Banksy’s Hope?

Posted January 2, 2011 by queerconstruction
Categories: Good eye, MEANCITY, sad but true

I think of a cultural generation of being, like, ten years. And there are three generations below that but they didn’t grow up seeing almost anything good. If you were maybe a stray genius — which I know everyone thinks they are, especially people your age, but they’re not, there have never been that many, they’re not going to start now — the cultural environment is so debased, it has an echoing effect for many generations. I don’t know if the world ever will recover, frankly. I really don’t.

Fran Lebowitz

(A most admired cynical-humorist)

Then re-quoted on Sore Afraid

(An excellent read BTW.)

Ms. Lebowitz was referring to the terrible loss to the world of art due to AIDS. A dark but touching tribute to the too-many-lives-lost to that plague.

But, many artists have survived, among them a stray genius or two. So to Ms Lebowitz, heeeeere’s Banksy!

And of course his hilarious/troubling/terribly sad really, intro to the Simpson’s.

No matter how many times I try, I always mispronounce his name.

As for Fran, me think she doth protest, if not too much, maybe a little too soon.


Invade and Document

Posted October 7, 2009 by queerconstruction
Categories: Architecture, MEANCITY, Toronto

If you’ve ever been part of a hoard of architecture students trekking across Europe and you find yourself without a camera (mine had fallen down a gorge on the way to a remote villa  on Capri) you’re bound to notice some disturbing group behavior.

Firstly I/we/them don’t actually view the world with eyes but instead and almost exclusively with cameras. Perceptions are further warped by the constant re-adjustment of the position of the picture-taker, the components of the camera and the jockeying for  prime angle in prime light. Often If a loner is seen to be feverishly snapping away from somewhere which at first seems seems odd, the group will slowly migrate there in case anyone feels they’re missing the coveted exception-to-the-rule shot.

Without a camera the only choice you have is to watch the picture-takers. Nothing  else is left unobstructed by their presence and you certainly can’t be in the way of their shots.

You’ll also notice pretty quickly that humans do not qualify as relevant subject matter. Even the bland signs of in-habitation are avoided unless  part of the point of the architect (maybe to soften the monumentality of a housing project by Aldo Rossi).

It’s not so hard to understand why we architectural practitioners (and fans) demand such purity of the objects we photograph. We have seen pictures, plans and  sometimes even models of these places but when we experience them in the flesh it’s akin to finally seeing your favorite rock star in concert. Goose bumps.

There is no place for sloppy, unpredictable humans moving about and destroying the experience of a building.

Fine. But the whole taking-pictures-of-buildings business becomes absurd, not to mention rude and insensitive, when someone’s home is involved. I have seen people tackle bushes and stomp through gardens to get a more impressive shot of a house. Should privacy be completely obliterated just because you live in a famous building? Or in a not so famous building designed by a famous architect?

Even worse are the architectural/planning experiments where the jury is still out. In these places the photo-tourists are there to evaluate and ultimately judge your home. They don’t want to actually speak to you – your opinion is not relevant – and they certainly don’t want you in their pictures.

Such is the case for the Wychwood Barns artists’ residences. They’re only about a year old. They represent a novel idea for housing in Toronto and it’s certainly no stretch to call them experimental.

All of which brings me to the following. While walking my adorable dog around the barns this morning I spotted a hoard of youngish student-types  being toured around by two elders. A series of short lectures were followed by the the group moving en mass to another spot and ever closer to the private homes of the artists. My heart began to sink.

The residences are on the north side of the project on a residential street across from older houses with tall trees. The building itself consists of the remains of the TTC barns with the residences carved out of the old facade and a colonnade acting to shelter a row of front porches each with individual entrances.

By the time the invaders rounded the corner to the residences it was a free for all – students scurrying up and down the colonnade within inches of the artists’ doors studying details and of course, snapping pictures.

One resident emerged from his home, coffee in hand and in his pajamas (?) with a  look of shock and then embarrassment.

I didn’t see anyone trampling the tiny gardens the residents had planted in front of their homes but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Instead I approached the tall, bespectacled leader and his shorter accomplice with a her perfect blond hair-do.

He said yes to everything I said while the blond smiled smugly.

Yes, He was leading this tour of the Barns.Yes, he knew people lived here. Yes, they deserved their privacy and yes he would make sure his group stoped being disrespectful. He gave no instructions to his group though. Most of whom looked like they had been caught with hands in the cookie jar.

I lingered around until the whole group had rounded the corner and beyond the residences.

How long they were able to resist the itch invade and document, I’m not sure I want to know.

Aspergarian Zero and the Sensitivian

Posted April 28, 2009 by queerconstruction
Categories: Polarities

An event from some years ago. I don’t remember when. I’m not good with dates.

While stopped and waiting to turn right my friend and I were approached by a stranger. With no inhibition and in a flat, unemotional tone he looked at my bumper and began to give us very detailed instructions. All pleasantries were ignored. He didn’t ask any questions or for that matter even pause to catch his breath. This was not a conversation.

My bumper had been torn off in a fight with a fence post and this stranger was going to tell my friend and me exactly what we needed to do to fix the situation. Exactly and with a precision completely off the charts including the serial number for the part required which he correctly identified as a fascia, not a bumper.

If we needed a mechanic instead of a parts store he knew of several in the area, their exact distance from our current location and how to get to each garage. His driving instructions included all the vitals but he also went on to describe in minute detail the landmarks one might find useful including buildings categorized by architectural style and building material, species of trees and notable (to him at least) elements of urban infrastructure. And of course the distance to each destination down to a tenth of a kilometer.

No opportunity was given us to engage with  him except to listen (very carefully).We thanked him, mouths agape, which he ignored and walked away. He appeared to be neither offended nor happy to have been of assistance. But I knew this experience may well have required a monumental effort. Not for the incredible recall and coherent, nano-detailed instructions but rather for the fact of his even approaching two people from whom he was probably utterly incapable of reading social and emotional cues.

“Wow, how Aspergerian was that!” I said to my friend after a long silence.

Personally it was less the birth of a neologism that stuck with me. I had been fascinated with Autism since working with Autistic children – albeit in a limited capacity- as a young man. Asperger Syndrome , a part of the Autistic spectrum, is also known as Autistic Spectrum Disorder. What struck me about this fellow was that his attempt  at social interaction  (probably a very brave one for him) turned out to be such a naked exposure of his affliction.

Aspergarians will often completely overlook generalities while possessing an overwhelming recall of – and ability to detect – detail. Dates, places, numbers, patterns. These abilities can be very useful in certain occupations and also prove to be debilitating as Aspergarians cannot easily grasp abstractions, metaphors and most importantly lack the ability to read (what for us are blatant) clues necessary to read the feelings of others.

This does not amount to lack of empathy -that is sociopath territory – more the inability to read others. Social illiteracy.

I have used this term “Aspergarian” around others. Some, a social-worker/family therapist find it offensive. Some, like my psychiatrist, find it useful as a descriptive term and he has even noticed others at his clinic beginning to use the word.

But a word is not a diagnosis. I am not in any position to make a diagnosis. It is descriptive, yes, but runs the risk of becoming derisive. Asperger Syndrome is a disability. The word needs to be used with care.

My interest runs deeper in any case.

Just as political extremes can diverge to such a degree that they almost meet at other end , so the Aspergerian shares much with his opposite. Problem is, that opposite is not clearly defined.

The opposite would be the person who is so sensitive to social cues they become deafening. Like the Aspergerian this is not about empathy. In fact for the Sensitivian, over-reading can mean paranoia and delusion  – the assumption that a person or people feel a certain way when they do not. Or at last not to their knowledge.

The slightest, most subtle nuance or gesture can provoke the Sensitivian into  a highly exaggerated response – whether externalized or not- which is completely out of scale with the triggering cue. Out of scale, but not entirely inaccurate.

Similarly, the Sensitivian can be overwhelmed by his physical environment, especially if it is new or foreign, something else shared with the Aspergerian. But the Sensitivian is far more likely to respond by translating his experience of the physical world into an abstraction.

This can come in handy for the artist, musician or designer but  such hyper-sensitivity can make engagement withe the outside world so unpleasant he loses touch with the very sources of his imagination.

The similarities are as numerous as the differences. The Sensitivian often engages in rumination (patterned and highly repetitive thinking) to drown out the deafening cues and hem in flights of imagination for example. He can become anxious in new social situations and  can rely heavily on routine. He may feel misunderstood and isolated and, like the Aspergerian, tend toward depression and obsessive-compulsiveness.

The Sensitivian Zero.


Posted April 4, 2009 by queerconstruction
Categories: Fake Estate, MEANCITY, real estate, Toronto


Fortunately not yet a trend, some agents are nonetheless attempting to fluff up the cache of their listings by headlining their adds with “By Appointment only”.

In other words, we wont be able to view these particular properties without first making an appointment. It’s possible that a very small minority of us may believe that we can  simply walk into any home that’s for sale without warning. Of course if there’s an open house we can do just that.

So why the headline? Are we supposed to believe that a home is more desirable simply because we have to make an appointment to get in and have a look? More prestigious? More exclusive? (Is it even possible for something to be more exclusive?)

This kind of attitude by Realtors to their buying public is offensive. It assumes we’re stupid enough to fall for this kind of used-car-salesman double-speak tactic.

In Toronto’s real estate world “by appointment only” is completely tautological, redundant and, in my opinion makes the listing agent and by extension the property seem ….
Well just plain stupid.

This week’s offender:  Linda Strutt., Sales Rep Royal LePage Johnston& Daniel Division.
From The Toronto Star, classifieds, March 28, 2009.

In defense of the offense. When selling my own home, there were (very occasionally) times when I would spot someone poking around the backyard. There were a couple of folks who thought they could knock on the door and come right in for a viewing. One who didn’t even knock. *Agent Zero said this was to be expected. **The Goddess of Real Estate did something magical and this sort of thing stopped happening. Still doesn’t excuse the silly headline though.

*Agent Zero was my first agent whose utter incompetence and irrational behavior contributed to my home languishing on the market for months.
**The Goddess of Real Estate took over from agent Zero and sold the home in 5 days.

In the Woods Today

Posted December 29, 2006 by queerconstruction
Categories: Uncategorized


My Christmas card for 2006.

It was done using Paint – a bitmap program. Have a look at it on Flickr as it has much better resolution there.

I make cards every year for my family and close friends – have for decades.This year though, there was little response to the card. My dad finally mentioned that he thought the card was “commercial” and din’t realize I had done it myself.

Good friend Joe did the type and set it up for printing so it really did look professional. Beautiful font – really the whole card looked great (thanks, Joe).

We had some discussion about “digital art” and Joe pointed out it has a tendency not to look hand crafted/homemade. Judging by my family’s reaction, this seems to have been the case this year despite the fact that I spent many more hours on this card than I have done in the past.

It was a lot of fun and a lot of work but I got more RAM as Christmas gift so now I can get a more sophisticated graphics program.

Merry Christmas!

Jack & Jill Went… and Caught Hepatitis

Posted November 28, 2006 by queerconstruction
Categories: Architecture


Read the rest of this post »

Micro Steps

Posted November 14, 2006 by queerconstruction
Categories: cool stuff


Its a simple, ingenious idea (though not Joe’s).
A way for you to help Joe help the disabled, one micro-step at a time.