Friday, July 31, 2009

The Beast of Toronto is a Raccoon

The beast of Toronto is a raccoon

As a follow-up to Steve Kupferman's excellent Torontoist article on the mysterious Toronto beast from OMGBlog, I asked animal experts from the Toronto Wildlife Centre and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to identify the creature. Both of the experts I talked to agreed that this was indeed a raccoon, and that its fur-less condition might endanger it come winter.

Photo by Jeffrey Freeman.

> Continue Reading: The Beast of Toronto is a Raccoon

Toronto Then and Now: St. Lawrence Market

Then
St. Lawrence Market Toronto History
Outside St. Lawrence Market on Front Street East. (1895)

Now
St. Lawrence Market Toronto
Outside St. Lawrence Market on Front Street East. (2009)

Unfortunately, a kiosk setup on the north side of Front Street East prevented me from properly replicating this shot.

The 1895 photo of St. Lawrence Market comes from the City of Toronto Archives; the 2009 photo is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: St. Lawrence Market

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Googly Eyes Have It

Googly Eyes
Hungry.

Googly Eyes
Full.

This week for Torontoist, I talked with Emma Flannery Lawrence Healey about her googly eyed street art.

Want more googly eyes and personified objects? Then I recommend checking out Googly Eye Watch.

Photos by Emma Flannery Lawrence Healey and Richard Rosenbaum.

> Continue Reading: The Googly Eyes Have It

Monday, July 27, 2009

Entering the Search Engine

Google Dig a Hole Other Side of Earth Toronto
If you live in Toronto, do not, under any circumstances, dig a hole to the other side of the world.

Last Friday, I visited Google Canada's headquarters in the Toronto Life Complex and talked with Mike Pegg, Google Map's product marketing manager and the founder of Google Maps Mania (a blog devoted to Google Maps mashups and tools) and Tamara Micner, Google Canada’s communications officer, for a Torontoist article on Google Maps. The interview was a lot of fun (Pegg and Micner showed me a lot of great Toronto-themed map mashups), and it was interesting to see the glamorous Google office firsthand; not every office has a fully stocked kitchen and a patio that overlooks Toronto Square.

The top image is a screenshot of Zefrank's Sandwich Tool.

> Continue Reading: Entering the Search Engine

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Toronto City Workers' Strike: Terrible Trash Collection Ad

Garbage Pro Toronto Strike

Worst. Slogan. Ever. Though I suppose it's accurate.

Image from Craigslist.

> Continue Reading: Toronto City Workers' Strike: Terrible Trash Collection Ad

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Trash Wars: The Toronto Garbage Strike Game

Toronto Trash Wars

Trash Wars has already received more media attention than it deserves, so I'm somewhat reluctant to discuss it further, but someone has to point out just how awful it is. This game is an advertisement for 29-year-old computer programmer Hafiz Kassam, and his studio, Q-Kmbr Games, and a rather poor one at that. It’s clear that no thought or effort went into the design of this game. You play as some poorly drawn, nameless schmuck with a pistol that’s tasked to defend a pile of garbage from an ever growing infestation of rats. Killing the rats is as easy as pointing and clicking, or at least that’s the way it works at the beginning; near the end, when there’s too many rats on the screen, the game’s hit-detection system breaks down, and most of your bullets pass harmlessly through their targets. Thankfully, the game’s short; after you’ve killed six-hundred rats, it ends.

Based on the skyline, we guess that the action takes place somewhere on Toronto Island, but the skyline is really the only clue—change it, and this could be about any city with a garbage or rat problem.

The screenshot is from Q-Kmbr Games' Trash Wars.

> Continue Reading: Trash Wars: The Toronto Garbage Strike Game

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Screwy Time Magazine Poll

Time Magazine Poll Search Engines

As I've pointed out before, Time Magazine's polling system is really easy to manipulate. I'm not entirely sure why someone would go to the trouble of hacking this poll, only to elevate Bing to the top spot—nobody's going to believe the results. Microsoft controls 8% of the search engine market, while Google commands over 65%.

Screenshot is from Time Magazine's website.

> Continue Reading: Another Screwy Time Magazine Poll

The Shweeb Monorail

Shweeb Monorail

As an amusement park attraction, the Shweeb is pretty cool; as mass transit system, it’s stupid. The Shweeb is the world’s first human-powered monorail racetrack in Roterua, New Zealand. At the moment, it’s only a ride, but its inventors hope to one day build monorail networks around the world. But it’s never going to happen; the Shweeb is an impractical transportation system that’s wrought with dangers and inefficiencies. Imagine if a pod breaks down mid trip: the person inside would be trapped, and all the people behind it would be stuck until it’s fixed. It’s a cool idea, unfortunately it’s just not realistic.



Photo is from Shweeb.com

> Continue Reading: The Shweeb Monorail

New European States?

New European States 2020

We love fantasy maps of all shapes and sizes, including preposterous ones, like this future map of Europe from the chaos-obsessed folks over at ComingAnarchy.com. The only independence movements on this map that have any chance of success are Scotland, the Basque Country, and Catalonia. The rest are pure fantasy. The national independence movements in Germany, France, and Italy are weaker than the Free Alberta Movement in Canada.

Image is from ComingAnarchy.com.

> Continue Reading: New European States?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dave! What Happened To My City?

Toronto Garbage Bin Strike

Yesterday evening, I spotted this garbage bin in the Norseman Heights area in Etobicoke. I think the bin’s owner might be sending a message beyond their bumper sticker, as Monday isn’t garbage day in Etobicoke.

Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Dave! What Happened To My City?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: Union Station and the Royal York Hotel

Then
Yonge and Front Union Station 1954
Outside Union Station, Yonge and Front streets. (1954)

Now
Yonge and Front Union Station 2009
Outside Union Station, Yonge and Front streets. (2009)

In 1959, an eastern wing was added to the Royal York Hotel. I wasn't aware of the addition when I went to recreate this photo, and at first I was puzzled when I couldn't seem to line up my shot.

The 1954 photo of Yonge and Front streets comes from the City of Toronto Archives; the 2009 photo is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Union Station and the Royal York Hotel

Friday, July 17, 2009

Auto Tune the News is Brilliant



Auto Tune the News is a witty send up of the mindless nature of 24-hour news coverage. The “faux R&B series,” created by musician Michael Gregory and his band The Gregory Brothers, remixes footage from C-Span, Fox News, CNN, and a dozen other news outlets with catchy beats, absurd rhyming, and mechanical T-Pain style vocals. The voice effects are created by Auto-Tune, a program that’s usually used by studios to clean up imperfect pop vocals, but when it’s used on people who aren’t singing, it makes them sound like lyrical robots.

Making the cable news networks look dumber than they already are is an impressive feat, especially when The Daily Show often gets its biggest laughs just by running through the news goofs of the week. Gregory succeeds, often by transforming the pundits and politicians’ sound-bites into ridiculous lyrics; as he did in his latest video with Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner. The overused media news panel is also frequently satirized. In their fifth video, the team responds to a NBC panel discussion on the unassailable nature of American exceptionalism by crooning, “Yeah we the Promised Land, the sacred place, getting blessed by Joe Biden from space!” Following which, an image of Joe Biden singing “God Bless America” appears on one of the studio’s HD TVs.

To date, six episodes have been released, the latest of which (featured above) takes on Republican House Representative John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Michael Jackson’s death, and Katie Couric (who has been featured in every video so far).

> Continue Reading: Auto Tune the News is Brilliant

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Anak Krakatau Erupting with the Stars Above

Anak Krakatau Erupting Stars Above

Krakatoa just doesn't know when to stop. The island volcano in Indonesia has been erupting for the past 1500 years. In its most famous eruption in 1883, it destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa and killed more than 36,000 people. In 1927, another eruption gave birth to Anak Krakatau, a volcano which has since risen to more than three hundred metres in height. Anak Krakatau's latest eruption began in 2008 and continues today (as seen above).

Photo by Marco Fulle and NASA.

> Continue Reading: Anak Krakatau Erupting with the Stars Above

Weird Lights at Keele Station

Lights TTC Keele Station

Lights TTC Keele Station

I spotted these strange lights all along the tracks at Keele Station today. I'm not entirely sure what they're for, but they probably have something to do with the construction that's going on there.

When you look at the lights from the end of the platform, they kind of look like runway lights to guide the train in.

All photos by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Weird Lights at Keele Station

Historic Toronto Postcard Collection

Toronto Piano Workers on Strike

This week for Torontoist I briefly talked about John Chuckman's Toronto postcard collection, and created a gallery of some of his best uploads. Unfortunately, Chuckman declined my interview requests, so I still don't know what his sources are.

And because I can't resist...

From The Simpsons episode, The PTA Disbands.

Edna: Good news, people!
[the other teachers cheer]
I'm happy to announce that another union has joined us in a
sympathy strike: the piano tuners' Local 412!
[the teachers look at one another, confused]
[a piano tuner stands outside a house with an out-of-tune
piano and looks smug]


Image is from Jonh Chuckman's postcard blog.

> Continue Reading: Historic Toronto Postcard Collection

Monday, July 13, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: Hockey Hall of Fame

Then
Bank of Montreal 1900 Toronto
Bank of Montreal Building, northwest corner of Front and Yonge streets. (ca. 1900)

Now
Hockey Hall of Fame 2009 Toronto
Hockey Hall of Fame, northwest corner of Front and Yonge streets. (2009)

This example of late nineteenth century architecture was built in 1885 by the Bank of Montreal, and used as the bank's Toronto headquarters until 1949, when the bank moved to the corner of King and Bay streets. The building was then used as a branch until 1982. After laying dormant for a decade, the building was reopened on June 18, 1993 as the new Hockey Hall of Fame.

The photo of the Bank of Montreal building comes from the City of Toronto Archives. The photo of the Hockey Hall of Fame is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Hockey Hall of Fame

Nature is Starting to Kick Some Ass

Montgomery's Meadow
Montgomery's Meadow, near Thomson Riley Park.

After twenty-two days without city workers, Toronto's more heavily trafficked parks are still fairly neat, but some of the parks on the suburban fringes are starting to look a little unkempt and overgrown (especially the gardens—see above). If the strike continues for a few more weeks, Toronto's parks are going to start looking a little more "natural."

Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Nature is Starting to Kick Some Ass

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Better Bookmobile

Book Truck Dr Jekyll Johnson County Library Kansas City
Book Truck Mr Hyde Johnson County Library Kansas City
Two sides to the same truck.

Two weeks ago in Kansas City, Johnson County Library launched its new fleet of literary themed book delivery trucks. Each truck promotes a fictional business based on literary classic, like Captain Ahab’s Fine Seafood, or Kafka’s Pest Control, and every truck includes the tag line: "Available at Johnson County Library."

Book Truck Kafka Johnson County Library Kansas City
Book Truck Captain Ahab Johnson County Library Kansas City

Will this cool and innovative scheme pull people away from their televisions and into their local library? In the US, with "Dancing with the Stars" in full swing, not likely.

All photos by jocolibrary.

> Continue Reading: A Better Bookmobile

Etobicoke Garbage Strife

Garbage Strike Toronto Royal York Station
Entrance to Royal York Station, on Royal York Road.

The city workers' strike is now in its sixteen day, with no end in sight. Yesterday, we took a walk along Bloor Street West (between Old Mill Station and Islington Avenue) to see how Etobicoke—the only part of the city with private residential collection—was faring. The answer: not so good. Most of the city bins we saw were overflowing, and the garbage piled up at Islington Station was absolutely disgusting.

Garbage Strike Toronto Montgomery Road
Bloor Street West and Montgomery Road, northeast corner.

What’s particularly galling about this situation is that Etobians—unlike the rest of the city's residents—have plenty of options when it comes to disposing their waste. But God forbid they actually take their garbage home; that would just be inconvenient. There’s also absolutely no reason for the garbage buildup around Islington and Royal York stations—the TTC has plenty of trash cans, which it continues to empty.

Garbage Strike Toronto Islington Station
Entrance to Islington Station, southwest side.

Garbage Strike Toronto Islington Station
Entrance to Islington Station, northwest side.

All photos by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Etobicoke Garbage Strife

Etienne Brulé Transfer Station

etienne brule toronto strike transfer station

etienne brule toronto strike transfer station

On my way home yesterday, I stopped by the Transfer Station at Etienne Brulé Park. I was actually surprised at how neat the station was. I half expected to see garbage strewn about everywhere, but everything was orderly.

Score one for the city I guess.

All photos by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Etienne Brulé Transfer Station

Time Dilation Accelerator: Sonic SatAm Intro



Occasionally, the Time Dilation Accelerator defies the laws of space and time by going back to review the best (or the weirdest) aspects of the early 90s.

Alright, we’ll level with you, this series is just a vaguely disguised excuse to review cartoons from the early 90s—we might move on to something else in the future, but don’t count on it.

This week, we’re taking a look at the intro from the cartoon show Sonic the Hedgehog (or Sonic SatAm, as it’s commonly referred to, because it aired on Saturday mornings...duh!) The show, which was created by DiC Entertainment, ran from 1993 to 1995, and was loosely based on the video game. Now, we’ll be honest here: we were never big Sonic fans. Some of the games were okay, but far too many of them equated speed with fun. Sega’s advertising even bluntly argued that Sonic was better than Mario because he was faster—an argument which no one bought.

Sonic and Sally Sonic SatAm
Sonic was voiced by Jaleel White (Steve Urkell from Family Matters).

Considering what DiC had to work with, Sonic SatAm isn’t that bad. For a cartoon show, it’s fairly complex and even a little gritty at times. If you’re not familiar with the plot, here’s a quick back story. The show takes place on the planet Mobius sometime in thirty-third century, ten years after the evil Doctor Julian Ivo Robotnik conquered the peaceful city of Mobotropolis and turned all of its residents into robots. The show focuses on the few citizens who managed to escape to the Great Forest—including Sonic—and their war against Robotnik's rampant industrialization. (Yes, another over-the-top eco-message...sigh.) Imagine if rebels in Star Wars were all Ewoks; that’s kind of what Sonic SatAm is like.

Dr Robotnik Sonic SatAm
Throughout the show, Dr Robotnik was superbly voiced by Jim Cummings.

Arguably, the best (and most annoying) part of the show is the catchy opening theme: "The Fastest Thing Alive," which was written and recorded by Noisy Neighbors Productions. Even after fourteen years, we sometimes still catch ourselves humming the tune. The objective of an opening theme is to catch the viewer's attention, and maybe, if possible, explain the show. "The Fastest Thing Alive" accomplishes both. The opening is exciting, well-animated, and memorable and it also summarizes the plot: Robotnik took over, so now Sonic and his friends are fighting an underground war against him. A great theme can make or break a show; Sonic may not be the greatest early 90s cartoon show, or even one of the best, but it's clever and catchy opening will help it live on indefinitely.

Screen captures are from Freedom Fighters Forever.

> Continue Reading: Time Dilation Accelerator: Sonic SatAm Intro

Monday, July 06, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: Museum Station

Then

Musuem Station, University Avenue entrance, west side. (1963)

Now
TTC Museum Station 2009
Musuem Station, University Avenue entrance, west side. (2009)

It's a shame that the TTC scrapped its old art-deco style signs; they looked great, and had a dramatic flair that was similar to the Paris Metro.

The 1963 photo of the Museum Station entrance comes from the City of Toronto Archives; the 2009 photo is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Museum Station

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Stunning YouTube Statistic

YouTube Video

According to Slate and a YouTube spokesperson, twenty hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That's insane—by that statistic, in 2009, users will upload approximately 10,000,000 hours, or 1,000 years of footage to YouTube.

Think of the server space that's required to store 1,000 years of video! No wonder Google's losing half a billion dollars a year on YouTube.

Photo by thms.nl.

> Continue Reading: Stunning YouTube Statistic

Arrogant TTC Driver is a Hit

Torontoist TTC Streeter

The enduring popularity of my Torontoist Streeter post is surprising; it's funny, but it's not that funny.

Screenshot from Torontoist.

> Continue Reading: Arrogant TTC Driver is a Hit

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Saudis Really Really Like Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Weird Internet Searches

The image above is a screenshot from the Intrepid's statcounter. I'm not sure what's weirder, the guy's search terms (I'm assuming it's a guy), the fact that they led him here, or that he left SafeSearch on. What was he expecting? Safe and wholesome pictures of Jessica Alba having sex, or something that conforms to Saudi censorship laws? And why would you use the word "conceiving" instead of "sex"? It's a little formal for someone who just wants to find porn.

Oddly enough, this isn't the first time we've seen strange sex-related search terms leading Saudis to this site.

> Continue Reading: The Saudis Really Really Like Jessica Alba

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: St. George Station

Then
TTC Toronto St. George Station 1962
St. George Station, St. George Street entrance. (1962)

Now
TTC Toronto St. George Station 2009
St. George Station, St. George Street entrance. (2009)

It's shocking how little has changed.

The 1962 photo of St. George entrance comes from the City of Toronto Archives; the 2009 photo is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: St. George Station

Heritage Toronto's Summer Walking Tour Schedule

Heritage Toronto UofT Walking Tour

This week for Torontoist I talked to Heritage Toronto about their summer walking tour schedule. Unfortunately, due to the city workers' strike, Heritage Toronto has had to cancel several of its walking tours.

Photo by Olena Sullivan, courtesy of Heritage Toronto.

> Continue Reading: Heritage Toronto's Summer Walking Tour Schedule