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I don’t know about Tokyo

Among the faces watching Joanne Doucette give her golf tour talk the other day, I saw one face that has become very familiar. See it? In the middle, away in the back?

I’m not sure what to make of Tokyo. Pretty clearly, he’s a vandal … one of many who sneak their tags onto public and private property. Tokyo’s tags are distinctive, plentiful and legible. Lately, they have grown to include the face.


 I have no idea what Tokyo means by his somewhat WW II-style propaganda caricature, but I don’t think he’s celebrating diversity.

He is not Japanese, I’ve been told. He has been tagging for 25 years, first on the west side of the city, but more recently in our neighbourhood. My inner art critic tells me that Tokyo’s artwork, while monotonously repetitive, is a cut above conventional scrawlings like these …

I don’t want to elevate Tokyo to the level of commissioned muralists, who can display more skill because they work legally, in broad daylight. Tokyo is somewhere in between. Outsider art, literally and figuratively.

Grafitti is everywhere these days, even in ritzy art galleries, but its roots are anti-establishment. Tokyo is true to those.

As for the repetition, I recall that one of Canada’s most celebrated artists called attention to himself, early on,  by imposing images of his Walking Woman everywhere he could. Public transit, phone booths, that sort of thing.  Now Michael Snow is dripping with honours, awards and degrees.

No, I am not comparing Tokyo’s efforts with those of a much more accomplished, imaginative artist. I don’t even like Tokyo’s caricature. He’s just a bit better than most of his fellows, is all. I wish he’d quit while he’s ahead.

Examples, because Danica (young thing) wasn’t sure what WW II cartoons looked like.

Subject: Gord Downie

My sister Joni sent me an email that I said I’d like to post. She said. “Blog away”.

Gord Downie

On Oct. 18, members of parliament from all parties rose to honour Gord, then joined Speaker of the House Geoff Regan in a moment of silence. After that, it was business as usual: people yelling at each other. During interviews in the hallways, representatives from the New Democratic Party, the Conservatives and the Liberals joked more than once that only Gord Downie could get them to agree.

Were there any students in the gallery for the Downie moment? Let’s hope so.

The conversations Downie started were a public act. Whatever our scholarly or political interests, maybe we could all work to be more collegial and try to be better friends. To do that we need to hear one another.

Gord Downie heard us, and we heard him. He was a lucky man, who worked hard to make the most of the opportunities Canada provides. In the end, his greatest contribution was to get people talking. If he leaves one lesson, perhaps it can be found in these two lines from a song on In Violet Light, “Let’s get friendship right / Get life day-to-day.”

“It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken.”

Big score for commercial art?

The federal government has always been the biggest advertising spender in Canada, much bigger than any corporation. Spending like this is maddening.

If the going price for cover art has reached beyond $200,000, why does that Toronto District School Board task force recommend phasing out arts programs? Good careers, no? Big bucks.

Maybe the task force suspects that very little of that money actually reached artists. 🙂

Toronto Golf Club tour today

Danica and I didn’t have to go far. Our house used to be on the fairway of the original Toronto Golf Club.

Local historian Joanne Doucette and golf historian Scott Burk took a sizeable crowd on an informative walk between Coxwell and Main Street. They gave us an idea of what would have surrounded us in 1898. A golf course … Canada’s first 18 hole course, in fact.

The Grand Trunk Railway, for a while the largest rail line in the world, defined the north edge of the course. It threw cinders and burning clinkers onto the grass, but it also brought golfers from far away Boston and Montreal.

The sandy soil in our yard is a glacier-age sandbar. The lake was once 55 metres higher and our place was underwater. In 1898, the terrain was a savannah with oaks and pine trees that could survive grass fires. You could see the mists of Niagara Falls 33 miles away, from the clubhouse. The Falls are only a third of what they were then, thanks to hydro electric exploitation. The mist plume was much larger.

The “Punch Bowl”. A natural depression and creek. Golfers’ picnic stop. (Still visible today)

Click to many fine photos, ads and articles on Joanne’s site.

A big thank you to Joanne and Scott for putting our day-to-day surroundings into a larger context, both historical and social. Beach Hill Neighbourhood Association sponsored the event.

Selfie bewilderment

Lucky timing. I was present today, as Andrew Horne put the finishing touches on his monumental YOU ARE HERE mural.

Now, as we pose for selfies by the east wall of the Flying Pony, we will be pulled into a mental hall of mirrors. Fear not. There is a way out.

Take a deep breath. Put the phone away. Turn around. Read the sign.

While you are looking at the wall, you might enjoy a close-up inspection of the brushwork. It’s very well done … a major undertaking and a striking addition to the street. Those 3D letters really pop!

Bonus: The skill we acquire looking at Mr Horne’s piece is transferrable to other selfie situations.

Noteworthy assignment

Canadian publisher George A. Vanderburg will be soon be printing five volumes called the Notebooks of John Robert Colombo. JRC has been hard at work, collecting, organizing and proofreading well over a million words, covering a wide range of topics that have interested him over his long career.

Over 200 books have been authored by John Robert Colombo and I have been delighted to collaborate on cover designs for quite a few of them. This time, I’ll be helping with the back covers by doing some portrait photography of the writer.