Apres lunch, le deluge

I’ve been back at the ancestral manse since about 1AM, following a pretty painless flight and drive with my brother, who picked me up. It’s been a nice quiet day, full of chores and playing with kids, until just now when copious amounts of relatives starting showing up. We shall soon leave them to their family dinner (just my mom, her nine brothers and sisters and their spouses).

It’s been nice so far. I get the sense, however, that four days of insanity are just about to begin.

[tags]family reunion[/tags]

"Sort of like plagiarizing a comic strip"

Ken Jennings freaked me out today. It’s kind of a long story, so stay with me.

Last night I was reading a chapter on business ethics in my textbook (no, really!) and it briefly touched on a bunch of the biggies…Rawls, Kant, Mill, and so on. I guess it must’ve lingered in my head, because this morning in the shower I started thinking about Kant. That immediately got me singing the Bruce’s Philosopher Song from Monty Python, and then I started thinking about the excellent movie Quiz Show (imdb). If you haven’t seen it, it’s about how Charles Van Doren went along with the cheating on the quiz show 21, deceiving the public. There was one particularly funny scene:

Van Doren, contemplating the moral implications of being given the answers: “I just wonder what Kant would think of this.”

Freedman, trying to get him to do it, and not having a clue who Kant is: “Uh…I think he’d be ok with it.”

So I laughed about that in the shower this morning, and then today I saw this post on Ken Jennings’ blog about Charles Van Doren. Now, Charles Van Doren isn’t a topic that comes up in my regular everyday routine, so to think about him so clearly twice in a few hours…weird. I got a little freaked out…started checking over my shoulder. Kind of a Truman Show moment.

[tags]ken jennings, rawls, kant, mill, monty python, charles van doren, quiz show[/tags]

The Life and Death of a Great Toronto Neighbourhood

In an article (bearing the same title as this blog post) on the Dooney’s website today, Max Fawcett describes the slow decline of The Annex, my old neighbourhood.

It might be time for Toronto’s urban geographers and city planners to add the term un-gentrification to their lexicon, because that’s precisely what’s happening in the Annex, one of their city’s oldest and most famous neighbourhoods. Unlike other neighbourhoods in the city that are being bought out and up by neo-yuppies, who spark the transformation of old carpet stores and empty storefronts being into painfully hip clothing stores, espresso bars, and of-the-moment restaurants, the Annex is sliding in the other direction. Where the neighbourhood was once a bohemian haven defined by a decidedly middle-class ethic it now is rapidly becoming nothing more than an upscale student ghetto defined by fast-food restaurants, ten dollar martinis, a dwindling clutch of futon stores, and a startling increase in the number of vacant storefronts and the homeless people that populate them.

Fawcett seems to be speaking specifically about the commercial strip of Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst. I agree that it’s always seemed a confounding stretch — never as annoyingly cool as Little Italy but never as annoyingly boho as Queen West either. It always just seemed rather bland and utilitarian. If anything, since we moved away and the changes seem more stark on each occasional visit, it’s gotten more bland, and I think that’s Fawcett’s point. When the night life of the neighbourhood (provided there’s no one good playing at Lee’s Palace) is the awful Brunswick House, that’s not a good sign. And he’s right: for every bakery or BMV that goes in, there’s another place selling schwarma or wings or cheap Korean barbecue.

Really, what’s happened to that piece of Bloor is studentification (admittedly, that’s not a word, but it’s as valid as “un-gentrification”) which had been fairly constrained to the Madison in years past. Like it or not, U of T is getting a retail ghetto, and Bloor Street from the JCC to Honest Ed’s is it. I don’t have a particular problem with this — neighbourhoods change all the time, and every time the people lived there before turn up their noses at the interlopers — except that blandness should never be something for a neighbourhood to aspire to.

[tags]dooney’s, max fawcett, bloor street, annex neighbourhood, university of toronto[/tags]

Hey look, pictures that move!

I haven’t had time to watch many movies lately; this weekend’s combination of lighter work load and sickness has provoked a furious spree of not one, not two, but three films.

I’d already seen the documentary, so the film version of Shake Hands With The Devil (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was a bit disappointing. It was a decent companion piece to the documentary, to help give more detail on the timeline of what actually happened, but ultimately — and surprisingly — didn’t help you understand the complexity of the situation nor of Romeo Dallaire himself.

The Quiet (imdb | rotten tomatoes) had a lot of promise — lots of ambiance and tension — but ended up wasting it on a weird conclusion and, though I can scarcely believe I’m complaining about this, too much focus on Elisha Cuthbert’s hotness. Big waste of Edie Falco too.

The War Within (imdb | rotten tomatoes) may have saved the weekend. Certainly one of the best films I’ve seen about terrorism, the so-called war on terror, Muslim life in America…all these interconnected complexities, but none of them were dealt with in a pat or easy way. Too bad it was never picked up for major distribution, though not surprising. You shouldn’t let that stop you, though. Go rent it.

I also half-watched two others over the past few weeks only because they were on TMN and I was procrastinating: Turistas and Resident Evil: Extinction (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Both were shite; Turistas at least had a semi-cool chase scene in a cave. Ignore them. Trust me.

[tags]shake hands with the devil, the quiet, the war within, turistas, resident evil extinction[/tags]

That fresh-from-the-dentist's-needle feeling

I guess I should have known this was coming: when Nellie was sick for five days, many of which were spent lying in bed and/or not going to work, it was only a matter of time before I got hit too. I felt it coming Thursday, started sneezing yesterday but managed to get through dinner at Fieramosca last night, and then finally got punched in the head this morning. Now I’m rifling through Kleenex and sucking cough drops that are making my entire tongue & mouth numb. Summer colds suck.

Luckily I don’t have that much to do today…maybe this is a good excuse to watch some of the movies clogging up the PVR.

[tags]summer cold[/tags]

Metrocide

This week Torontoist is running a great series of posts about murder statistics in Toronto. Much needed, in my opinion, given the attention-starved headline on the latest issue of Toronto Life with a cover story light on data. The Torontoist series (researched and written by David Topping) has featured simple but helpful stats, much more helpful in identifying an actual trend than listing victim stories.

On Tuesday the data showed number of homicides, homicide rate and homicides versus traffic fatalities. Side note: what happened after 2002 to cut traffic fatalities nearly in half over five years?

On Wednesday the focus was central Toronto, as well as the downtown core, showing just how few homicides occur here — despite what media reports might suggest — compared to the rest of the city and the GTA.

On Thursday Toronto was lined up against other Canadian cities (Toronto has a lower homicide rate than Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, Trois-Rivieres, Regina, Sudbury and Vancouver; its rate is the same rate as Saint John and just higher than Halifax) and North American cities, against which it barely registers:

Toronto’s numbers absolutely pale in comparison to American cities. Its metropolitan homicide rate in 2006 was lower than every American city with a population above 500,000 (charted above). And of the seventy-two American cities with populations over 250,000, Toronto’s 2006 metropolitan homicide rate (1.8 per 100,000) was lower than every other city except for Plano, Texas—the wealthiest city in the United States—which had a homicide rate of 1.6 per 100,000.

There’s far more information, nuance and source reference in the full articles, so I urge you to check them out. The commenters registered the the usual complaints — why all this analysis? more than zero is too many — with which Topping agrees, but data and information like this is crucial in addressing problems accurately in a rational way, rather than emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, emotion has a place in fighting violence, but it has to be tempered with reason. Topping and Torontoist have done a great job of that this week.

[tags]torontoist, david topping, toronto life, gun violence, toronto, homicide rate[/tags]

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging…

I have nothing important to say, other than to report that I am basking in the fleeting euphoria of having hit the ‘submit’ button on my term paper tonight. I am not particularly proud of it, but I feel good that was able to get it done under some ugly time contraints…and with 72 hours to spare, no less.

I now have 3 nights of reading, followed by a night off, followed by three nights of working on my very last assignment MBA ever, then a visit from KG, then a 5-day trip, then a holiday, then four nights of finishing off the last assignment, then three days to read the final preparatory cases, then three days of nothing (!) followed by my last intensive & exam ever…at which point I am done. And if it seems depressing that I have every day allocated like that, believe me when I say it’s even worse from this side. I’ve been living like this since June 20, and it’s going to last until the middle of September.

But then…oh ho ho, look out, general populace. You are not ready for the kind of shenanigans I will get up to with free time on my hands. It’ll be like Cat Thunderdome up in here.

[tags]mba[/tags]

"Godfather can't tell the general we don't do windows."

Today was a good day. I finished writing my paper (just needs a final read-through and a second set of eyes), took care of some other little things, got a little work done and managed to keep the place in order while Nellie tried to sleep off a cold that’s knocked the wind out of her. Even got some school shit taken care of that I didn’t plan to complete until tomorrow night, so I’m a little ahead of schedule.

33 days left. Not done yet, but I can see the finish line.

.:.

We watched the second episode of the new HBO series Generation Kill tonight. It’s good so far, kind of what I think Band of Brothers would have been like if it were about a different generation and a different war. Still, there’s a lot that’s similar: logistical problems, incompetent officers, and so on…and that makes for good TV. But like my friend Stephen said, I’ll watch anything made by David Simon and/or Ed Burns now.

[tags]mba, generation kill[/tags]