JUSTIN BIEBER’S SINGING CAREER GOT OFF TO A START IN FRONT OF STRATFORD’S AVON THEATRE

STRATFORD, Ontario is noted for its long theatrical history, swans on the Avon, parks and gardens, fine restraurants – and it’s the home town of one of Canada’s famous heart throbs (of which there are quite a few).

<JUSTIN busking on the steps of Stratford’s Avon Theatre; GETTY IMAGEThis YouTube video below shows him in one of his early concerts – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28VmUxTDU5Q

<In 2007 JUSTIN returned to the Avon Theatre steps and did some impromptu singing for his fans. PHOTO ABOVE>

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA, HAS THE DEEPEST METRO IN THE WORLD – 110 METRES UNDERGOUND

The two showplace stations are underground palaces, with high arched ceilings, marble pillars, chandeliers and mosaic murals on the history of North Korea.  Each has a public toilet, and state radio programs are broadcast over loudspeakers.  Hours of operation are limited because of power shortages.

In a country known for its human rights violations and chronic food shortages, enough cash was found to build two subway lines completely underground. The system can be used as a fall-out shelter for the military and/or the populace.

<PHOTOS – Kristoferb, Wikipedia>

THIS AND THAT, FROM HERE AND THERE, AT HOME AND ELSEWHERE

On TORONTO’s waterfront, this group of rotating fan sculptures has been installed. It’s the work of Vancouver artist THENA TAK, and the public is welcome to wander through the assemblage. ‘Winter Fanfare‘ is part of the Waterfront Ice Breakers Festival, on until February 25.

The Spire of DUBLIN is a large, stainless steel, elongated cone, which can be seen from almost everywhere in the Irish capital. The Spire doesn’t seem to honour anyone or anything. It’s just there.

Cavalia Odysseo & the Canadian National Institute for the Blind gave a number of blind kids the thrill of their young lives this past summer. They were surrounded by horses under the big top in MISSISSAUGA, Ontario. “For them the sense of smell, feeling the hair and brushing them adds to their memory bank,” said Ruth Millard of the CNIB. <PHOTO – Toronto Sun>

When fire gutted the artsy Sag Harbor Cinema (everything but the sign) on LONG ISLAND, the populace, butcher, baker and candle-stick maker conjured up $8-million to restore the theatre so the town “wouldn’t become just another restaurant capital.”

It’s nearly impossible for first-time home buyers to get a foothold in EDINBURGH. The Scottish capital is a very popular tourism destination with its multitude of arts festivals. The city finds itself overrun with AirBnB’s, squeezing the locals out of the housing market. Average rental for a 2-bedroom flat stands at $1610 CAD per month. A one-bedroom $1200 CAD.

“MY WINNIPEG” or “WINNIPEG, MON AMOUR” is an exceptional movie about the prairie metropolis. Frigid in winter and a mosquito haven in summer, the city is home to, among other things, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, North America’s largest Icelandic community, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, and film director/producer GUY MADDIN. Maddin’s salute to his home town combines reality and fantasy in documentary style, and you’re never sure which is which. I’ve seen “My Winnipeg” several times.

PHOTO ABOVE – ‘This Is Winnipeg’ – https://thisiswinnipeg.wordpress.com

IF THE NETHERLANDS SINK, WE’RE ALL DOOMED – DUTCH DESIGNERS DEAL WITH A ‘WATER WORLD’

<The Netherlands’ Delta Works, the largest flood protection system in the world.>. Despite what Donald Trump says, 75% of the world’s megacities have been built in delta areas, and sea levels are rising. Houston, Calgary & TORONTO Island recently demonstrated what could happen in the not-too-distant future. It’s only a matter of time.  No country is more capable of dealing with the unpredictability of water than the Netherlands. In ROTTERDAM, one of the world’s largest seaports, developers, architects, designers and engineers are working on floating farms, watertight homes and entire floating neighbourhoods.

<The first Floating Farm will open in ROTTERDAM in 2018>

<A new sustainable floating neighbourhood could be under construction soon in Northern AMSTERDAM. 30 homes for 46 families, all with good views, connected by a jetty, and five houseboat types, adaptable to suit each family’s needs.>

<Recycled Floating Park in ROTTERDAM aims to retrieve plastic waste from the Nieuwe Maas river before it reaches the sea, and use it to create a park of plant and marine-friendly fauna.>. The Dutch have been in an endless battle against water, but over several decades have learned to live with it and to benefit from it. Forget about Trump and his disbelievers. Keep an eye on the Dutch – they’re safe, but vulnerable, and they know it.

ON MY VACATION – ADMIRING GLASGOW’S FASCINATING SKYLINE FROM ‘THE LIGHTHOUSE’

The Lighthouse, part of Scotland’s Centre for Design & Architecture, is just high enough to allow an uninterrupted view of GLASGOW’s city-centre skyline.

The multiplicity of architectural styles and building designs, all bunched up together, is quite wonderful.

The Lighthouse, 1895, designed by famed architect CHARLES RENNIE MACKINTOSH was the Glasgow Herald‘s former headquarters.  Its helical staircase to the MacKintosh Tower is accessible from the 3rd floor.

<PHOTO by George Gastin/Wikipedia>. The sixth floor viewing room is reached by an elevator.  To access the MacKintosh Tower on the north side, the only way up is by this staircase.  The Lighthouse contains one of the UK’s extraordinary observation towers.

MY SHORT ‘STAYCATION’ IN KINGSTON, ONTARIO – HALFWAY BETWEEN TORONTO & MONTREAL

Where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, at the mouth of the Cataraqui River, and the south end of the Rideau Canal sits KINGSTON, population 124,000. For its size, this city contains a wealth of Canadian history, art, architecture and public institutions.

KINGSTON was named the first capital of the Province of Canada on February 10, 1841, was home to Canada’s first Prime Minister (Sir John A. MacDonald), and of the Royal Military College, Fort Henry and Queens University – one of Canada’s oldest.

Above  – Kingston City Hall’s council chamber

KINGSTON is a city of many beautiful churches.  Photos above – St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral & St. George’s Anglican Cathedral

Bellevue – the home of Canada’s first Prime Minister (Sir John A. MacDonald) and his family from 1848-49.  Tours available.

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queens University, 36 University Avenue, http://www.agnes.queensu.ca

  As it’s always been, Saturday is market day behind City Hall

KINGSTON is well known for its architecture.  This building complex, The Kensington, incorporates Victorian-era buildings with a multi-level modern structure.  It’s wonderful to look at – but Prince Charles would no doubt have a fit.  Driving to KINGSTON from TORONTO – take the 401 east and three hours later you’re there. Exit Division Street.

Princess Street, KINGSTON, August, 2014, Julia McKay/The Whig-Standard

ONCE (FOR SOME) ‘GOING TO KINGSTON’ MEANT GOING TO ‘THE PEN’ – TIMES HAVE CHANGED

Kingston Penitentiary is closed to convicts, but open to tourists. British North America’s first penitentiary fronts onto Lake Ontario at 56 King St. West. It’s surrounded on three sides by some of KINGSTON’s better neighbourhoods. The Pen, as it’s commonly known, was constructed between 1833 and 1834 under the reign of King William IV. The first six inmates arrived on June 1, 1835.  Aerial photo by Rob Mooy/Metroland

My visit to The Pen began in fog, then drizzle and finally pouring rain.  Mother Nature was setting the scene.

Bungalows for private family visits – PTV’s

The Main Dome – ranges are below

Typical cell range

Limestone gray throughout – entrance to the prison shops

Aboriginal Grounds

In April/2012, the federal government announced Kingston Penitentiary would be closing for good in 2013 due to aging infrastructure and today’s complex and diverse offender population. Rain or shine there are daily 3-hour tours every 15 minutes, conducted by several former employees of the institution. Personal cameras are welcome but no tripods or heavy equipment. The buildings are not air conditioned.  For tour tickets ($42-$55) and detailed information go to http://www.kingstonpentour.com

Looking down on it all, the Penitentiary’s bell tower, which normally rang twice daily, more often in emergencies.  Guards were required to live within hearing range of these bells.

ACROSS KING ST. IS THE FASCINATING PENITENTIARY MUSEUM – ADMISSION BY DONATION

The former Warden’s house is now Canada’s Penitentiary Museum, 55 King Street, KINGSTON

Crossbow made by inmates

‘The Box’ – a cruel form of solitary confinement

‘Kingston Penitentiary is On The Air’ with permission of the Commissioner of Penitentiaries and the Warden through the facilities of CKWS, your Kingston Station. Those words opened a half-hour variety show that went out each Saturday night during the summers of 1952-55.  The program included an emcee, a swing band called the Solitaires, singers, a western group called the Hay Shakers, and comedians.

Art created by prisoners

Straight Jacket

These tall easels were used to strap down prisoners when they were getting the lash. One is from the federal prison in DORCHESTER, New Brunswick.

Penitentiary Museum website – http://www.penitentiarymuseum.ca  At its peak there were ten (10!) penitentiaries operating in the KINGSTON area.

ALL ROADS LED TO OTTAWA THIS PAST WEEKEND FOR CANADA’S 150TH BIRTHDAY PARTY

I checked things out last week and, believe me, OTTAWA, Canada’s capital, has never looked better.

<PHOTOS ABOVE – looking down on the National Gallery & the chapel of the former Rideau Street Convent, 1880’s, National Gallery of Canada.>

<PHOTOS – Ottawa’s oldest bar in the By Ward Market & Changing of the Guard, 10 am each morning on Parliament Hill.>

<PHOTOS ABOVE – locks leading up to the Rideau Canal & security bollards behind the American embassy provide a nifty protected bike path.>

<PHOTO – the splendid Library of Parliament, oldest building on The Hill>

<House of Commons>

<The Senate>

<The Supreme Court of CanadaDriving from TORONTO to OTTAWA take the eastbound 401 to either picturesque Highway 115 north at KINGSTON; or the much faster 416 north to the 417 into downtown OTTAWA. Exit at Metcalfe Street, and be prepared for bike paths, one-way streets and no parking zones. Advice – check into your hotel, leave the car and walk or take public transit.

PHOTOGRAPHER MICHAEL WOLF COMMENTS ON HONG KONG’S WACKO PROPERTY PRICES

“When will this spiral of ever-increasing property prices end? Most of HONG KONG’s youth can’t afford to rent, much less to buy their own apartments. Almost every person I speak with, who is under 35, lives at home with their parents . . . resignation abounds, a feeling of powerlessness to change the status quo.” <PHOTO ABOVE – Ross Winter>

“HONG KONG is the only place I know of when one moves, it’s always into a smaller space because the rent has become unaffordable. What’s next? 100-square-foot apartments for HK$5,000,000? I am sure the developers are working to make this happen.” – Michael Wolf

<PHOTO ABOVE – World Record: parking space in Hong Kong sold for $HK5.18-million (US$664,200 or CAD$881,195). The space is on the first floor of a luxury apartment complex near the harbourfront. Hong Kong Free Press>