A Mid-Week Pause in T.O.

Today is one of those odd ones where during a week of eclectic news items, you have to pause (and not necessarily reflect), but just kind of go “Huh?”

Before I get into the weirdness, I should point out that the alternate Editor’s Blog (with formal C.V. samples) at www.mondomark.com is back, and functioning much better than, well, last year. Still MIA are blogs from late April-early June, but that’ll be settled shortly. The site still needs a few tweaks, but the main thing is it works, which means the RSS feed for KQEK.com is back online, too.

More important, though, is a problem that I never managed to fix. The server swap was to enable upgrading to more recent versions of Word Press, and to see if this thing called timthumb.php would work. It’s a ‘simple’ script that places thumbnail images of posts on the main page and category indexes, and thanks to some tweaks done by the server’s tech team, it finally works. I still hate the thing for being so frustrating, but I just want to express an open thanks to the tech support at ehosting.ca, because they solved the problem – something DumBell would never do for their customers.

I was actually one of maybe a few people who didn’t feel the Earthquake yesterday (which some have dubbed the Toronto Earthquake, which is dumb, seeing that serious damage occurred north of T.O. and the Gatineau region).

During the ‘quake I was either still having lunch with a friend at Mother’s Dumplings (really yummy food), or we were walking along Spadina, pausing once at an intersection so I could see the LCBO where one can now buy Aalborg, the delicious Danish Akvavit in Ontario after something like a ten-year absence. (Demand for the amber drink was allegedly so low that either the LCBO stopped carrying it, or the booze maker gave up.)

In any event, I felt not a quiver, which makes me wonder if the combination of dumplings (a minimum of 13 per person were consumed), smashed cucumber salad, and spring onion pancake aids in absorbing quake shocks. Maybe it’s an inner ear thing, where excessive consumption of carb-rich dough matter fills the ear’s main balancing device, the tinnoitium, with a thicker fluid that presents an illusion of vertical stability, so one is never aware that the earth is vibrating or tilting.

Someone should study this in deeper detail.

The only time I felt a quake was some years ago. One night I was half-awoken by the ringing of glass (specifically the water glasses on the night table) and the bed being rocked back and forth by what I thought were either angry miniature children, mischievous mice, or Pazuzu (him).

Turns out it was a quake, but it felt like an Exorcist moment (which actually wasn’t my first. Years before that incident, my dad and I travelled to family friends living in Hammonton, New Jersey – ‘the blueberry capital of the world’ – and their house happened to be situated on an old aquifer. Turned out it had gone dry, but because the delivery trucks used the main road to reach major highways, the corner bedroom shook whenever an 18-wheeler roared over the empty chamber under the street).

Moving on.

June marks the first month where the Toronto Underground Cinema is open for regular business, and the old Carlton Cinema is set to open next week, on June 30th, after a refurbishment by new owners Magic Lantern. Though the Carlton is nothing like the grand palace that sat at the corner until the seventies, the 9-screen cinema (formerly run by Cineplex Odeon) has been refitted with better seats and sound, and should please local film fans tired of making the long trek down to the city’s ugliest intersection, Young & Dundas, to see films in the AMC megaplex (where it’s apparently amazingly easy to sneak into films because of the complex’ size and lack of vigilance).

The movie theatres may in fact enjoy steady business as the lakeshore is being transformed into an island of concrete, barbed wire, and a massive law enforcement presence. Most of the local media are having some obvious fun reporting on the absurdities that have manifested as the $1 billion thing – the G8, and more specifically, the G20 – are coming up fast.

The Toronto Star cites the woes of local businesses set to lose money due to closures. Some merchants have planned their own lock-up because locals and tourists aren’t shopping, and the security measures are so disruptive that some businesses near the outer concrete condom feel the loss of cash is better than dealing with security checks, and being potentially close to anarchistic loons wanting to smash a few store windows.

The National Post ran a great graphic of the condom’s expansiveness (dubbed “Fortress Toronto”), which in photos taken by outraged and amused citizens looks as grim as a snapshot of West Berlin during the Cold War years, and just as ridiculous. (The best of the latter involve GG, the ‘mousy’ G20 reporter, and Mr. T Bear, the city’s most intrepid reporter.)

Torontoist’s latest tally of ruinous feats includes the massive CycleCop presence that surrounded a particularly belligerent j-walker (who was asking for it, really, by goading patio diners to chant of “F--k you” to the police); harassed photographers wanting some digital postcards of the condom; and I.D. cards that say “Ontairo.”

If you’ve time, read this blogTO piece, and then scan down and read every comment, because it’s peppered with sometimes hysterically funny opinions, including more serious admissions of ‘fortress’ passersby with similarly bungled I.D.'s. Best comments: Ontario + Cairo = Ontairo, and a discussion with a commentator named “kaka.”

If the $1 billion expenditure ends up wrangling a lot of nasty, belligerent exhibitionists and middling threats, then Harper will be vindicated for wasting the city’s time and money for an event that can’t possibly bring in the favourable international media attention and accolades and tourism he and his henchmen have been touting for months. If it fails, there’s at least another major outrage (after proroguing parliament) that’ll stain his polyester persona.

At then end of it, though, it’ll be dryly amusing to see how the local and provincial leaders will create their own spin: Mayor Miller will struggle to find some proof of tourist presence in T.O. when reports seem to infer a number are avoiding the city next week (the VIA trains that ferry people through the busy Toronto-Montreal corridor aren’t even stopping at T.O.’s train hub, Union Station); and Premier McGinty will try and walk some impossibly fine line in criticizing the disruption without actually doing anything stern in the face of Teflon Harper.

In reading several posts and articles this past week, one does notice a number of nicknames that writers and interviewees have proscribed to the city of Toronto.

If you’re visiting people out of country, one sometimes actually says To-ron-to, but locally it’s Tronno, because that’s just the way it is. We also use the abbreviation T.O., not because we feel we’re a province unto ourselves, but because it’s easy. Some also write the code YYZ, because that’s the code on your luggage tag that reads “this dude or dudette is from Tronno.’

One name that I’ve only heard lately – and I’ve been living in this dopey city since birth – is The Big Smoke. (We called in the army to shovel snow; we have low water pressure and we live beside a lake; and for 25 years no one knows what to do about the Gardiner Expressway except dream up divisive schemes that never go beyond pretty pictures. We’re dopey. It's a factoid.)

The city has many nicknames, but perhaps this picture and prose explain The Big Smoke origin. The ever-accurate Wikipedia (ahem) has a few other names, including Hogtown, which I’ve always liked because ‘city of pigs’ has healthy mental grounding affect whenever the city thinks its ‘World Class’ (a term likely stemming from MegaCity Mel in his Melnoidal prime) and ‘the most ethnically diverse city on the planet’ (a phrase invented by publicists with no basis in hard head-counting, gene-sampling fact).

We do have Mother’s Dumplings, however, and the fact you can buy kalonji (black onion seed), Costoluto Genovese tomatoes, Malaysian and Berbere spice mixes, eat Japanese black sesame ice cream, and finally get Aalborg locally is frankly awesome.

Besides, our skyline is quite beautiful, with the CN Towner complimented by the SkyDome that the province sold for a dime in times of desperation to Rogers, the negative-billing pioneer who transformed the fire sale purchase of the massively over-budgeted stadium into the Rogers Centre, and purchased rival company Fido and, according to original subscribers, wrecked it.


Mark R. Hasan, Editor


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