Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Spacing Hops On Board with 416style

Four corners streetcar
Originally uploaded by 416style.
In a vain search to see where 416style's recent TTC strike piece ended up in Google's search priority list I came across this streetcar pic I'd posted on flickr now heading up Spacing wire's story of the same subject. I was so pleased. Spacing is a fantastic Toronto-based publication (web + print) that features stories and photographs about public spaces and urban planning. Seems Torontonians care a ton about how our public spaces are used and abused. Want to find out more? Check out Spacing for yourself. You'll get insight into things such as what a Toronto Flaneur is and does, and how many colours and shapes make up the Toronto subway system.

Monday, May 29, 2006

TTC Strike Strands Thousands

Originally uploaded by a soundtrack for everyone.
Thousands of Torontonians woke up this morning oblivious to the TTC strike that had begun - with very little warning - at 4am this morning. That a union upset by shift changes should have so much power in the country's financial capital is insane. Approximately 800,000 commuters are affected by the actions of the transit commission's maintenance workers, and on a smog day nonetheless! I did my usual drive into downtown along the beautiful Lakeshore Blvd and hadn't noticed any change on traffic flows, but at the office several of my co-workers hadn't made it in.

Thankfully the last time the TTC went on strike it only lasted 2 days, considering this is "an illegal strike" (say the TTC) it should be wrapped up quick, otherwise bike to work week is going to start a little earlier this year.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Toronto Throws Open Its Doors This Weekend

Every year Doors Open is an event to look forward to, for many it is our only chance to peek into hidden corners of Toronto’s rich cultural and historical background. For no admission fee, except perhaps a little patience, you can wander back in time to see what made places like The Carlu, Liberty Grand or St. Lawrence Hall thrive. New to the list this year is the much talked about Palais Royale, currently undergoing a 2 million dollar renovation. Even though it isn’t fully completed, the public is allowed in (Sunday only) to view the work-in-progress. Also new to the list are the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, the tall ship Empire Sandy and MTV’s new digs at The Masonic Temple. Popular photographer hang-out, the Don Valley Brick Works, will also be open to sightseers with representatives from Evergreen on-hand to show you a bit about the site’s proposed enviro-friendly redevelopment strategy and help you plant a tree. Bring your friends, family and your camera.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Out with the Old, In with the New

revue stroll
Originally uploaded by 416style.
We're all watching intently as the face of Toronto gets a major lift. Condos are shooting up, the waterfront is slowly being developed and previously gritty areas of the city are seeing new upstarts dressing their windows. It's fantastic, sometimes.

My main hope is that our skyline, starting with the downtown core, gets some new life. We're all still waiting to see whether Trump's Toronto Tower, made up of hotel and residential suites, climbs up 70 stories, or whether the slick Sapphire Tower even breaks ground.

While these shining new examples of entrepreneurial drive make us proud, it is also the endearing old landmarks dotted across the cityscape that fill our cup of civic pride right up to the rim. Recently, in the area where I work, developers bought the 80-year-old shop Crangle's Collision for about $28 million, so that the wannabe W hotel and condo development, 550 Wellington, can emerge in all its glassy glory. It took them less than a week to rip down Crangle's, and while the old guy who ran it is now laughing all the way to the bank, its funky facade on Bathurst Street will be missed by many.

A garage, however, doesn't appeal to the sense of community that an old theatre might. Certainly it will be harder to part with community landmarks like an old repertoire. I read this morning, in a link to The Star, that the family who runs some of the old reps in Toronto has chosen to close down 3 of the remaining theatres by end of June. They don't have the wherewithal to keep them going, they said. Come on! Surely someone can run these businesses into a profit position. The Revue on Roncesvalles is a quiet place, but The Royal on College is home to international festivals such as Hot Docs and Resfest.

The growth of Toronto is happening at a rapid pace. Sadly, if us fickle 416ers don't continue to support our favourite neighbourhood landmarks and businesses we'll lose a lot of what gives this city its personality. New and modern facades are great while our curiosity lasts, but there's nothing wrong with a few old wrinkles to give this city some character.

If you like watching films at all, please visit a rep in Toronto this month. The only way to keep these old gems is to show your support; maybe we can help turn this around.

Monday, May 08, 2006

From Turtles to Troubled Times: Hot Docs Festival Wraps in Toronto

deep in thought
Originally uploaded by 416style.
Hot Docs wrapped its festival yesterday, handing out a slew of awards to filmmakers from around the globe. The last documentary I checked out, The Chances of The World Changing, didn't garner any recognition but there was tough competition with industry veterans like Werner Herzog submitting to the festival.

The Chances of the World Changing was a melancholy look through the eyes of troubled NYC writer Richard Ogust, who, years ago, rescued a turtle from an Asian food market. His passion for saving turtles grew until he ended up with over 1600 turtles in his Manhattan apartment, many of them on the endangered species list. His life and ability to help the creatures spiraled downward, facing eviction, charges from wildlife authorities and declining resources to finance the $100,000+ a year venture.

The documentary takes us along for the ride, leading us all to hope that this man's dream of opening a herpetology institution on a farm in New Jersey would make all his struggles eventually seem worthwhile. We’re always told we can make our dreams come true, so can’t we? In fact, the filmmakers reveal at the screening that they had pictured Richard’s final narrative on the grounds of the turtles' new conservation area in NJ.

However, Richard makes his final remarks from Coney Island after some devastating realizations about this life's work and dreams. It left me with the feeling that the filmmakers had seemed intent to take us on the hard road from the very start, deciding to leave out every spark of life, every new egg hatched, every glory that Richard achieved along the way. In the end, it's Richard who reveals the narrative we’ve clung to all along, ”It's not the process he admits, it's the end goal”, and without achieving your dreams it makes the whole process worthless. I can’t say I agree, Richard made some amazing headway and I think he should be recognized for that alone. However where he failed, or where others failed him, was in raising the funds necessary to make the Herpetology Institution a reality.

As a turtle lover myself (see my 13-year-old turtle pictured above) I found it extremely hard to digest the lack of attention given to species who are falling into extinction, mostly because no institution exists that cares enough. The Turtle Survival Alliance does offer some hope but has very little funding to work with. If there is anything you can do to help, please visit: http://www.turtlesurvival.org/

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bombay Calling

Most of us would never want to work at a call centre, but in many parts of the world this outsourced occupation is offering new hope for youth who have the ability to speak English. Offering up to 10,000 rupees a month ($300 Canadian), it's a tough and competitive occupation. If you miss a day you'll be fined (never mind one's wife is giving birth) and if you don't make a sale you'll be standing up until you can close one.

Bombay Calling, which played today at Toronto's Hot Docs festival, gives us a window into the world of Indian youth living the good life. With what we would consider a meagre salary, they can offer their parents their own apartment, eat out every day and party 'til dawn. Beyond that, Bombay Calling seeks to point out the parallel between increased prosperity in India and the westernization of this large nation; interviews are conducted outside call centres at Pizza Hut, while Nescafe and Coca-Cola ads dot the cityscape. We all know it's inevitable, with globalization and free trade companies can jump across borders and find new markets. Realisticaslly, this documentary shows us that this movement works both ways, and it appears to be a win-win situation.

Bombay Calling was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and has been acquired by National Geographic.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Apple Now Down to The Core

One of the first things Toronto blog 416style shared with its readers was news about the Apple store opening in Yorkdale Mall near the 401. This writer was none too pleased that the new store wasn't positioned as a downtown Apple landmark location. Less than a year later, we'll get our Apple in the core, at Toronto's famous Eaton Centre. The Grand Opening takes place this Saturday May 6th at 9:30am.