto feel close to -40C last weekend there wasn't much to do but stay inside and warm up under the covers. Toronto kids can usually take the cold but not when it's this bad. I drove by City Hall to see a bunch of people enjoying Wintercity at Nathan Philips Square but I was too whimpy to get out and skate with the others. Kind of annoyed I missed the party put on by Dave and Irving from Promise and featuring a great circus act out of the Netherlands. Fortunately they've been asked back this weekend and temperatures are warming to a balmy 4C.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Doc Soup for the Soul - Chris and Don A Love Story

Tonight Doc Soup features the Toronto premiere of "Chris and Don: A Love Story" at the Bloor Cinema. Theirs was a love that spanned 30 years and and a significant generation gap, flourishing in a time when many gay couples felt compelled to keep their own lives and loves under wraps. It also tells the story of two talented artists, writer Christopher Isherwood of Berlin Stories and portrait painter Don Bachardy, who's passion for each other drove the two to greater successes.

If the trailer is any indication, this story will certainly be an emotional and inspiring ride.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

AGO's Massive Make-over Revealed Next Weekend

massive change
Originally uploaded by 416style
It was July 2005 when I took the picture Massive Change. Big things were underway. The AGO was just closing and the new design was revealed in a small exhibit showcasing some of architect Frank Gehry's more notorious international buildings. Among Gehry's designs there's the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the most bizarre DZ bank featuring a giant horse head, the brilliant temporary public space at the Serpentine in Hyde Park that I recently visited, and my favourite, MIT's Strata buildings for which Gehry is now being sued.

I didn't have high hopes for AGO's redesign. It was pitched as a glass ice hockey rink suspended over the street. Taking Canadian symbolism too literally makes me mental. I mean, why not just do a maple syrup installation to cover the old building? Fortunately there's little talk of that hockey rink now.

Yesterday I saw some actual photos of the redesign in the Globe and Mail and it surprisingly made me want to cry. The atrium is raw and stunning. Forget futuristic, this is nature on grand scale. Giant cedar timbers curve endlessly. Nothing makes me feel more at home, more Canadian, than being surrounded by our natural elements of stone, wood and water. If he could have spilled a river through the building (like Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water) I might have actually cried.

The Globe also features a sneak-peek of next weekend's surprises in a snippet from a documentary called The Collection. Shot using the new high-resolution RED camera, this doc interviews all the major players behind the AGO's new building and yet-to-be unveiled collections.

No one in Canada has had a better art collection than the late Ken Thomson. I remember the days when every major Canadian art auction was trumped by Thomson. Records for the auctions were constantly breaking. My favorite pieces by Lawren Harris were exceeding millions. I knew this man had a vault in downtown Toronto with some incredible tear-worthy pieces. Some friends working on The Collection visited the vault and told me of its riches, I'd pictured something like Aladdin's cave. Now, due to his family's million dollar generousity, all Canadians will be able to revel in something we can call our own and be truly proud of.

If you have an AGO membership you can visit the galleries starting today, everyone else is entitled to free admission all of next weekend.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Addicted to Plastic

Bubble buy
Originally uploaded by Gavatron
There's no doubt our society has a major addiction to plastic - and not just the credit card variety. As I look around me at work I see plastic phones, plastic TVs, plastic pens and a plastic calculator and stapler. However, what I don't have on my desk is a plastic water bottle, and I have cut the plastic bag habit by more than half. These are but a few of the small things I can do to curb my own personal addiction to plastic. Fortunately other Torontonians are realizing that we can break this dependence, and filmmakers like Ian Connacher are too.

Tonight, Addicted to Plastic, an intriguing documentary directed by Connacher and edited by my talented friend and co-worker Gad Reichman, plays at the Royal Cinema on College at 7PM as part of the Planet in Focus Film Festival. The film premiered at VIFF to a sold-out audience which included the enviro-guru himself, David Suzuki.

If you too have a predilection for plastic, and a curiosity for where it comes from and where it goes, I think you'll be amazed to see some of the film's images, the most incredible of which is a floating island of plastic waste, double the size of Texas, which bears the elusive name The North Pacific gyre.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hop Along Harper

As with every election I hear the woes of friends who seem afraid to let the conservatives continue to run this country. The thought makes them want to crawl into a hole and hide for the next 4 years. As usual these friends seem astounded when the conservatives are actually voted in again, as it happened this week. Is Toronto out of touch with the rest of Canada? Or, is it that our Canadian cousins are simply sick of listening to our whiny self-centred opinions?

According to CBC only 26% of Torontonians voted for Harper, a former resident of our city, while his party picked up 38% of the vote across the board. That's a big stretch, and a strange one when one considers that Toronto is very much the economic engine of Canada. It's hard to argue that voting conservatives into power translate into tax cuts, balanced budgets and decreased deficits. Toronto, under Miller, our formerly NDP mayor, is verging on bankruptcy. Wouldn't it help to have some friends in Ottawa? I mean, I hear the whining from all sides - Toronto deserves more of its cut, but if we keep spending (as the NDP is prone to do) can we really keep expecting handouts?

Since we don't seem to care so much about financial stability there must be another story here - and there is. Our cosmopolitan grounding means we see the world through different eyes and because we've seen it all and live with such diversity we place high value on individual freedoms, freedoms that would be lost if the Conservative had won a majority of seats. So, if it's gonna take this city-slicker to keep that from happening maybe Toronto's got the right idea after all and we should happily tell Mr. Harper to hop along.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Can Art Unite A Community?

Originally uploaded by 416style
For years residents and businesses on the Bloor Street strip between Keele and Dundas West have battled over the area's graffiti-covered back-alleys. It started with the "Keele Wall", behind Midas, where friends of mine have been spray-painting for years. The work has evolved but it's always been eye-catching, drawing the attention of subway riders riding the Bloor Street track and other graffiti artists whose work began to spread eastward.

Up until a year ago the alley artwork covered a huge stretch, all the way to the Dundas West subway station. It drew even more attention, from residents who were drawn to the art and others who knew the strip as a landmark. Unfortunately Toronto City Hall was paying attention too. When they decided to get tough with graffiti they decided the art-strewn walls had to go.

Now, selective pieces will be going back up. The Bloor-by-the-Park BIA is bringing businesses, artists and residents together in an event called ComeUnity. Tomorrow between 10AM and 10PM you can watch as the community unites for a little love in the name of art.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gawker Stalker: Pharrell Williams Shopping on Spadina

It's 6:51 on Monday night and the man from the Billionaire Boys Club, Mister "You're So Beautiful", Pharrell Williams, is checking out sneaks and doing a meet and greet at Livestock on Spadina. My two illustrious gawker friends could only peel themselves away from the window long enough to drop me a line. (Something about Spadina seems to be drawing the attention of some of my favourite hip hop icons lately.) Too far away to get there myself but I'm dying to know what Pharrell's got in his bag.