TORONTO-BORN PANDA CUBS & A GREVY’S ZEBRA FOAL ARE ENJOYING THE GOOD LIFE AT THE ZOO

PANDAS1JIA PANPAN and JIA YUEYUE are now about 9 months old.

ZEBRA2REY, an endangered Grevy’s Zebra is another new baby born at the TORONTO Zoo this summer. Wasting no time, the little one was on its feet 10 minutes after arriving, and is now developing a “strong and confident” personality.  Rey is bout a month old.

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“SUICIDE SQUAD”, SHOT IN TORONTO, HATED BY CRITICS, TAKES IN $161.1-MILLION IN 5 DAYS

SUICIDESQUAD7Five days after it was released Warner Brothers’ “SUICIDE SQUAD” has collected $161.1-million so far with another $51-54-million expected this coming weekend. Critics from Wellington to Washington hate it, but the fans are flocking to see it, and most of it was created in our TORONTO.

SUICIDESQUAD8SUICIDESQUAD6During 98 days of filming in TORONTO and 168 days of pre-and-post shoot work, the production created 4,707 jobs.

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Over $80-million was spent in Ontario for “Suicide Squad”.  Over $12.5 million on all rentals, including truck and car rentals;  more than $4.2 million on lumber and construction supplies;  close to $2 million on catering, bakery goods, and other food items;  over $2.6 million on location fees; and  more than $785,000 on local wardrobe and dry cleaning services.

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The choice of TORONTO for “Suicide Squad” over US filming locations such as Detroit was no fluke.  Producers are choosing TORONTO for its reputation as a film-friendly city.  Council agreed to shut down Yonge Street to shoot key scenes.  The low dollar, tax credits, experienced crews and adaptability of TORONTO’s cityscape are added bonuses. – Toronto Star

AN ALEXANDER ST. WAREHOUSE, OWNED BY THE CITY, WILL BE A THEATRE IN PERPETUITY

BUDDIES8BUDDIES9In 1959, artistic director GEORGE LUSCOMBE (1926-1999) established The Workshop Theatre, one of Canada’s first professional theatre companies. The counterculture company moved into a warehouse at 12 Alexander Street in 1967. <PHOTO ABOVE – City of Toronto Archives>

BUDDIES2BUDDIES4Toronto Workshop Productions developed an innovative style, transforming documentary material into productions that ignited the political conscience of a generation. The tradition continues to this day – as Buddies in Bad Times – with an emphasis on LGBTQ theatre, cabaret, new plays and The Rhubarb Festival.  In 1981 Mr. Luscombe was invested as a Member for the Order of Canada for “his contributions to the development of theatre in Canada.” In 1989, after three years of retirement, he successfully advocated for the building’s perpetual use as a community theatre space, and it was purchased by the City of Toronto.

BUDDIES1Buddies in Bad Times is about to have two high-rise neighbours on its west side. But the theatre continues thanks to the foresight of George Luscombe.

TORONTO IS WITHIN REACH OF TWO BOTANICAL GARDENS – ONE IN TOWN, THE OTHER CLOSE BY

RBG2The vast ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS are located roughly 40 miles southwest of TORONTO midway between BURLINGTON and HAMILTON.  A National Historic Site of Canada, the gardens cover 2,400 acres with 27 kilometres of walking trails.  They’re home to more than 50 at-risk species and a major stop-over point for thousands of migrating birds.

RBG1RBG4RBG3Main entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens is at 680 Plains Road in BURLINGTON.  There is an admission charge.  Website – http://www.rbg.ca     BOTANICAL1TORONTO’s Botanical Garden, 777 Lawence Avenue East at Leslie, is one of Canada’s finest urban gardens.  It’s compact, somewhat hilly but easily walkable.  Accessible by public transit, bicycle and automobile, the Toronto Botanical Garden, Edwards Gardens and Wilket Creek Park lead from one into the other.  And it’s all FREE, including the parking.

BOTANICAL5BOTANICAL6BOTANICAL3Edwards Gardens, 775 Lawrence Avenue East, is a former private estate garden featuring an extensive rockery, rhododendrons and wildflowers bordering the Wilket Creek Valley, with perennials, roses, an arboretum and a Teaching Garden on its uplands.  And Wilket Creek Park is part of our city’s crisscrossing ravine system, with several kilometres of paved bike trails.  From the EGLINTON SUBWAY STATION take Bus #54 Lawrence Avenue East, or Bus #51 Leslie East.  http://www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca

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TORONTO’S HIGH-RISE ELEVATORS – WHAT GOES UP DOESN’T ALWAYS COME DOWN

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TORONTO has gone from low-rise to a high-rise city almost overnight – over the last decade anyway. An essential part of skyscrapers is a functioning bank of elevators, and lately there have been some rather dramatic breakdowns. There were over 2,800 elevator-related emergency calls in TORONTO in 2015 according to Canadian Press.

ELEVATORS2The new 79-storey AURA condo tower had a shutdown in elevator service last week. City councillor KRISTYN WONG-TAM says “rumours are we’ll soon be having a 100-storey residential building. It’s unrealistic to continue to rely on old (provincial-regulated) service standards that were created with a mindset that those elevators will never break down.”

ELEVATORS3Today I did a walking tour with an Icelandic couple who were stuck in their elevator yesterday. After notifying management by phone, help arrived and they (along with wine and groceries) had to crawl out through the elevator doors mid-way between the 28th and 29th floors. Otherwise they were very enthusiastic about TORONTO.  They said it was a “relaxed New York” – except when it came to elevators.

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SOMETHING OLD AND SOMETHING BRAND NEW IN THE ST. CLAIR/YONGE NEIGHBOURHOOD

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Something old – the wonderful Hollywood Cinema on Yonge Street north of St. Clair. Photo was taken in June, 1974. Sadly it’s been demolished.  Black and white photo, lining up for “Mary Poppins” – 1964

PHLEGM1Something new – it’s the first sign of redevelopment in the St. Clair/Yonge Street neighbourhood.  PHLEGM, a well-known artist in the United Kingdom has just finished a massive 8-storey mural on the side of the Padula Building.

PHLEGM2From a distance it’s a human figure, but up close “it’s a metaphor for the city itself, a living, breathing organism,” says organizer Alexis Kane-Speer. The mural is made up of hundreds of TORONTO landmarks, including the Royal Ontario Museum, the CN Tower, St. Lawrence Market and the ravine system.

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‘THE IDEA OF NORTH’ RETURNS FROM THE U.S. & STOPS OFF AT THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

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Curated and promoted by American actor STEVE MARTIN and staff from the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Art Gallery of Ontario, more than 30 significant paintings by LAWREN HARRIS were on exhibit at the AGO.  The core of the exhibition features rare northern landscapes from the 1920’s and 30’s – including the one above, ‘The Old Stump, Lake Superior, 1926’.

LAWRENHARRIS9LAWREN STEWART HARRIS (1886-1970) was born in BRANTFORD, Ontario into a wealthy family – the Harrises of Massey-Harris industrialists. A member of the Group of Seven, he lived for some time in TORONTO, moved to the United States and from there to VANCOUVER, where he died in 1970 at the age of 84.

LAWRENHARRIS4<‘Afternoon in the City’, 1918, Lawren Harris>

LAWRENHARRIS1<‘The Gasworks’, 1911-12, Lawren Harris>

LAWRENHARRIS6<‘Italian Store in The Ward’, 1919, Lawren Harris>

LAWRENHARRIS7<‘House in Toronto’, ca1918, Lawren Harris>

LAWRENHARRIS2<‘The Eaton Manufacturing Building’, Lawren Harris>

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<PHOTO ABOVE – Lawren Harris graces a utility box, Yonge Street at Davenport Road>

NEW YORK, VANCOUVER, TORONTO AND THEIR ‘WACKO’ REAL ESTATE MARKETS

ILOVE6“(NEW YORK is in a crisis brought on by its own success.) You can’t have this much development, and the consequential eviction of hundreds of thousands of people who will have no place to live. There’s some fundamental misjudgment about the balance between ordinary people and people who make enormous amounts of money. The idea of apartments for $50-million. What? On what basis?” – MILTON GLASER, creator of the ubiquitous logo ‘I heart New York’

ILOVE3Real estate deals are collapsing in VANCOUVER and other parts of B.C. for buyers and sellers who missed the provincial government deadline to be exempt from a 15% tax on foreign buyers. Realtors estimate that 3,000-4,000 deals are in limbo.  “It is unfortunate that, in the wake of the most complex and volatile market we’ve seen, our government has chosen a path that, at this time, will bring significant distress to consumers both local and abroad rather than nuanced solutions.” – CHARLES WIEBE, Fraser Valley Real Estate Board president.  The average price of a home in VANCOUVER in June/2016 was $1,026,207, a rise of 11% over the same month last year.

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“Where are those foreign investors going to go (who were bumped out of Vancouver’s real estate market)? They’re not going to want to pay that 15%, so they’re going to dump it into the TORONTO real estate market, which is already hot.” – DEREK LADOUCEUR, real estate agent.  Ladouceur predicts that all segments of Toronto’s housing market will get pricier, from condos to detached single-family homes, but the luxury segment — where many foreign investors park their money — could see the biggest lift.  The average cost of a home in the City of TORONTO was $750,000 in June/2016, up nearly 17% from the same month last year.

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   <Downtown TORONTO from the 18th floor of the Hyatt Hotel, Bloor at Avenue Road>

SELF-GUIDE YOURSELF THRU TORONTO’S OLD DON JAIL – FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

<PHOTOS ABOVE – The Don’s yellow brick facade built-to-last in 1856; the Governor’s House, 1888, now Emily’s HouseTHE DON is a heritage building with a very shady past, our city’s Alcatraz, site of 70 executions and numerous escape attempts, home-from-home in the 1950’s for the notorious Boyd Gang, miniscule cells, segregation cells, punishment cells, the Polka Dot Gang’s temporary residence – and now it’s been given one of Canada’s finest restorations and is open to the public for self-guided walk about tours.<The entrance level Rotunda has become a sculpture gallery><Solid wooden benches offered visitors a view out the window><Lower level cells as they are now ABOVE; and BELOW as they were before the renovation><Punishment cells had just enough room for a cot><Behind this door is a segregation cell, slightly larger than a punishment cell.  You can enter.><A video on The Don and its surroundings is continuously shown in this lower level gallery.  All parts of the jail, outlying buildings and the park are clearly marked with historical plaques.>It’s a kinder, gentler place now. You’re welcome to visit the old Don Jail from Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, from 9am to 5pm. Groups of 15 or more must arrange their visit in advance. Call 416-461-8252 and ask for the Communications Department.  If you’d like to stay for lunch, there’s a variety of good food available in the connected Bridgepoint Hospital. Nearby – Chinatown East to the east, and the Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation Area to the west.  Streetcar #506 travels along Gerrard Street East to the Don.<Father Time bids ‘welcome’ and ‘adieu’ from over the front door>