Photo by kata rokkar, used under Creative Commons license

Multifarious

The best music I’ve bought lately, in no particular order:

  • Japandroids . Celebration Rock
  • Shearwater . Animal Joy
  • Sharon Van Etten . Tramp
  • Beth Jeans Houghton And The Hooves Of Destiny . Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose
  • Cannon Bros . Firecracker Cloudglow
  • Jack White . Blunderbuss
  • The Kills . Blood Pressures
  • Perfume Genius . Put Your Back N 2 It

OK, I may have fibbed just now. There was a tiny bit of order: the new Japandroids was at the top of that list because in sheer rawk-awesomeness it outshines the others on the list.

.:.

Austerity pushers and vaccination kooks are giving kids in Washington State whooping cough. Or something. Warning: contains the eye-meltingly great line, “I hope there’s a hot place in Dumbass Hell for Jenny McCarthy.”

.:.

Recent movies we’ve watched:

  • Here’s how to tell when Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment has run out of movies I’m willing to watch: I watch Contraband (imdb | rotten tomatoes). It was rubbish.
  • The Guard (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was superb. Fun, and funny. It didn’t disguise the fact that it was a standard cop movie trope (big crimes in small towns, kooky townspeople, fish out of water big shot from the FBI, etc.) and it took me a few minutes to understand anything anyone said, but once it got going Brendan Gleeson was terrific and people like Don Cheadle and Liam Cunningham filled in the rest nicely.
  • Triangle (imdb | rotten tomatoes) came out of nowhere. I don’t remember where I heard about it, but it sat on my hard drive for more than two years before we finally watched it. And it was pretty good…a decent little thriller that worked just fine as long as you didn’t think too hard about the sequencing (and sequencing, and sequencing) of events.

.:.

I’ve been sending this article to just about every extrovert I know. Specifically the ones who think introversion is something they think they can help people “get over” by forcing them into social situations. Which is to say, all of them.

.:.

OK, so…the Eaton Centre shooting yesterday. Brutal. Tragic, obviously. Stupid.Worrying, sure, due to the premeditated gun violence carried out by multiple attackers on someone who is probably, at least according to early signals given by the police, directly or indirectly linked to a gang…worrying in the same way the Jane Creba shooting was. But not scary. Not to me, at least.

We know the questions will come about whether we’re worried about living five minutes away from the Eaton Centre (well, ten minutes from the end of the mall where this happened), but honestly it doesn’t feel that close. To be honest, I don’t even consider the Eaton Centre to be part of Toronto. It’s like this weird suburban amusement park wedged between the tackiest corridor of Yonge and ugliest stretch of Bay, in which no non-teenager valuing their sanity would set foot for more than a few moments, and into which no actual Torontonian would walk of their own volition. So that underground food court where the shooting took place seems to me like a far-flung, unknown corner of the city.

As it happened, Nellie and I walked through the mall (straight through, actually…there’s a shortcut from Yonge to the Mercatto abutting Trinity Square) about five hours before the shooting. Had we chosen to eat dinner there instead of a late lunch we would have been there for the shots (albeit two levels up) and would have rushed out with the rest. But even knowing that, there’s no feeling of fear due to proximity. It happened somewhere else.

.:.

Featured image by kata rokkar, used under Creative Commons license

It's a freaking mall, people.

BlogTO yesterday raised an interesting topic: the differences in travel styles. Emphasis is mine.

Yesterday, the New York Times published yet another one of their great travel articles on a Toronto neighbourhood that doesn’t get much play from the powers that be who promote our city. Titled Skid Row to Hip in Toronto, the article isn’t a comprehensive look at the area, missing favourite spots like Crema Coffee, Smash and The Beet to name a few. Here are the ones they did mention:

Which is to say that it’s a good start and exactly the sort of story the city should be trying to get out instead of the crap about Ontario Place and Casa Loma.

I’m of the same opinion as BlogTO on this: for Toronto, or any tourist destination, the real soul of a place isn’t in the big tourist attractions, it’s between the lines of the Fodor’s guide. For many cities, and especially for Toronto, it’s in the neighbourhoods.  That you could wander from Chinatown to Kensington Market to Little Italy to the Annex to U of T (to take just one example) in less than an hour is fantastic because they’re all such different neighbourhoods. That’s what I want from a city, to get a real feel for it.

Obviously lots of people want to see the big attractions. When I lived at Dupont and Spadina I had tourists ask me every other summer day how to get to Casa Loma (which was always fun ’cause I could just point to the giant castle on top of the hill) and now that I live downtown I’m often asked where the Eaton Centre is. It always horrifies me that this is what tourists want to see, but that’s what’s in the guide books and, as BlogTO points out, the tourism promotions.

Should there maybe be two sets of promotion materials and guidebooks? Or is this the kind of thing that guidebooks just can’t keep up with, due to the rapid emergence and decline of neighbourhoods? Is this the role of the internet now? Until now a guidebook has just been an easier thing to carry around a city, but GPS-enabled devices could change that. I’m sure there’s already an iPhone app that points out cool insider tips about the neighbourhood you’re wandering through. If not, there should be. Damn, I wish I knew how to write those things…

"The mall at the end of town is dead. Amen."

I hate malls. I avoid them like the plague, even though I live just a few minutes from the largest (probably) downtown shopping centre in North America and a short subway ride from the fifth-largest mall in Canada. And apparently there are a bunch more around the city that I’ve just never laid eyes on. The crowds, the stale compound-like atmosphere, the food courts reeking of Manchu Wok…I’ve just never liked them.

Mind you, growing up, it was a big deal when a mall came to the town near where we lived. It had a K-Mart and a Save-Easy and a sports store and a drug store where I could buy comics. Truthfully I was too young to remember that mall opening, but I remember it being a big deal when we could go. Then a second mall opened in the mid-80s with better stores…Zellers instead of K-Mart, Sobeys instead of Save-Easy, Coles instead of just the drug store magazine racks,  A&W, a music store and (hooray!) an arcade. This mall was the new hotness, and everyone loved going there.

My mother still preferred to shop and do business downtown when she could, at the small locally-owned photo printers or clothing stores, and there was a real music store there where I could buy drums, but for the most part business was conducted on the outskirts of town at these malls. Before long, though, the new mall killed the old mall, leaving a near-empty shell sporting a few die-hard stores just across the road from a parking lot of mall-goers. Rare visits to the old mall felt vaguely creepy or eerie. I was too young to know that I was sensing imminent failure; dating would later allow me to hone that skill.

Now, when I visit that town on occasion, the “new” mall still seems fairly busy, but the real excitement seems to be at the big box stores…Wal-Mart came, first attached to the mall and then stand-alone. The grocery stores detached themselves from the malls and built neighbouring castles. Canadian Tire and Kent moved in. God knows what else is there now. Meanwhile, the stores downtown on or near main street struggle to survive. While this bothers me a bit, let me be clear: I’m not advocating the nostalgic return to an old towne main street; people will shop where they want to shop, and I have no desire to artificially perpetuate a dying model for posterity’s sake. I just have a fondness for that particular main street.

That said, I recognize that business and public preference can change, and for years I’ve hoped that the fad of shopping malls would eventually burn out. The last several years have certainly been pointing in that direction — though focus seems to be shifting more to the “power centre” model and not back to main street — the mall still seems to have a powerful hold. Even in downtown Toronto, with Queen Street, Yorkville, King Street, St. Lawrence Market and the like nearby, I still get asked for directions to the Eaton Centre all the time.*

So I was very interested to read that, according to Newsweek (via the Creative Class blog), last year was “the first in half a century that a new indoor mall didn’t open somewhere in the country—a precipitous decline since the mid-1990s when they rose at a rate of 140 a year.” The Newsweek article points to DeadMalls, a site which was always filled me with worry and joy. I wanted this trend to be over, remembering how empty and awful the old mall in that town became, but I didn’t relish the idea of hundreds of deserted neon bunkers littering the landscape. The mall experiment won’t be an easy one to clean up.

* It happened yesterday, actually.

Dan Dickinson's Day Off

Yes, just like Ferris Bueller, except I wasn’t pursued around the city by a sex offender.

Around 2:00 yesterday afternoon I got the best news I could possibly have received: my class got an extension on our assignment. I had my weekend back! Oh, frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

After plowing through a bunch of work and a last-minute crisis (deftly handled by T-Bone and, in a supporting role, myself) I arrived half an hour late to meet Nellie and CBGB at beerbistro. A glass of Stiegl Pils and some frites later I put the Blackberry away and settled into the weekend. I had butternut squash ravioli with sliced plums (delicious!) paired with a Brooklyn Brown Ale (ditto!) and a piece of chocolate swirl cheesecake for dessert. We all called it an early night after that; it was a long-ass day and we had plans for the early morning.

Today’s been both productive and relaxing; it’s like found time for me, so I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. We got up early and hit St. Lawrence Market for some pastries, seafood, tofu and vegetables, then grabbed ingredients for dinner at the Dominion on the way home. We sucked back the pastries while we watched Friday Night Lights and The Office on the PVR. Next leg of the trip was to walk up to Henry’s and collect some prints we’d ordered online. We’re planning to put some of our pictures on our walls, so we got some B&W prints from recent trips.

After dropping those back at home we struck out for MEC to buy me a jacket, stopping at Chapters on the way back and then grabbing lunch (all-day breakfast, in truth) at
Over Easy. On the way home we bought some picture frames for some of the afore-mentioned pictures and picked up dry cleaning. Back out we went to the {shudder} Eaton Centre, grabbing some more picture frames and a very nifty little charging station at Pottery Barn before escaping the mall as rapidly as possible. One last stop at The Bay for towels and our credit cards were begging for mercy.

Home again we gave the place a much-needed clean and then turned to neglected email accounts and feed readers. Tonight we’re laying low, enjoying the pardon (ok, reprieve) and looking forward to tomorrow.

.:.

Good luck, Atlantic Canada. Hold on tight.

[tags]ferris bueller, beerbistro, st. lawrence market, friday night lights, the office, over easy, eaton centre, pottery barn, hurricane noel[/tags]