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Big picture: Medical marijuana

Medical marijuana dispensary, shot today in Kensington Market.

First, let’s get the humour out of the way. Sorry I forget the comedian’s name, but I loved how he explained to a cop why he needed medical marijuana. “I’m taking it to help me get off illegal marijuana”.

cops-and-baggiesSeriously, now. Danica has seen the enormous benefits of cannabis oil that was prescribed for someone dear to us. It reduced nausea that came with cancer and its treatment, allowed our friend to eat again and gain much-needed nourishment. It seems to give her ease in a very difficult time. For far too long, societal taboos have kept this medicine away from patients who need it. Thank goodness we are wising up.

A personal view: The recreational use of marijuana doesn’t seem disastrous, either. I don’t indulge, but it doesn’t seem to harm my friends; certainly not the way our legal drug alcohol can. I bet you know what any cop would say, given a choice between dealing with a spaced-out pothead or a pissed-off drunk.

When I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, I wondered when the government-issued Soma would arrive, and what it would be. It’s finally here and we know what it is called. Huxley’s little book continues to be one of my favourites.

A view you won’t see for long …


It’s the back of the iconic Gothic Revival house at One Spadina Crescent, being prepped to receive a new addition. The property is being transformed into the School of Architecture and it will be one of those “old collides with new” constructions. I like the idea, BTW. It preserves the past but allows city life to grow and expand. Much better, I think, than “fake past” and certainly better than destruction of our best old buildings.


Here’s an idea of the look to come. One Spadina Crescent belongs to the U of T and has had past lives as a theological college, a military hospital and a medical research lab. Amelia Earhart once worked inside as a nurses aide.

Who knows what the bobcats will dig up. There are mysteries. The 2001 murder of a professor remains unsolved. A young lady on a first date plunged to her death from the third floor roof in 2009.

Don’t think too much

This image was used to illustrate an article about  how “The power of disclosure can reduce prejudice, shift attitudes, and change minds forever”.

I thought, “What is the likely outcome here?” The enlighted bulb sure isn’t going to light up the dullards.

Hostile art in the park


Did ISIS get to the central gardener?

Does it look like a descendant of Diego Rivera got a commission to mural the recently restored underpass on Woodfield Avenue? I think so, but rather than doing a visual rant against the capitalistic machine, our Diego has created fierce, angry looking gardeners. Huh?

Well, the entrance is beside a local community garden, so that explains the gardeners, but why do they look so unpleasant? You knew it, dear reader. I am going to hazard a guess.

You can’t tame graffiti art. It is, at heart, a rebellious form of vandalism. It is hostile to property and to government and the law. It is outsider art, loud in colour, brash in jagged angularities and cartoonish exaggerations. Really, it is supposed to be done on the sly, not by hired hands.


Look what has happened to the butterfly. 🙂 Head chopped off like that of the unlucky gardener above.

Here’s the part I find amusing. Graffiti artists themselves seem confused. Do they want to be recognized? Of course, but by committees? Do they want to be paid and folded into the world of commerce? Some do, and others seem unsure. Do they leave the mercenary’s art up, unadorned with tag-overs? Do they give the commissioned artist his due, in the form of respected “street cred”?

I have been waiting for the answer and it is finally arriving. Authorized, well-meaning murals are being overpainted in the dark of night. The naive notion that graffiti artists will not deface another artist’s work has been dashed; as it had to be. Danica and I passed a local school mural project by the liquor store today. Completely obliterated. Too bad the new stuff wasn’t much better than the school stuff it defaced, but it was more spirited.

Personally, I don’t like most graffiti and tags seem to me to be the teenage equivalent of dogs leaving their scent. There are very few Banksys out there. But I think I understand why the figures on the tunnel reflect a certain rage. The artist is in an impossible bind, being paid by people who like butterfly images and ricky-ticky flowers. He (could be she, but likely he) has skill, is related to a hunted caste of outlaws and is performing for the enemy. That’s going to show in your work, don’t you think?

Update: The muralist is a he, Jabari Elliot, who goes by the nom d’art Elicser. His website is down at this time.

Where the views hide in Toronto

When I came to Toronto from Vancouver, my impression of the landscape here was dismal. Compared with spectacular views of mountains and sea, the flat, dull geography around here was pretty lame. Now, it’s never going to be as photogenic as B.C. but after a while I discovered that many of Toronto’s nicer places were below the horizon, in ravines.


Soon, this nearby example will be dense. lush green but it’s good to see it now because the co ntours of the ground are visible. Walks through here in the summertime require a liberal slathering of insect repellant. Mosquitoes!


It is Toronto’s great good fortune that these ravines can’t easily be built up into real estate and sold. Some have been channeled into pipes for exactly that reason, but many bigger streams are left as pockets of nature, right through densely urbanized neighbourhoods. From the bottom of this ravine, I can look south and see streetcars on Gerrard. Look north and GO Trains are whisking commuters from the suburbs to the skyscapers downtown. In between, a relatively peaceful sanctuary for walkers, raccoons, foxes, skunks, birds … and bugs.

What’s in the big bag?

This was the last weekend to find out. It comes down next week, for 6 months. Deflation and storage will take a couple of days.


The inflated dome is a school board/private company installation that keeps a track and field open year ’round. When the dome is up, day passes or memberships are required. When it comes down, the facility reverts to public use.


The dome is behind the Monarch Park School and is visible, but not obtrusively so, from Coxwell, between Upper Gerrard and the Danforth.

Does awareness make a difference?

imageI read this in hope that I would discover some juicy, new revelations about how we are spied upon, classified and fleeced. There were many details and specific examples of governmental, military and commercial surveillance, but no stunning news.

The book is divided into 3 sections. Part One: The World We’re Creating, Part Two: What’s At Stake and Part Three: What To Do About It. Since the author has significant security experience and credentials, I expected to get some useful tips in that last part, but no. I already use DuckDuckGo to prevent Google from keeping me in a bubble. I have never owned a cellphone and our car is too old to leak much data. No Facebook or Twitter for me.

We live in a surveillance society and most of us aren’t worried that information collected about us will be used to harm us. That can change, of course, if future political, religious, legal or economic environments change. Data is forever.

The author feels that we shouldn’t stick our heads in the sand, that we should do the work needed to defend our privacy. This reader is sympathetic, but skeptical that any of us really have the time or expertise. It’s ironic that intrusions sold to us as necessary for security and convenience have become a danger and a nuisance.

Data and Goliath
The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World
by Bruce Schneier
383 pages
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2015



Only two swans so far


Last time I was at Woodbine Park Pond, only the male was visible. I assumed, incorrectly, that the female was sitting on eggs somewhere in the reeds. Danica said it was too early for eggs and I see she’s right.

Small works make sense


Danica and I went into the gallery at 1475 Gerrard Street to enjoy Noreen Mallory’s show. It struck me that the small sizes of most of the pieces were perfect for the relatively small houses in Toronto. Big houses in the suburbs offer large walls, but not so in the city core. Modern condo spaces are even smaller and outer walls are glass. Mallory’s little encaustic gems will fit nicely where larger pieces would not.

The rich textures and colours of Mallory’s encaustics and collages offer tactile and visual pleasures that reproductions cannot. They are modestly priced, too. Three or four hundred dollars for real, original one-of-a-kind art is a bargain.

Other artists in the G.A.S. collective are represented by similarly affordable pieces at the back of the gallery. We liked what we saw, especially an assemblage by Debby Wong.

$31,000,000 is a lot of green


Touting a proposal to replace Toronto’s green bins with new ones that are raccoon-proof, Mayor Tory was all smiles. “Defeat is not an option,” quotes the Toronto Star. “It’s Raccoon-Proof!” announced my local  councillor’s newsletter.

Not so fast. When I wrote the Mayor’s Office to ask if the new bins would come with a money-back guarantee, Solid Waste Management’s reply began:

“The Request for Proposals required that the vendor proposed new green bins must be animal resistant.  We stay away from stating that anything is animal proof.”

We already have green bins that are animal resistant. Not perfect, but not an additional $31 million dollars, either. And the “green” factor? The proposal calls for shipping all of our existing bins to Pennsylvania, melting them down and shipping new ones back to Toronto. Sound “green” to you?

The Mayor’s Office says Council decides on new bins on May 5th or 6th. Still time to let your councillor know that we have better uses for all those millions, especially since there’s absolutely no guarantee that new bins will work.

Funny story, if you want to continue

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