Friday, December 17, 2010

Books Ngram Viewer: Communism vs. Capitalism

Books Ngram Viewer
The nifty tool that you see pictured above is the Books Ngram Viewer. Using Google's massive collection of scanned books (at Google's estimate about ten per cent of everything that's ever been published) the service lets users track and compare the popularity of words or phrases over time.

The comparison I ran shows the rise and fall of the words "capitalism" and "communism" between the years 1860 and 2008. It's interesting to note that the explosion of the word "capitalism" doesn't occur until the 1930s, and in the late 1950s and early 60s "communism" almost manage to overtake "capitalism," before sliding into obscurity. It also seems that as of 2000, both words are in steep decline. I guess now that capitalism's won there's less of a need to talk about it. (At least until 2008 and that whole financial meltdown thingy.)

Screenshot from the Books Ngram Viewer.

> Continue Reading: Books Ngram Viewer: Communism vs. Capitalism

Friday, December 03, 2010

Why I Should Write Less

Sleepy Slot
Last month, I didn't write a single thing for The Intrepid. Yet, somehow—possibly as a reward for my sloth—this blog received a record 20,000 pages views.

So, what's driving traffic here? Well...mostly my then and now photos and some articles about Toronto's fascination with TTC fantasy maps. In November, these topics alone accounted for approximately twenty per cent of site traffic.

The Internet Gods have spoken: no more writing! It's time to sit back and just watch the hits just roll in. (Expect for maybe this stuff.)

Photo by pierre pouliquin.

> Continue Reading: Why I Should Write Less

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Omar for Mayor

Omar Little The Wire
That's right, despite the fact that he's probably never been to Toronto (or even Canada for that matter), I'm endorsing Baltimore's infamous stickup artist, Omar Little, for mayor.

Unlike the current frontrunners, Omar has the qualities and background we need in a mayor, including a strict code of respect for taxpayers, a fundraising strategy which capitalizes on alternative and unconventional revenue sources, patience, and the ability to lead diverse groups. Finally, his "Omar Comin'" policing strategy would eliminate the need for most of Toronto's police force, leading to enormous savings.

Compared to his competition, this cheese stands alone.

Screenshot from The Wire.

> Continue Reading: Omar for Mayor

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let’s Go Drink at the Amsterdam Brewery

The Amsterdam Brewery Toronto
The Amsterdam Brewery, located just north of Lake Shore Boulevard West on Bathurst Street, isn’t the finest microbrewery in the world, but their suds are decent, award winning, and more than reasonably priced.

But the brewery’s best deal is probably its tour, which really isn’t a tour, just a lot of beer for ten dollars. (The brewery used to offer full tours of its facility, until they were scaled back due to health and safety concerns.)

Now, ten bucks gets you eight (officially) to ten reasonably-sized samples of a variety of Amsterdam’s beers. Each sample works out to about a third of a bottle. So, for ten dollars, you get equivalent of three beers. Of course, it’s much cheaper to buy the same beer from the Beer Store, but compared to a bar or a restaurant, it’s a pretty good deal. Oh, yeah, I think they also tell you something about the brewing process. Frankly, it's a little hard to remember.

Photo by Paul Henman.

> Continue Reading: Let’s Go Drink at the Amsterdam Brewery

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Romeo and Juliet Ride the Rails in High Park for the Last Time

Romeo and Juliet High Park Dream
Last night, I went to see Canadian Stage's second last production of Romeo and Juliet, which has been running all summer long as part of TD's Dream in High Park series.

The cast is superb. I always find Romeo to be a bit of a whiny creep, but at least in this production he's offset by an equally neurotic Juliet. The two lovers are both overshadowed though by their counterparts, Mercutio and the Nurse, who tend to steal the show whenever they're on stage.

The only let down is the setting. From what I understand, the players are part of a travelling Romeo and Juliet production that's stuck in a Verona train station (how ironic). When tensions between the actors flare after yet another series of train delays, the station manager suggests that they kill time with a quick performance. I can only assume that we, the audience, are also trapped in this train station, watching this Improv Everywhere-style show.

Here's a thought. Instead of having a play-within-a-play in a modern train station, which robs the production of its emotional impact and adds absolutely nothing, why not set it in sixteenth century Verona? For further commentary on this problem read The Onion article entitled "Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended."

Perhaps the best part of the production is the surprise ending. Spoiler alert! At the end of the play, after Romeo and Juliet have both kicked the bucket, the entire cast breaks into a Slumdog Millionaire-style Bollywood musical number. The dance sequence doesn't really fit, but it's a nice touch that helps to lighten the mood after the play's gloomy end.

Photo by Chris Gallow.

> Continue Reading: Romeo and Juliet Ride the Rails in High Park for the Last Time

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Informed Tea Partiers

In my last post, I argued that there is no overarching tea party philosophy, and that videos like New Left Media's, which tend to focus on the most incoherent attendees, are somewhat dishonest.

As the videos above demonstrate, not all Tea Partiers are mindless, uninformed Fox News zombies. Many of these protesters have complex and reasoned ideological positions that they are more than willing to critically reassess.

So, why then, are these people following the Palins and Becks of the world?

I suspect that they're not really interested in Palin or Beck, or any of the other right-wing demagogues, but have shrewdly decided to tag along, as ideologically, there's room in the growing movement for their key policy points.

Videos first spotted on Andrew Sullivan's blog.

> Continue Reading: Informed Tea Partiers

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally

Chase Whiteside (interviewer) and Erick Stoll (cameraman) of New Left Media talk to a handful of the tens of thousands of Americans that gathered at the Lincoln Memorial this past weekend for Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally.

I have mixed feelings about New Left Media's ongoing exposé of tea party events. While Whiteside excels at getting tea partiers, birthers, and Palin supporters, reveal the inherent contradictions within their philosophies, the interviews are just snapshots that really don't do the movement justice.

Some tea partiers subscribe to libertarianism, others to Bush-brand neo-conservatism, and many are just scared by the current economic climate. There is no monolithic tea party philosophy. These videos often portray partiers as a homogeneous group of racists, fear mongers, and idiots, which simply isn't true.

Video from New Left Media.

> Continue Reading: Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rob Ford's Tele-Town Hall Meeting = Rob Ford Love-in

Rob Ford Toronto
So, I got a call a few days ago from my good buddy Councillor Rob Ford, and he was all like "Steve, you should totally participate in my tele-town hall meeting. It's going to be bitchin'. We'll blast Mayor Miller for like an hour and then I'll promise to cut costs while somehow building a bajillion subway lines."

Frankly, it was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Ford's tele-town hall meetings are exactly what one would expect. Most of the people calling in just want to gush all over him and tell him how awesome he is for taking on Miller and the Toronto Star, and the rest ask vague questions about cutting taxes, ending government waste, and ummm...cutting taxes. Ford's answers are just as bad. Callers are cut off after they ask their questions, so there's no back and forth dialogue, which gives Ford a full license to just wander through his talking points on autopilot.

This led to some miscommunication in the session I was listening in on. When one woman called to complain about illegal ads, Ford flipped the topic around and spent most of the time talking about how he's going to clean up graffiti downtown. I guess Ford doesn't have any talking points about illegal ads. I wonder if he considers any advertising illegal?

While listening to Ford ramble on for more than an hour can be boring and repetitive, the session did provide an interesting glimpse into both the candidate and his supporters. If you get the chance—apparently Ford plans to contact everyone in the city—I'd listen in.

Photo by Shaun Merritt.

> Continue Reading: Rob Ford's Tele-Town Hall Meeting = Rob Ford Love-in

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Toronto Ranked 14th in Meaningless List

Toronto foggy night
August is a pretty lazy, hazy month with not much going on. So to fill space, news organizations start to turn to low brow content like lists and rankings. Just a few days ago, Newsweek compiled a list of the world's best countries. Not to be outdone, Foreign Policy has released a list of the world's top global cities. As lists go, this one is pretty lazy. Foreign Policy claims to have measured "how much sway a city has beyond its borders—its influence and integration with global markets, culture, and innovation," but its methodology is never revealed, and in the end, the piece really doesn't have all that much to say.

Here's FP's effortless entry on Toronto—overall we're ranked 14th.
About half of Toronto's citizens are foreign-born. As the city ages—about one-fifth of locals are 60 or older—Toronto is likely to become more dependent on its immigrant community to revitalize its workforce.

Photo by paul (dex).

> Continue Reading: Toronto Ranked 14th in Meaningless List

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How Toronto Earned the Moniker "The Big Smoke"

Toronto The Big SmokeToronto The Big SmokeToronto's shoreline. Top photo: ca. 1912. Bottom photo: March 2, 1904.

In his book, Naming Canada: Stories about Canadian Place Names, Alan Rayburn suggests that the name was bestowed on Toronto in 1975 by Maclean's writer Allan Fotheringham, after he'd heard Australian aboriginals apply the term to their cities. Fotheringham felt that the phrase suited Toronto, as it had a "big reputation, little to show for it."

Rayburn doesn't explain how it caught on though, and the photos above make it hard not to think about the nickname literally.

Both photos are from the City of Toronto Archives. Background information from Torontoist.

> Continue Reading: How Toronto Earned the Moniker "The Big Smoke"

Canada Better Than the US, But Not as Good as Australia, Says Newsweek

Newsweek Worlds Best Countries
In an attempt to prove that it's still relevant, Newsweek, which was recently purchased by audio tycoon Sidney Harman for a dollar (yes, you're reading that correctly), has just published a list ranking the world's best countries. Of course, since this is 2010, the list comes in the form of a neato infographic.

So, how does Canada fair? Okay, I guess. We're ranked 7th overall, which is better than the US (11th), but not as good as Australia (4th). The top prize went to Finland because it's Scandinavian, and Scandinavian countries always win these things.

Screenshot from

> Continue Reading: Canada Better Than the US, But Not as Good as Australia, Says Newsweek

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm an Obama Hatin' Right-Wing Deficit Hawk

Anti-Obama Tea Party
Or at least that's how some U.S. conservatives are interpreting my work.

In late 2008, on what must have been a particularly boring day, I decided to research the costs associated with operating the White House. My findings were mildly interesting, so I turned them into an article. The post proved popular, though I quickly discovered that most of the traffic was coming from people searching for the costs of Air Force One. So, to help these wayward internet travellers, I put together a post about the expenses associated with the President's tricked out Boeing 747-200B.

After Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009, the traffic coming to my site through these articles took a sharp turn to the right. All of a sudden, my posts were being used by conservative commenters on dozens of sites, as examples of Obama's deficit spending and general mismanagement.

So, why do deficit hawks, budget busters, and Obama haters love these posts so much? Well, without the full context, the numbers look like great examples of wasteful spending. Both the White House and Air Force One cost a lot of money, $1.5 billion and $280 million a year, respectively. To the average American making $47,000 a year, these figures probably look unreasonable. However, it's intellectually dishonest to cite them without context.

First of all, there's more to the White House expenditures than just Obama's living expenses. The White House assumes many of the other costs associated with the Executive Branch, including the NSC, Camp David, the Secret Service, and yes, even Air Force One. Second, most of the commenters using these figures seem to be conveniently ignoring the fact that the data comes from Bush's time in office, not Obama's.

The costs associated with the White House today are similar to what they were under Bush, so Obama shouldn't be singled out. In fact, most of the increased costs over the last decade are directly related to the security measures that Bush implemented. So, if you're going to bemoan the price tag of the White House, you should be looking to President 43, and not 44.

Photo by Steve Rhodes.

> Continue Reading: I'm an Obama Hatin' Right-Wing Deficit Hawk

Michaëlle Jean is the World's Hottest Head of State

michaelle jean
Yes, in a bizarre upset that seems to conveniently ignore the fact that Michaëlle Jean only represents Canada's head of state—Queen Elizabeth II—our Governor General has captured the top spot on the extremely scientific Hottest Heads of State blog. Feminists everywhere rejoice!

By comparison, Stephen Harper, who is also not Canada's head of state, but somehow on the list, now ranks 92nd, down thirty-one spots from last year. (He must be spending too much time with his cat, Scratches.)

Unfortunately, Jean won't be able to enjoy this honour long, as she'll be stepping down in October 2010 to be replaced by David Lloyd Johnston, some cranky looking old white guy.

The photo above is Michaëlle Jean's official government portrait.

> Continue Reading: Michaëlle Jean is the World's Hottest Head of State

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Homers at Hanlan's

Hanlans Point Toronto Baseball
Welcome to Hanlan's Point circa 1928, back before the western part of Toronto Island became home to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and a summertime sausage fest nude beach. The image above, which merges a 1928 photo of the Point's old baseball stadium (ca. 1928) with a modern view of Toronto's skyline, comes from Alden Cudanin's website, Toronto Before. Cudanin is a whiz at producing these kinds of historical mash-ups, and while I was impressed by his Armories remix, I think this one might be his best to date.

The stadium featured in the photo was built for the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club in 1909, destroyed by a fire, rebuilt, destroyed again, and then, just for the hell of it, rebuilt again. In 1914, Babe Ruth, the sultan of swat, hit his first professional home run at the stadium—a fact that's repeated ad nauseam in almost every history of the island ever written. Finally, in the 1920s, the Leafs moved to a new stadium on the mainland, and in 1937 the diamond was demolished to make room for the new island airport.

Photo mash-up by Alden Cudanin.

> Continue Reading: Homers at Hanlan's

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ego Tripping: Part Two

Fireworks in New York City
At long last, after four hundred and fifty-one lazy, redundant, self-congratulatory, bizarre, and occasionally interesting posts, The Intrepid has finally made it to the big time. Now, if you search "the intrepid" in Google, this site appears on the first page of results. Hot damn! Of course, if I had just picked a name that was, you know, not used by a travel company, an aircraft carrier, a car, a spy, and about a bajillion charities and foundations, this site probably would have appeared higher in the Google rankings sooner.

Photo by Mr Magoo ICU.

> Continue Reading: Ego Tripping: Part Two

Titanic II

About fucking time!

The trailer above is from Asylum Production's mockbuster "Titanic II." The tagline: "100 years later, lightning strikes twice." Brilliant.

> Continue Reading: Titanic II

Friday, July 30, 2010

Steve Pakin Talks with Mike Harris

Mike Harris TVO
All this week, TVO's The Agenda with Steve Pakin has featured interviews with former Ontario Premier Mike Harris. Harris doesn't reveal anything stunning, but the interviews are still worth listening to (don't bother with the video versions).

Screenshot from The Agenda with Steve Pakin.

> Continue Reading: Steve Pakin Talks with Mike Harris

A Clear Message for Democrats for the 2010 Midterms

Democrats Signing Health Care
This week, on the Slate Political Gabfest, John Dickerson, American political correspondent extraordinaire, argued that the Democrat's best strategy for the fall is to send the message that they want to provide unemployment benefits and let the tax breaks that rich derive from the Bush tax cuts expire.

The cleanest, clearest political winner would be if Democrats could say 'look, Republicans want to keep taxes low on the rich—families that make over $250,000—but they won't vote to extend unemployment benefits.' So, that makes them looks mean. People want unemployment benefits to be extended, and also it revs up the Democratic base. And we've said this a million times before, but it's important to repeat, this election is not about the entire country, it's not even about all voters, it's about voters in the bases of these two parties. A clean argument that says 'these Republicans want to feed the wealthy and the fat cats at the detriment of the people who are looking and looking for jobs and just can't find one—the hard working middle class Americans'—is a nice tidy argument.
This is a strong message that as Dickerson argues, is clear, concise, and supported by lots of evidence. But only if Democrats have the backbone to raise wealthy American's taxes (those making more than $250,000 a year). If they don't, then the whole argument becomes muddled. By letting the tax breaks that the rich enjoy expire, Democrats can argue that they're at least somewhat serious about deficit reduction, as the plan would bring in more than $800 billion over the next ten years, and would offset the cost of extended unemployment benefits. The problem is that the party's divided, as many of the Democrats up for re-election this fall come from America's wealthiest districts.

Photo from Nancy Pelosi's Flickr stream.

> Continue Reading: A Clear Message for Democrats for the 2010 Midterms

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sending the Bacon Back

Carousel bakery peameal bacon
Last week, I threw my health to the wind and went to St. Lawrence Market to try Carousel Bakery's world famous peameal bacon sandwich. Frankly, I was kind of disappointed. For those who who haven't seen it before, this heart attack in a bun is pretty much just a stack of unsmoked back bacon rolled in cornmeal on, well...a bun. The bacon was tender and the bun was soft, as you'd expect, but overall the sandwich was bland, as peameal bacon doesn't have much of taste to it (or at least I don't think it does).

Well, that's one de facto Canadian dish down. Next up: beaver tails.

Photo by .michael.newman.

> Continue Reading: Sending the Bacon Back

TTC Gum Redux

Keep the TTC Gum Free
The TTC has started switching some of its "Keep the TTC gum-free" post-it note PSAs with these fairly standard posters. I guess replacing all those missing pads of paper was proving too difficult.

Note: the wad of gum in the poster has one hell of a big shadow.

Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: TTC Gum Redux

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Swiss Chalet Standoff

Swiss Chalet Standoff Terrance McBurnie
Yesterday, I happened to rollerblading near The Queensway and Kipling Avenue when I heard about the hostage situation at the intersection's Swiss Chalet. So, in my capacity as a pseudo-journalist for Torontoist, I decided to check out what was going on, and I happened to snag this photo (see above) of gunman Terrance McBurnie's arrest.

More photos after the break.

Swiss Chalet Standoff Queensway and KiplingThe Queensway and Kipling Avenue after police erected a barrier to block traffic.

Swiss Chalet Standoff CBCThe CBC getting ready to cover the action.

Swiss Chalet Standoff MediaCitytv and Newstalk 1010 interviewing a bystander.

Swiss Chalet Standoff Toronto Star PhotographerThe Toronto Star's photographers position themselves. I highly recommend checking out their excellent photo essay.

Swiss Chalet Standoff SniperA police sniper running to take position.

Swiss Chalet Standoff National PostThe National Post's reporter decides to take a nap.

Swiss Chalet Standoff gawkersThe gawkers and journalists behind the police line at The Queensway and Stock Avenue.

Swiss Chalet Standoff PoliceA policeman talking to reporters after McBurnie was taken into custody.

Photos by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Swiss Chalet Standoff

NMA News: Is Palin Gunning for 2012?!

The Taiwanese based NMA News gives its take on the bear shooting, beauty pageant winning, cleavage sporting, and word inventing phenomenon that is Sarah Palin. The same agency was also responsible for this amazing video piece on the iPhone and Antennagate.

Video by NMA News.

> Continue Reading: NMA News: Is Palin Gunning for 2012?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Worst. Trend Piece. Ever.

No, sadly, this is not an Onion parody piece. Over the last week, news organizations around the interwebs have been reporting on the dangers of i-dosing, the new and terrifying way kids are using MP3s to get high.

The video above comes from Oklahoma News 9, the brilliant on-the-ground news organization that broke the story. What's absolutely amazing is that News 9 is able to conclude that digital drugs are widespread, a threat, and possibly a gateway to nastier stuff, and all by just talking to a few random students and educators at one school, and by searching YouTube.

Seriously, wow. That's some pretty impressive journalism. Most organizations would have look at reports or do some kind research before making claims like this. Not Oklahoma News 9 though, they're that good.

The news sites that were hoping to spin a few more scare pieces out of this "trend" are no doubt disappointed by NPR's new interview with Helane Wahbeh, an assistant professor at Oregon Health and Science University who's done studies on so-called digital drugs. According to Wahbeh, there's not enough evidence to show that sound can alter states the way chemical drugs do.

Via Wired and Time Magazine.

> Continue Reading: Worst. Trend Piece. Ever.

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Poster Asks Passengers to Keep the TTC Gum-Free

Keep the TTC Gum Free
Most people who chew gum on the TTC are considerate enough to wait until they get off to spit their gum out into the garbage, or they put it in a wrapper so they can throw it out later. The gum we regularly see stuck to seats, walls, and doors isn't from them, it's from a small contingent of assholes. These are the people who would continue to stick their gum to the seats even if there was a trash can right in front of them. Why? Because they're assholes and they don't give a fuck.

If this is too ranty for your tastes, then check out the article I wrote for Torontoist on the same subject. It contains some of that crazy research stuff.

Photo by L. Richarz.

> Continue Reading: New Poster Asks Passengers to Keep the TTC Gum-Free

Say Goodbye to Kool-Aid Points

No More Kool-Aid Points
As of September 1, 2010, Canadians will no longer be able to exchange their Kool-Aid points for craptacular prizes. Officially, Kraft, which owns Kool-Aid, discontinued the long running promotion in 2008 when it removed clippable points from all of its Kool-Aid products. Since then, Kraft has still offered prizes, but only while supplies last (and it looks like they're about to run out).

The Kool-Aid site currently lists ten available prizes, but as I recently discovered, seven are out of stock, leaving only the Kool-Aid water bottle (100 points), the Crayola markers pack (300 points), and the underwater camera (2,000 points). These prizes are not only lame, but they cost way too much.

When points were still around, a single packet of Kool-Aid—worth one-point—cost approximately thirty cents, which means that you had to buy thirty dollars worth of Kool-Aid to get enough points for the water bottle, ninety for the markers pack, and six hundred for the underwater camera. Kind of steep, don't you think?

Then there's the exorbitant shipping and handling fees. The water bottle, which looks like it could have been plucked from a dollar store bargain bin, costs $3.50 to ship; the Crayola markers pack, which retails for four dollars, costs five to ship; and the hideous looking underwater camera, which retails for sixteen, costs eight to ship.

The points-to-prizes ratio wasn't always this bad. In the early 90s, I got a Sonic the Hedgehog video game for one hundred points. It wasn't a great video game, but it was certainly better than a water bottle, and shipping was free.

Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Say Goodbye to Kool-Aid Points

Friday, July 09, 2010

Being in the Right Place at the Right Time to See the Right Explosion

Toronto Transformer Explosion Kipling
This past Monday, as I was walking home along Islington Avenue, I heard a large bang, and as I turned towards the noise, I saw a massive fireball shoot up into the air from the Hydro transformer station at Kipling Avenue and Norseman Street. As a part-time pseudo-journalist, my first instinct was to throw my backpack to the ground, pull out my camera, and take a photo of the resulting mushroom cloud (which you can see above). My second instinct was to text Torontoist's editor-in-chief, David Topping, with information about the fire and the resulting blackout, which ended up covering a fair part of the city. (You can read Torontoist's full coverage here.)

This was one of those chance opportunities that reporters dream about: being in the right place at the right time to get the scoop on a major event.

From now on I'm bringing my camera with me every time I go out.

Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Being in the Right Place at the Right Time to See the Right Explosion

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Canadian Civil Liberties Association's Interim Report on G20 Summit Policing

G20 Toronto Riot Police
Earlier today, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association released its interim report on the police actions taken during the G20 summit in Toronto, and surprise, surprise, the security forces get a failing grade.

Here's an excerpt from the report, which is entitled "A Breach of the Peace":
There is no doubt that this weekend presented a very difficult law enforcement scenario. Nevertheless, this does not justify a mass suspension of basic civil rights. It is possible to feel outrage about acts of vandalism and at the same time recognize the importance of maintaining a free and just society committed to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention and the presumption of innocence. In our view, the existence in Toronto of a cohort of the ‘black block’ does not justify a suspension of democratic rights for people in the city.

Over 900 individuals have been arrested. Hundreds have now been released without being charged with any criminal offence. In view of the unprecendent numbers of arrests, there remain very serious questions surrounding the appropriateness of policing tactics. These questions demand answers.

It is the duty of police officers to act with fairness and equanimity toward all citizens in accordance with the law of the country. The presumption of innocence and the protection against arbitrary arrests and detention are at the core of a commitment to justice. In our view, the security for the summit was inadequate because it failed to uphold our constitutional commitments.
You can find the full report here.

Photo by chris.huggins.

> Continue Reading: Canadian Civil Liberties Association's Interim Report on G20 Summit Policing

My G20 Weekend

Riot Police at Spadina Avenue and Richmond Street. This particular gentlemen from Barrie starting tapping his feet along to a drum beat that was coming from the crowd of protesters. He stopped after I noticed.

For the duration of the Toronto G20 Summit, I was on the street helping Torontoist provide live coverage (which you can check out here). And boy, was it exhausting. On Monday, my feet still kind of hurt from all the walking.

What I saw over the weekend was, for the most part, fairly peaceful. Police and protesters may not have been bestest buddies, but the majority were respectful of each other.

It's a shame the way things fell apart. This experience could have been a great learning opportunity, for everyone involved.

G20 Toronto Budget VanThe police rented numerous vehicles to help transport officers and equipment, including this Budget Rental van.

G20 Toronto Riot Police Tear GasRiot police at Richmond and John Streets prepare to confront protesters on Queen Street West.

The violence and destruction perpetrated on Saturday by Black Bloc members (for lack of a better term) was heinous, and hopefully the individuals involved will be swiftly brought to justice. Unfortunately, the extreme measures taken by police, including the use of a fictional law to search and detain individuals, will probably mean that many will end up going free. (Lawyers shouldn't have too much trouble punching holes in the dubious arrest procedures.)

G20 Toronto St. James Protesters Police WallThe wall of police the St. James Protesters met at King Street West and Bay Street.

G20 Toronto St. James Protesters Media WallThe media circus the St. James Protesters ran into at King Street West and Bay Street.

The police, well...they fucked up badly. Unnecessary arrests, intimidation tactics, brutal treatment of prisoners, assaulted journalists, kettling—the summit's security forces have a lot to answer for.

The black bloc are not a group of super genius ninjas; they're a bunch of whimpy douches. The fact that more than 15,000 officers couldn't stop them suggests either gross managerial incompetence, or that security forces somehow knowingly let things spiral out of control. Neither of which is acceptable.

Police forces faced an enormous law enforcement challenge this past weekend, but not one that justified suspending the civil rights of everyone in the city.

We need an inquiry.

You can read all of Torontoist's coverage here. (If you're looking for more in-depth coverage, I highly recommend Christopher Bird and Christopher Drost's fantastic G20 Dispatches.) Photos by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: My G20 Weekend

Monday, June 21, 2010

The G20 and the Metro Toronto Stronghold

G20 Metro Toronto Fortress
This weekend, the world's most powerful leaders will descend on Toronto for the G20 Summit to have what will likely be a series of inconsequential discussions at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (pictured above in black and white to create an ominous, spooky effect.)

According to the Toronto Star, the ten-foot-tall steel fence that surrounds the convention centre was designed by the RCMP and engineered by SNC-Lavalin with tiny centimetre-sized links to be climb-proof. The fence's final price tag is still being worked out, but it's believed that it will end up costing upwards of $5.5 million.

This past Friday, I wandered around through the security zone's 3.5 kilometre latticework of fencing, checkpoints, and concrete barriers to get a first-hand impression of their impact. There's already been endless discussion of how bleak the fence looks and how bad it is for tourism, so I'll use this opportunity to point out a few other things I noticed while on my stroll.
  • Since it's difficult for drivers to see through the fences, driveways and back-alleys have become traffic hazards. To solve this problem, the summit crews have slapped up dozens of temporary hidden driveway signs.
  • A lot of the trash cans in the area have been removed, which—not surprisingly—has led to random piles of trash.
  • The bottlenecks created by the fences occasionally lead strange traffic conditions. When have you ever seen Front Street devoid of cars at 5:00 p.m. on a weekday (as pictured above)?
  • The fences largely solve downtown Toronto's jaywalking problem.
Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: The G20 and the Metro Toronto Stronghold

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lame iCoke, Pretty Lame

iCoke prizes
Pizza Pizza has started up its "peel to win" campaign again (or whatever the hell it's called), and this time they've teamed up with, so you know the prizes are going to be hella fuckin balls-to-the-wall awesome. Just take a look at the iCoke website. For a mere 1,400 points, you could be rocking a sweet Coke Zero wallpaper set that features those hideous computer animated body parts, or for 2,400 points, a Powerade Winter Olympics 2010 screensaver. And best of all, for only 2,500 points, you can share your summer memories with a Coke-branded personal e-postcard. Hot damn!

Seriously Coke, these prizes are worst than Kool-Aid's. But at least when you send Kool-Aid thousands of points they give you something tangible, like a busted video game or a Kool-Aid man beach towel—not some shitty screensaver.

But wait, that's not all. If you agree to surrender your contact information and register with iCoke as a VIP member, you can get special deals on these amazing prizes. Just imagine, as a VIP you could save 250 points on a Taste of History Collectible wallpaper set that's sure to make you the coolest fucking dude (or dudette) in the office.

Screenshot from the iCoke website.

> Continue Reading: Lame iCoke, Pretty Lame

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Bird's-Eye View of Half-Life's Black Mesa Research Facility

Birds eye view Black Mesa Half LifeA bird-eye view of Half-Life's Black Mesa Research Facility. Click to Enlarge.

Ah, the Black Mesa Research Facility, arguably Half-Life's co-star (after Gordon Freeman), and quite possibly home to the most incompetent scientific team next to the Dharma Initiative. I mean, what were they thinking with this mess? Clearly not about safety, expedience, or, you know, basic logic.

I guess it makes sense though. Breen, with his god complex, probably designed Black Mesa to get his jollies by watching his hapless employees hopelessly wander through the facility's labyrinth of workplace safety violations.

3D images of Breen's clusterfuck are available here, here, and here.

Image by Per "Sterd" Borgman.

> Continue Reading: A Bird's-Eye View of Half-Life's Black Mesa Research Facility

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Toronto Archives Launch a Flickr Site

cyclists race CNE 1930 TorontoCyclists line up for a race at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition, ca. 1930).


There's a lot of great material in the Toronto Archives, but the organization's online database, even with its improved search interface, still feels like a relic. The Archives' new Flickr page makes searching for and sorting images easier, and more intuitive.

With more than 1.2 million photographs in its collection, it would be great if the Archives could upload everything to Flickr. Unfortunately, copyright issues will probably end up killing that prospect.

Photo from the City of Toronto Archives' Flickr site.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Archives Launch a Flickr Site

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

This Story Looks Familiar...

The Monarchist Plagiarism
Well, after almost two years, it's finally happened. Some desperate sap has plagiarized The Intrepid.

The Monarchist—a blog devoted to the British Monarchy—"borrowed" several large passages from an article I wrote last year on Mackenzie King's attempt to scrub King George VI from history for an entry called "Now You See His Majesty, Now You Don't."

Beaverbrook, the author of the article, at least credits this site at the end of his post—though I never gave him permission to use my article. If he had of just asked, I probably would have let him reprint the whole thing.

Sigh. I guess Beaverbrook is just imitating the the unsavory tendencies of his namesake, Lord Beaverbrook, the infamous Canadian-British politician and philanthropist.

Screenshot from The Monarchist.

> Continue Reading: This Story Looks Familiar...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Toronto from the Bay: Moonlight Edition

Postcard Toronto From the bay 1907
The postcard above, which depicts a ferry boat traveling to the Toronto islands (circa 1907), comes from a collection of naval-themed postcards from the Maritime History of the Great Lakes.

What's striking about this postcard is that it looks nothing like Toronto. With the full moon overhead, the black skyline, and quaint looking riverboat, I'd probably guess that this image was of some Southern U.S. coastal city like New Orleans. (Or some town swarming with vampires.)

In case you're wondering, the black spire that dominates the skyline in background is the Cathedral Church of St. James. Although the church is no longer the tallest building in Toronto, it's still the tallest cathedral in Canada.

Image from the Maritime History of the Great Lakes.

> Continue Reading: Toronto from the Bay: Moonlight Edition

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bing Screws Up

deepwater horizon oil spill
The Intrepid has been getting a lot of traffic lately from Bing's image search engine due to a pointless little post I wrote a week ago on the size of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and what it would look like superimposed over Toronto.

The post was a pretty lame piece of hackery with two mildly interesting images. When I posted it I never imagined that one of the images would make it to the top of Bing's image search results for the keywords: "Deepwater Horizon oil spill."

There are thousands of images of the spill out there that are better than the lazy Google Maps screenshot I posted, so why did my image make it to the top? Surely someone else has to have labeled an image of the spill with those same keywords. Just one more reason to use Google, I guess.

Screenshot from

> Continue Reading: Bing Screws Up

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Toronto Then and Now: Westwood Theatres

Westwood Theatres Etobicoke Toronto 1974Westwood Theatres, 1974.

Westwood Theatres Etobicoke Toronto 2010Westwood Theatres, 2010.

Despite being a hideous suburban monstrosity with almost no redeeming architectural qualities, Westwood Theatres, a now abandoned Etobicoke cinema, resonates with a lot of people, including yours truly. Before Queensway Cinemas opened at Islington Avenue and The Queensway, Westwood, while not the only game in town, was one of the most convenient, and perhaps the cheapest place to see first-run releases in Etobicoke.

Westwood Theatres Etobicoke Toronto 1974Westwood Theatres, 1974.

Westwood Theatres Etobicoke Toronto 2010Westwood Theatres, 2010. Behold, the mighty condos of Etobicoke!

Westwood opened in 1952 beside the equally monstrous six points interchange (the point where Kipling Avenue, Bloor Street West, and Dundas Street meet) and closed in 1998. The last film I had the pleasure of seeing there—for three dollars—was the 1996 masterpiece, Mars Attacks!.

According to srcushing, a Cinema Treasures commenter who claims to be the theatre's last manager, the final two features shown before the theatre closed were Titanic and Wild Things. (Neither of which seem particularly appropriate.)

"The Westwood had lots of life left," he continues. "[I]t was a discount theatre with first run films. I was selling out shows up until the end."

More recently, the site was used to film scenes for the unbearably shitty Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004). In the film, the roof of the theatre is destroyed by a zombie wielding a rocket launcher, and according to numerous accounts, the "D" in the Westwood sign was damaged during filming. (Dozens of other Toronto locations, including City Hall, also appear in the movie, and are subsequently nuked at the end.)

Westwood Theatre Resident Evil ApocalypseWestwood Theatre Resident Evil ApocalypseWestwood Theatres gets attacked by zombies in Resident Evil: Apocalypse. (Note the American spelling of "theater.")

Speaking of zombies and destruction, the Ontario government plans to demolish Westwood and build a courthouse on the site.

In response, local residents have started a Facebook group to save the theatre's most prominent image: the giant orange and neon green "Westwood" sign.

Bill Brioux, a former Toronto Sun columnist and the man behind the campaign, argues the following in his blog:
For any of us who grew up in that ‘hood, the Westwood letters are as indelible as the Hollywood sign and speak to the same magic, allure and escape movies have to offer. The letters should be saved for their historical value as a symbol of mid-century pop culture. Hard to see them remaining on that site if it is indeed a courthouse...Anyone up for a lost cause?
Any campaign to save the sign would have to move quickly, as construction is slated to begin within the next year, and the government hopes to have the courthouse complete by 2013.

Westwood Theatres Etobicoke Toronto 1974Westwood Theatres, 1974.

Westwood Theatres Etobicoke Toronto 2010Westwood Theatres, 2010.

Right now, the windows to the theatre are all boarded-up, but you can still peak through and see the completely stripped-down lobby. According to Brioux, all the theatres' trappings have long since been removed and some of the newer seats were moved to Runnymede Theatre, which closed shortly after Westwood.

Westwood Theatres Etobicoke Toronto 2010Someone still calls Westwood Theatres home.

The other two long time tenants, the Etobicoke Driving school and a karate dojo, have both moved, leaving the building completely empty. Though I suspect someone may be living in the theatre, as I saw several empty beer bottles and a shopping cart in the lobby, and what looks to be the home of some kind of animal behind the building.

As much as I'd like to save Westwood for nostalgia purposes, I think it's time for the building to go. Although the historian in me loathes seeing anything knocked down, there isn't much about Westwood that's worth preserving (even the sign), and the city desperately needs a new courthouse. In this case, memories and photos will have to do.

The 1974 photos of Westwood Theatres come from the City of Toronto Archives. The 2010 photos are by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Westwood Theatres