A Day Full of Politics

I've been keeping one eye on Toronto City Council because they're voting on the postering by-law. Unfortunately this meant that I missed the breaking news that Belinda Stronach jumped off the S.S. Harper and joined up with Team Martin.

Also, I'm sad that I won't be able to help take down the Liberals in the BC election. Gordon Campbell has hacked social services in that province, the NDP didn't do a great job running the province considering how long they were in power but giving the Liberals free rein of the province wasn't that much fun either. I'm actually more interested in seeing how BC will vote on all the interesting voting reform initiatives.

Toronto the Good

When I first found out about Spacing Magazine I fell in love with the idea of a magazine dedicated to Toronto's public space. I've written one piece to the mag which is now online and will have pieces in the next issue.

Spacing is also having a fundraiser at the Steamwhistle Brewery Distillery District next week. It's only 10 bucks (20 if you can afford it!). I'd love to see you there.

MediaScout

If you haven't already subscribed to Maisonneuve's MediaScout, what are you waiting for? MediaScout is Maisonneuve's daily analysis of what the Big 6 media outlets are covering (Four papers and two TV news programs). The sages at MS break down the papers and show you what they're leading with, how the newsrooms are spinning the stories and any missteps in coverage.

Canada phone cards India phone cards France phone cards Russia phone cards UK phone cards USA phone cards Bizon phone card Jupiter calling card Mozart calling card Continental calling card

Go, now!

Now That's Good Eatin'

One of things I did when I was in NYC was visit the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas, a little museum tucked right in the middle of Chinatown. The museum was showing an exhibit on Chinese restaurants in the US, which is also lovingly reviewed here by Gish Jen.

Chinese restaurants have been on my mind a lot lately because of Cheuk Kwan's great 13-part documentary series which is screening around Canada because of Asian Heritage Month.

If there's a single type of business that speaks of the immigrant experience in Toronto, restaurants would have to be it. Once any nationality or ethnic group reaches a certain size it seems that invariably a restaurant pops up in Toronto. Interestingly, I still can't find a decent South East Asian place in Toronto (one that serves decent Singaporean, Malay, Indonesian)....

I love my neighbourhood

Sooner or later something really bad is going to happen in my neighbourhood. But for now I just have to contend with the silliness of urban life.

Reflecting on 9-11

Reflecting on 9-11
I finally got around to reading William Langewiesche's American Ground, his long feature turned into book on the 9-11 recovery efforts. Langewiesche, who writes for the Atlantic, managed to get access to the site less than a week after 9-11 and was there for months afterwards. It's probably one of the best pieces of long-form journalism in the last couple of years and well worth getting (it's already hit the syllabus at Ryerson).

Reading Langewiesche also prepped me for Joel Meyerowitz's 9-11 exhibit (http://www.911exhibit.state.gov/) which is currently showing at Contact. Meyerowitz' a NYC street photographer is showing some large format photographs of the site at an old empty building turned into a gallery on King St. W. They're a perfect compendium to Langewiesche's wonderfully reported book.

Sweet Sweet Vindication!

It's in a study it's gotta be true!

I'm Putting This Up In As Many Places As I Can

I'm using the power of the blogosphere to get the word out. The posters are available from the Toronto Public Space Committee to download or you can buy a package of 50 and start your very own anti-Nike campaign. I also post about it on Torontoist.

Those Randy Classical Music Fans

One of the things that has always pissed me off about the contemporary marketing of classical music are the really really lame attempts at sexing up classical music. Bond, Vanessa Mae, that annoying new tenor quartet. They're sooo mainstream and heavy handed....

Let's put this hot, young soprano in a short skirt and this hot young tenor in a leather jacket and tight pants and those classical music buyers will just swoon! WRONG! I'm not sure how to make classical music "sexy" again, or whether that's even really worth it. Much of the music can be challenging and simply doesn't fit in the 5 minute snippets, mp3 driven culture of music today. British classical music writer Ivan Hewett argues that the sexiness of the music is just below the surface. With most opera it's not below the surface it's right there (Rigoletto is about a duke who sleeps around and how one jilted dad seeks revenge, Don Giovanni = Don Juan, etc.)

PBS: Yet Another Arm of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

A story in the NYT reports that the Republican chairperson of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting thinks that PBS should change its liberal bias. Uh, isn't denying PBS funding to do its job enough damage guys?

The OTHER 50 tracks...

I bumped into Zoilus last night at Trampoline Hall and we ended up chatting about his alterna-50 tracks exercise with Ottawa blogger Pregnant Without Intercourse. There are some genuinely insightful and also some amazingly funny moments so far:

1) Tragically Hip Vs. Rush
2) Lenny and his Casio
3) Why “A Case of You” is really a shitty song

And more gentle (or not so gentle) reader, oh so much more. Go check it out. I’m also going to keep plugging Sheila Heti’s book launch until the electric current jolts me and I pass out from arrythmia.

Book Reviews and Angry Asian Man

I'm writing a couple of book reviews for Broken Pencil. I also have reviews in the issue that's about to hit newsstands (eee, Steve Kado centrefold!).

Also, if you're in Toronto and want to start on the road of being a policy wonk, check out this event I'm helping to organize.

Also, if you haven't seen it yet check out Angry Asian Man's blog! Culture, politics, from an Asian American perspective, and not all of it angry!

Toronto the Beautiful

I went to the packed launch for PubliCity last night and between chatting with half of the editorial board of Spacing, sifting through buttons and chatting with photobloggers I came to the realization that Toronto is actually quite beautiful.

It's not like Vancouver or Sydney, which are just plain out, jawdroppingly, achingly beautiful but the fact that I'm living in Toronto now and not missing these places (Sydney, a little) is testament to something.

But many of these photobloggers have been impressing me for a long time. Just when I thought the city was an ugly, cruel, grey place that was beating me around; Rannie Turingan (http://photojunkie.ca/) posts a photo that makes me do a double take. Just when I start cursing my neighbourhood and Kyle Rae for his soulsucking development Matt O'Sullivan reminds me that there are some achingly beautiful places in the big smoke.

That doesn't mean that those of us living here should be complacent (ahem Vancouverites, are you listening). For every gorgeous photo of the lake I see on a photoblog, I'm reminded that an ugly highway still cuts off most of the city from the lake. A photo of rusted bikes reminds me that biking on the roads in Toronto means you're a second class citizen at the mercy of the cars on the road.

Yes Toronto, you really are beautiful but you can still be so cruel.

Photo from Daily Dose of Imagery

A few thoughts about Massive Change

So a few more things about Massive Change that didn't make it into my Torontoist piece:

In note form:

  • All this stuff was in Wired Magazine last year....
  • This feels like EPCOT, where's the monorail? And where's the overpriced food at the Japan Pavillion? (Sarah L. my editor felt like this too)
  • Why is the rubber chicken the defining souvenir from Massive Change? Is this a joke?
  • The room of photos is pretty cool!
  • Not being able to touch the cool textiles isn't, they're textiles damnit.
  • What?! No flying cars?
  • eye on blogs

    Ooh, eye Weekly writes about blogs. I don't really agree with their picks for Toronto city blogs, but hey, no such thing as bad coverage.

    Also, I'm scared of Bruce Mau (pictured here on the left). Here's why.

    Bowling for Immigrants

    No, it's not the new Michael Moore film. It's my friend's event.

    Bowlers of the World Unite!
    a fundraiser for immigrant rights

    5-pins and a glowing disco ball!
    Live music set from The Pick-Ups!
    Rockin' tunes courtesy of Rose B. and Kristine K.!
    Raffle Prizes from Cheese Magic, Images Festival,
    I Deal Coffee,
    Public,
    Uprising Books, and more!
    and... a LUNGE CONTEST!
    with MC Maggie M. stirring up trouble!

    @ Danforth Bowl
    (1554 Danforth Ave., just steps west from Coxwell
    subway station)
    Friday March 18th, 7:30pm - midnight

    $10-$20 sliding scale for a full night of bowling fun.
    All proceeds from the event will benefit No One is
    Illegal (Toronto).

    Just in case you were wondering here are the pickups, aren't they just adorable.




    Also raffle prizes from where I buy my cheese and my coffee! Bowling, alt country, and a good cause! How can you lose?!

    Meanwhile, in another part of Boy Reporter's Brain

    Boy Reporter is also Boy PR person. Here's an event I'm helping organize. Come on down if you're in Toronto and interested in policy (and who isn't!)

    Title: POLICY FROM THE GROUND UP

    Date: Tuesday, March 22

    Time: Reception, 6:30pm; speeches begin 7:15pm

    Place: International Living Learning Centre, Ryerson University.
    International Room.

    Confirmed Speakers:

    BOB RAE, Author of the Rae Report on Post-Secondary Education;

    KEN OGILVIE, Executive Director of Pollution Probe;

    DAVID MESLIN Coordinator of the Toronto Public Space Committee and

    GUY GIORNO, lawyer – Fasken and Martineau and former Mike Harris Chief of Staff.

    Swoon...

    Sheila Heti (known as Mrs. Zoilus in some circles), quite possibly one of the first people I met in Toronto, all around great person and great writer has a new site and a new book (pictured here). I'm trying to wrangle her for an interview on Torontoist.

    Crazy for Comics!

    I picked up Men of Tommorow at the library today. A book about the early early days of comic books. Coincidentally this is the historical setting for one of my favourite books EVER Michael Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay. I read comic books when I was a kid, and heck I read comic books now too. I find it interesting how the genre has become quite normalized and almost no longer has a stigma attached to it.

    This is all old news of course, Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer for Maus, Adrian Tomine does covers for the New Yorker and a book about a boy and his comics (the very same Kavalier and Klay also won a Pulitzer!)

    I was also reminded by Guy Leshinski over at the Cultural Gutter that I should make my way up to the Toronto Reference Library to catch the comics exhibit before it closes.

    Boy Reporter on Mixed Media Watch

    It's official.... I'm contributing to yet another blog! You can find my writing on the Bloggie nominated site Mixed Media Watch. The boys and girls at MMC look at representations of mixed race peoples in the media, race relations and more. Always a good read.

    T-Shirt Watch continues

    What's not to like about these shirts.... the tag line is awesome, "putting the racy back in conspiracy." Thanks boing boing.

    Punk Rockers vs. Homeless Advocates

    Wow, I'm not sure who to root for in this fight. I was reading just last week that the Bowery, historically a pretty shady neighbourhood in NYC, is gentrifying fast. Now there's this lovely little scuffle between punk rock mecca CBGB and the homeless services committee that owns the building.

    There seems to be a lot of lousy accounting on both sides here and a general sense of flakiness but there really aren't any winners in this fight.

    The most powerful design tool ever!

    Most people will argue that the computer is arguably the most powerful design tool ever. Yes with programs like Photoshop and the ability to design things down to the millimetre electronically and make changes on the fly the computer has ushered in a new age of design. But I posit the humble restaurant napkin as our most powerful design tool. I was inspired when I read a post on Torontoist about Bruce Mau's Massive Change exhibit. Apparently the idea for the exhibit was concocted on a napkin and is shown above. Uber-architect Frank Gehry also designs buildings like the Disney Hall and the Guggenheim Bilbao on a paper napkin

    And what's this scribbly looking thing? Well that's Alexander Graham Bell's preliminary sketches for the phone. . Imagine where we'd be if Graham Bell was sitting in a fancier restaurant that used cloth napkins? Or if his assistant Watson got a little tipsy and spilled something on the sketch? Or had his eye on a young philly across the room and decided to borrow Alex's napkin? [Boy Reporter's note: go to this website it's quite funny!] No phone, no telecommunications revolution! One wonders how many other of Graham Bell's many many inventions were done first on paper napkin? This is after all the man who Evan Solomon claims helped invent the modern world as we know it. I think the napkin wins this argument hands down.

    Reading Minds...

    I can officially add telling the future as one of my skills (also on the list: making a mean quiche, copy-editing and trivia skills. I'm also a good kisser). In today's paper Christopher Hume, Toronto Star architecture critic, also harps on the evils of suburbia and why that's coming to an end soon, but not soon enough.

    Fighting Sprawl

    Everyone seems to be talking about sprawl. Now magazine has written recently about what to do with all that open space outside the GTA (turn it into organic farmland growing a diversity of crops). The Star weighed in with this feature on small shops, new urbanism and why sprawl makes for boring cities (anybody who's been to the Dallas Ft. Worth area or any other second rate American city can testify to this). The Globe talked about an idea that's been floating around the Toronto blogosphere, a subway that covers everything in the city and not just the three lines we've got now.

    Maybe it was that rather scary winter smog day we got a little while back (it looked pretty disgusting and probably wasn't that healthy) but I'm glad that the public is thinking about this. Sadly our best weapon for fighting sprawl, the TTC just got a little worse with a fare hike ($2.50 for an adult to ride the Rocket! "The Better Way" indeed). So what exactly should we do about sprawl? How can we change the hearts and minds of people who have been indoctrinated by car companies and popular culture to want cars in the driveway, a big fancy house in the burbs with a manicured lawn? How do we get the Joneses to stop wanting the now outdated and constructed fantasy of a "Leave it to Beaver" life?

    Stay Tuned!

    I've registered and hosted this site on www.boyreporter.ca. I'm also working on migrating this site over to Movable Type. I'm starting to find Blogger a little bit annoying and not as flexible as I would like. So stay tuned, changes are afoot.

    The clearinghouse

    I liked the Decemberists since my friend Hanson introduced them to me a couple of years back. Any band that can name drop Marcel Duchamp and write sea shanties and songs that make fun of Los Angeles is alright with me. I've been listening to a copy of their soon to be released album, Picaresque (mea culpa on internet piracy here). Well the new album is more of the same, which is a good thing. What the world needs now isn't love but tightly written, comical songs about maritime life.

    I'm also going to take this opportunity to gush about wunderkind Jonathan Safran Foer. I gobbled up his debut novel Everything is Illuminated and I've been shoving that book into people's hands for the last three years now. It's a story about a young Ukrainian-American named Jonathan looking for his grandfather's destroyed shetl. He's coming out with a new novel, soon, but not soon enough. Here's an interview with Jonathan from the NYT magazine. Also, because I'm actually reading again I want to heartily recommend Ken Kalfus' novel the Commissariat of the Enlightenment, about the fictional meeting of Lenin, Stalin and a filmmaker witnessing the death of Leo Tolstoy.

    Bye Radio3 website thanks for the memories

    Although I promised that I wouldn't plug the Radio3 website so much, I can't help but do it this time. If you don't already know the Radio3 website is being shutdown because the higher-ups want to focus on the radio side of things.

    Check out my friend Charlie Cho's piece "at the end of the day." Yep that's him on the couch. Also my old boss Sally McKay blows our minds with an alternative viewpoint on the nature of time. Yep, that's her holding the Stephen Hawking-like diagram.

    Boy Reporter at MOMA

    Hypothetical conversation between MOMA architect Yoshio Taniguchi and a member of the MOMA board:

    Board Member: Uhm, Yoshio these drawings look great. We especially love the way you're using glass to dissect the staircase. It frames our gallery goers quite well. There is a problem though.

    Yoshio Taniguchi: Problems?! What problems, I made sure I looked over everything. I even made sure you got light into that square box of a building. Natural light! In Mid-town Manhattan, do you know how hard that is?!

    BM: But uhm....

    YT: No buts, I've designed nine museums. I won't listen to your philistine arguments.

    BM: Yoshio, you left something out.

    YT: Left something out? Would you tell Frank Lloyd Wright to change something?! I don't think so.

    BM: Uhm, really it's quite important!

    YT: This should be good....

    BM: You forgot the coat-check.

    YT: @#$%%#$#

    I'm sure that Mr. Taniguchi is a lovely individual.... and the new MOMA is a gorgeous building and the $20 fee is almost, uhm, justified. But for all that money, couldn't you have designed a bigger more efficient coat-check? I know it's busy in the winter with all those coats and scarves and mittens. And I know it's probably busy right now because everyone is ogling the lovely new building. but couldn't you have come up with a more efficient system? One that helps out those tourists that speak 80 languages trying to figure out where they can retrieve their backpacks and coats after entering a zen-like state staring at a Malevich painting? I only write this because I was waiting for close to an hour to check in my bag, when I could've been staring at Warhols and Dalis and Jeff Walls and Gurskys!

    Boy Reporter at the Gates

    I'm quite sure everyone is sick and tired of hearing about the Gates, so I promise that this will be my only and my last post about Christo's installation. I went to the Central Park last Saturday on a breezy winter day, and also the second to last day the installation was completely up.

    The critical round-up about the Gates has been mixed. Timothy Comeau's Good Reads has done a good job rounding up critiques about the Gates including a very funny segment from the Daily Show. There's this Talk of the Town piece. And my old boss, Sally McKay's rousing commentary on the piece.

    There's a strange tension in this work and indeed in many of Christo's work. The Gates is arguably a democratic piece. It was free (it didn't cost anything, but miraculously also free of ads), open to the public and in Central Park, a space that many New Yorkers use and frequent on a regular basis. But also strangely dictatorial, Sally commented on the massive police presence to protect the Gates. But the Gates is also Christo imposing his will and force of personality upon the environment. When he places giant umbrellas or a giant curtain out in the middle of nowhere, it's probably seen as artistic quaintness. But when you intervene in America's most famous park, you're going to piss a few people off.

    I spoke to a few locals about the Gates and the conversation swung back and forth from, 'I loved it. I mean, all those people came and it looks great in the park' to 'It was ugly. They look like shower curtains, or an ad for Home Depot, give me back my park.'

    It's conversations like this, which I heard all week that has me echoing Peter Schjeldahl's comment that the work rendered art critics helpless, "that “The Gates” is a populist affront to the authority of art critics, and [that he had to] accept being just another shuffling, jostling, helplessly chummy citizen." Here was a work in one of the most public of public spaces. Hundreds of thousands went to see the Gates, a work of relatively challenging contemporary art.

    When was the last time that many people engaged with a work of contemporary art? It's heartening to see, but of course leads me to ask whether it takes a $21 million art project in one of the world's most famous parks to get people to actually look at, gasp in wonder or boo and hiss at a piece of art?



    Things heard while walking through the Gates

    I'll be writing a longer post about the Gates when I get back to Toronto. But for now....

    Best comment heard while walking through Central Park and the Gates:

    "I hate this colour. I lived in Boston, Christo's turned Central Park into the Big Dig!"

    Second best comment heard at the Gates:

    "What's the weirdest question I ever got asked? Well last week someone came up to me and asked, 'hey where's this gate?'" - One of the guides at the Gates

    Oh one more thing...

    My friend David is a "reformed jerk" and a scientician. He also likes to give back to the community. Recently he went to an elementary school to judge a science fair, had the hots for teacher and tried really hard not to make kids cry. Read it here.

    Kinda reminds me of a story I read in Canadian Business a while ago about competitive high school science fairs. A good story but I've excerpted what I think is the best part here:

    "Science competitions are not just about winning. "Nobody sits in their hotel doing Rubik's Cube," says Lavrovsky. The kids have fun. They network their computers and tease each other for saying "obviously" a lot. But winning has its social benefits. Lavrovsky, for example, has gained lunchroom cred with the jocks at his high school, who reportedly stopped calling him "Enzyme Boy" as soon as his prize money started rolling in. The realities of gender equity don't hurt, either. As Lavrovsky likes to point out (with pictures), boys and girls compete--and even the football crowd is smart enough to see, he says, that "science-fair chicks are hot.""

    Why oh why didn't the jocks beat him up for his money?! Maybe he paid for protection?

    A long slow train ride

    Because of financial considerations I'm taking the train down to NYC (and flying back up). That means I get to spend 12 hours hearing the clickety click of one of VIA or Amtrak's lovely locomotives lumbering its way down to the land of media kings and million dollar lofts.

    I figure I'll spend a good chunk of that time starting my research on Colin McPhee, the Canadian composer who's responsible for introducing Balinese Gamelan music into the west. He started off as a jazz musician down in New York and somehow found his way onto the island of Bali in the 1930s and stayed there until the war. I'm trying to see if there's anything in his story that could be turned into a work of fiction (a novel, a play, a screenplay, anything).

    When will the love stop?

    One of the best things I did in recent memory is write an article for Spacing magazine. I'm proud to contribute to a magazine that's adding to the discourse around urban issues in Toronto. I'm also thrilled to share pages with writers like Sheila Heti and Ryan Bigge, who I'm big fans of.

    Well there's more love coming our way. Maisonneuve's Christopher DeWolf gushes (that's Murmure in French!). I should also learn French. It's strange that I can't read a good chunk of Canadian literature because it's written in another language and that there's a huge swathe of Canadian pop culture that I can't access (although about Spacing, my friend's multi-city project MurmurMitsou is doing her darndest to help me). Most importantly I'm not about to put Val's writing through Babelfish. She deserves better than that.

    Boy Reporter in NYC

    I'm heading out to NYC for about five days. I'm taking the train down on Friday and flying back up Wed.

    Things I plan to go see:
    The Gates in Central Park
    The new MOMA
    The Whitney
    Williamsburg
    My cousins
    An ex-girlfriend

    Not in that order of course.

    You Like Me... You Really Like Me!

    I'm pulling a Sally Field and getting pretty excited about a cheeky little write up that media critic/Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias gave Torontoist. Apparently we're cute.... but really need a little more sass. Hmmm, that's like the girls I want to date, cute and with a little bit of sass.

    Boy Reporter *hearts* Chicagoist

    It's kinda like when your big brother or sister does something to make you proud. Chicagoist, kinda a big sister blog to Torontoist, has been teed off about a "ban" on photographers taking pictures of sculptures in Chicago's Millenium Park. Well after much haranguing the city realized what it was doing wrong and has decided to fix the problem and set the record straight! And of course they did this in style with their snazzy contemporary art inspired shirts as well! All we can say is "you go sis!"

    And I almost forget... thanks boing boing for the link. And Andrew Peerless for the illustration of the 'bean.'

    American Apparel, also like cancer

    I recently referred to CanWest's soon to be launched youth daily, Dose, as similar to cancer. Despite the possibly insensitivity I believe the analogy to be accurate.

    In the same bent I would also like to point out the frightening ability of American Apparel to metastize. They're opening a third location and a fourth will be opening soon. That's four stores in a year! Yikes!

    Mixed Media Watch criticizes AA's fetishization of its mixed model employees. The ads are reminiscent of those Calvin Klein ads of yore. I still remember the backlash against those, but this time hardly a peep. Oh how things have changed. Image aside, I still think it's better to buy from a company that doesn't use sweatshops but may objectify its more attractive employees vs. Abercrombie and Fitch's rather problematic t-shirts. As if paying your asian workers pennies an hour wasn't enough.

    Other things that are also like cancer, swedish clothing retailer H&M. I am now placing a moratorium on comparisons of anything to cancer!

    Hobnobbing with artists

    I'm heading out to the Untitled Art Awards tonight! I actually know a few of the nominees as well. Shawn and Gabe are nominated for murmur in the exhibition in a virtual space category, a few other people I know curated a few of the shows that are nominated and of course the very talented and whip-smart Julia Dault, who I had the pleasure to interview over the weekend.

    Minimalist blogging

    I'm posting two (maybe three stories) on Torontoist today, that doesn't leave much room for blogging.

    I just wanted to point out Zoilus' manifesto like column in the Globe this weekend about Canadian Indie music and why the industry seems to have their head stuck up their asses.

    Also, because I'm way too lazy to re-post what I wrote on my livejournal about the wavelength fifth anniversary.... here's the link.

    The Creeping Somebodies

    Let the Toronto indie-rock love in continue. The fifth anniversary of local indie-rock series Wavelength has been getting full-court press coverage. I pitched in my two cents with my interview of Jonathan Bunce, Wavelength founder and all-around musical force. The Star weighed in with their profile of the Creeping Nobodies (who are pictured here, aren't they cute?). Now gives us more reason to love Owen "Didn't I see you on Conan O'Brien" Pallett. Stu Berman from eye Weekly tops it all of with his High-Fidelity style top-five Wavelengths ever!

    I'll post photos of the weekend shows soon.

    I need to gush...

    I gush about something at least once a week. This time it's mixedmediawatch.com. A blog out of NYC that fights for the positive and constructive representations of people of colour and mixed races in the media! I check it almost daily now!

    It's back...

    Ok, music hipsters get out your foam bats and start whacking. The Village Voice Pazz and Jop list is back. Get it while it's hot.

    Saving the Mother Corp.

    I'd like to thank JJ Forms for getting me in gear to write this post by telling me the terrible news that the CBC has lost the broadcast rights for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Not getting an Olympics on home soil is a huge blow for the struggling CBC. Especially considering, the massive financial bleeding that's going on right now because of the lack of NHL Hockey (again thanks JJ).

    So is the CBC really dead or dying? Something that's been chicken littled repeatedly. The CBC has been gutted and it doesn't have the capacity to function like it should. But as I've said before it is in the double bind of being a broadcaster mandated to serve the public yet also forced to compete with programming like Fear Factor. Whereas CTV had the incredibly vapid Canadian Idol the CBC went to the high road and did the Greatest Canadian. How do you give the people what they want when it seems what they want is couples eating bugs and soul-sucking sitcoms like Joey.

    From a financial and programming standpoint this is no way to run a business. Sports was pretty much the only thing that the pointy heads running the CBC and the market could agree on. Yes, we're serving the public they want to see hockey and guess what it also rakes in a lot of cash. But this happy coincidence isn't always possible and soon to be a distant memory.

    The question isn't how to keep the CBC financially afloat, but how to keep it relevant. How to make the CBC and its programming the subject of water cooler conversations, of in-jokes among friends.

    I'm glad the CBC is trying to make itself edgy again with shows like The Hour and Zed.cbc.ca (which I watch religiously now because of the delightful Ziya Tong). Radio3 among some circles is a pretty hip website but the CBC desperately needs something that gets people abuzz and it needs it several times a year. The Greatest Canadian filled this niche among some circles but it still wasn't enough. The last episode only got 1.4 million viewers. Huge by CBC numbers but only about half of what an episode of CSI gets!

    So how do we make the CBC relevant again? Is it even worth it? It's a question I'm going to leave open, I will likely be writing more about this in the future but throw your two cents in please.

    More of Boy Reporter on Torontoist

    I neglected to post on Monday, but to make it up to you I posted two things on Torontoist today. An interview with local indie-rock guru Jonathan Bunce and I try to shed some light on Chinese New Year! Enjoy!

    Also, I'll be posting photos of the Wavelength extravaganza later this week.

    CanWest.... it's like cancer?

    CanWest is at it again. This time, it's news that they'll be launching Dose, a free daily targetting youth in five major Canadian cities.

    Terrible name aside, how CanWest has the money to do this befuddles Boy Reporter. After all, the National Post, CanWest's flagship paper can barely pay its freelancers and are cutting back drastically (this tip from a friend who freelances for them regularly).

    With the addition of Dose, a city like Vancouver will now have up to four papers all owned by the same company, making the city's newsstands more crowded but also leading to headlines that might resemble something like this:

    The National Post: Terrorists strike Toronto, kill 59
    Vancouver Sun: Terrorists kill 59 in Toronto
    The Province: Terror in Toronto
    Dose: 59 whacked in T-Dot

    I could yak on here about the concentration of media ownership and a lack of diversity in voices, but I won't. What's more important is what this'll mean for Canada's beleagured newspaper industry. Everyone says that young people aren't reading papers anymore, is this the way to get them back?

    Papers targetting the youth market have been around for a little while now. Chicago's Hollinger (for all those not steeped in Canada media history, Hollinger is Conrad Black's company and used to own the Post, Vancouver Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, et al) owned Sun-Times puts out RedStreak and its competitor the Tribune puts out RedEye. Neither paper seems particularly groundbreaking, almost like Maxim/People/InStyle in newspaper form. Media watchers hated the magazine, but it's still around, so they must be doing something right.

    So will Dose take off? I hope not. I hope it falls flat on its face but if it doesn't the Aspers may have just reopened the newspaper wars in Canada. At least the Globe and Post fights of the late '90s led to some positive changes and decent journalism. I can't see Dose doing anything like that.

    Mid-winter Heat Wave

    Contrary to Phil's belief that there'll be six more weeks of winter. It's been sunny and balmy all week here in Toronto. Which makes it hard for me to concentrate on work. For all of you who haven't been doing so I'm posting at least once a week on Torontoist. It's a bit of a slow week for me on TOist, but next week I'll be posting on everything from Chinese New Year to an interview I did with local indie-rock guru Jonathan Bunce (the man known for wavelengthtoronto.com, among other things)

    In other news I'm also continuing my work on a piece on Cheuk Kwan and Kwoi Gin, two documentary makers that travelled to 13 countries in 4 years in search of Chinese restaurants! I've got a few book reviews that'll be coming out in the next issue of Broken Pencil.... will the excitement ever stop?

    Should I stay or should I go?

    I went to the AGO to go see their Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibit. Christo, for those not art savvy, is the installation artist famous for wrapping up surrounding buildings (like the Reichstag and the pont neuf in Paris), installing giant umbrellas all over a California valley and working with large pieces of orange sheeting and oil drums.

    Their work is the ultimate statement of our abilities to influence an environment but also on our transitory and impermanent nature. All the works are usually left on display for a short period of time (a week or two).

    I'm seriously considering whether I should head down to New York City and catch their latest installation, The Gates. Considering art lovers are shelling out huge amounts of money to catch this and I'd be getting the Christo experience for very cheap (pheww friends/family that live in NYC) is it worth it?

    Local boy makes good


    To think, we knew him when....

    Last night I was watching current 'it' band of the moment the Arcade Fire on Conan. Lo and behold there was Toronto's very own Owen Pallett (seen here at their Webster Hall show opening for the AF). Zoilus called it a couple of months back.

    Photo courtesy of awesome NYC blogger: Youngna Park!

    I have a confession


    Boy Reporter's Crush du Jour

    I have a crush on Alexandra Pelosi. I caught her 2002 documentary Journeys with George last night on Newsworld. Sure it was a couple years too late, but better late than never.

    And those who know me know that I have about as many crushes as a border town has illegal immigrants. So why do I have a crush on a woman probably more than 10 years my senior? Is it because of her unflappability? After all she did travel for 18 months across the USA with W and crew, ate nothing but turkey sandwiches, dealt with rowdy tequila drinking camera guys, and somehow stayed sane through the ludicrous circus that is a presidential campaign. Is it because of her wit and charm? Both of which were in clear display in her doc. Or her passion and belief in the media? She did start her career in the media working the night shift at an LA radio station and clawed her way into the NBC News machine through hard work and not through connections of which, I'm sure she has many. Also, I'm sucker for women with quirky glasses.

    Truth be told, I was getting pointers from her documentary because I've been semi-serious about making a documentary later this year. One that involves plenty of time on a bus. I won't tell you what the subject is until it's a little more certain. I wouldn't want anyone to steal it.... now would I?

    Alexandra if by some random fluke you're reading this.... dinner and a drink sometime? We can chat about film-making, media, the left, maybe even immigrating to Canada? I promise we won't be having turkey.


    In other news, check out my friend Nick's new music website "The Ratio." Nick is a great writer (he was an editor at the Ubyssey and he regularly contributes to radio3) and knows his music. He's also a snappy dresser.

    Working hard for my money

    She definitely works hard for her money!

    Somewhere along the line every journalist will have a job as a factchecker (along with a number of other jobs including waiter, bartender and coffee jockey). When I first moved to Toronto I did this for free for three months as an intern at eye Magazine. An experience that had me sifting through City Hall minutes online but also calling up sex stores to ask whether vibrators used AA or AAA batteries. All and all a very enlightening experience. Fortunately this previous fact-checking experience, and a lot of dumb luck landed me a contract position as a checker with Style at Home magazine.

    Now fact-checking isn't a glamourous job, but it is necessary. Don't believe me? Well if the New York Times had fact-checkers and a magical device that can slow time in their office so that they could actually find the hours in the day to fact-check they could've found out that they had a rat-faced liar among them. The New Republic got screwed by Stephen Glass despite having fact-checkers, which is truly mind-boggling. Oh and one can't forget how a bunch of bloggers made Dan Rather look really silly.

    Needless to say, the job is good so far. I've only been doing it for five hours and already I know far far too much about ovens and fridges. Compare this with "Reluctant Metrosexual" Peter Hyman's experiences in fact-checking at Vanity Fair. His description of the Conde Nast offices almost make me regret the fact that I work from home. And who knows, maybe this job will lead me to bigger and better things?

    On a completely different note the nominations for the 2005 Bloggies are up (well sorta, I had trouble getting to the site...)! If you can get there check them out. Gothamist, the momma site of Torontoist is in the running for a category.

    Pissed off about movies


    He won't play your video...
    unless it's really really bad!


    It's easy to hate the movie-going experience. Unless you're near a huge mall, you have to drive half-an-hour to your local megaplex. Ticket prices (until recently) have been climbing steadily, the snacks are ridiculously over priced, you're subjected to half an hour of ads followed by crappy trailers that give away far far too much of a movie you really don't care about. This is all before the film even starts! No wonder angry metrosexual and Globe and Mail man-about-town Russell Smith hates going to the movies so much.

    There's not much we can do about the shopping malls and overpriced snacks (other than sneaking in bulk candy and food from the outside) but is there something we can do about all those ads?

    In those good old days before TV movie theatres showed newsreels. In our media cornucopia, showing news in movie theatres would be silly, I for one get all my news from this guy! But I couldn't possibly imagine watching a five minute newsreel about the Iraq war right before Racing Stripes.

    But what about other pre-feature options? I was speaking to my friend Sarah and how pissed off she was that she couldn't see any independent music videos on MuchMusic. Much and MTV, like your crappy Clear Channel owned top 40 radio station, have a pretty strict list of videos on heavy rotation. Combine this with all those full length shows (Cribs, Pimp my Ride, etc.) and it translates into fewer and fewer videos being shown.

    Heck, if I was a large soul-sucking media corporation I'd figure out some crazy deal with the people distributing my film to show some of my "up and coming artists" before a movie. Just imagine; alterna-indie-rocker wannabe, or the next Avril Lavigne before a teen flick. What about a sensitive, piano playing crooner before something vapid like.... Love Actually?

    This doesn't solve the problem faced by indie musicians who want to distribute their videos. Just where do we show our made-at-home shot by a film school grad on a DV cam and filled with our friends and family video? There are options like this. It's not MuchMusic, but who wants their video played next to the new Jennifer Lopez anyway?

    Maisonneuve agrees with me, sort of

    So apparently not only are T-shirts the vehicle of choice for faux-hate against women, jews and minorities there's this lovely sociological piece from Maisonneuve magazine!

    Don't get your t-shirts in a knot...


    Is Mao really in good taste?

    Seems like Prince Harry's fashion faux-pas tweaked some editors at the Toronto Star. The Star ran a piece yesterday about how easy it was to get clothing with that other symbol of totalitarianism the hammer and sickle! This was followed up by a piece on how those no- good kids today are wearing t-shirts that include racial slurs, messages advocating violence towards women and more!

    A while back a designer in Vancouver got in a bit of trouble with his "Chink" T-shirts. And Asian groups were pretty damned pissed off at Abercrombie and Fitch over a couple of shirts they put out last year. But I digress.

    I think Prince Harry was pretty boneheaded for wearing a swastika to a party considering his Great-Grandma was getting bombed by swastika wearing Germans not that long ago. But the Star got me thinking about the hammer and sickle and other questionable images. Che shirts have a certain chic, especially when there's a film with Latin hottie Gael Garcia Bernal in theatres! But lotsa folks wear Mao shirts (including me). I'm fully aware of the terrible terrible things that Mao did in his lifetime. While he started as a freedom fighter (there really was no good side in China during the '30s and '40s) he did become a power hungry maniac that manipulated young Chinese people to turn on their friends and families. So is it ok for me to wear Mao shirts or is it the same as wearing a shirt with Hitler (or for the sake of argument a Stalin shirt!).

    What about more esoteric figures that are no less questionable? Kissinger shirts for wannabe neo-cons? Or figures from a little further back in history.... Genghis Khan shirts for those despots, generals and business leaders?

    An art hop in the cold


    Elisabeth Belliveau at YYZ until Feb. 12


    Despite the fact it was -20 outside I walked to the 401 building and hit a few galleries. YYZ has three of the strongest exhibitions that I've seen in a while. Seth Scriver's installation/illustrations, Karim Zouak's mesmerizing films and the beautifully crafted work of Elisabeth Belliveau.

    Belliveau's work struck me the most. She's rescued found objects (gloves, old balls, hot water bottles) and turned them into "sculpture" that strongly resemble animals (rabbits, whales, ducks, elephants, etc.). Using second-hand objects gives her work a texture and 'wear' that just wouldn't be possible if she bought items from the store and it gives many of her works a real depth that I enjoyed. There's even hints of Joseph Cornell in some of these works.

    In other news, I've got a few more posts on Torontoist.

    Pondering ethnicity

    I spent a lot of time thinking about my ethnicity after reading Jocelyn Chan's photo essay on the Radio3 website. It's a topic that's on my mind a lot lately.

    Yesterday I spoke to Kwoi Gin, a local filmmaker and cinematographer, whose most recent project was a documentary series on Chinese Restaurants that took him to over 13 countries in four years. We spoke at great length about what it was like for him, a Chinese Canadian to see the breadth of the Chinese diaspora. Kwoi had lived in Asia, worked in Canada and after this documentary series seen Chinese people in almost every corner of the world (look, a Chinese restaurant, in Norway!).

    Yet seeing the breathtaking variety of 'Chinese' experience ultimately comforted him and put him at peace with his heritage. This is the message that I want to deliver to Chan, who seemed put off by her inability to rediscover her heritage by visiting Chinatown. Don't let anyone tell you what being Chinese means....It's gone beyond geography, language and in some cases beyond the colour of your skin .

    In other news, I'm busily trying to finish up my application to Concordia for their Masters in Media Studies. Here's hoping it doesn't interfere with my blogging.

    Weekend reading....

    There's simply too much great stuff out there to read. I spent a lot of time thinking about authors and writers that have influenced me how I wrote after reading this NYT Book Review piece asking 14 young authors (including Jonathan Safran Foer and Zadie Smith no less) which writers influenced them.

    I loved Jonathan Safran Foer's and Jonathan Lethem's writing. Lethem's memoir on the subway station of his youth in the Dec. 2004 Harper's built on this mythology of Brooklyn that almost all of Lethem's work expands and draws its strength from.

    I've also had a love-hate relationship with Hemingway, whom I first read in high school and hated. A Farewell to Arms, was to a 14-year-old boy, a ludicrous tale of war starring an ambulance driver who just couldn't keep it in his pants. It wasn't until a few years later, after a few more years of being force-fed everything from Dickens to Milton to Chaucer that Hemingway's brevity of style and honesty was a bit of a solace after bushwhacking through 500 year old texts or post-modern criticism.

    I also spent the greater part of a monday morning contemplating Jocelyn Chan's photo essay on being a Chinese-Canadian and trying to 'rediscover' her heritage in Vancouver's Chinatown. I'll be writing more about this on Wednesday's post. Jocelyn's insightful work and other fabulous stuff is on the Radio3 website.

    Leslie Feist, first France soon THE WORLD


    Leslie Feist, thank you Toronto Star

    Last year I, along with about half of Toronto's indie scene was enchanted by a singer-songwriter by the name of Leslie Feist. A former Broken Social Scenester, she left her humble Toronto existence for Europe where she hung out with people like Peaches before setting off on her own in France. Somewhere along the way she recorded a great little album that seems to have perked the ears of some very scary people (including McDonald's execs). Thankfully she said didn't sell her soul. It's bad enough we've got Le Tigre selling cellphones and the Flaming Lips selling cars.

    What's next? The Arcade Fire selling winter wear? Stars selling airline tickets (actually this would beat Celine Dion.... I could totally imagine "Set Yourself on Fire" in an Air Canada commercial).

    Oh blog how I missed you!

    My blogging over the last couple of weeks has been as sporadic as the internet connection I had in Vancouver. No matter, what's in the past is in the past! We have a new year and new times in front of us. Here are a couple of goals for the coming year, some directly related to this blog and a few more not related.

    1) Migrate this blog to my new domain name www.boyreporter.ca (yes folks, soon Boy Reporter will be coming to you from his very own domain name. More details soon)

    2) Post thrice-weekly. Mondays, Wednesday and Friday will henceforth be known as Monblogday, Wedblogday and Friblogday. Awkward yes, but so is a blog without any updated posts.

    3) Write more. Or at least pitch more. Derek Finkle, editor at Toro told me it was about high time I stopped interning and actually wrote. This is good advice, I'd taken to sheltering myself behind the many 'lucrative' internship opportunities available here in Toronto. All this should now change. I should be posting regularly in the coming weeks on www.torontoist.com, mainly as a visual arts writer.

    So stay tuned for more adventures from this intrepid boy reporter.

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