Wednesday, April 29, 2009

***It’s Barack Obama’s Hundredth Day as President!!!!*** WOOT! A+ A+ A+

CNN Wolf Blitzer Obama Hundred Days Report Card

Dissatisfied with the meager coverage of Obama's hundredth day in office, then head on over to the Huffington Post where—we kid you not—readers can check out photos of Michelle Obama’s first hundred days of style. Seriously HuffPo, what the fuck? You're supposed to be the trailblazer for a new age of fast-paced and informative internet journalism, and you're giving us this inane garbage? Oh well, at least Arianna didn't demand that her fifty-nine bloggers give Obama a report card-style letter grade; that kind of fucking stupidity is best reserved for respected organizations like CNN.

Screenshot from CNN.

> Continue Reading: ***It’s Barack Obama’s Hundredth Day as President!!!!*** WOOT! A+ A+ A+

Monday, April 27, 2009

Audible.com, You Ruined the Slate Culture Gabfest Too

Slate Culture Gabfest Audible

A few months back, we argued that the online audio book service Audible.com was ruining the Slate Political Gabfest. Sure, our argument was crazy and exaggerated, but Slate’s Audible ads were, and still are, disruptive. The Political and Culture gabfests are well-produced and insightful, but every time Audible.com is mentioned, we cringe and find ourselves jumping ahead to the next discussion topic. Dickerson and Plotz don’t even seem all that interested in Audible, as Bazelon has to constantly remind her Political Gabfest co-hosts to say something about their sponsor. Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner—of the Culture Gabfest—are a little more enthusiastic and a little less forgetful, but the ads still break up the flow of the show.

We still believe that Audible.com is the perfect sponsor for both shows. We love books, and we want to hear the opinions of the gabfest hosts (that’s why we listen to the show in the first place). The ads just need to be better integrated or repositioned, so they don’t break up the main discussions.

> Continue Reading: Audible.com, You Ruined the Slate Culture Gabfest Too

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Heart of the City


By Harold Stiver.

This video of Toronto—shot from approximately Stephanie and John—is absolutely stunning. According to Harold Stiver, the creator, the project is composed of about eight hundred frames, tone mapped in Photomatix, resized in Photoshop, and then rendered in Sony Vegas. We have no idea what any of that means, but the results are fantastic. We're particularly fond of the CN Tower. Its warm and colourful LEDs are almost mesmerizing.

> Continue Reading: The Heart of the City

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cylon Inspired Buildings

We already discovered that Toronto’s CN Tower looks quite a bit like a Cylon with its red LEDs on. But Canada’s not the only country with a toaster problem.

Cylon Osaka Japan
Photo by Poagao. From Osaka, Japan.

Honda's robot, ASIMO, has been a little too impressive lately...

The Getty Cylon
Photo by C.K.o. The Getty, Unknown location.

Those Cylons are getting sneakier. They can hide almost anywhere now.

Ventura county Cylon
Photo by swanklin. Ventura County, California.

It seems that Cylons can be built out of any material.

Sydney Australia Cylon
Photo by Kutterkan. Sydney, Australia.

Cylons have even infiltrated Australia.

Royal Ontario Museum ROM Toronto Cylon
Photo by Bradley J. Reinhardt. Toronto, Ontario.

Okay, this marker outside the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto looks more like HAL than a Cylon.

Cylon Boston Cambridge
Photo by Imran... Boston, Massachusetts.

Not all Cylons are pretty.

The CN Tower is a Cylon
Photo by Steve C. Lemaire Toronto, Canada

...And of course, our favourite Cylon: the CN Tower.

> Continue Reading: Cylon Inspired Buildings

Monday, April 20, 2009

Advertisers Have Failed the Internet

No YouTube

Last week, the internet was flooded with stories of YouTube and Web 2.0’s impending doom. All of this talk of the web-pocalypse was set off by a report released by Credit Suisse, a financial-services company, which claimed that Google, the company that owns YouTube, is set to lose almost $470 million on the site this year. The culprits: high server costs and low ad revenue.

While it’s understandable that advertisers don’t like paying much for user generated content, it's pretty sad that Google's losing money on YouTube. YouTube has a built in audience of more than a billion people. If advertisers and Google can’t find a way to make the situation, where they get almost exact data on the size and location of their audience, profitable, then they deserve to fail. ABC doesn’t have problems selling ads for America’s Funniest Home Videos, why should YouTube be any different?

The bottom line is that advertisers have grossly failed the internet. Billions of people go online daily, spending hours on sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook, and advertisers have failed to provide relevant ads to this engaged (and addicted) audience. Eric Clemons, Professor of Operations and Information Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, argues that, “The problem is not the medium, the problem is the message, and the fact that it is not trusted, not wanted, and not needed.” The message is flawed, not because we don’t trust it, but because it’s poorly conceived, packaged, and often delivered to the wrong address.

Most of the ads we see on the internet are trashy click-ads for sleazy looking products or services that make outrageous claims like “get rich blogging,” “lose forty pounds in a week,” or “get an eight inch penis.” Click-ads like these aren’t very effective. Sites need to start rolling out contextually significant ads (Google is already working on something like this). So far, gaming sites have been adept at this by focusing on ads about games (shocking). Providing contextual ads on YouTube is a little harder, but there’s probably a skateboarding company out there that would love to advertise its logo beside a well-trafficked video of some skateboarder wiping out and getting hit in the crotch.

> Continue Reading: Advertisers Have Failed the Internet

Friday, April 17, 2009

TTC Dream Map

TTC Dream Map
TTC Dream Map: Click to enlarge.

After critiquing several of the TTC fantasy maps out there, we decided that it was high-time to create our own. Keep in mind, this map is complete fiction and entirely unrealistic. It builds upon some of what the TTC has proposed or is currently working on, like the Downtown Relief Line and the Spadina-University expansion, but it also completely ignores Transit City and the forthcoming LRT lines. Since the map is based on the current TTC route map, it also includes the map’s distortions, and is thus not to scale.

Bloor-Danforth-Scarborough Line
TTC Bloor-Danforth-Scarborough

Ding-dong the fucking witch is dead! Yes, this map kills off the much hated Scarborough RT line and replaces it with an extension of the Bloor-Danforth line. In the east, the Scarborough section of the line now extends to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus and to the Metro Toronto Zoo (yay!) and in the west, the line now stops at the Etobicoke Ikea (no more shuttle buses) and Sherway Gardens. An expansion of the Bloor-Danforth line to Sherway Gardens isn’t entirely unrealistic, but replacing the Scarborough RT with a subway line is downright crazy.

Extension of the Spadina-University Line

TTC University Spadina Extension

The TTC is already working on expanding the Spadina-University line to Vaughan. The TTC plans to complete the project by 2015.

Sheppard-Downtown Loop
TTC Sheppard Downtown Loop

The Sheppard-Downtown line takes the preexisting Sheppard line and combines it with the proposed Downtown Relief Line. While it’s highly unlikely that the two lines would ever become a loop, it’s probable that if the Downtown Relief Line is built it may one day be extended to meet the Sheppard line. There’s one obvious problem with the loop: in the east, the loop crosses through several ravines, which would make construction costly and difficult, though not impossible. In the west, it looks like there are huge distances separating some of the stations on Sheppard Avenue West. However, although long, the distortions in the route map’s design make the distances look larger than they are.

Eglinton Line
TTC Eglinton

An Eglinton subway line is unlikely to ever be built, as an Eglinton LRT is part of the Transit City plan. The big advantage of the line is that it provides subway access to Pearson Airport.

Etobicoke Line
TTC Etobicoke

Out of all the new lines and extensions, the Etobicoke line is probably the most superfluous. While it provides access to GO stations, parks, malls, the waterfront, Pearson Airport, and northern Etobicoke, it also travels large distances through relatively low density areas.

Update: This map was originally published with several errors, they have since been corrected.

> Continue Reading: TTC Dream Map

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Toronto-Based Board Games

Toronto Subway Game
If Toronto wants to be a world class city on a par with the likes of New York or London, then it needs to be in more board games. To date, only five somewhat-dull Toronto-based board games have been produced. While New York City is the setting for the excellent cops and robbers game New York Chase, Toronto is the subject of the less exciting Reading and Writing: The Toronto Research Game. If the game’s kick-ass title doesn't grab your attention, then check out its equally awesome description.
"Reading and Writing" is a simulation of what the Toronto Research Group goes through writing *their* essays. Now you can experience the excitement of the competitive search for knowledge as you vie with other players to find and read books that will help you garner the groundbreaking might into the process of READING and WRITING. In the campaign version of the game, you'll have a chance to build a REPUTATION as the *real* thinker in the Toronto Research Group!
Toronto Research GameThe exciting Toronto Research Game!

Any kid who found this game under the Christmas tree is probably still recovering from the shock. When we think of the word exciting several things come to mind, but simulating reading and writing for the Toronto Research Group isn’t one of them. The game came in a book called Rational Geomancy: The Kids of the Book-Machine, which was published by Talonbooks in 1992 and is still available today.

Toronto Toronto Monopoly
The other Toronto-based board games aren’t much better. Besides two monopoly games—one of which is about the Toronto Maple Leafs—there’s a simplistic 1989 Toronto trivia game called The Game of Toronto, and a 1994 game based on the TTC called Subway Toronto. Of all the games, Subway Toronto looks like it would be the most interesting to play. The game looks pretty easy and it’s a little out-of-date (no Sheppard Line), but the concept is unique. Unfortunately, the publisher, Subway Games International, doesn’t exist anymore and the game isn't sold anywhere.

All images come from Boardgamegeek.com

> Continue Reading: Toronto-Based Board Games

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: Islington and Dundas

Every week Toronto Then and Now compares a photo from Toronto’s past to one from the present.

Then
Toronto White Rose Gas Station Islington and Dundas 1961Looking south from the north-east corner of Islington Avenue and Dundas Street West. (1961)

Now
Toronto Shell Gas Station Islington and Dundas 2009Looking south from the north-east corner of Islington Avenue and Dundas Street West. (2009)

These images were both taken from the gas station that sits on the north-east corner of Islington Avenue and Dundas Street West. The station originally opened in the 1950s as a White Rose station. It was later converted into a Shell station in the mid 1960s after Royal Dutch Shell bought out the White Rose Oil Company in 1962.

The 1961 photo of Islington Avenue and Dundas Street West comes from the City of Toronto Archives. The 2009 photo of Islington Avenue and Dundas Street West is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Islington and Dundas

Monday, April 06, 2009

TTC Fantasy Maps

TTC Fantasy Map Future

Like most Torontonians, we’re obsessed with the TTC and we’d love to see it expanded in wild and crazy ways. Sure, Transit City’s new LRT tracks are going to improve the system, but streetcars aren’t as sexy as subways. So to indulge our dreams, we decided to collect all of the fantasy maps out there, and we were honestly surprised by the sheer number of them.

Transit City

TTC Transit City
Image by rokkitz. Click to enlarge.

This is the TTC’s actual plan, which the City hopes to have completed by 2020. Considering the problems the City has had in the past with transit expansions, this map might just be the biggest fantasy of all.

Eglinton West Subway

TTC Eglinton West Subway
Image by Miguel Syyap. Click to enlarge.

Construction on this subway line began in 1994, but was halted by the Ontario Government under Mike Harris in 1995 and all of the excavation work was filled in. The project has been somewhat revived through Transit City’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which runs underground and roughly follows the proposed route for the Eglinton West Subway.

DRL (Downtown Relief Line)

TTC Downtown Relief Line DRL
Image by Miguel Syyap. Click to enlarge.

The Downtown Relief Line has been proposed numerous times as a way to relieve congestion on the Yonge Line and at Bloor-Yonge Station. Adam Giambrone, the current TTC chair, wants to complete the line by 2020. This is highly unlikely, as the plans have yet to be finalized and funding is still up in the air.

CNE Map

TTC Prototype Map
Photo by Sweet One. Click to enlarge.

This map was put together for a prototype train on display at the CNE. Apparently, the red lights indicate the stations you’ve been to, the green lights are where you’re going, and the yellow lights represent station interchanges. The lighting system doesn’t seem that useful, but it’s nice to see that the TTC might eventually make it to Vaughan.

Lakeshore Local Line

TTC Lakeshore Local Map
Image by photosapience. Click to enlarge.

We’re not sure that a Lakeshore line is all that pertinent.

The Greater Toronto Map

TTC Fantasy Map GTA Greater Toronto
Image by Miguel Syyap. Click to enlarge.

We like this design, except for the lack of new lines in the west end and the fact that the Toronto Zoo doesn’t get a station.

The Boat Line
TTC Fantasy Map Toronto Subway
Image by Daniel Perz. Click to enlarge.

There are two problems with this map: there’s no line connecting the Bloor and Eglinton lines in the west and no line connecting the Danforth, Eglinton, and Sheppard lines in the east. If this design ever became a reality, hopefully the red line would be extended from Dundas West to Keele North and from Pape through Leslie South to Leslie North.

The Squiggly Map
TTC Fantasy Map

Image by Transit Toronto. Click to enlarge.

Like the Boat Line, this map needs a vertical line in the west end somewhere around Dundas West station.

The Night Girl Map
TTC Subway and LRT Fantasy Map
Image by James Bow. Click to enlarge.

The design of this map is pretty good, though the artist might be overdoing it in the northwest.

Paul Grant's Map
TTC Fantasy Map
Image by Paul Grant. Click to enlarge.

In one of the better ideas we've seen, the DRL and the Sheppard Line have been turned into a loop.

The Ridiculously Complicated Map
TTC Fantasy Map
Image by Laurence Lui. Click to enlarge.

A well designed and fairly realistic map.

The Dream Map

TTC Fantasy Map Future
Image by Ryan Felix.Click to enlarge.

According to the author, the new lines are supposed to be LRT tracks. But imagine if they were subway tunnels...drool.

Update: Our Dream Map

TTC Dream Map
Image by Stephen M.

After critiquing the fantasy maps that you see here, we decided to build our own. Check it out.

Update: Dieter Janssen's TTC Fantasy Map

 Dieter Janssen TTC Fantasy Map
Image by Dieter Janssen.

This map was created by University of Toronto professor Dieter Janssen. While I don't agree with all the design decisions—a line on Keele and on Jane seems rather redundant—this is probably the most professional looking map I've seen (including my own). You can read my write up about the map at Torontoist.

Update: Screw the LRTs we want Subways

GTA TTC Fantasy Map
Image by Miguel Syyap. Click to enlarge.

This map is highly unrealistic; though we do love seeing subways everywhere.

Update (04/08/2009): TO Penguin's Map

TTC Route Map
Image by TO_Penguin. Click to enlarge.

This map mostly just fills in Transit City's upcoming LRT lines, but there are few extensions on the Spadina line and the Scarborough RT.

Update (24/08/2009): TO Penguin's Map (Final Edition)

TTC Fiction Map
Image by TO_Penguin. Click to enlarge.

This is a realistic map that makes use of both subways and LRTs to create an integrated transit net. Its only shortcoming is in the west. Etobicoke needs some sort of line—subway or LRT—running north to south.

Update (03/09/2009): Derek Jensen's Fantasy Map

TTC Route Map

This map was put together by Derek Jensen, a regular Torontoist reader and commenter. I have never been a big fan of splitting the Spadina-Yonge line, but it actually makes sense here. It also has the added bonus of allowing the Weston Line to connect to the Toronto Island Airport. You can read more about this map here.

Update (20/09/2009): Jupiter's Fantasy Map

TTC Downtown Relief Line
Image by Jupiter. Click to enlarge.

Another proposal for the Downtown Relief Line.

Network 2011 Plan

TTC Downtown Relief Line
Image by C. Livett. Click to enlarge.

This proposal for the Downtown Relief Line was put together in 1985. You can read more about it here.

Update (18/10/2009): The New Blue

TTC Extension Map
Image by Dieter Jansen. Click to enlarge.

An early draft of Dieter Janssen's TTC Fantasy Map.

Update (26/10/2009): Brainfreezed's Fantasy Map

Future TTC Map
Image by Brainfreezed. Click to enlarge.

Another practical map from the people over at Urban Toronto.

Future T.O.

Future TTC Map
Image by TO Penguin. Click to enlarge.

This is the first time I think I've ever seen a Kipling line.

Update (13/11/2009):Future Transit Map
Future Transit Map TTC
Image by MisterF. Click to enlarge.

Another highly realistic transit map.

> Continue Reading: TTC Fantasy Maps

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Cold Opulence of the Air Canada Centre’s Box Seats

Loge Suite Air Canada Centre Toronto Maple Leafs

On Saturday, we had the good fortune of scoring tickets to see the Leafs play the Canadiens. The Leafs were slaughtered six to two, but the highlight of the outing wasn’t the game, it was the box seats. We were sitting in the Loge Suite, which in the ranking of Air Canada Centre suites falls somewhere between the Executive and Theatre suites. We’d never sat in a suite before, but we could see why businesses love to rent them. Having a box is a lot like being royalty. You’re provided with comfy seating, brought food and booze, and separated from the general riff-raff. The only thing missing is a pledge of fidelity from the players before the game starts.

While the opulence might impress a client, it comes at a price beyond the seven-thousand dollar cost per game [PDF]. Being king can be isolating. Sitting in a box distances you from the experience and robs you of the crowd’s energy. It might be swanky, but it’s no different than watching the game at an upscale bar.

Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: The Cold Opulence of the Air Canada Centre’s Box Seats

The Art of Photo Manipulation

Photo Manipulation

Are photo manipulators artists? These days, it’s often the photoshopper who makes the image special, so don’t they deserve credit for their work? This question has been bouncing around photography and editing circles for years now and the consensus is still no. As much as we manipulate and construct photos, we still want to believe that the photo itself is real. The reputation of the photo editor is built upon their ability to maintain the illusion of reality. If we started to credit manipulators that illusion would be broken. Most of us recognize that the images in ads and magazines are heavily airbrushed, but perfection sells and if we’re willing to believe it, then ad executives are more than happy to perpetuate it.

Although there are always examples of photoshopping gone horribly wrong.

Michelle Obama Becomes a Barbie
Michelle Obama is Barbiefied.

Madonna Photoshopped
Madonna becomes an alien.

Katie Couric Photoshopped Thin
Katie Couric loses a million pounds.

Jessica Alba Photoshopped Thin
Jessica Alba becomes a stick.

American Olympians Photoshop Extra Hand
Thing from the Addams Family becomes an Olympian.

Lead image comes from Ellf.ru. Image of Michelle Obama comes from New York Magazine. Image of Madonna comes from World of Wonder. Image of Katie Couric comes from YourCover. Image of Jessica Alba comes from the Daily Mail. Olympian Milk image comes from Photoshop Disasters.

> Continue Reading: The Art of Photo Manipulation