Miscellany


Greed, grit and the triumph of civilization at the corner of Yonge and Bloor 

If you were watching the news on Nov. 13, you may have caught the weirdness: a near riot outside the Yonge and Bloor sales centre of the condo tower to be built at 1 Bloor E., as a mob of roughly 300 people jockeyed for position. Scruffy-­looking young people stood on chairs chanting “Go by The List! Go by The List!” Police milled around looking to maintain order. Kathy Kalina and Nadine Robbins, two la-di-da real estate agents from central casting (Robbins even had a tiny dog in her purse) were defiant for the cameras about their right to jump the queue — which had formed eight days earlier in anticipation of the agents-only launch. And then the pièce de résistance: a worker for the 1 Bloor developers climbed a ladder amid the fray to unfurl a banner changing a sign that had read “From the $300,000s to over $2 million” so it now read “From $500,000 to over $8 million.”

All this in the shadow of a looming US recession spurned by a real-estate crisis — this fuss to pay $1,000 or more per square foot for teensy apartments in a tower that won’t be built until at least 2011, a tower that’s currently proposed to be 20 storeys taller than current city zoning will allow. The message was obvious: the Toronto real-estate market has gone batshit crazy.

Which may be true. But if you talk to those who’d been camping out for a week in the cold and rain to be at the front of the line, a different story emerges, a story about strangers bonding and getting along in odd circumstances. According to the soggy, groggy condo campers, the moral of that story is — ready for this? — the triumph of order over chaos and principle over greed. Now we’re talking crazy.

Exhibit A for the human angle is Monica Geiman, the young woman you may have seen on the news standing on a chair, pumping her fist and chanting. A between-jobs retail clerk who lives with her parents in Thornhill and is planning, at 23 years old, to go back to university in the fall, Geiman was one of the original crew of 15 who arrived more than a week earlier to occupy the first 11 spots in line on behalf of real estate agents Hersch Litvack and Anna Cass.

Geiman’s friends wouldn’t have guessed that she’d last out there — she isn’t the kind of girl who’s keen on going without showers or wearing the same clothes for days on end. By her own admission, bad as it sounds, she’s kind of spoiled.

But she’s pals with David James, whose mother works with Litvack, and James was the ringleader of the original crew, mostly old friends from high school and elementary school rounded up for extra cash and a bit of adventure. Geiman earned enough to go shopping in Buffalo, take her boyfriend on a cruise and make some car payments, and she had a once-in-a-lifetime experience to boot.
For her and the rest of Litvack’s crew, every comfort, under the circumstances, was extended: they had a hotel room across the street at the Marriott, where they took turns sleeping in shifts (there were 15 of them holding 11 spots — don’t ask about the state of the room after eight days), they had sleeping bags, propane heat lamps, a daily allowance for food and coffee, ponchos and tarps. All in addition to payment, which varied, but the going rate was $250 per day. You gotta figure Litvack and his people spent more than $40,000.

Which is not to say it was easy. In fact, on day three, Geiman broke down and cried and thought about quitting, but a bit of rest set her straight and, five days later, she was standing on a chair chanting “Go by The List!”

Geiman’s was to be the keeper of The List. On the first night, the people behind Litvack’s group in line — young agents Yoon Hyun Choi and Winston Mak from Homelife, out on their own behalf — started offering tips from their experience in the condo wars. Those at the front of the line, they said, had to create a system to maintain order for the group. By then there were 90 people there.
The List was born to allow for some order (and some rest): people had to show up for a roll call (every two hours between 8am and 6pm, every three hours till midnight, and then again at 4am) to maintain their spot on The List, and otherwise they could roam for coffee or naps or washroom breaks. And since David James was busy managing his crew — making schedules, handling complaints with a roll of his eyes, managing money and brokering supplies — Geiman kept The List.

Adam Szalai, a 26-year-old film production worker, meanwhile, did what he does, which is help manage the production. He talked to the media and helped people negotiate their spots on The List and generally worked to maintain order. And, according to Szalai, a whole system developed by collective consent. There were five rules that emerged from the line’s spontaneous democracy:
1. You cannot be late for roll call or you lose your spot.
2. One person in line represents one agent. No holding multiple spots.
3. You cannot sell your spot in line. (Szalai was offered $8,000 for his spot at one point.)
4. Agents can switch representatives, but a representative cannot give their spot in line to a new agent.
5. No agent, no holding a spot.

The last three rules are just different ways of saying the same thing, but they were making these up as they went along and crossing bridges as they came to them. Everyone knew there were millions of dollars at stake for the agents, and everyone was together in being out on the street putting up with crap, getting hassled by crack addicts and passing drunks at night and looked down upon by businesspeople during the day (“who thought we were skeevy, homeless glue sniffers,” Szalai says). So everyone respected the rules. Mostly.

There was the time when a homeless guy, reportedly getting paid only $80 a day (which Geiman says is sad and as Szalai points out, in protecting-your-investment terms, is just stupid) missed a roll call and got sent to the end of the line. The agent paying him rolled up and double-parked his Audi, and, a walking stereotype of sleaze — with an exposed hairy chest and gold chains and sharkskin shoes — started threatening the girl at the front of the line maintaining The List. The pay-duty cop stepped in and told the guy to step off. And there: the law was respecting the line’s authority to self-regulate.

There was at least one exception. Johnny was a paraplegic man representing an agent. No one’s saying for sure that Johnny was homeless, but he hadn’t caught a lot of breaks in his life, and you could see in his eyes that this money he was making was everything to him. He stood out there night and day and never missed a roll call. Until one 4am when Szalai was heading for Timmy’s for a coffee and saw — this was like 4:03 — Johnny running as fast as he could on his canes, trying to make the line, trembling with tears in his eyes at the thought that everything he had worked for was going to be lost because he’d drifted off trying to get warm over a coffee. Szalai turned and ran as fast as he could to get back to the line, to tell Monica and everyone else that Johnny was there and should be marked present. “I would have argued to the death with anyone in that line who challenged me that that guy didn’t have the right to be there,” Szalai says.  

And, of course, there were other sad stories. David Chesney was hired by some guy on craigslist and sat out there in the street for seven days. The agent he was supposedly representing turned out never to have heard of him. He got nothing — he’d been promised $2,000 — and is planning to file a lawsuit.

But see, for the overwhelming part, The List was respected and enforced by group consensus.

Until, that is, the morning of the day the sales office was to open. That’s when the builders said they didn’t know anything about any list and were planning to serve people first come, first served. And those two defiant women on the news, Kalina and Robbins, marched to the front of the line at 6am, hours before the scheduled roll call.

But here’s what happened while the TV news cameras and the police prepared for a riot: Litvack and Szalai and the police and building security had a meeting and, it was decided, The List would be respected. The builders agreed.

The crowd outside burst into applause at the news, and Geiman — in her car on her way home, under the impression The List had been tossed and her hard work calling names 10 times a day and helping enforce rules was to be for nothing — got a call on her cellphone to return to help put people in order. Even Kalina and Robbins, who’d had representatives in line for them the entire time got to keep their places in line. Democracy ruled the day.

“I loved it,” Szalai says, “I loved every minute of it. What’s so great about this story is that the good guys won. And the bad guys lost. All the way through.”

And, while the people of the line went home and rested and formed a Facebook group to keep in touch after this strange, momentous event — like kids after summer camp — the batshit craziness took over again. On Nov. 17, it was reported that the penthouse apartment had sold for $25 million to a foreign businessman, who, of course, never had to wait in line. It was the most expensive condo sale in Canadian history. 

Originally published November 21, 2007 in Eye Weekly.

Come Remembrance Day this week, Canadians will, as always, solemnly recite the verses of Canadian World War I soldier John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields,” including its stirring final stanza: “Take up our quarrel with the foe: / To you from failing hands we throw / the torch; be yours to hold it high. / If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields.”

Written on the battlefield, McCrae’s words are powerful and beautiful, and they have been held up as a proud symbol of Canada (look, there they are on the $10 bill). But, in that it could easily serve as the text of a recruiting poster or, as it does for the Montreal Canadiens, the slogan of a sports team, that final stanza is not typical of the poetry of World War I soldiers.

Most soldiers shouted home a different message. English soldier Seigfried Sassoon’s “Suicide in the Trenches” concludes in a manner closer to the general mood: “You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye / Who cheer when soldier lads march by, / Sneak home and pray you’ll never know / The hell where youth and laughter go.”

Wilfred Owen, the English soldier many consider the leading poet of the war, wrote “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young” as a retelling of the familiar biblical story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac. An angel appears to spare his son: “A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead. // But the old man would not so, but slew his son, / And half the seed of Europe, one by one.”

This Remembrance Day, Canadian soldiers are in combat in Afghanistan, and may be for decades to come, we’re told. War rages in Iraq and may soon in Iran and Pakistan. There is much to reflect on. We might well consider the lessons of those brave soldiers from what was to have been The War to End All Wars — this way lies madness, they say, a self-fuelling fireball that engulfs the bodies and souls of all who wage it or who have it waged on them. That has been the lesson of warfare since the beginning of humanity. It was understood by the Vikings, whose greatest saga, according to Lee Sandlin in his essay “Losing the War,” was about a pointless, unproductive battle that engulfs generations and destroys the innocent and guilty alike. “For the Vikings, this was the essence of war: it’s a mystery that comes out of nowhere and grows for reasons nobody can control, until it shakes the whole world apart.”

Even wars generally agreed to be humanity’s finest moments teach the same message: in the service of ending fascism and stopping genocide in World War II, more than 60 million died on all sides, many after surviving years of insane agony on the battlefield, many more as huge swaths of millennia-old civilizations were reduced to rubble. A great part of an entire generation on five continents lived in a waking nightmare of fear that the bombs and guns and death camps would return.

From the American Civil War through Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, history tells the same story, one nearly identical to that of the soldiers returning from Iraq: if war produces just ends, it is only by happenstance, for the logic of war leads inevitably towards carnage; towards the reduction of humanity to its most horrifying state of barbarism and of the world to an unendurable hell.

Yet we have become again a society in which the military is seen as a source of solutions — through the eyes of leaders who have never served in combat, war is a just hammer. To them, every terrorist attack, foreign-policy threat and humanitarian crisis begins to look like a nail. They point to those who warn that war must be a last resort and accuse them of failing to “support the troops.” But the troops are citizen servants of the highest order who go off and learn what soldiers past have tried to teach; they sacrifice their sanity, their lives and their humanity — and inflict untold terror on others —?on our instruction.

In an age when being “strong on terror” has been reduced to tying a yellow ribbon and solemnly swearing to send others to kill and die before sitting down to watch Dancing With the Stars, we might reflect on what our history of violence has been trying to tell us all along:
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Originally published as an unsigned editorial in Eye Weekly November 7, 2007.

Recently, Spacing magazine and Live With Culture solicited submissions for a contest in which applicants were asked to shoot a 30-second video for the city, using the theme “My Toronto.” You can view the submissions they received and vote on your favourites at www.spacing.ca. Coincidentally, the CTV television network has launched its own “My Toronto is…” video contest, also soliciting videos from viewers. EYE WEEKLY city editor Edward Keenan is not very handy with a camera, but couldn’t resist gathering some notes for his own My Toronto video.

A rail network runs through my Toronto like the open road in a Kerouac novel – representing connection and freedom and possibility – so we’ll want to open with a shot of me in my Battlestar Galactica pyjamas, looking out my bedroom window onto Gerrard Street as the 506 car rumbles by at night. Then jump-cut to me on the same streetcar, lugging all my hockey equipment as an eight-year-old on my way to play on a Saturday morning at Ted Reeve arena. From there, cut to the view of the Don Valley Parkway from the Bloor subway travelling on the Prince Edward viaduct, as I try to spot two red cars (for good luck) before we re-enter the tunnel.

You can pull some footage from the archives of me as a Grade 9 in my Catholic school jacket and tie, sleeping on the subway surrounded by a school bag, hockey bag and stick and saxophone case as the crowd wedged in around me glares. And then get a shot of the building on Dupont where I lived with my wife in my early thirties as a freight train passes on the CNR tracks directly north. Zoom in through the window to find me and Rebecca in bed, sleeping contentedly, the passing train rattling the entire apartment.

And parks – we’ll need shots of parks. My Toronto is tobogganing on the giant hill at Riverdale Park as a 10-year-old, racing towards the valley and the highway across the track and beyond the fence. And my Toronto is going over the handlebars of my bike on that same hill and being knocked out cold as a 13-year-old. We’ll need a shot of teenagers drinking beer at Cudia Park on the Scarborough Bluffs by the light of a campfire, me sneaking a kiss with some girl I’ve just met in the bushes before flashlights flare through the trees and someone shouts “police!” and we run off in all directions.

You can cut to a shot of me in a cook’s apron as a 25-year-old, leaning back on the boulder in Yorkville Park with my eyes closed, trying to suppress the urge to go back into my restaurant and strangle a customer or a server or anyone else who expects me to continue cooking. And then maybe fade to a shot of me leaning over my year-old son in the surf at Hanlan’s Point as he tries to catch the rolling waves, our friends and all the naked people in the background.

We have sports in my Toronto, though most of them are hockey. You can jump rapidly from me scoring my first goal on the ice at Ted Reeve to the bunch of us in Grade 3 playing “foot hockey” with a tennis ball in the schoolyard to me and my brother playing table hockey in a wood-panelled basement in Scarborough to a shot of Doug Gilmour on TV, his faced bruised and cut, as the Leafs have just lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the 1993 playoffs. Pan out from there to find a room full of grown men in tears. Then cut to the same group of men playing road hockey in the middle of Danforth Avenue in 2004.

I suppose there’s some baseball in my Toronto, too, so you can show me dancing in the middle of Yonge Street in 1992 after the Blue Jays have won the World Series for the first time, a stranger approaching me in the crowded streets and handing me a giant Canadian flag that he’s apparently ripped off the side of a building. Then you can cut to me with my hair dyed platinum inside the Phoenix Concert Theatre in 1993, sitting with the rest of the crowd and watching on the big screen as Joe Carter hits a home run to win a second title.

My Toronto is dancing on in the early ’90s at the Phoenix and the Dance Cave and Catch 22; drinking beer and playing pool around the same time at Sneaky Dee’s; shooting the shit in the mid-’90s at the Only Café; talking with James O’Reilly, the playwright, who was a bartender at the Spotted Dick on Bloor in the late ’90s, and then we’ll want some footage of me wasting the early years after the millennium at the bar at Taro Grill on Queen. Somewhere we need a shot of me at the booze can in the alleyway behind Yonge Street, where some girl I kind of know shows me her tiny fake tits in the washroom before offering me a line of coke. And another shot of the booze can in the alley behind Queen Street, where everyone is playing dice games for money.

Politics – let’s get some politics in. Show me at a Citizens for Local Democracy rally in a completely packed church in 1997 as John Ralston Saul gives a speech. And drinking beer and smoking cigarettes with Jack Layton at the Only Café on the Danforth later that year, plotting his campaign (jump quickly to Marilyn Churley in tears at his party on election night). We can find a shot of the Trampoline Hall vs David Miller event at the Gladstone in 2003, with Jane Jacobs on stage holding a big horn up to her ear so she can hear questions from the audience. (That’s me there taking notes.) And then add some footage of that night in 2005 when a public-space activist showed me how to shut off the lights on a billboard.

How can we be at 30 seconds already? I need to add a shot of me and Rebecca eating a tasting menu at Accolade in 1999, and me proposing to her over “cold tea” at a Chinese restaurant on Spadina in 2000, and a shot of me and her – Rebecca in bare feet and her wedding dress – stumbling up Bay Street to our room at the Sutton Place, our honeymoon luggage slung over our backs, on the night we were married in 2002.

And then we need me holding my newborn son Colum in the delivery room at Mount Sinai Hospital in 2006, his mother sleeping beside us after three days of labour. And Colum at his favourite places: the High Park Zoo, the ferry to the Island, running around in the middle of the street at the Junction Arts Festival, on a pony ride at a fair in Scarborough.

Here’s a tagline: “My Toronto doesn’t fit into a 30-second commercial.” Then squeeze in shots of wandering the deserted financial district in the early morning waiting for the subway to start running, of teenagers fist fighting on Kingston Road, of kids playing on the Henry Moore sculptures in front of the ROM, of the staff of a literary magazine drinking wine in the park on McCaul, of grown men playing a burby tournament in a schoolyard….

Originally published in Eye Weekly, October 18, 2007.

The TTC is the keeper of a one-of-a-kind typographic treasure: the font used on the walls and old signs of most subway stations. Created from scratch in the 1950s with the launch of the subway system by a now-forgotten designer, the distinctive, unnamed, all-caps typeface features, among other things, near-perfectly circular forms on the O, Q, C and G; sharp points on the A, M, N, W and V; and a cute, almost cartoon-like R with an oversized round and a stubby little leg. This typeface has been the object of some amount of public attention recently, alongside the generalized TTC appreciation that’s sprung up in the Spacing magazine-led activist community. Not that the transit commission has done anything to preserve this heritage or to encourage enthusiasts.

“The TTC had a unique typographic legacy and, by accident or design, destroyed it,” writes Joe Clark in “Inscribed in the living tile: Type in the Toronto subway,” a 50-page research paper he presented earlier this month to the Association Typographique International conference in Brighton, UK, the source of the above font history. The Toronto blogger, accessibility consultant and typographic expert has recently been leading a campaign to address problems with TTC signage, as I reported here on July 12 (“Signs of dysfunction,” City – full disclosure: my reporting on the campaign is cited in several places in Clark’s report). “Inscribed in the living tile,” now available on his website at www.joeclark.org/atypi-ttc, comes complete with photographs and pages of references to make his case comprehensively: the TTC’s slapdash approach to signage has disregarded history, accessibility, functionality and consistency.

Various approaches to way-finding have usually been implemented piecemeal with no formal testing, and when testing has been carried out, it has been disregarded (in the case of a way-finding system tested at St. George station in the early ’90s, Clark reports that the discarded tests cost almost $400,000). Along the way, Clark outlines the previously untold history of the TTC font and other great bits of subway miscellany.

For the TTC, the report should be an alarm to wake them from their signage sleepwalking. But for the general Torontonian, it is worth a read for its well-documented historical accounts of the TTC’s growth and expansion, its blow-by-blow recaps of bureaucratic bungles past and present and, not least, for Clark’s entertainingly deadpan prose (“The Sheppard arrow probably functions adequately. The Paul Arthur arrow might have been used instead had the TTC not forgotten it existed”) as he documents in excruciating detail the way-finding mess of today’s TTC.

Originally published in Eye Weekly, September 20, 2007.

The mother of all year-in-review lists
The “I”s that appear after film, music and book titles below were rendered as stars in print.

January
Liberal ads are crazy. In our cities. In Canada. We did not make this up. | Jane Creba memorial on Yonge Street. | Broken Social Scene album tops our cross-Canada music critics poll. | Sarah Slean voted best musician. | MP Sarmite Bulte raises funds, copyright questions. | Lou Rawls RIP. | The Strokes put out an album with one good song. | Angels of Light/Akron Family . | Stephen Harper wins minority. | Paul Martin resigns. | Olivia Chow goes to Ottawa. | Ignatieff elected to Parliament | Steve Banks RIP. | Neko Case plays the Rivoli. | Metric open for the Stones in NYC. | Wilson Pickett RIP. | Grandaddy split. | International year of deserts. | Live With Culture. | Canada wins the World Juniors. | Ariel Sharon goes down to a stroke. | Kobe Bryant: 81 points over Raptors. | William Shatner sells kidney stone for $25,000. | Manchuca . | Hamas wins in Palestine. | James Frey is a liar. | Oprah says she’s cool with that. | Oprah decides she’s not so cool with it. | Oprah reams out James Frey on her show. | Grandma’s Boy H. | Commercial jingle of the year: Jim Guthrie’s “Hands in My Pocket.” | 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. | CN Tower turns 30. | Irving Layton RIP. | Planet Hollywood closes. | Anthony Hamilton Ain’t Nobody Worrying . | Sidney Crosby, rookie hype machine. | Free City of Leslieville website launched. | High-Parkdalians still say “Riverdale East.” | Bon Jovi’s jet gets slippery when wet in Hamilton. | Ruby slippers stolen from Bata Museum. | Nett werk defends 15-year-old file sharer vs RIAA. | Cyclists vs motorists street fight in Kensington. | Anagram After Dark . | Raptors GM Rob Babcock fired. | Loudly protesting heterosexual Tom Cruise sues South Park. | Under the Mink . | TV reality shows turn into dance parties. | Underworld: Evolution H. | Newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher turns heads in Terrence Malick’s The New World. | Icky, lame Karla movie does not help Laura Prepon’s career… | …neither does the final season of That ’70s Show. | Clearlake Amber . | Match Point: Woody Allen’s first non-lousy film since Sweet & Lowdown. | Hostel takes xenophobia abroad and impales it on sharp objects. | Michael Haneke’s Caché () tops critics’ lists early. | 40 Shades of Blue . | Jason Anderson: Sleeping Dogs Lie Sundance’s “most heartfelt film about bestiality.” | Shelley Winters RIP. | The Ghost is Dancing . | Chris Penn RIP. | Pete Doherty arrested twice in one day. | Lori Cullen, Calling for Rain . | Pete Doherty pleads guilty to drug possession. | Broken Social Scene do two nights at Kool Haus. | Cat Power, Greatest . | Canada: No. 1 in illegal downloading! | Katrina Onstad skewers Toronto media types in How Happy to Be. | Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat . | Maggie MacDonald’s indie opera Rat King rocks. | Robert Pollard, From a Compound Eye . | Prison Break breaks out. | American Jerry Zucker buys The Bay. | Bombay Black . | Stephen Harper shows Jean Charest some love. | Stephen Harper shows Dalton McGuinty the back of his hand. | Coretta Scott King RIP | The Sword, The Age of Winter . | Canadian kicker Mike Vanderjagt misses field goal, starts looking for work. | Yacht Rock loses the smooth. | Crazy about Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”

February
Chinese Year of the Dog. | Elected Liberal David Emerson joins Conservative cabinet. | Unelected senator Michael Fortier, too. | Paul Ainslie promises not to run for council. | Pittsburgh Steelers win Superbowl. | U2 clean up at Grammys, Kanye fumes. | Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow . | Blogger Robot Johnny unveils cool TTC anagram map. | TTC threatens to sue Robot Johnny. | The Sadies go live at Lee’s. | When a Stranger Calls H. | Turino Olympics. | Everyone starts saying “Turino” instead of “Turin.” | Cindy Klassen: Olympic medals aplenty. | Women’s hockey, too! | And men’s curling! | Men’s hockey, not so much. | Worse: we lost to Switzerland. | Belle and Sebastian, The Life Pursuit . | Run the Road Vol. 2 . | Remember the Arctic Monkeys? | Bush: “this great state of baseball.” | iTunes sells billionth song. | Betty Friedan RIP. | Neil Young: Heart of Gold . | Bad Bands Revolution. | Dick Cheney shoots friend in face. | Our Town . | Danish cartoons of Mohammed spark outrage, attacks. | Western Standard reprints cartoons, sparks letters to the editor. | Toronto Police apologize to two protesters mistreated in 2001. | Danko Jones, Sleep is the Enemy . | Queen Street Man! | Modest Marr? | J Dilla RIP. | Wavelength 300. | Alice in Chains reform, Layne Staley still dead. | Price of smokes jumps $1.25. | The Real McCoy . | Dave Meslin launches Who Runs This Town. | And City Idol. | Transition to Mez-less TPSC not painless. | Old Joy premieres at the Rotterdam film fest. | Sokurov’s The Sun. | Götterdämmerung . | Tommy Lee gets cozy with transsexual-about-town Nina Arsenault… | …until he’s alerted to the transsexual part. | TTC announces second annual Fare-hike Day! | Royal Sarcophagus Society launches Wanderlust. | Don Knotts RIP. | Ryan Bigge on Leah McLaren: “provocative pool toy.” | Five-year-old McLaren column on Bigge: “constipated prose.” | Through the Fire . | TV on the Radio sign to Interscope. | Cat Power cancels tour. | Spirit of the Beehive . | Frank Gehry at the AGO. | Chris Murphy plays tribute to self at The Boat. | St. Clair ROW approved. | Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story . | Province proposes energy centre for port lands. | 40th anniversary of Bloor-Danforth subway. | Take the Tooker. | Guardian Angels are back. | Madea’s Family Reunion H. | The Pink Panther returns, inevitably. | Dennis Weaver RIP. | Poet Lynn Crosbie waxes woman scorned Liar. | Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, House Arrest . | Malajube, Trompe L’oeil . | Robin Williams and Lewis Black make surprise appearance at the Rivoli… | …and Spirits… | …and Oasis… | …Robin Williams apparently off the wagon. | Psychic Ills, Dins . | Darren McGavin RIP. | Vancouverite J.B. MacKinnon wins the Charles Taylor Prize. | Femme Generation, Brothers and Sisters, Alone We Explode . | Mardi Gras returns to New Orleans. | Ontario minimum wage raised to $7.75. | Dear Wendy . | Sheryl Crow fights breast cancer. | John Martin RIP. | Matias, Sleepy . | Test Icicles release debut album. | Test Icicles break up. | Spymate H. | Billy Cowsill RIP. | Terrestrial Tones, Dead Drunk . | Great Big Sea in great big bus crash. | Split Enz reunite. | Doogal H. | Metric do two nights at Kool Haus. | Deal or No Deal? | Seriously, make up your mind ’cause Howie Mandel is driving us nuts. | Police horse dies, city mourns. | Aceyalone & RJD2, Magnificent City . | Still crazy about Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”

March
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party . | John Manley passes on Liberal leadership race. | Frank McKenna passes on Liberal leadership race. | Brian Tobin passes on Liberal leadership race. | Ashley MacIsaac says he’ll run if no one else will. | Martha Hall Findlay says she’ll run. | Bob Rae reborn a Liberal, runs for leader. | Ken Dryden says he’ll give it a go, too. | And Gerard Kennedy. | And Stéphane Dion. | And Scott Brison. | And Carolyn Bennett. | And Hedy Fry. | And Maurizio Bevilacqua. | And Joe Volpe. | And, of course, Michael Ignatieff. | Ashley MacIsaac quietly slinks away. | Omagh . | Slobodan Milosevic dies. | Bush and Fox wear matching linens in Mexico, Harper wears a fishing vest. | BikeShare hits financial trouble. | Aquamarine H. | The Social cancels CMW. | Ali Farka Toure RIP. | Ultraviolet H. | Believe the hyphy! | New Scott Walker album! | Nikki Sudden RIP. | Barmitzvah Brothers, The Century of Invention . | Miracle on grass: Canada beats US at baseball. | Bush: “If the Iranians were to have a nuclear weapon they could proliferate.” | Morrissey loves seals, hates Canada. | Paul McCartney goes to war with Newfoundland. From PEI. | The Ride Theory, In This City . | Buck Owens RIP. | Margaret Atwood signs books by remote control. | Rhinoceros Eyes . | Stephen Lewis visits Ryerson. | Holy Fuck and Fembots’ gear stolen from Lee’s. | Ted the Canadian Tire guy is retired, neighbours rejoice. | Gravitas . | Dov Charney: sexual evolutionary or sexist pig? | Maybe both? | Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood . | Ryerson hot dog legend Ernie retires. | ROM acquires 2,000 dead birds. | Arnaud Maggs wins GG for visual art. | The Rochdale Project . | Police release video of Boxing Day shootings. | MTV Canada goes to air, sans music. | Mississauga unveils shapely tower. | Past Perfect . | Peter Tabuns wins provincial by-election in Toronto-Danforth. | Jon Stewart hosts the Oscars. | Capote and Brokeback Mountain split gay vote, pseudo anti-racist Crash wins Oscar. | Ubiquitous Brokeback punchlines retired. | Ang Lee, best director. | Philip Seymour Hoffman, best actor. | Reese Witherspoon, best actress. | Three 6 Mafia bum-rush the show. | Donald Fagen, Morph the Cat . | Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham retires. | New proposed postering bylaw. | Bernard “Boom Boom” Geoffrion RIP. | Barzin, My Life in Rooms . | Greater Toronto Transit Authority. | York U subway extension approved. | Three Times . | Ben Johnson: “I Cheetah all the time.” | The Last Trapper H. | Wrigley’s says, “Win With Pat Quinn.” Quinn loses. | Goldfrapp, Supernature . | “Street furniture.” | Mike Evin, I’ll Bring the Stereo . | Camille Paglia throws down at Harbourfront. | Chekhov Longs… in the Ravine . | Amy Bowles stars in Tony Romano’s sexless porno Last Act. | Shary Boyle’s “Lace Figures” grace Power Plant. | Kafka and Son . | Awesome!…I Fuckin’ Shot That. | Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label goes Universal. | These Girls H. | Emily Schultz’s Joyland is a joy. | Tim Hortons opens in Afghanistan. | Courtney Love sells Nirvana catalogue. | Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones . | New Replacements songs! | The Game sues KOCH. | Pete Doherty pleads guilty, attacks reporter. | Sparks, Hello Young Lovers . | Scott Stapp vs Kid Rock sex tape. | Yanni: a wife beater? | Jack White debuts Raconteurs. | Canadian Pacific Scandal . | Denmark is the new Seattle. | Yacht Rock regains the smooth. | Clean Irene and Dirty Maxine . | Not so crazy about Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”

April
Secret swing shut down. | The transferable Metropass. | Six Figures . | Bush: “I am the decider.” | Leafs fail to make playoffs. | Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in Bush of Ghosts . | T.I. is what you know (King ). | Mission of Burma obliterates. | David Morales opens Sonic. | Rob Ford goes ka-ray-zee drunk at Leafs game. | Gene Pitney RIP. | Kelly Stoltz, Below the Branches . | Smashing Pumpkins reform. | Meat Puppets reform. | D12’s Proof shot dead. | Rammer, Cancer . | Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes reproduce. It’s a Suri! We think. | Natalie Portman comes to T.O. – Stillepost has the scoop. | Michigan grumpy about garbage. | Eight Bandido bikers slain. | Centro-Matic, Fort Recovery . | John Lorinc’s The New City. | Miss Universe Natalie Glebova: “very proud to be Ryersonian.” | David Miller in Vanity Fair. | Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, The Dust Treatment . | 150 new hybrid buses! | Orfeo . | Harper bans media from covering return of military dead, cites families of soldiers… | …soldiers’ families disagree. | Brick . | Sheppard becomes a sinkhole. | Tim Hortons Yonge and Bloor’s washroom explodes. | Ken Babstock! | Bloodrayne H. | Sharon Stone gets naked again (Basic Instinct 2 H): audience been there, done that. | Snoop busted for stage fight. | Take the Lead H. | Pete Doherty gets sentenced. | Pete Doherty gets busted three hours later. | Kardinal boycotts Junos. | Tokyo Police Club, A Lesson in Crime . | Snoop Dogg released from jail. | Ghostface, Fishscale . | Broken Social Scene vs Canadian Idol. | Zach Werner vs Broken Social Scene. | Strokes banned by MTV. | Morrissey, Ringleader of the Tormentors . | Neil Young vs George Bush. | Michael Jackson sells off publishing rights. | Sailboats Are White sign to Poptones. | Kanye plays Masonic Temple. | James Hunter, People Gonna Talk . | Remarried Eminem files for re-divorce. | Jack White’s Coke jingle. | The Sentinel H. | Kool Keith returns as Dr. Octagon. | U of T prof Hubert van Tol killed in bike accident. | Escape from Happiness . | Danforth Music Hall seat sale. | City tests new “superboxes.” | Jane Jacobs RIP. | Wozzeck . | Union Station deal undealt. | “The Beach” beats “The Beaches.” | Paul Greengrass’ United 93 does justice to “Let’s Roll” fable. | Very expensive, very long Lord of the Ring opens. | Spank Rock, Yoyoyoyoyo . | Puppet master Ronnie Burkett’s 10 Days on Earth opens (). | Whole New Thing . | Jello Biafra at Convocation Hall. | The Sketchersons 100th show. | L’enfant . | Poet a.rawlings publishes Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists. | American Dreamz H. | Welcome back ’80s. | Soledad Brothers, The Hardest Walk . | John Kenneth Galbraith RIP. | The Rocket released with English subtitles. | Come and See . | Raptors lose 10 in a row. | Grizzly Bear, Horn of Plenty/The Remixes . | | Brian Mulroney: greenest PM. | Jana Hunter, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom . | Comedy Central censors South Park’s Mohammed… | …but Jesus shitting on the US flag is OK. | E-40, My Ghetto Report Card . | American Buffalo . | Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” driving us crazy.

May
TTC wildcat strike. | Darkon . | YouTube is the new Napster. | Circa scheduled to open May long weekend; it doesn’t. | Geddy Lee appears in BSS video. | RV H. | Lily Allen makes us “Smile.” | We miss Grant McLennan. | Sunn0))) at the Music Gallery. | Akeelah and the Bee H. | Amy Millan goes solo. | Desmond Dekker RIP. | W-Y-R-D-V-I-S-I-O-N-S across the sky. | The Devil and Daniel Johnston . | Red Hot Chili Peppers release another shite album (Stadium Arcadium H). | Welcome, Type! | Bush: “One such goal is a democracy in Germany.” | Hard Candy . | Toronto Life says Ben Mulroney makes $400,000, hard work and talent surrender. | Inn on the Park demo-ed. | The Limb Salesman H. | Canadian dollar soars. | City council goes to four-year terms. | Jane Pitfield: ban panhandling. | The Proposition . | Fetching Cody H. | Leonard Cohen closes Bay Street. | Don Cash, On the Bus . | Four shootings and one stabbing in one weekend. | Census! | Baby born outside supermarket. | Toronto the Good. | Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions . | Cops raid Jamestown. | Canada’s Wonderland sold. | Everything for the Cure! | Pretty Girls Make Graves, élan Vital . | Greg Sorbara vindicated. | Nomo, New Tones . | Yacht Rock runs with the devil. | American Idol audience pick grey-haired dude over hot chick – weird. | No smoking indoors, anywhere. For real this time. | Will and Grace finale. | Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci RIP. | Oliver Shroer, Camino . | James Blunt banned from British radio. | Beanie Sigel shot. | The Case of the Grinning Cat . | Republic of Safety, Vacation EP . | Detective Kalita, The Michael Parks . | I Am Robot and Proud, The Electricity in Your House… . | The Game busted for brass knuckles. | Pete Doherty dropped by label. | Kano, Home Sweet Home . | Tommy Hilfiger vs Axl Rose. | Brownsound leaves Sum 41. | Keith Richards gets brain surgery. | Revolting Cocks, Cocked and Loaded . | Axl arrested for biting. | First Stylus DJ awards. | Doors Open in Toronto. | Sparta H. | When Do We Eat? H. | Harper muzzles his caucus. | Harper goes to war with the Press Gallery. | Fiscal imbalancing act. | Festival Cinema chain goes dark. | Tool, 10,000 Days . | Nike-branded park in Malvern. | Susur Lee on Iron Chef: it’s a tie. | Dose is dead. | BoyGroove . | Bohemian Embassy. | Bohemian Embarrassment. | Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam . | Humanitas Festival. | Pedestrian Sundays. | The BikeShare slasher. | The Da Vinci Code = religious controversy by numbers = H. | Robert Fung resigns. | Santa Cruz takes over Captain John’s. | CONTACT turns 10. | Martha Burns seduces a minor in Mathilde. | The Parkas, The Life of Crime/The Scars to Prove It . | k.d. lang, Reintarnation . | The Stills, Without Feathers . | Matt Costa, Songs We Sing . | Susanna Hood thrills with She’s Gone Away at the Theatre Centre. | Darren O’Donnell puts scissors in the hands of children. | Daniel MacIvor and Sherrie Johnson dissolve da da kamera. | Lady Vengeance . | Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy . | Peagreen Theatre pleases art lovers with Medici Slot Machine: The Life and Times of Joseph Cornell (). | Kathy Acker collection proves she might be dead, but she’s still punk. | See No Evil H. | Ricky Williams signs with Argos. | Ron Sexsmith, Time Being . | Sunset Rubdown, Shut Up I Am Dreaming . | The Leather Uppers, Bright Lights . | A Beautiful View . | Canadian Steve Nash NBA MVP (again). | Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” still driving us crazy.

June
Feminist Porn Awards glitter at the Gladstone. | Rick Ducharme resigns as TTC general manager. | TTC chair Howard Moscoe survives ouster attempt. | Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds . | City of Toronto Act enacted. | Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul . | 17 Torontonians arrested for planning terror attacks here… | …including possibly blowing up the CN Tower… | …and beheading the prime minister. | The Omen H. | Miami Heat win NBA finals. | Warren Buffet gives away his money. | Creeping Nobodies, Sound of Joy . | Eight arrested in Boxing Day shooting case. | Monster garbage cans get scrapped. | West8 wins waterfront design contest. | Nadja, Bodycage . | 6/6/06: International Day of Slayer! | Circa scheduled to open for Pride; it doesn’t. | Radiohead do two nights at the Hummingbird. | A Prairie Home Companion . | Television return to Toronto. | Raptors pick European Andrea Bargnani first overall. | Billy Preston RIP. | Sonic Youth put out good album, still old (Rather Ripped ). | Zizek . | Broken Mascis Scene. | Paris Hilton does MMVAs; keeps clothes on. | Kardinal Offishal rides a fire truck… | … and wins big at MMVAs. | Billy Talent II. | Aruba . | Paul McCartney turns 64, wife answers longstanding musical question. | BSS do Letterman. | Nelly Furtado is promiscuous, apparently. | Britney Spears allows infant son to steer her car. | The Drowsy Chaperone: five Tonys. | World Cup starts, sleep stops. | Kenneth Thompson RIP. | Uwe Boll to critics: let’s throw down. | Pink Mountaintops, Axis of Evol . | Carolina Hurricanes take Stanley Cup. | Air India memorial groundbreaking. | Eight shootings, one weekend. | Renovated Palais Royale reopens. | Survey says: 5,000 homeless. | Homeless say: survey is stupid. | Edie Brickell returns! | The Killers vs Fall Out Boy. | SARsical . | Pilate > Pilot Speed. | Billy Bragg vs MySpace. | Yacht Rock stabs them with their steely knives and dark sarcastic lyrics… | Yacht Rock RIP. | Nacho Libre . | Eye Weekly critic regrets Nacho Libre rave almost immediately. | Cancelled pilot Nobody’s Watching leaks to YouTube, catches on. | Alanis and Ryan split. | The Lost City H. | Keane . | The Lake House H. | Culture Club reform without Boy George. | Arctic Monkeys ditch bassist. | Danny Michel, Valhalla . | White Stripes vs Jim Diamond. | Panic! at the Disco fire! their bassist! | Korn singer has blood disease. | John Sewell is running in Ward 21. | Phoenix, It’s Never Been Like That . | TTC shows Bombardier sole-source lovin’. | The Lord of the Rings dies in infancy. | Scott Walker, The Drift . | Conservatives plan to raise age of consent. | Margaret Somerville opposes gay marriage, gets Ryerson degree. | The Bellrays, Have a Little Faith . | 35 years without Spadina Expressway. | Reader’s Digest: we’re the third most polite city. Thanks. | The Hylozoists, La Fin du Monde . | Street racing outlawed. | Four Seasons Opera House. | Gord Perks meets Al Gore for some Inconvenient Truthin’ | Aaron Spelling RIP. | MOCCA goes goth for the summer with Darkness Ascends. | Pigeon Condos. | The Importance of Being Earnest . | Bird Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest . | Tyler Clark Burke goes 3-D with Shimera at Katharine Mulherin Gallery. | Cooking Fire Theatre Festival. | Dora Mavor Awards dish it out for Lord of the Rings. | Birdland Theatre’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot snags eight out of nine nominations. | d.bi.young wins for blood.claat. | The Wet Spots release Hello Kinky. | Click H. | Kamau Brathwaite’s Born to Slow Horses wins International Griffin Poetry Prize. | Sylvia Legris’ Nerve Squall wins Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize. | Joe Thorton NHL MVP. | Figurines, Skeleton . | Leafs fire coach Pat Quinn. | Leafs fire goalie Eddie Belfour. | Steve Yzerman retires. | New look for the Raptors. | Jose Gonzalez, Veneer . | The Real Thing . | Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” – enough already?

July
GST cut by 1 per cent. | Parents get cheques instead of childcare. | The Chairs . | Israel and Lebanon go to war. | Stephen Harper says massive Israeli bombing is “measured.” | Ignatieff “not losing sleep” over civilian deaths. | Except by “not losing sleep,” he means that it was a war crime by Israel. | Or maybe by Hezbollah. | Bush: “The irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it’s over.” | Spiderman Returns . | New Polish prime minister and president are identical twins. | Jamaica to Toronto at Harbourfront. | Thom Yorke goes solo, still depressed. | Kings and Queens . | Sam Roberts shaves. | Steve Nash shaves head. | Dog Day Afternoon. | Johnny Cash: back from the grave (American V ). | Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out of This Country . | The Bagel closes… | …and so does The Session. | Born Ruffians sign to Warp. | George Bush calls PM “my friend Steve.” | A Scanner Darkly . | Syd Barrett RIP. | Cadence Weapon kills at Hillside. | Steam Whistle bottle shortage. | Flash & Crash lives up to its name. | Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle, The Miracle Mile     | Beats, Breaks & Culture. | David Cronenberg brings Warhol to AGO. | Italia!!!!!! Sleep finally resumes. | India Aire, Testimony Vol. 1     | Bell Globemedia buys CHUMCity. | Matthew Nguyen stays. | Ed Mirvish turns 92. | Sufjan Stevens, The Avalanche . | Liza Fromer leaves BT. | Council gives itself a 9 per cent raise. | Wireless Toronto expands. | Assholes get all racist on Oscar Peterson. | Strombo hosts The One. | Turns out title refers to the size of the audience. | The Fringe festival | Stealing Venus      | Zombies      | Desperate Housepets      | Moon Sea Crossing      | Humans Anonymous      | Swiss Family Guy Robinson      | Antoine Feval      | Katie Crown plays a mean goat. | Mel Gibson: drunk and Jew-baiting. | Avril Lavigne gets married. | American Floyd Landis wins Tour de France, fails doping test. | Disturbed vs Hezbollah. | Woman in the Dunes . | New New York Dolls. | George Michael has sex in parks. | blink-182 – Tom DeLonge = +44. | Savage Garden guy is gay. | Pete Doherty ponders implants. | Supernova vs Rockstar Supernova. | Jarvis: “Cunts are Still Running the World.” | The Knife, Silent Shout . | Polaris nominees announced. | Dallas Austin busted in Dubai. | Rob Szabo, Like a Metaphor . | Pride: Fearless. | Some guy pisses on war memorial. | Docks loses liquor licence. | Docks gets liquor licence back pending appeal. | Rhymefest, Blue Collar . | Red Buttons RIP. | Jack Warden RIP. | Lady in the Water runs aground. | Miami Vice remake drops the Jan Hammer, sadly. | N’Sync’s Lance Bass: I’m gay. | Comedy of Errors . | The Scream Literary Festival endures torrential storm. | Karen Tam transforms YYZ Gallery into a “Shangri-La Café.” | Tapes ‘n’ Tapes, The Loon . | Yvonne Ng premieres Scarlet’s Room. | Steven Price’s Anatomy of Keys sees the poetry in Harry Houdini. | Jess Dobkin invites you to drink mother’s milk at “Lactation Station.” | Vovoid, Katorz . | The inaugural Living Ritual: World Indigenous Dance Festival. | Monty Python’s Spamalot () hits the Canon, complete with killer bunnies. | Lesbian Rangers patrol Ann Tindal Park. | Paul Isaacs likes Menopause Out Loud! () | The Pajama Men . | Zinedine Zidane uses his head, ends career. | Fidel Castro hands power to his brother, rumours of his demise exaggerated. | Ready or Not 2 . | Clerks II H. | Miss Lou RIP. | The polar ice caps are melting. Fast. | Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Still.

August
Pluto demoted from planet status. | Elizabeth May takes over Green Party. | Familia . | Bush: “I also read three Shakespeares… I’ve got an eck-a-lectic reading list.” | Bummer in the Summer. | Bonnie “Prince” Billy plays Rotate This. | Mistress of Spices H. | The Deadly Snakes break up. | So do Death From Above 1979. | Criminal Records opens. | Bruce Cockburn, Life Short Call Now . | ALL CAPS! at Dufferin Grove Park. | New OutKast album: “hey no.” | Ant Bully H. | Hannah Sung leaves Much. | Extermination Night. | Brothers of the Head . | Arthur Lee RIP. | Paris Hilton releases album; keeps clothes on. | Banksy improves 500 Paris Hilton CDs with new cover art and Danger Mouse remixes. | Scritti Politti, White Bread, Black Bear . | BSS rule Lollapalooza. | Sleater-Kinney play last show. | Vetiver, To Find Me Gone . | Maurizio Bevilacqua withdraws from Liberal race, supports Rae. | Christina Aguilera, Back to Basics . | School trustees give selves 420 per cent raise. | DJ Cyber Rap, Funeral . | Who is DJ Cyber Rap? | U of T, UBC and McMaster boycott Maclean’s. | Robert Ariganello RIP. | AIDS sculpture. | We have had it with motherfucking Snakes on a motherfucking Plane. | West Nile case in T.O. | The Descent . | Number of MySpace user accounts hits 100 million… | …you have 143 friends. | Kiefer wins Emmy. | Jurassic 5 + Dave Matthews = yikes. | Foxy Brown takes the stand. | Black Gold . | The Mountain Goats, Get Lonely . | Lil’ Kim sued. | American Hardcore! | Boy George on sanitation duty. | Elvis still dead. | The Sadies, In Concert Vol. One . | Peaches’ panties for sale. | St. Clair snarled in construction. | Chad VanGaalen, Skelliconnection . | AIDS 2006 Conference in Toronto. | Stephen Harper stays away. | Stephen Lewis is the star. | The Marble Index, Watch Your Candles Watch Your Knives . | Alley Jaunt. | Crappy TTC merch store opens at Union Station. | Quay to the City. | Glenn Ford RIP. | Feuermusik, Goodbye, Lucille . | Canadian Owen Hargreaves dons Beckham’s No. 7 shirt for England. | JonBenet Ramsay case solved? | No, wait. You can go back to not caring. | Scott B, Home Movies . | Lonelygirl15 just wanted a movie deal. | Conversations With Other Women . | fFIDA reborn as TIDF, which is harder to pronounce. | Hannah Moscovitch’s The Russian Play is a hit at SummerWorks. | The Chairs . | John Waters gives us nightmares about Michael Jackson and Charles Manson as babies. | AfriCanadian Playwrights Festival names names. | Propeller Gallery turns 10. | Bombay Calling . | Paul Butler throws a Collage Party at MOCCA. | Rick Miller remounts MacHomer. | Soulpepper slays us with King Lear. | Cheap Trick, Rockford . | William Shatner appears at Fan Expo Canada, promises “fireball of entertainment.” | Ali Farka Toure, Savane . | Half Nelson . | Shadowboxer H. | Razorlight H. | Viacom fires Tom Cruise. | Ralph Klein retires. | Ralph Klein: “They were right about us not having a plan.” | Blood Meridian, Kick Up the Dust . | Damian Rogers retires from Pontiac Quarterly. | Liz Clayton takes over Pontiac Quarterly. | The Fan H. | Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Yeah. Still.

September
CopyCamp. | Canadian Lukas Rossi wins Rock Star: Supernova. | Andre Agassi retires. | Cost of tearing down Gardiner: $800 million. | No one wants to tear down the Gardiner. | The Golden Door H. | Jays finish second, miss playoffs. | Screech sex video. | Bush: Iraq is “a comma.” | I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone . | Sexual congress: Mark Foley texting underage intern. | Kabul Express H. | Pope Benedict’s comments on Islam spark outrage, attacks. | Dawson college shooting kills one, wounds 19 in Montreal. | Megadeth blamed for Montreal murders. | Offside . | Spinach kills. | A Stone’s Throw . | Circa scheduled to open for film fest; it doesn’t. | Final Fantasy wins Polaris. | French Kicks, Two Thousand . | Five dead in Amish school shootings. | UKULA opens shop. | The Field Register, Tire and Caster . | 1,000 join Newmindspace for Capture the Flag in financial district. | V Fest loses Massive Attack, screws The Flaming Lips. | X Avant Festival. | Swollen Members, Black Magic.  | TV on the Radio light up Letterman. | Emily Haines’ solo stand at Gladstone. | Fergie solo just as annoying as Black Eyed Peas. | Rheostatics announce breakup. | blood.claat: one womban story . | Everyone’s Hero H. | Hedy Fry withdraws from Liberal race, supports Rae. | Carolyn Bennet withdraws from Liberal race, supports Rae. | Sloan, Never Hear the End of It . | TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain . | No more Mr. Dressup. | Downtown Toronto is a Wi-Fi hotspot. | Rosie O’Donnell elbows Star Jones off The View… | Goes on to mock Kelly Ripa for political incorrectness… | And the Chinese for talking funny talk. | Katie Couric takes over CBS Evening News anchor chair, ratings slip due to possible lack of gravitas and/or Brillo hair. | King Lear . | Canadian Idol picks an actual talented person, Eva Avila, who hopes to go on to be discovered one day. | Battlestar Gallactica mirrors Iraq. | Sean Penn smokes, Jim Watson fumes, Sutton Place pays. | Lupe Fiasco, Food and Liquor . | Nuit Blanche. | Frances Nunziata has 0 friends. | Tie Domi retires. | Tie and Belinda. | Der Ring Des Nibelungen . | Opossums invade. | Tom Green broadcasts surgery. Again. | The Walrus hemorrhages staff. Again. | Cops shooting (pictures) at Jane and Finch. | The Wicker Man H. | About The Wicker Man: can we rate the year’s funniest movie only one star? Yes. | Chappelle’s Show “lost” episodes. | The ubiquitous Rachel Ray. | Tom Morello arrested. | Bob Dylan, Modern Times . | Scissor Sisters vs Trans World Entertainment. | K-Fed: the album. | Mint Records turns 15. | Cat Power admits suicide attempt. | Albert Hammond Jr. strokes solo. | Henri Fabergé & the Adorables all day at Palais Royale. | Britney and K-Fed spawn. | Paris Hilton DUI bust, keeps clothes on. | Arctic Monkeys win Mercury Prize. | Beyoncé plays Best Buy. | Porter Air launches at the island. | Pope: Canada going to hell. | Ziggy Marley, Love is My Religion H. | LCBO will take back empties, sort of. | Toronto buys a landfill. | Lobbyist registry fails. | Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip portrays SNL, sort of. | 30 Rock portrays SNL, sort of. | World Trade Center puts Hollywood glint on 9/11. | Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby does not suck at all. | Steve Irwin RIP. | The Supers, Re: arrange . | Borat makes benefit glorious film festival of Toronto. | Survivor plays the race card, then unplays it after two episodes. | Perez Hilton’s bawdy blog. | Jandek comes out of hiding for Toronto gig. | The COC mounts Wagner’s Ring Cycle in its new home. | Vazaleen posterboy Michael Comeau gets his own show at Magic Pony. | Performance collective urbanvessell stages Slip in the Harrison Baths. | Condo BOOM! explodes at the Theatre Centre. | The Dog Problem H. | Theatre Smash presents its first production, Tiny Dynamite. | da da kamera present Here Lies Henry for the last time. | Jeremy Deller’s retrospective. | Joe Volpe accepts donations from children, dead people. | Ugly Betty is pretty good. | John Stamos joins ER, somehow doesn’t suck. | Whitney Houston dumps Bobby Brown. | Eye Weekly intern Eliza Northwood: “Vag flashing is apparently the new nip slip.” Britney takes notes. | Canadian Parliament apologizes to Maher Arar. | CBC chairman Guy Fournier makes poop jokes on the air. | CBC chairman Guy Fournier discusses bestiality. | CBC chairman Guy Fournier resigns. | Coup d’état in Thailand. | UK PM Tony Blair says he’ll resign within one year. | Oriana Fallaci RIP. | Grafstein and Goldfarb get behind Pitfield. | Liberal fixer Stephen LeDrew announces he’s running for mayor. | Miller and Pitfield say no to road tolls. | TA&LSOW&MA. | SMART-1 successfully crashes on the moon. | Princess Kiko gives birth to the future Japanese Emperor. | Hugo Chavez smells sulfur at UN General Assembly. | Shinzo Abe becomes PM of Japan. | Tatana Kucharova crowned Miss World. | Overpass collapses in Montreal. | Banksy floats inflatable Guantanamo detainee doll in Disneyland. | EMPz 4 Life . | JT brings sexy back. | Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” surrenders.

October
North Korea goes nuclear. | Google buys YouTube. | Keeping Mum H. | St. Louis Cardinals win World Series. | Bush: “One has a stronger hand when there’s more people playing your same cards.” | Regent Park rebuilding starts. | The Journals of Knud Rasmussen . | Controller.Controller break up. | Joanna Newsom mesmerizes Mod Club. | Roky Erickson revival at Pop Montreal. | Manufactured Landscapes . | k-os, Atlantis: Hymns for Disco . | k-os plays the race card. | Danko Jones vs k-os | Bob Barker to retire. | Beck surprises The Drake. | New Tragically Hip single sounds like Arcade Fire. | Viletones reunite! | CBGB shuts down. | Yo Le Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass . | Jeff Tweedy slugs fan. | BC woman gives birth to conjoined twins. | African Guitar Summit, African Guitar Summit II . | Nathan Phillips Square redesign contest. | Turns out writer Craig Davidson is the noodle-armed fancy boy. | Centre for Leisure and Culture No. 1. | Jet, Shine On H. | Bon Cop, Bad Cop tops Porky’s. | Gino Empry RIP. | Rush Limbaugh vs Michael J. Fox. | Angela Desveaux, Wandering Eyes . | Zombie walk! | Enron CEO sentenced. | Jim Cuddy, The Light that Guides You Home . | Greg Keelor goes solo, too. | Take your drink in the washroom! | Memphis, A Little Place in the Wilderness . | Eye Weekly turns 15. | Toronto Life turns 40. | Segways banned. | New subway name, same as old streetcar name: “Toronto rocket.” | Jim “Blackberry” Basillie to buy Pittsburgh Penguins. | Lister Sinclair RIP. | Baby With the Bathwater . | The Queen’s () Helen Mirren becomes first in line for an Oscar | The Last King of Scotland turns out to be Idi Amin. | The Departed . | Marie Antoinette: let them eat cake and listen to trendy old post-punk records. | Death of a President gauges George Bush’s approval rating – fictionally, of course. | Trailer Park Boys bust box office records. | Knit-a-long. | Wait for – wait for it – it. | Grey’s Anatomy, which sucks bag, becomes so popular people start watching ER again. | Grey’s Anatomy star T.R. Knight: I’m gay. | Shortbus . | Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home raises the graphic memoir bar. | Fashion meets art in MOCCA’s “Unholy Alliance.” | “Tit Tales” at the Gladstone. | IFOA features Kiran Desai and Ralph Steadman. | Employee of the Month H. | Chekhov’s Heartaches () returns to Factory. | Canadian Festival of Spoken Word hits Toronto for the first time. | People dance naked in Sasha Ivanichko’s Heaven. | The Royal Sarcophagus Society does their Halloween thing with Dia de los Muertos. | Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah . | Jenn Goodwin and Nova Bhattacharya dance Out of Bounds. | RE:Search publishes Pranks! 2. | Hotel Canzine rides again – the Grilled Cheese Sandwich Room an obvious hit. | About an Hour improv comedy weekly debuts. | Pittsburgh Penguins, team of the future: Crosby, Malkin, Staal. | George Lucas loses Colbert’s green screen challenge. | Hiro from Heroes. | Akron/Family, Meek Warrior . | Kiran Desai wins Man-Booker prize. | Canadian Justin Morneau is American League MVP. | Madonna picks up a kid during a trip to Africa. Outrage ensues. | Aboriginal land dispute in Caledonia explodes. | Peter MacKay calls Belinda Stronach a dog. | Sunday shopping comes to Nova Scotia. | Ward 25’s Tony Dickins and the “No Free Lunch” bags. | Miller endorses Gord Perks. | Man of the Year H. | Pitfield unveils 14-point crime platform. | Pitfield’s blog plagiarizes Spacing, Globe and Mail. | Mayoral wannabe David Vallance says Toronto should become its own province. | Pitfield flip-flops on St. Clair ROW. | Mutual Appreciation . | Weird Al comeback. | George Michael lights up. | Kurt Cobain: still dead, still rich. | Corb Lund sweeps CMAs. | Heather Mills vs Paul McCartney. | Blind Melon reunion?! Shanon Hoon still dead. | Fabulous shot and arrested. | Stooges record new album with Steve Albini. | Justin Hawkins sees the light, leaves Darkness. | The Killers turn into Springsteen | Proposed Expo theme: Sharing the Planet. | Councillor Bill Saundercook advertises on yard waste bags. | Pitfield promises huge subway expansion, critics see huge bills. | SunTV mayoral debate gets rowdy. | Star poll reveals not one person voting for LeDrew with two weeks to go. | Councillor Michael Thompson calls black Miller supporters “paid props.” | Lindsay Buckingham, Under the Skin . | LeDrew calls Pitfield “Calamity Jane.” | Wellesley Institute releases Blueprint to End Homelessness. | Bowling for Lawn Signs. | Peter Styrsky compassion club drug bust. | Homeless mayoral candidate Kevin Clarke goes nuts, disrupts debate. | Cocaine Kate and Pete Doherty engaged. | Raptors dominate pre-season, going 7-1. | John Kerry botches punchline, kills presidential hopes. | Los Lobos, The Town and the City . | Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle crashes plane into NY apartment. | Wal-Mart nailed for working its staff through breaks and off clock. | Ex Models Featuring Kid Millions, Chrome Panthers . | Esquire: Scarlett Johanssen Sexiest Woman Alive . Duh. | Liberal leadership “Super Weekend” features cool online results ticker. | Also features big Ignatieff lead, Rae, Kennedy, Dion following.

November
Robert Altman RIP. | The Black Keys, Magic Potion . | Income trust reversal: markets freak out. | Deliver Us From Evil . | Quebec Nation recognized. | Scrappy kid Shaun Bruce runs for mayor. | Nellie McKay, Pretty Little Head . | Into the Great Silence . | Chavez, Better Days Will Haunt You . | Black Eyed Dogs H. | Saw III H. | Bush: “The only way we can win is to leave before the job is done.” | PJ Harvey, The Peel Sessions . | Britney Spears sheds husband, underwear. | The Babysitter . | US Democrats win control of congress. | Toronto One-Minute film festival. | The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America . | My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade . | Ken Aldcroft’s Convergence Ensemble . | Kanye West bum-rushes the MTV Europe Awards. | Dolly Parton, The Acoustic Selection: 1999-2002 . | New Who album doesn’t suck (Endless Wire ). | Milton Friedman RIP. | Dollarama get cease-and-desisted. | Propagandhi win SOCAN Echo prize. | Pavement, Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition . | Fucked Up banned in the USA. | The Game calls out Dre. | Tom Waits, Orphans . | Gerald Levert RIP. | Tenacious D pick their destiny. | Stranger Than Fiction . | A Good Year (H) a bad film. | Clipse are so trill. | Dears do three nights at Lee’s. | The Oxford Collapse, Remember the Night Parties . | Beatles for sale, again. | Michael Richards drops n-bomb on own career. | Belinda goes brunette. | Pernice Brothers, Live a Little . | Harper pulls out of Kyoto. | Eye Weekly/Spacing mayoral debate draws 500. | Expo bid collapses. | Jon Rae and the River, Knows What You Need . | Record number of council candidates. | OJ: If I Did It. | Rupert Murdoch: “Oh no you di’int.” | Sandro Perri Plays Polmo Polpo . | Federal report vindicates TPA. | Countdown traffic lights. | Snoop Dogg busted. | The Fountain . | Volver . | Wannabe councillor Himy Syed opens campaign headquarters in Metro Porn Theatre. | Au-Dela De La Haine . | Old Joy . | The Magic Flute . | Ritter, Dene, Voss . | No K-Fed/Britney sex tape (thank god). | The Game is not a cop. | Joanna Newsom, Ys . | Pete Doherty arrested again. | Ghostface: More Fish, please. | Bill Cosby vs hip-hop. | Woolly Leaves, Quiet Waters . | Flaming Lips Alley! | Broken Social Scene go on hiatus (we think). | Solomon Burke, Nashville . | Jim “Blackberry” Balsillie backs out of Penguins deal. | Indie film icon Adrienne Shelley murdered. | Guy Clark, Workbench Songs . | George Jones and Merle Haggard, Kickin’ Out the Footlights… Again . | Jack Palance RIP. | Borat . | Blond new Bond Daniel Craig puts 007 in touch with his sociopathic side. | Career Suicide, Attempted Suicide . | Fast Food Nation: “There’s shit in the meat.” | Neil Patrick “Doogie Howser” Harris = gay. | Homophobic preacher Ted Haggard forced out of the closet, job in sex and drugs scandal. | Deftones, Saturday Night Wrists . | Courtney Love publishes her diary, world survives. | Daniel Brooks’ Insomnia returns. | National Ballet of Canada’s Greta Hodgkinson sparkles in Sleeping Beauty. | Flashlight, Brown Blue . | Doctor-cum-author Vincent Lam wins the Giller. | Jazzy Jeff, Hip Hop Forever III . | Governor General’s Awards for Peter Behrens and Daniel MacIvor. | Rich people buy art at the Toronto International Art Fair. | Subtle, For Hero, For Fool . | “18:Beckett.” | The Tim Sims Encouragement Fund’s 10th Annual Cream of Comedy Competition gives $4,000 to Rebecca Addelman. | Henrik Schwarz, DJ Kicks . | Fringe fave Antoine Feval lands at Diesel. | J.G. Ballard writes a book about a nightmarish, consumer-obsessed society. | Nina Simone, Remixed and Reimagined . | Drumheller, Wives . | Dancer Meagan O’Shea’s Something Blue deconstructs wedding dresses. | Seussical the Musical is a condensed hit. | Ansel Adams and Alfred Eisenstadt class up the AGO. | Obama-rama. | Keith Jarrett, The Carnegie Concert . | LeDrew proposes plaque to commemorate Miller’s failed Expo bid. | David Miller visits 44 wards in 44 hours. | Molly Johnson, Messin’ Around . | The David S. Ware Quartet, BalladWare . | John Zorn, Astronome . | Noel Ellis, Light in the Attic . | International Sad Hits, Volume One: Altaic Language Group . | “Don’t Vote For Giambrone” Jeep spotted around town. | Selda . | Police protection for Ward 8 voting. | The Gothic Archies, The Tragic Treasury: Songs from a Series of Unfortunate Events . | uTOpia 2: The State of the Arts. | David Geffen sells Pollock No. 5 for $140 million. | Marie Antoinette . | LAPD on YouTube handing out beat-downs. | The Sadies, Tales of the Rat Fink . | South African parliament OKs same-sex marriage. | Al Jazeera: all English all the time. | Jeff Tweedy, Sunken Treasure: Live In the Pacific Northwest . | Tony Blair: “Iraq is pretty much a disaster.” | Nintendo unleashes Wii. | LOUDquietLOUD: A Film about the Pixies . | Pope tours Turkey, sparks outrage. | Bell covers half the city’s ad space in wrapping paper… | …turns out the big surprise is those friggin’ beavers again. | “Calamity” Jane Pitfield fizzles. | Stephen LeDrew gets LeSlaughtered. | Mayor David Miller re-elected. | City Councillor Gord Perks! | City Councillor Adam Vaughan! | Sewell sinks, Mihevc stays. | Paul Ainslie lies, wins. | “Landslide” Case Ootes wins by 20 votes. | Hazel McCallion wins 11th term. | Donald Rumsfeld resigns.

December
Ken Dryden’s mic turned off. | Stéphane Dion’s too. | Stéphane Dion wins Liberal leadership. | Ignatieff loses. | Howard Moscoe replaced by Adam Giambrone as TTC chairman. | US VP Dick Cheney: Iraq going “remarkably well.” | New US defence secretary Robert Gates: “We’re losing.” | Bipartisan report on Iraq: “We’re losing.” | Alexisonfire sell out six Toronto shows. | Circa still not open. | Eminem re-ups. | New Gwen Stefani yo-de-lay-he blows. | Nas says hip-hop is dead. | Kyp Harness, Fugitives     | GNR vs Eagles of Death Metal. | Doc Pickles leaves Wavelength. | Simply Saucer reunites! | Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj  | Tiger Bar opens. | Word of the year: truthiness. | Runner-up: wikiality. | Same-sex marriage will not be reopened. | Time magazine’s cop-out: “You” are man of the year. | Nicole Richie DUI, career DOA. | Holocaust deniers gather in Iran. | Sassafraz burns. | RIP Ben’s in Montreal. | Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Love Their Country . | The Holiday H. | Monkey Warfare . | Eragon H. | Mahogany, Connectivity . | Royal Cinema back from the dead. | New “teeny toonie” tokens. | Peter Boyle RIP. | Unaccompanied Minors H. | Twisted Sister, A Twisted Christmas or . | Dance artist Malgorzata Nowacka warns us in Keep Sharp Objects Out of My Way. | Ghetto Arc Presents Serious Times . | Darren O’Donnell takes his Q&A project to Pakistan. | Dave Eggers What Is the What: good, that’s what. | Factotum . | Myriam Bedard charged for abducting her own daughter. | Blue Jays sign Vernon Wells for $126 million. | RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli resigns. | Children’s Aid spend lots on executive aid. | Amy Winehouse, Back to Black     | Ed Stelmach new premier of Alberta. | Financial scandal at Hydro One. | Et Qatra Khoon: A Drop of Blood . | Rocky Balboa, 60, fights again. | Robert Pickton pleads not guilty. | Hugo Chavez wins Venezuelan election. | NASA to build base on the moon. | Tomma Abts wins Turner prize. | France 24. | No conspiracy to kill Princess Di. Move on. | Muhammad Yunus wins Nobel Peace Prize. | The Organ disbands. | Tickle Me Elmo is back. | The Atlantic names Abraham Lincoln the most influential American of all time. | Canadians cheer as Alexander Graham Bell ranks 24th. | Dick in a box. | The Coup and Mr. Lif in bus crash. | Pete Doherty: still not in jail. | Trey Anastasio busted, dude. | Ahmet Ertegun RIP. | New Arcade Fire song by phone. | Joseph Barbera, RIP. | Stephen Colbert vs The Decemberists. | Stephen Colbert vs The Decemberists vs Peter Frampton vs Henry Kissinger! | And long live the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown. | Yes, there is more to this week’s paper than this list. | Eye Weekly year-in-film roundup, page 14. | Or if you want to see something new, check the On Screen section (page 19) or our Showtimes on page 16. | You like DVDs? Page 20. | And we’ve got some TV on the same page. | Eye Weekly critics choose their favourite albums, page 21. | And their least favourite, page 22. | And our favourite songs, page 23. | Want to see a concert? Page 25. | This week’s Totally Wired is about lists but is not a list itself, page 27. | Music’s winners and losers in Street Spirit, page 28. | Part 2 of Denise Benson’s look at the club scene, page 29. | And her Best Bets for this New Year’s weekend, page 31. | The Arts section looks back at the year in theatre, page 32. | Theatre and Comedy listings, page 33. | It’s a look back at the year in dance, page 33. | Gallery listings and Eye Candy, page 34. | General classifieds, page 35. | You like Fun? Sign Me Up, m@b, Eyedentical Twins and Crossword, page 37. | Need some company? Adult classifieds, page 38. | And Love Bites with Sasha, page 46. | And oh yeah, happy new year. |

Originally published in Eye Weekly on December 28, 2006. 

Saying marriage is about breeding is silly, whether you’re a bigot or not
On the first day of the election campaign last November, Stephen Harper vowed that he’d hold a free vote in Parliament about whether to once again outlaw same-sex marriage. It was his first promise, and among his most controversial.

Nearly a year later the promised free vote has been repeatedly delayed. We’re in no rush to see the issue reopened. As far as we’re concerned, it’s already been settled: gay couples deserve the same treatment as straight couples in the matter of government marriage recognition.

There are those who disagree, however. Among those considered most credible is Margaret Somerville, a McGill University ethicist who opposes same-sex marriage without referring to the book of Leviticus. Indeed, Somerville claims to be both a proponent of gay rights and opponent of gay marriage.

She recently addressed the subject in delivering the prestigious Massey Lectures, to be broadcast on CBC Radio Nov. 6-9, and published as a book from House of Anansi Press.

Her argument, excerpted from the forthcoming Anansi book The Ethical Imagination in The Globe and Mail Oct. 21, is premised on the assumption that the difference between hetero- and homosexuals is that homosexual relationships are not inherently procreative — this she sees as being of highest importance in the recognition of marriage.

“Marriage is a compound right: the right to marry and found a family. Opposite sex marriage establishes as the norm and institutionalizes the inherently procreative relationship between a man and a woman, and in so doing establishes children’s rights with respect to links to their biological parents and families,” she writes. “Because same-sex marriage is not an inherently procreative relationship, recognizing it necessarily negates that norm, and with that, children’s rights in this regard.”

Hogwash. The right to found a family and exist as a family is not tied to marriage in Canada today — common-law relationships are recognized as familial. Furthermore, procreation — having kids — occurs within and without marriage (and even without the existence of courtship, often); and we give no institutional preference to the fruits of marriage over the fruits of one-night stands.

And marriage is not tied to breeding: we allow marriage between those who are sterile or beyond their childbearing years, or those who simply do not want kids. No one (that we know of) suggests restricting senior citizens to “civil partnerships” because their wombs have dried up, or automatically downgrading marriages that prove to be childless after time.

Marriage in our society is many things, but it is not sacred (as both no-fault divorce and Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? attest) and it is not tied to parenthood. Marriage in our society is the recognition of the desire of two adults to be recognized as a family unit. Kids are beside the point.

Somerville writes: “One can be, as I am, against same-sex marriage and against discrimination against homosexual people.” Somerville’s argument does not illustrate that position. Despite her protests, she argues for discrimination against homosexuals on a false assumption of what our society recognizes as the purpose of marriage.

The imprimatur of the Massey Lectures gives this ridiculous argument more credence than it deserves. It should be filed right next to the objections of religious dogmatists in the waste bin of irrelevance. We hope that, should this matter come before Parliament again in the near future, our legislators will recognize that.

Originally published on October 26, 2006 in Eye Weekly.

The CNE holds on — barely — to its nostalgic appeal. But where are tomorrow’s memories going to come from?

If there’s an alarm that signals the last of the laughing, lazy days of summer, it’s the screaming siren of the Polar Express sounding against the pounding beat of that song that has been filling every dancefloor and thumping out of trunks all season. When the slick top-40 voice of the DJ-cum-ride-operator cuts the popcorn-and-cinnamon scented air, asking, “Tell me, do you want to go faster? Then let me hear you scream real loud!” and you are propelled backwards and around and outwards, maybe into the lap of that someone whose lap you’ve been waiting for an excuse to get into, while the tiny flashing blue and red and white light bulbs dance against the pale, worn blue and white siding of the ride, and you throw your hands in the air and — what the hell — scream real loud, you can almost see the sunny, sandy days and flirty warm nights receding into your past. They might as well hand out three-ring binders and geometry sets at the exit.

It’s one of those annual signposts, like New Year’s at the beginning of January and taxes at the end of April and Christmas mall decorations in the middle of October: the Canadian National Exhibition, going on now until Labour Day, still going after 127 years with its farm animals and unwinnable games and its not-always-death-defying air show and, of course, its rickety, pleasantly crappy rides, including the iconic Polar Express.

As Toronto traditions go, the Ex is a doozy. Taking place on 78 hectares of waterfront land that are all but reserved for the fair, the CNE is the largest annual fair in Canada and the fifth largest in North America. Moreover, it occupies a very particular, personal place in the hearts of nearly any Torontonian you talk to. Generations of Canadians saw their first television or automatic washing machine at the CNE, or witnessed farm animals for the first time, experienced a roller coaster or saw their favourite band play after a stop at the candy floss booth and before a night on the midway. The upper floor of the Horse Palace has, if you talk to people who’ve worked there, seen more romance than a Harlequin proofreader, and the details are likely similarly fictional. You never see it in the big tourism campaigns (perhaps it is not “unlimited” enough), but the CNE is a defining element of Toronto life for a great many of its residents.

Here’s an observation: The best ages to experience the Ex are eight and 16.

If there’s one thing nearly everyone agrees on, it’s that the CNE ain’t what it used to be. But to be fair, it never was.

The first official Exhibition, the “Toronto Industrial Exhibition” in 1879, was a break with the agricultural roots of the fair’s prehistory. The post-war construction of the modernist Exhibition Stadium and Food Building broke with the beaux arts design that had always marked the grounds. By the time I started attending in the late 1970s, the much-talked about free food in the Food Building was gone and the futuristic household-appliance revelations of the Better Living Centre were a thing of the past and by the time I worked there as a barker at various games — working, for a few years, every single hour that the fair was open — the Bulova Watch Tower (which had formerly been the Shell Oil Tower) had been torn down.

Today, the old grey lady is certainly showing her age — architecture aside, the Polar Express may be one of the few iconic Exhibition traditions still going. The cable cars that ferried people from the Princes’ Gates to the other side of the Food Building, gone. Exhibition Stadium, home to the top concerts in the city that drove attendance and excitement, gone. The Flyer, Canada’s most famous wooden roller coaster, gone. The gorgeous Ontario Government Building is now the Liberty Grand, the Arts, Crafts and Hobbies Building is now Medieval Times, the Horticulture Building is home to a nightclub or something, the Music Building is home to a private business and closed to the public and the futuristic displays at the Better Living Centre have given way to cheap sunglasses, extreme sports and a depressingly bare-bones casino. The Zipper, The Wildcat, The Beer Tent — gone, gone, gone. Even Conklin Entertainment, with its glassy-eyed ex-con carnies and its creepy clown-with-Xed-out-eyes logo is gone, bought in receivership by the suspiciously less tattooed and more toothsome North American Midway Entertainment. The question: what’s coming in to replace these icons so that the children of today will have something to get all Wonder Years about?

Another observation: the Guess Your Age and Weight guys are the midway equivalent of a major-label band.

Here’s one fundamental riddle at the heart of the CNE problem: the Ex is essentially crappy — in a good way — but every time they remove a crappy element, the fair seems more crappy — in a bad way — than it was before.

Today, it seems like every second street you walk down in the grounds and every first building you walk into is just an opportunity to shop, and not for futuristic cars or whatever, either. There are Persian rugs and brooms and bad faux-impressionist oil paintings and furniture and whole warehouse-sized spaces of clothes. And if you find yourself in the mood to buy a hot tub after catching the Human Cannonball show, the CNE offers about a dozen places where you can do just that. Here’s some advice to those in a position to do something: replacing those little trains that ferried old people around with yet another opportunity to buy bras for $7 or sunglasses for $2.99 doesn’t make it more current. It just makes it more like a discount mall. And we’ve already got plenty of those.

Yet another observation: those scandalously short skirts that are popular right now make enjoying a good number of the rides a little awkward.

What if the CNE got back into the Exhibition business? I know — there are still a dozen exhibits listed in the program, but they’re mostly hidden away and they look like some janitor was asked to throw them together in his spare time. Besides which, a couple of butter sculptures and a roomful of Barbies in designer outfits don’t exactly sear themselves indelibly into the memories of those who’ll later be reminiscing about the glory days. I’ve yet to meet the child who will be writing his What I Did On My Summer Vacation paper about the living-room-sized “Circa 1995/2005” design exhibit that was in the middle of the Direct Energy Centre flea market hall.

What if the CNE returned to its roots of showing us the future by giving us real, razzle-dazzle displays of tomorrow’s technology? They could get together with the Science Centre and videogame and computer manufacturers and robotics companies and — here’s a thought — environmental organizations to build exhibits worth travelling to. They need to make the CNE the kind of place where the woman who invents teleportation or the man who comes up with the car that runs on water will show them.

And when the soccer stadium currently under construction is finished, it should be priority No. 1 on someone’s BlackBerry to book a superstar musician to perform there every night of the fair.

Or here’s another thought. How about we replace the overpriced food-court crap in the Food Building with a display of the best in organic farming? Or high-end cuisine? Or something, anything, that you can’t get somewhere else?

A tip: money games on the midway aren’t fixed in the sense that the wheel is rigged to never stop on your bet. They’re rigged in the sense that your odds of winning are one in six and the best payout is three to one. Which means you still can’t win.

But, of course, there’s magic on the midway. When the sun goes down and you’re on the Ferris wheel and the clack-clack-clack of the Crown and Anchor wheel and the hiss of hydraulics from the roller coaster compete with the muffled hum of the barkers and the alarm bells for the attention of your ears, you can forget the hit-and-miss trips through the buildings and the uninspired exhibits and all that should be here that is gone. Because with a bite of ice cream waffle in your mouth and the view of the thousands of blinking lights rising up to the Toronto skyline in the distance before you, you can still get the giddy feeling in your stomach like you’re 15 years old and you’re about to kiss your secret crush for the first time. And you know that the same remains true for 15-year-olds today, because there are a bunch of them around doing just that. And that feeling alone is worth the $12 admission price, and maybe always will be.

Originally published in Eye Weekly August 24, 2006. 

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