Archive for the ‘MEANCITY’ category

Banksy’s Hope?

January 2, 2011

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

October 7, 2009

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.


April 4, 2009


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.

Hurry! Disabilities For Sale Now!

June 19, 2006

wheelchair2_blue.jpgI’m driving down Bloor Street with my friend yesterday. Traffic is heavey.We’re barely crawling when he spots it; a brand new Rolls. Black and massive and gorgeous parked in front of Christolph’s.

We’ve checked out the Bentley’s at a dealership near my place but we’ve never seen a late model Rolls in the flesh. There a quarter of a million bucks so its not surprising.

I’ve made it a habit to check to see who’s parking in the disabled spots at my local Lawblaws.There are six dedicated spaces.Very rarely there’s perfectly average cars with actual permits. More often, any type of car with no permit at all.

But far and away the most common sight are immaculately clean, late model, high-end vehicles with the blue wheelchair cards on their dashes.

I also check to see who gets into these cars and it always seems to be able-bodied looking customers hurrying into their Benzes or Lexii or Cadillacs.

I guess I could ask one of them what’s up. But what are you going to say? Hey, lady, you’re seem to be pretty healthy; running around just fine and then you jump into a car with a disabled permit. Where’s the disability?

wheelchaired2_blue.jpgWell, maybe its invisible. That’s possible. Or maybe the lady’s just stepping out to grab some groceries while her paralysed husband waits in discomfort at home.

And, you know, you feel guilty questioning whether or not someone is disabled. Then you start wondering why you’re even wondering about it. There’s lots of wealthy customers at Lawblaws. Why wouldn’t some of them be disabled?

Except it happens over and over and over again. Rich, healthy shoppers getting to into expensive cars with disabled permits.

So as we’re approaching the Rolls I say I bet its got a disabled permit and sure enough …

This icon of privilege and wealth, the only car parked for a good half block, and the driver’s disabled. I just don’t buy it.

wheelchaired_blue.jpg“Disabilities for sale.”

We laugh. I eventually get the car turned around so my friend can take pics. He sees the same phenomenon all the time himself so naturally he’s going to want to document this.Plus he’s the one with the digicam.

I don’t know what I believe. Are these permits easy to get if you’re willing slip a little cash to a clerk at city hall? Are rich people the only ones who’ve figured out that all you need is a doctor’s letter to get one and after that there’s no worries because the laws aren’t enforced anyway? Or maybe I only notice the ones attached to fancy cars.

Because they do draw attention, those fancy cars.

Just to clarify:“Disabled person parking permits” are issued to the individual with the disability, the permit privileges are not transferable. The permit is not valid when displayed on a vehicle and the vehicle is not being used to pick up, drop off or transport the holder of the permit named therein. Persons who use a “disabled person parking permit” in the absence of the named holder, may be charged under the Highway Traffic Act.