News & Opinion

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Introducing Guu SakaBar, Guu Izakaya’s new West Annex location

In Arrivals & Departures, Eating & Drinking on February 20, 2011 at 11:16 PM

The unfinished but already jewel box-like tatami room at the front of Guu SakaBar | 559 Bloor Street West.

20 March 2011, 5:20PM update from our Twitter feed: Walked by @GuuSakabar 15 minutes ago and they are indeed finally open, and for probably the only time in their history, there isn’t a line-up–yet.

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By West Annex NewsChowhound first voiced the rumours in July of 2010. By the fall several media outlets confirmed them: Guu Izakaya, the insanely successful Japanese-style pub at 398 Church Street in Toronto is opening a second location at 559 Bloor Street West, in what is now the most eagerly anticipated debut on the Bloor-West Annex strip.

The space, just east of Bathurst, was previously occupied by Burger King, and before that, CFNY Radio’s street-front studio.

559 Bloor Street West's previous incarnation was a Burger King | Screen capture from Google street view

Construction has been ongoing on for many months now, during which time various sites have speculated on the date the Annex Guu will open its doors.

We contacted Hyunsoo Kim, the general manager at Guu Izakaya, who generously invited us in to see the state of the renovations on February 17, 2011.

Although still very much a construction site, the restaurant interior is taking shape.

The sushi bar to the left and the tatami room up front.

Entering the restaurant from the back kitchen entrance, we were immediately attracted to the beautiful tatami room up front, which although only partially finished, already glows like an exquisite jewel box. The many small square port hole-style windows, familiar from the Church Street location, allow twinkling light into the raw quartz-tiled room, and offer glimpses out to Bloor Street. The hardwood floors and textured wooden ceiling tiles give the room a warm glow.

The entranceway off Bloor is a long hall that runs adjacent to the east wall of the tatami room. It has been thoughtfully laid out to provide a large area where patrons can wait in line, sheltered from the outdoors, but separated by a wall from those already seated in the restaurant. Given Guu’s no-reservation policy, admittedly designed to try to keep out demographic undersirables like aging boomers, one suspects that the line-up will continue right out the door and down the laneway that lies to the immediate east of Guu’s building.

The sushi bar, located mid-restaurant on the west wall. The open kitchen is to the left

Right behind the tatami room on the west wall is the sushi bar, finished in rough grey barn-board.

Taking delivery of appliances in Guu SakaBar's gleaming all-stainless open kitchen

Behind the bar in the south-west corner of the building is an open kitchen, already gleaming with its stainless steel walls, and appliances that were just being delivered during out visit.

The main dining room is directly opposite the open kitchen, occupying the south-east corner of the building. It’s now barely roughed-in, and is packed with construction materials and machinery.

We drew this rough, not-to-scale floor plan based on our visit to Guu SakaBar on February 17, 2011

We prepared the sketch, left, of the basic layout of Guu SakaBar after our visit.

Although extremely busy supervising construction and taking delivery of appliances and materials, both General Manager Hyunsoo Kim and manager of the Annex location Natsuhiko Sugimoto were generous with their time answering our questions during the visit. They said the opening is now expected in mid early March 2011. Asked about the menu, Kim said some of the dishes from Church Street will be available in the Annex location, but that they planned “many surprises”, details of which Kim told us, with a smile, that he is saving for the opening.

It was only after we left the premise and inspected the business card that Sugimoto gave us that we noticed that the Annex location is not described as an izakaya restaurant–which in Japan means a cheap and cheerful after-work pub for drinking and snacking while waiting out the worst of rush-hour traffic–but a saka bar. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, in Tokyo at least, saka bars are often a step up in sophistication; more cocktails-and-tapas than pub.

The first Toronto location of this popular Vancouver franchise has polarized Toronto diners. The Church Street spot ranks number 3 on Joanne Kates’ current top ten restaurants in Toronto and number 2 on NOW’s most overrated restaurants.  But a careful review of the comments section of most on-line reviews generally shows raves for the imaginative and well-executed food, but loathing for line-ups for seats of up to two hours.

Maguro tataki: lighly seared BC albacore tuna sashimi with ponzu sauce and garlic chips ($6.80) from Guu Izakaya's Church Street location | photo credit Sifu Renka

This second location should alleviate the line ups somewhat. And line-ups are nothing for habitués of the Bloor-West Annex strip, long-practiced in the art of the line thanks to venues like Lee’s Palace, the Brunswick House, New Generation Sushi and Sushi on Bloor. Guu SakaBar should be a perfect fit for a neighbourhood already obsessed with Japanese food and willing to put in some time to get it.

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See Sifu Renka’s photoset of the food and decor of Guu Izakaya’s Church Street location on Flickr.

In Arrivals & Departures we document the changes in the commercial/retails strips of the West Annex on Bloor, Bathurst, and Dupont Streets, and think about these changes in the context of Jane Jacobs’ observation that popularity on retail strips can lead to commercial monocultures, and of Max Fawcett’s thesis that the Annex is un-gentrifying.

See the Arrivals & Departures archive for other articles like this one.

The weekly wrap for February 25, 2011

In This week in the neighbourhood on February 19, 2011 at 2:00 AM

Is the Green Room back? David Topping examines how the restaurant–closed down in September 2010 with the worst health inspection record in the city–managed to re-open. [OpenFile]

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The stations of Scott Pilgrim? The National Post staff have suggestions for Toronto’s own film icon statue. [National Post]

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The  malling of downtown. Siri Agrell looks at how the big boxes are shoe-horning themselves into unlikely spaces to chase downtown condo dwellers. [Globe and Mail]

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A 4000 square foot rival for Noah’s at Bathurst and Bloor. Bert Archer profiles Qi Natural Foods’ massive new shop, Herbs and Nutrition, in the former Payless Shoe Store premises at 572 Bloor Street West. [YongeStreet]

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Soon gone, but not forgotten. Derek Flack explores a collaborative effort to collect images of Toronto urban art using Google street view. [blogTO]

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Harbord and Spadina, 1899 and 2010. GBC finds two views of the intersection, taken 111 years apart. [Lost Toronto]

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The City Hall Press Gallery strikes back. Sort of. Jonathan Goldsbie reports on the media’s attempt to prevent our MIA Mayor and brother from continuing to freeze out the Star. [OpenFile]

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It’s not just us. Joel Kotkin laments that the world’s largest cities are failing in their traditional role of giving the poor a leg up into the middle class. [Metropolismag.com]

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Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.

For previous weeks’ columns, visit the Weekly Wrap archive.

Fanny Chadwick’s is now open at 268 Howland Avenue

In Arrivals & Departures, Eating & Drinking on February 18, 2011 at 2:35 PM

By West Annex News | Finally! The wait is over. Fanny Chadwick’s at Howland and Dupont opened its doors the evening of Wednesday, February 16, 2011.

We were given a look inside on Thursday, February 17th, just after the restaurant’s soft opening the night before. The transformation from the space’s last incarnation–AAA Chinese–is remarkable. There are large windows on the north, east and west sides of the restaurant, which allow natural light to flood into the space.  Inside is spacious, comfortable, and contemporary. The medium-brown wooden floors gleam. Comfy booths upholstered with bright, modern, geometric fabric line the walls, and vintage bar stools, upholstered in red leather–restored originals dating back from the days the space was Angelo’s Diner– provide seating around the L-shaped bar.

“The scene tonight @Fanny Chadwick’s” by @foodie411/Joel Solish

Sadly, we can’t show you the photographs we took during of our look inside the restaurant; part-owner Sarah Baxter wanted prior approval before we posted them, approval which she ultimately would not give. So we can only show you this mobile phone photo that @foodie411 (aka Joel Solish) apparently snapped off on opening night and shared on twitpic.

Baxter wouldn’t show us her menu either (although we found it later, also posted by Solish) as she said it was still evolving based on the feedback received during this week’s soft opening. She did share that the menu’s focus will be on seasonal comfort food, sourced locally where possible.  The meat will be from Rowe Farms, the beers from Ontario and Quebec, and the wine international.

An enthusiastic review of the food served the night of the soft opening night can be found on Solish’s Community Foodist website, together with more photographs of various dishes served that night.

111 Howland, where the original Fanny Chadwick lived from 1884 to 1898

As we understand it, Fanny’s will be open for dinner this week, brunch on the weekend, and then open full hours sometime next week. The Fanny Chadwick’s website is still under construction but gives this phone number–416.944.1606–and an email address for information: info@fannychadwicks.com. Regular updates are appearing on Fanny’s Twitter account, @FannyChadwicks.

The restaurant is named after Fanny Chadwick, an illustrious former resident of 111 Howland Avenue. According to Jack Batten in The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood, Fanny was born on January 10, 1873, and moved to 111 Howland Avenue at age 11 when her father, a successful senior partner with a prestigious 19th century Toronto law firm, built the enormous home opposite the See House beside St. Alban’s the Martyr Cathedral.The Chadwicks were Anglicans and committed supporters of the then partially constructed Cathedral.

Memorial window in St. Alban the Martyr Cathedral, 100 Howland Avenue

A gifted writer and actress, Fanny prolifically wrote, produced, and starred in plays which she presented in the living room of the spacious family home, to rave reviews from audiences that included members of Toronto’s working press. Fanny’s output dropped off after her marriage in 1898 and the birth of her son in 1900.  She died in 1905 at the age of 32.  A stained-glass window in the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr at 100 Howland Avenue–across the street from the Chadwick home–commemorates her, donated by her heart-broken father.

Detail of memorial window dedicated to Fanny by her father

Fanny Chadwick’s restaurant is yet another sign that the upper West Annex is transforming itself, and far outpacing the Bloor Street strip to the south for the number of interesting shops, cafes, galleries and restaurant that are opening.


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Also see:

Bert Archer, Venerable Dupont diner gets $250,000 overhaul, transforms into Fanny Chadwick’s”, YongeStreet.

Jack Batten,The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood, 2004, Erin, Boston Mills Press.

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10 March 2011 update (from our Twitter feed):

West Annex News
WestAnnexNews As we have a chef & restaurant owner in our family, we know it’s not fair to review restaurants until they’ve had a few months to sort out.  So we had no intention of mentioning our meal @FannyChadwicks tonight before the Tarragon Theatre. But it was superb – food & service. The seared rainbow trout @FannyChadwicks is incredibly moist & flavourful & the portion size was generous (for the fish and the slice of apple pie).

*20 February 2011: edited this post to add Fanny Chadwick’s phone number, now posted on their website along with the restaurant hours.

*19 February 2011: this post was edited to add the photograph by @foodie411/Joel Solish.  Visit his Community Foodist website.

The weekly wrap for February 18, 2011

In This week in the neighbourhood on February 18, 2011 at 12:01 AM

What does $1 million in pot look like? Derek Flack examines the marijuana haul taken out of Pizza Gigi on Harbord Street. [blogTO]

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Like the bike union, but for parks. Catherine Porter looks into a new lobby organization devoted to rescuing Toronto’s green space. [thestar.com]

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Confabulation at the Gladstone. Come out and hear our neighbour David Woodhead Thursday, February 24th at 8PM. [Gladstone Hotel]

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Raccoon Nation. Nicole Baute reviews the new documentary on the secret lives of  Toronto’s urban raccoons, airing on the CBC February 24th at 8PM. [thestar.com]

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Is our fear of heights misplaced? Edward Glaeser discovers how skyscrapers can save the city. [The Atlantic]

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Where’s the mayor? John Lorinc enquires with Rob Ford’s press secretary about the mayor’s disappearing act with the press. [spacingtoronto]

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Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.

For previous weeks’ columns, visit the Weekly Wrap archive.

Who’s the Mayor?

In The Maven, uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 1:38 PM

The Ford Family Compact, Rob fifth from the left, Doug far right | image credit RobFordToronto

By The Maven | In the bad old days, Ontario was ruled by a group of wealthy, conservative, elite families. They were essentially dynasties.  They were called the Family Compact.

Things have changed. Today Toronto is run by a rich family of two brothers, Rob and Doug Ford. Or perhaps that should be Doug and Rob. Both are scions of a long-time Conservative politician. Both inherited wealth and business status. Rob is a career politician.

How come a rookie councillor (Doug) is the spokesperson for everything that is going on a City Hall? Why won’t Rob agree to be interviewed by the press? Why won’t he answer questions? Why can we only hear from his brother Doug?

Just who is running City Hall?

Why is it that before Rob became Mayor he would not shut up about anything, but now we can’t hear from him about anything?

But what really bugs me is the response of the press. Why is our press being such toadies to this First Family of Fords? If Rob will not give an interview or answer questions, why do they agree to speak to his surrogate? Why not simply say on air, “as the Mayor refused an interview and refused to answer our questions, we have sought answers from…” and then proceed with an interview of someone in the opposition at City Hall. Someone like our own councillor Adam Vaughan.

Why allow Robdoug to play these games with impunity? Why isn’t our press up to the job of either getting an interview or calling the mayor to account?

Did this city vote for Rob or Doug Ford?

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For other articles by this author, visit The Maven archive.

The image above is a screen capture from a video posted on RobFordToronto’s YouTube channel.

Issues for this Wednesday’s meeting with Councillor Vaughan and Royal St. George’s

In Coming events, Royal St. George's construction on February 15, 2011 at 1:34 PM

By Louise Morin | BOHICA: bend over, here it comes again.

Yes, Royal St. George’s College is back at it again; they will be resuming construction on March 14, 2011 for two weeks, then take a hiatus during the spring, resume the summer of 2011 and continue then until the fall of 2012 . . . and perhaps beyond, to complete the project Jane Jacobs famously called “bad Mel Lastman-era planning.”

And between RSGC’s indifference to bylaws and construction guidelines and the City’s inability or unwillingness to enforce them, the St. Alban’s Park neighbourhood can be forgiven for feeling abused.

But Adam Vaughan has decided to wade in where Olivia Chow wouldn’t, and has called a community meeting this coming Wednesday, February 16th at 7:00PM at Walmer Road Baptist Church  to try to address some of the more contentious issues arising from the construction.

What are the issues?

1.  Routing of construction vehicles through the neighbourhood

Of the 500-plus construction vehicles to pass through the neighbourhood, 200-plus will be tandem dump trucks | Photo credit Jack Byrnes Hill

Adam Vaughan wants our input on the proposed route for the 500-plus construction vehicles which need to travel through the neighbourhood to the RSGC construction site. The first option would bring the trucks down Howland from Dupont to the RSGC campus, the second brings them in Barton from Bathurst and north up Albany–the wrong way on the one-way street; the third brings the trucks in Wells from Bathurst–the wrong way on one-way Wells–then south on Albany. In all three options, the trucks exit south on Albany and west on Barton out to Bathurst.

In an attempt to avoid having this issue divide the neighbourhood, I’ve heard some neighbours suggest that the trucks should rotate amongst the three routes. While I appreciate the spirit of compromise that motivates this suggestion, I’m against it. RSGC has been my neighbour for 23 years, and they’ve never failed to disappoint me during construction projects: they just don’t follow the rules. If they’re given a schedule of rotating routes, they are not going to comply; instead, we’re going to have trucks on all three routes all of the time.

The red line is option 2: the fastest, shortest route in and out of the neighbourhood.

Although it will be unpleasant for me personally (I live just a couple of doors north of the corner of Barton and Albany), I’m in favour of the trucks following option 2.  It’s the shortest route in and out of the neighbourhood. It keeps the rest of the neighbourhood relatively safe and undisturbed. It will be easy to tell our kids where they can and can’t go without our supervision, to avoid trucks. And it will be crystal clear to RSGC the only route where their trucks are permitted.

2.  Protocol and compensation for interruption of services .

RSGC says that they will need to interrupt services (hydro, water, gas, telephones, Internet) for up to six hours at a time, at various times during this project. Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park–the de facto residents’ association of the West Annex–has pressed RSGC to provide a schedule of the interruptions in advance. Neighbours also asked for details of RSGC’s plan to pay compensation to those financially inconvenienced by the interruptions.

In reply, RSGC wrote earlier this month “RSGC can’t speak to compensation as it relates to third parties. If neighbours have questions, we ask that they contact these utilities directly.”

This disingenuous response won’t do. RSGC has to speak to a protocol for advance notice and compensation for us at Wednesday’s community meeting.

3. Removal of portables

The portable illegally moved by RSGC in late 2010. RSGC first promised to remove their portables in 1996, in return for permission from the Committee of Adjustments to build an addition. They built the addition, but never removed the portables.

In 1996, RSGC promised to remove the two portable from their property in return for a variance to permit them to build addition for more classrooms.  They built the addition but the portables were not removed.

In December 2010, RSGC moved the two portables, and pushed them up to the back fences of adjoining residential properties on the east side of Albany and the west side of Howland. In keeping with their philosophy that it is always better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission, RSGC didn’t get the okay from the city before making the move. The city has since told them one of the portables must go.

Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park have asked that the portable–which is used only as a judo studio–be removed entirely from the site immediately; after all, it’s been improperly on the property for well over 10 years. RSGC wants an indulgence: they want to move the portable to the tarmac, facing Albany Avenue, pleading just “three more months”.

Given the long history of broken promises around the portables, yet more promises aren’t going to cut it. The portable has to go, now.

4. Community Committees

During the construction in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, in 2007 and again in 2010, RSGC repeatedly breached bylaws and construction management guidelines, particularly those concerning hours of construction, weekend construction, dust, mud, and noise control, and traffic and parking control.

The OMB ordered that for this project, various mandatory committees be struck, and that neighbours have a seat on these committees–the Construction Committees, where RSGC can seek permission to break the rules in special circumstance; the Community Consultation Committee, where neighbours can take complaints and problems caused by the construction; and the Neighbourhood Liaison Group under the Traffic Demand Management Plan.

RSGC has funny notions about neighbourhood representatives on committees.

Up until now, without any consultation with the neighbourhood, RSGC has chosen the so-called neighbourhood representatives. RSGC has then refused to give the rest of  us contact information for the neighbourhoods reps; they ignored Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park’s 2007 request for contact information, and mine made in the summer of 2010. And if these committees have ever met at all, RSGC has kept secret the date and place of their meetings and the results of their deliberations.

This farce can’t continue.  The neighbourhood should get to choose neighbourhood representatives.  We should be able to contact our representatives. We should be told in advance when committees will meet.  We should be able to attend the meetings.  Meeting agendas should be posted on the RSGC website in advance, and the minutes of the meetings promptly posted afterwards.

5. Enforcement of construction guidelines and bylaws

Councillor Vaughan’s office has asked someone from the City staff to come to to Wednesday’s meeting to explain to us why, project after project, RSGC has gotten away with breaking rules, and coach us on how we can get help from the city in the future.

In my many years as RSGC’s neighour, I’ve been to too many meetings where I hear RSGC’s “sincere” apologies for past breaches, followed by their lavish promises that they’re going to change their behaviour–this time.

When the next round of construction begins, we get the same disappointing behaviours–construction on weekends and statutory holidays, construction noise well before 7AM and well after 7PM, sidewalks blocked with building materials and trucks, no dust or mud control, on-street parking taken by construction crews and equipment and RSGC students.

Personally, I believe that RSGC follows a deliberate strategy of apology.  Why pay, for example, several thousand dollars on dust control when an apology later costs nothing?

6. Building on the south lawn by St. Alban’s the Martyr Cathedral

The view of St. Alban's the Martyr Cathedral from the east end of St. Alban's Square park

RSGC recently mentioned their desire to build–at some point–a small greenhouse “of less than 100 square feet” on the south lawn of St. Alban’s the Martyr Cathedral, where the RSGC environmental club wants to grow plants.

It is important that we stop any expansion of RSGC sheds and bins onto the lawn of St. Alban’s the Martyr Cathedral. The Cathedral is a designated heritage building of tremendous historic significance.

Between the brutalist gym RSGC stuck on the Albany end of the Cathedral in the 1970’s, to the big bus layby stuck on the Howland side in 2007, and the various bits and pieces stuck here and there on the Cathedral in between, there only is one unobstructed view left of the Cathedral for public contemplation, that is the view from the east end of St. Alban’s Square.

RSGC filled the the north side of their property with many sheds, bins, and portables. Now that they’re converting that space to a playing field, they’re looking to the only open space left on their campus, the lawns on the south side of the cathedral.  We must say no, and preserve what’s left of the view of this heritage site.

After 30-plus years of RSGC expansion, this the view of the historic cathedral from Albany Avenue

So as Jane Jacobs urged us, this we must remind RSGC on Wednesday night that there is a community here. If we all work together to make sure RSGC follows the rules, there’s no need for this latest project to become the same chaotic hell of those of the past.

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For further articles and information about Royal St. George’s College construction, visit the RSGC Construction home page and RSGC Construction Archive.

Visit Jack Byrnes Hill’s photostream on Flickr.

The weekly wrap for February 11, 2011

In Coming events, Reviews, Royal St. George's construction, This week in the neighbourhood on February 11, 2011 at 6:41 PM

Custom bike painter Noah Rosen of Velocolour shows off the plaid fenders he made for Don Cherry's bike at Curbside Cycle

Picture yourself in plaid. Custom bike painter Noah Rosen of Velocolour has finished the plaid fenders for Don Cherry’s pink bike, and you can have your picture with the bike tomorrow at Curbside’s Bike Love Sale, 412 Bloor Street West. [Curbside Cycle]

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Bikes on ice. Later on Saturday, head over to Dufferin Grove Park for Icycle 2011 bike races on the rink. [Duncan’s City Ride]

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Councillor Vaughan to hold meeting with West Annex community, Royal St. George’s on Wednesday, February 16th at 7:00PM.  Meeting to decide various issues including how to route 500 construction vehicles through neighbourhood, interruptions of power and other essential service, immediate removal of portable. [Ward 20]

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The Children’s Storefront reopens. Destroyed by fire in October of 2009, the beloved drop-in centre for kids and parents has reopened at 286 Bloor Street West. [InsideToronto.com]

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A great brunch. Eddie loves his meal at local fave By the Way Cafe. [T.O. Bites]

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No more dorms. U of T abandons residence in favour of luxury condos geared to wealthy and foreign students. [thestar.com]

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In defence of graffiti. Jake Tobin Garrett examines the mayor’s troublesome war on urban art. [deconstructed city]

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Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.

For previous weeks’ columns, visit the Weekly Wrap archive.

Don’t do a Ford with your COLA

In The Maven on February 9, 2011 at 8:54 PM

The millionaire brothers Rob and Doug Ford | photo credits Robyn Kalda/Wikimedia Commons

By the Maven | Interesting happenings at City Hall this week. The right made an assault on the left by forcing them to deny their COLA (cost of living allowance) increases.

Now, on face value what’s so bad about councillors refusing a pay increase?

I have no idea what is appropriate to pay a city councillor or what increases they should get. What I do know is that in the bad old days, councillors and school trustees were not paid. Holding these positions was considered public service.

There were two problems with this. First, these jobs  were considered part time. As a result most elected officials were not capable of making proper public policy because they never gave the time necessary to educate themselves on the issues.

Maybe that was just as well because of the second problem. Only the rich could afford to run for an office that would not pay them. What working person could possibly either quit work or take the time off work necessary to hold public office?

Which brings us to Rob and Doug Ford. They can. Why? Because they are rich.

It’s that simple. While playing the little guys’ friend, these two guys are millionaires.

So, again, I don’t know what a councillor should be paid. But I do know that they should be paid reasonably well for a job that takes a lot of work and responsibility. Otherwise we aren’t going to get good people in the office.

But what really pisses me off is Doug Ford making a public show of donating his entire salary to charity. Of course he can…because he is rich. He doesn’t need the money, unlike some of the working class people who run for office but still need to provide for a family.

You know what would be a REAL gesture? Why doesn’t Dougie try living on his councillor’s salary and donate his CORPORATE salary to charity?

Now that would be something to cheer for.

Oh. And while I’m at it. Let me add one more rant. Isn’t power a seductive asset? Just like the Conservatives in Ottawa, all of whom have agreed to be neutered by Steven Harper just to be in cabinet and in power, the conservative councillors at City Hall have castrated themselves politically just so they can have any appointment in the Ford Administration. Imagine a politician who has been on council for 20 years agreeing to take orders from Dougie who has about 20 minutes experience in urban affairs.

Well, if power is an aphrodisiac all the conservative councillors at City Hall must be stoned!

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Visit Robyn Kalda`s photostream on Flickr.

For other articles by this author, visit The Maven archive.

John Cadiz Life Stories at Ideasincorporated, 1081 Bathurst Street, until February 20, 2011

In Coming events, Reviews on February 7, 2011 at 10:16 PM

Launching the boat (1989) by John Cadiz, at Ideasincorporated

By West Annex News | After decades of struggle, the Bathurst Street strip south of Dupont is finally taking off. With the trauma of a major fire and the seemingly endless construction on Bathurst Street and the CPR underpass finally behind it, the revolving door of shops that have come and gone over the years has finally stopped spinning. A critical mass of interesting galleries, indie coffee houses, shops and restaurants have come and stayed. Suddenly signs of gentrification are everywhere on this once perennially scuzzy strip.

Bathurst from Vermont north to Dupont is now a worthy destination to plan to spend an entire morning or afternoon, enjoyably wandering from gallery to gallery and shop to shop, fortifying yourself during breaks at the various interesting cafes and coffee shops.

We’ll be writing more in coming weeks about some of these shops, galleries and cafes which have been garnering rave reviews from the media, like Madeleines, Cherry Pie and Ice Cream, Rapido, BurnettJava Mama, Barbara Edwards Contemporary, Ewanika, and opening later this month, a new wine bar The Grape.  All these have joined with neighbourhood stalwarts like Annapurna Vegetarian, La Parette Gallery and the unspoiled vintage diners Apollo 11 and Vesta Lunch to form a vibrant new neighbourhood in the upper West Annex.

Today we’re looking in particular at Ideasincorporated, a gallery at 1081 Bathurst Street and their current show, John Cadiz Life Stories, which features the exuberant paintings of Trinidadian expatriate and Seaton Village resident John Cadiz.

Opening night of John Cadiz Life Stories at Ideasincorporated gallery, January 28, 2011

“I was born and raised in Trinidad” says Cadiz. “My French/Irish/Spanish ancestry, white skin with all its implied privileges, and a strict Catholic upbringing have perhaps afforded me a unique perspective. I emigrated to Canada in 1977 and worked as a graphic designer to support myself. During a rather stressful period about twenty years ago I started to paint. I am mainly self-taught and tend to use events in my past, religion, and Trinidad carnival as props or metaphors, some of which I put into paintings set in more recent times.”

Whether set in his Trinidadian past or in Canada, summoned from his memory or imagination, these painting layer sweetness, sadness, and the macabre together, using humour to leaven the mix.

Venus de Kaboom (2005) by John Cadiz

The macabre is particularly strong in painting like Putting Down Sambo (2008) based on a true incident in which the artist’s father botched an attempt to euthanize a beloved pet, @#$% Gridlock (2004) where through the window of a TTC bus one sees an execution about to take place, but jaded commuters only complain about the gridlock, and Venus de Kaboom (2005) where a female suicide bomber detonates herself to a sexist commentary on her detached body parts from demons, who presumably urged her on to self-destruction.

@#$% Gridlock (2004) by John Cadiz

Others, like The Family Reunion (2007) appears tranquil enough at first glance.  The label beside this painting reads “I thought I’d have a fantasy reunion, a kind of snapshot with the picture taker trying to get everyone to take a bow at the same time with the usual fooling around. The family would be together one last time when we were all happy.”

John Cadiz: The Family Reunion (2007) by John Cadiz | click to enlarge

Not mentioned are the three guest on the porch, looking on at the family’s merriment: an angel, a top-hatted grim reaper, and a character who is perhaps Jab Molassie–a devil masquerade character in Trinidad’s Carnival. While the angel is plainly a mortal–we see the band on the headdress holding up her halo–the devil is real: he breathes fire as he exclaims in patois. The reaper leans back contentedly; he’s found a home to settle into for a while.

Fall (2006) by John Cadiz

Similarly, in the punning Fall (2006), a placid scene of traffic on a multi-lane highway returning to Toronto at the end of an autumn weekend is punctuated by a disintegrating aircraft falling from the sky overhead.

But not all the painting have a morbid twist. In Bettina’s garten (2000) we see a scene of urban Toronto bliss as Monica and her sister-in-law Poonam barbecue in the backyard of their Ossington home, surrounded by a garden planted by their German tenant Bettina.

Bettina's garten (2000) by John Cadiz | click to enlarge

And in Camping with the mon (1998), the artist’s tenderness and self-deprecating humour is evident in his autobiographic portrayal of a camping trip to Tobermory Provincial Park gone wrong. The loving couple both embrace and shield each other’s eyes as a powerful wind whips through their campsite, blowing campfire smoke into their faces.

Camping with the mon (1992) by John Cadiz

There are many other paintings, equally engaging and absorbing.  We’ve been to the show twice now, and plan to visit again before the show closes on February 2o, 2011.

Ideasincorporated began in 2007 when owner Oliver Heinrich bought 1081 Bathurst Street in 2007 and set to work renovating it into a live/work space with his family’s living quarters above and the gallery below. Heinrich’s first show was an installation of works made from materials he recycled from the building’s renovation.

The Ideasincorporated gallery at 1081 Bathurst Street, beside the empty lot left after the fire that destroyed the Children's Storefront

Devoted to showcasing the work of local artists, Heinrich had just held his first two successful shows when disaster struck in October 2009: the Children’s Storefront housed in the building to his immediate south, burned to the ground in October of 2009. In fighting the fire, Heinrich’s gallery was drenched with water, the south wall destroyed and the recently renovated ceilings, floors, and electrical wiring ruined. A struggle with his insurer–still not resolved–meant Heinrich wasn’t able to complete the restoration of the interior of the property until late summer of 2010. The exterior still awaits final repairs, so the gallery can be easily missed from the street.

But the gallery is well worth a visit, as are the neighbouring shops and cafes in the amazing, gentrifying upper West Annex.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ For more on the ascendance of the upper West Annex at Bathurst and Dupont, read Karen van Hahn’s Bathurst and Dupont is the newest style mecca” in thestar.com.

The Weekly Wrap for Friday, February 4, 2011

In Heritage & History, This week in the neighbourhood on February 4, 2011 at 8:29 AM

A new condo for Bathurst and Bloor? The former Loretto College property at 783 Bathurst Street has been sold for $6.97 million by the Catholic District School Board  to H & R Developments. [Urban Toronto]
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A new strip mall for Dupont? Bert Archer reports on an application to rezone Leal Rentals at 555 Dupont, across the street from Loblaws . [YongeStreet]
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A visual history of Yonge and Bloor. Derek Flack looks the changes to this intersection through historic photographs dating from the 1920s to today. [blogTO]
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The new owner of 69 Albany Avenue talks about his house. [Town Crier.ca, h/t to Ring Around the City]
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Who you gonna call? Lisa Day profiles Ward 20 councillor Adam Vaughan’s office staff. [InsideToronto.com]
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Urbanism in the the age of climate change. An excerpt from Peter Calthorpe’s new book. [SF.Streetsblog.org]
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The Annex Shul aka the cool shul welcomes its first full-time spiritual leader, with a celebration Shabbat Saturday, February 12th. [Jewish in Toronto]
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Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.

For previous weeks’ columns, visit the Weekly Wrap archive.