splinter1Proving that almost anything can be made out of wood, industrial designer JOE HARMON of Mooresville NC built and designed the Splinter with the help of a group of friends. “Wood,” says Harmon, “has high-performance capabilities … a higher strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum, steel or carbon fiber.”  It took him and his team two years to make the car. Species used include maple, ash, birch, hickory, walnut, cherry and oak. The wheels consist of 32 layers of rotary-cut oak veneer. Each spoke can handle 6,000 pounds before snapping.  Websites – http://www.joeharmondesign.com & http://www.wooddesignandbuilding.com


dominion4<POSTCARD, 1940’s, Chuckman’s Photos on WordPress>

dominion1Home to 1500 federal bureaucrats, the Dominion Public Building sits on a prime piece of downtown real estate. The property is zoned “commercial residential” and building regulations would permit a tower up to 137 metres tall. But it’s also registered on TORONTO’s heritage inventory and forms part of the Union Station Conservation District.  <PHOTO ABOVE – GregRob.ca>

dominion3Built between 1929 and 1935 and designed by architect T. W. Fuller, the neoclassical structure is an important federal tax administration centre. Its curved facade forms a large part of the Front streetscape, and is a key site in the history of the federal government in TORONTO. It will go to a major developer for a fortune.

dominion2<PHOTO ABOVE – Toronto Public Library>

dominion5Although the interior and exterior heritage features of the former customs house will be protected, the building will likely become a significant development site.  Depending on what the city permits, the site might allow up to 1-million square feet, suitable for a hotel and/or residentials.  A city staff report says “it is up to the real estate industry to bring 21st century design and conservation excellence to one of TORONTO’s most important and busiest intersections, and in the context of the urban design of Union Station.”


brett1BRETT LOCKWOOD is an Atlanta business lawyer who visits Canada often, and who has a genuine interest in its culture and its people. I’m certain he’s seen more of this country than – sad to say – most Canadians. His interest in what’s happening north of the American border is impressive indeed.  A visit to Brett’s O’ Canada site will no doubt be a perfect eye opener. As he puts it “this offers the incidental benefit of educating me and others about a people and their places that I hold close to my heart.”  O’ Canada website – https://www.ocanadablog.com/about


barbaragray2SEATTLE’s loss is TORONTO’s gain as BARBARA GRAY becomes this city’s new General Manager of Transportation (operating budget $400-million). At a time when pedestrian deaths are climbing, gridlock is an hourly occurrence and a battle royal is underway between bicyclists and motorists, Mrs. Gray will have her hands full.  <PHOTO ABOVE – Mayor John Tory introduces Barbara Gray to the press>

TRAFFIC5Some random thoughts from our new GM – “You can’t expect that everybody is going to travel by car.”

CROSSTOWN3“If you can find a team of planners who think like engineers, and engineers who think like planners, you can accomplish quite a lot.”

QQUAY3“In SEATTLE, our approach has been really effective when we’ve had a strong partnership with enforcement. We’ve been pushed, which is a good thing, by our advocacy groups wanting safer streets. We have a robust education program to change the nature of the dialogue around safety.  TORONTO is a gorgeous city. I got here a week ago with my husband and we walked a ton, all over. It’s a much bigger city than Seattle. Lots of public space and options to get around.”

barbaragray3Barbara Gray is a pro-cycling, pedestrian-minded, streetcar-loving individual who believes “you design the streets and the city to support people being able to move, whether they want to walk, bike, take transit or drive their car.” TORONTO (population 3.5-million) will be a tough nut to crack after SEATTLE (684,000) with its gentle climate and willingness to invest in public transit, property tax levies and affordable housing.  Good luck, BARBARA!


giraffe-kiko1One of the world’s most elegant creatures, the giraffe, is endangered. Globe and Mail columnist TARATHA SOUTHEY writes “Forget dinosaurs. Let’s bring back something more exotic: giraffes. Could there be a more accommodating animal than the giraffe? Is there another large mammal that has gone quite so far in not wanting to be in the way? Giraffe are entirely delightful. They are an animal a child would mock-up.” <PHOTO – KIKO THE GIRAFFE – Toronto Zoo>  Ms. Southey suggests symbolically adopting a giraffe with a donation to either the Giraffe Conservation Foundation – http://www.giraffeconservation.org – or the World Wildlife Fund – http://www.worldwildlife.org


There was a sharp rise in murders in TORONTO in 201669 slayings in all. Gun deaths were up to 40 from 26 in 2015. Arrests have been made in 52% of the 2016 murders and there have also been arrests in two cold cases.

taxes1Metro columnist MATT ELLIOTT writes “Next time you decide to gripe about property taxes in TORONTO, remember the tax rate here is far lower than the average city in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)”.

taxes2“The proposed 2% residential property tax increase in the upcoming 2017 budget amounts to an average increase of $96 annually – $8 a month. Additional child care – 1 cent/month; TTC transit track maintenance – 10 cents/month; better park maintenance – 2 cents/month“.

queenspk4Researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) recently mapped urban canopies in eleven cities around the world. Using Google Street View they measured the percentage of each city’s area covered by tree canopy. At 19.5%, TORONTO came in fourth, ahead of Paris, London & New York, but behind Vancouver, Geneva, and Seattle.

movies3movies1Plans are in the works to create an IMDb page as a marketing tool for TORONTO’s film industry. Location managers, directors and production designers can then sit in their offices in LOS ANGELES or elsewhere and see the impressive list of projects that have been, or are being, shot here.  What is IMDb? It’s an online database of info related to films, television and video games. IMDb is a subsidiary of Amazon.com.

gingerbreadto1It took nine batches of gingerbread and a kilogram of candy plus hours of work, to create an edible TORONTO City Hall with its famous sign and skating rink. Graphic designer AMELIA ROBLIN and her family laboured through the baking, and then many hours of assemblage.  “We did smash it up and eat it a week ago,” admitted Ms. Roblin, who lives in OAKVILLE.

da-mao1DA MAO, one of TORONTO Zoo’s pandas, loves nothing better than rolling in the snow.  DA MAO, a star attraction, has a distinct personality and his facial expressions are often human-like. He’s the father of two panda cubs who are also at the Zoo.



toronto2The Martin Prosperity Institute and NOW magazine have been studying the plight of TORONTO musicians who can’t afford to live and work in their own city. 80% of Canada’s music industry is based in T.O., from the core to inner city neighbourhoods in the west, along the Danforth, parts of East York and in the Beach.

hamilton5Local performance venues, recording studios, rehearsal spaces, and the music scene in general is clustered in these neighbourhoods of very expensive real estate, high rents, aggressive developers and residents who don’t like sharing turf with loud music.

hamilton6What to do? Rather than move to the suburbs, some musicians are moving to HAMILTON (pop. 520,000; metro 721,000). They’re not gutting the TORONTO scene, but according to NOW “the creative brain drain is real. TORONTO could see a substantial shuttering of venues similar to the situation in LONDON UK, where an estimated 40-50% of live music spaces have closed in the past decade.”

hamilton3        <Downtown Hamilton in the 1960’s – photo Hamilton Spectator>Back in the sixties Downtown Hamilton was a going concern with several large movie theatres,, electric buses, blocks of turn-of-the-century architecture, small shops, bars, restaurants and a nightlife. Then came the wrecker’s ball and a large swath of downtown disappeared, replaced by vast parking lots, a shopping centre, one live theatre, a library & the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

hamilton7Now the city centre is on its way back – thanks, in no small part to artists, musicians, gallery owners, restaurateurs and others who’ve gone down the road from boomtown TORONTO, 40 miles to the northeast.For a really good look at HAMILTON and what’s happening there, check out the “Rebuild Hamilton” website at http://www.rebuildhamilton.com


BEIJING1In a HONG KONG gallery I came across this painting a couple of years ago.  It was called “Beijing Sky”. The bad dream portrayed is a reality again this week (January/2017) in China’s capital city.

BEIJING2In the above NASA image taken on November 30/2015, BEIJING is buried under clouds and a stifling smog. Thick layers of cloud are tinged grey and yellow caused by China’s massive output of greenhouse gases. Coal-fired electricity plants are plentiful on the city’s outskirts and ring roads are jammed.

BEIJING5BEIJING6BEIJING4<A woman wears a face mask next to traffic shrouded in heavy smog – Getty Images>