TORONTO SHORT STORIES – AUGUST 1-11/2017

<Chinatown West – waiting for the bus on a sweltering Sunday afternoon>

The YSL, tallest one of them all, may be coming soon to Yonge Street at Gerrard. If approved this monster will be 98 storeys tall, and city councillor KRISTYN WONG-TAM says “it could cast a shadow that actually touches Allan Gardens (3 blocks east). That’s how far the impact would be.” <IMAGE – Cresford Development Company>)

Neighbours are outraged over a box-like house that has appeared in their Victorian nirvana. The Cabbagetown house, on St. James Court, has been the subject of a 10-year battle over proposals for a bigger house on the lot, and then over damage and the incovenience caused by construction. – Toronto Star, August 11/2017>

<Five cheetah cubs born at TORONTO ZOO in April/2017>

BARBARA COOK, whose rousing songs and romantic ballads touched America’s heart in an odyssey that began in the golden age of Broadway musicals, overcame alcoholism, depression and obesity, and forged a second life in cabarets and concert halls, died early Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.

Not-so-long-ago Ms Cook sang to a sold-out audience at TORONTO’s Koerner Hall.  I also remember seeing her at the Fleck Dance Theatre in T.O. and the Hotel Carlyle in New York.  No one could interpret Broadway melodies like Barbara Cook.

<PHOTO – Barbara Cook at Carnegie Hall in 2006. Credit Richard Termine/The New York Times>

The Canada/150 train rolls into HAMILTON in recognition of Cansda’s 150th birthday. Canadian Pacific is sending the historic engine and 10 heritage cars across the country, starting out from Port Moody, British Columbia on July 28. It’s a beauty! – Hamilton Spectator, August 10/2017

Our man in OTTAWA, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, makes the cover yet again of a popular magazine. Says the Stone – “Justin Trudeau is trying to Make Canada Great Again. He is using, let us say, different methods.” – Stephen Rodrick/Rolling Stone

For a lengthy impression of Canada’s #1 ambassador and possibly “the free world’s best hope” read ‘Justin Trudeau: The North Star’. It’s in this month’s Rolling Stone.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/justin-trudeau-canadian-prime-minister-free-worlds-best-hope-w494098

Residents of CATHEDRALTOWN (a MARKHAM suburb) have something else to look at these days – besides the cathedral. It’s a chrome statue of a cow titled “Charity, Perpetuation of Perfection”, put there with the approval of city councillor Alan Ho – who is now facing the wrath of the populace. They want it gone ASAP.

“The last thing that would cross my mind would be to raise a life-sized cow with chrome-like finish two storeys in the air and consider that proper,” said local resident Danny Dasilva. “I hate it.”

Sephora Hosein is the new collection head at TORONTO’s Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation. It is one of the largest collections of speculative literature in North America, and Hosein wants to let more people know about it. – <PHOTO – David Nickle/Metroland>

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TORONTO SHORT STORIES – JULY 8-25/2017

The Republicans have rejected Donald Trump’s plan to slash funding for the Great Lakes cleanup. The US President’s plan was to slash the budget of the Great Lakes Restoration initiative from $300-million to $0.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, all Great Lakes states, as well as a bipartisan group of 63 House members believe Trump’s proposal would “reverse years of progress” and “jeopardize the environmental and economic health of the region.”

JEFF ROCK, a scientist, has been appointed the next senior pastor at TORONTO’s Metropolitan Community Church. He will succeed Rev. Dr. BRENT HAWKES who is retiring after 38 years with MCC.

Pastor Rock: “I look at myself as a 33-year-old young gay man in ministry and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without people like Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes. I think that there are deep conversations that need to happen in TORONTO about class, and about housing costs and poverty.”

The CN Tower, TORONTO’s #1 tourist attraction, now has a new mascot. It’s a miniature version of the tower itself – only with arms.

Over the past two years TORONTO-based Cyberworks Robotics & the University of Toronto have developed a cost-efficient technology that will allow power wheelchairs to drive themselves. The concept was originally intended for users with upper-body-disabilities such as hand tremors, ALS, and spinal cord injuries. These new wheelchairs could dramatically enhance quality of life, and make it much easier to accomplish everyday things.

Cyberworks is currently in the process of getting necessary approvals to allow wheelchair users to test the technology, and eventually making it useable outdoors.

Aluminum cladding is being removed from a heritage building on the northwest corner of Yonge and Queen. Built in 1895, the Jamieson Building was home to a Woolworth’s for decades, and until lately an outdoor gear shop. A new development will add three storeys and a rooftop restaurant. Restoration by ERA Achitects.

A 6-foot TORONTO sign, made from washed-up driftwood has appeared on the water in Humber Bay Park, the work of artists Thelia Sanders-Shelton and Julie Ryan.

Making the sign was a challenge. The duo spent five days on their project, up to seven hours at a time, collecting driftwood and lugging rocks. Julie Ryan said they put a heart at the end of the sculpture to celebrate TORONTO as “a city of love. It’s a place of goodness and kindness.”

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – June 20 to July 7/2017

TORONTO’s TTC has been named the Outstanding Public Transportation System in North America by APTA – the American Public Transportation Association. The Toronto Transit Commission was last honoured this way in 1986.

Mayor JOHN TORY – “This award recognizes the transformation and modernization that the TTC has been undergoing over the last few years.” The mayor noted there was a $90-million investment in the TTC in 2015 and an additional $80 million in 2017 to continue rolling out PRESTO across the system, and the York-Spadina subway extension, among other improvements.

The federal government will write a check for $4.8-billion to be spent on TORONTO’s public transit services . . . IF the province kicks in one-third of the costs. The money will be spent on the Downtown Relief Line (DRL), SmartTrack, the Eglinton East LRT & Waterfront Transit.

Infrastructure Minister AMARJEET SOHI has written to Bob Chiarelli, his counterpart at Queen’s Park, outlining the federal government’s plans and stating clearly Ontario will have to cost-share “at a minimum of 33.3% or no dice.

On their way to the G20 Summit, Canada’s Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau stopped off on July 5 to meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The audience took place in the Palace of Holyroodhouse in EDINBURGH, her official Scottish residence. The Queen was presented with the Canadian flag that flew atop the Peace Tower in Ottawa on Canada Day.

49 baby Blanding’s Turtles have been released into a wetland, soon to become part of TORONTO’s Rouge National Urban Park. The Toronto Zoo has been monitoring and working with this threatened species since 2005, including a program which involves raising hatchlings until they get big enough to be released into the wild.

The Blanding’s Turtle Head-Start conservation program is part of a partnership between the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).

No longer a government white elephant, TORONTO’s MaRS Discovery District has become downtown’s tech hub. Among those who’ve moved in – the Advanced Technologies Group of Uber Technologies Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc. Okta Inc., a fast-growing Silicon Valley software company and, in the near future, an expanded Amazon.com Inc.

The federal government has begun fast-tracking visa applications for high-skilled workers. They can be in as quickly as two weeks. The feds have also committed $950-million to tech hubs across Canada – including $125-million for AI (Artificial Intelligence). TORONTO has the engineers. The door is open.

Partnering with Cineplex, THE VOID is opening Canada’s first VR Experience Centre in TORONTO. At its flagship location in NEW YORK’s Times Square, the location-based virtual reality experience allows up to four players to visit the world of “Ghostbusters” by using custom-made headsets and special rumble vests to roam through a set equipped with VR trackers.

Along with TORONTO and NYC, The Void can be found in DUBAI and UTAH. “TORONTO is in the heart of Ontario’s tourism hub and represents the type of market that The Void is looking for,” said CEO Cliff Plumer.

Globe and Mail’s Independence Day cartoon, by BRIAN GABLE, July 4/2017

GERMANY has said ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage in a snap vote. Couples have been granted full marital rights and they’ll be allowed to adopt children. The vote – 393 to 226 with 4 abstentions. – BBC

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – JUNE 5-19/2017

Mayor JOHN TORY welcomed ROSS, an artificial intelligence company, headquartered in San Francisco to TORONTO. The company uses computers to do research for lawyers by sifting through thousands of legal documents looking for key information.

ROSS intelligence co-founder and University of Toronto graduate, ANDREW ARUDA, saysopening a research and development centre here a “no brainer.” calling the city “the hub of artificial intelligence development. TORONTO is where we always knew we had to be.” The Centre will be called ROSS North. <PHOTO – CBC>

TORONTO’s movie, animation & television production business continues to boom – from $1.13-billion in 2011 to $2.01-billion in 2016.  The outlook for 2017 is more of the same.

TORONTO Mayor JOHN TORY has no problem with medical marijuana dispensaries, and decriminalizing smokers of small amounts of pot. “That’s something that should have been done years ago.” But he’s not keen on neighbourhood rogue pop-up pot shops.

“The federal government has said nothing about having some wide network of shops on every street corner to sell marijuana,” he said. “They’re in stable neighbourhoods and cause disruptions to families and to other retailers.”

“If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” With that in mind RYERSON University’s DMZ Startup Incubator has opened an outpost in New York City’s financial district. In the past, Canadian startups have moved to the US, but with this free space in Manhattan they can tap the American market while keeping their headquarters in Canada.

DMZ executive director Abdullah Snobar said “Our play here is not to get talent to leave the country; it’s to grow talent internationally.”

“The sizzling real estate market may be cooling, but not so for high-end houses in TORONTO. A foreign buyers tax hasn’t slowed them down at all. Buyers of luxury real estate have a deeper understanding of the long-term value in the market, or they simply don’t have to look at the price as carefully, say realtors specializing in high-end properties.” – Tess Kalinowski, Sunday Star

PETRINA BROMLEY & ROMANO DINILLO, the two Newfoundlanders in the cast of ‘Come From Away’ couldn’t contain themselves when their show won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.

Director CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY accepted the Tony and dedicated it to the people of Newfoundland. – The Telegram, St. John’s, Nfld. & Labrador

TORONTO artist Janet Romero has unveiled her wood-paneled mural to commemorate those who died in ORLANDO’s Pulse nightclub shooting one year ago. 49 people lost their lives when a gunman opened fire inside the Florida club – the worst mass shooting in US history.

The mural features four faces as well as natural motifs like cacti and birds. Romero wanted to simultaneously honour the Hispanic victims of the Pulse massacre as well as other groups within the LGBTQ community targeted in violent hate crimes. Her piece – at the 519 Community Centre – is entitled Still Estmaos Aqui – Spanish for “we are still here”.

Just a couple of regular guys kickin’ back at Joe Beef – Liverpool House in MONTREAL’s Little Burgundy – President Barack Obama & Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, June 13/2017

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – MAY 23 – JUNE 3/2017

This was the week Donald Trump pulled America out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change.  In Sunday’s New York Times MAUREEN DOWD headlined her column ‘Trump Stomps Planet Earth”.  She writes “You know you’re in trouble when beclouded Beijing, where birds go to die, replaces you as a leader on climate change.

“America is living through a fractured fairy tale, in the grip of a lonely and uninformed mad king, an arrogant and naive princeling, a comely but complicit blond princess and a dyspeptic, dystopian troll (Steve Bannon) under the bridge.” – Sunday, June 4/New York Times

Getting ready for next year’s provincial election Premier KATHLEEN WYNNE announced the largest minimum wage hike in Ontario history – surprising both the opposition Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats (NDP).

The increase will boost the current minimum wage of $11.40 to $15 an hour beginning in 2019. Ms. Wynne, a master politician, seems to have plucked the idea from the NDP.  <PHOTO – The Speaker.ca>

HAMILTON opened a pop-up ‘diplomatic’ mission on Queen Street West in TORONTO for a couple of days. The Hamilton Consulate highlighted our neighbouring city’s booming real estate market, foodie and emerging fashion scene – and cheekily promoted itself to would-be investors and businesses. Cutting TORONTO’s grass so-to-speak.  <PHOTO – Hamilton Spectator>

TORONTO’s police union has been invited to march in New York’s Pride Parade in uniform. “The invitation was extended because we felt they were being excluded from the Pride festivities in Toronto, and we fought very hard over a very long period of time here in New York City to have the right to march in uniform,” said Brian Downey, president of the Gay Officers Action League.

Way to go, NEW YORK!

After 25 years in retirement, TORONTO’s maroon-and-cream coloured streetcars are back on Queen’s Quay West. Rides on the Presidents’ Conference Committee cars are free from now until Labour Day – but only on Sundays.

The first NOBU restaurant in Canada is full-speed-ahead even if TORONTO’s real estate bubble might burst. The project on Mercer Street incorporates the Pilkington Glass Factory building, and will include 660 condominium units, a hotel and Nobu. The apartment units will start at roughly $400,000.

Partner ROBERT DE NIRO, who has visited TORONTO several times, will be getting a free apartment. “TORONTO is a great city. It’s got a great film festival, “ he said. “It’s an important city.”

It appears TORONTO’s booming housing real estate market is melting, thanks partly to new provincial regulations. BLOOMBERG NANOS found the share of Canadians expecting house prices to rise in the next six months has fallen to 45.5% from a record high of 50.1% three weeks ago.

“The frenzy is over — it’s over,” Century 21 brokerage owner Joanna Evans told Bloomberg. “Sanity is returning to the marketplace.”

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – MAY 15-22/2017

<BASS ISLAND property in Muskoka, listed at $10,800,000>

TORONTO’s real estate frenzy has spread to cottage country as city dwellers cash out and head north. The value of waterfront property in Muskoka, Haliburton and Orillia surged 51.4% year over year in April. The median price of $485,000 was up 30.4% from April/2016. Last week in Haliburton/Muskoka on three big lakes, there were 51 properties listed with an average price of $3-million.

“Privacy is still the key factor when it comes to price. Up here, the definition of privacy is when you can stand on your front deck naked and nobody can see you. You need 200 feet of waterfront to do that.” – Hugh Nichols, Re/Max North Country agent

Google has its eye on TORONTO’s under-developed waterfront and believes digital city-building might ‘fix’ it.

The premise – building from the ground up with new technologies brings with it potential environmental sustainability, health benefits, and even affordable housing. Google’s vision entails high-speed internet access and free wifi across the hub, self-driving cars, ride-sharing, and sensors throughout. As Canada’s largest urban area with a booming multicultural centre and a 12-acre industrial waterfront along Lake Ontario, TORONTO is in the running.

To create a city of the future from the ground up necessitates demolishing the city of the past – which puts both Montreal and Vancouver at some disadvantage.

TORONTO’s Little Portugal and Trinity-Bellwoods Park area have just been ranked #1 for music production in Canada. In a news release The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) says “”This diverse and culturally-rich neighbourhood in TORONTO’s south-western quadrant is a hub of creative musical talent, live music venues, and businesses using music to their advantage.”

<PHOTO – Canterbury Music Company, 322 Dufferin Street>

TORONTO scores a 68% home ownership rate in the ‘developed’ world. We’re behind only OSLO (69%) and CALGARY (74%). A report from the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis shows that half of TORONTO-area residents are overhoused, with 2.2-million empty bedrooms.

The city is about 350,000 bedrooms short of housing the 20% of residents who are shelter-poor.

A newborn lamb, one of three, at TORONTO’s inner-city Riverdale Farm. The Farm is located on Sumach Street, north of Carlton. You can reach it easily on the #506 eastbound streetcar. Get off at Sumach and walk north to Riverdale Park.

TORONTO again proves its key importance by landing the federal government’s infrastructure bank. The city’s Financial District will give members easy access to investors whose cash the feds need to make their bank work.

$35-billion in federal funds will be used to entice private investment in public transit, highways and electrical grids that generate revenues through user fees or tolls. Approximately $15-billion of that will be cash, with the remaining $20-billion in repayable loans or equity stakes that shouldn’t affect the government’s bottom line.

Londoner ROSE POWER sent her best wishes to TORONTO this week in a letter published by Metro News.  “I would recommend anyone wanting to enjoy great food, sights and friendly people in a safe city, really ought to give TORONTO a try!  They won’t be disappointed.  I also think TORONTO should be held up as an awesome model of multiculturalism working at its finest.”

TORONTO SHORT STORIES – APRIL 29 TO MAY 6/2017

The TORONTO skyline in the late 1960’sMark Blinch/Reuters

TORONTO skyline as it was in February/2017 and it keeps on growing – by Razz/urbantoronto.ca

TORONTO, MONTREAL & everything in between was drenched by continuous downpours this week. Lake Ontario rose higher than it’s been in 3 decades.  There were fears the Don River <PHOTO ABOVE> would overflow its banks.  Didn’t happen.

What are the 23-year-olds up to these days? This one climbed a construction crane in the middle of the night, sat down on the hook and waited to be rescued. Firefighter ROB WONFOR risked his life by climbing the tower in two difficult hours, descending the crane’s cabling (!) and bringing MARISA LAZO safely back to earth where police were waiting.  <PHOTO ABOVE – Tyler Anderson/National Post>

We love you, NEW YORK CITY, but the “rhetoric” coming out of Donald Trump’s White House is turning us off. His diatribe against Canada’s dairy & softwood lumber industries and NAFTA aren’t helping matters. Predictions are that The Big Apple will see 300,000 fewer foreign tourists in 2017, and 17,000 of those will be Canadians.

Fred Dixon, CEO of NYC’s official tourism organization says “We recognize there are challenges at the border . . . We want to remind everyone that New York City is welcoming and that we are a diverse and safe city, a sanctuary city like TORONTO, and we value the same things.”

The Masonic Temple on Yonge Street at Davenport Road opened in 1918 and has a capacity of 1,500. Frank Sinatra once played there, as did David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, and R. E. M. among many others. It was a ballroom in the 1930’s, then in the 1960’s it became a rock palace, and eventually comedian Mike Bullard’s studio for his late-night television show. The CTV network operated the venue from the late 1990’s until 2013.

Will it return to being a concert hall?  No word yet.

For the first time in history, there are as many seniors as young people in this country, and they’re living longer than ever before. This phenomenon will have ripple effects on everything from the cost of benefits to the age of retirement as Canada tries to find its footing in the new age of aging. – TORONTO STAR, May 2/2017