Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I Otta Buy Lottery Tickets

Sometimes I scare myself with my predictions about how the city will seriously wrong-foot something. Either that, or our civic leaders are predictably inept.

Two days ago I wrote about a pending decision concerning a proposed Toronto Museum, which in fact is neither an museum nor about Toronto.

Today's Toronto Star confirmed my worst fears and predictions. According to The Star:

The aim is to create a "contemporary, entertainment-oriented visitor experience that will be content-rich and capable of attracting visitors who may have no particular interest in the history of Toronto," according to the business plan.

So it's going to be a fun-nasium, or a learnatorium for people who don't care about Toronto or its history. Saw that coming. So much for all the early cultural artifacts that it was supposed to be home to.

But wait, there's more...

"It isn't the Toronto story," said Councillor Joe Mihevc. "It's the Italian story in Toronto. It's the Ukrainian story in Toronto. It's the black story in Toronto."

See what I mean about it being too easy to predict the idiocies that naturally bubble to the surface? It's not about history - it's about voters.

And of course it is going to be housed at the foot of Bathurst street, that bustling hub of tourists that is so inviting by the lake in February, in the crumbling, structurally unsound malting silos for an amount no one can figure out and no idea where the money will come from.

Who put these people in charge of the city? I know it wasn't me. I didn't vote for a single one of them. Unfortunately it doesn't stop them from spending my money.

Nice Place for A Non-Museum

(except it has no transit, amenities, infrastructure
tourist traffic, and is -30 all winter with a wicked wind
that comes off the lake like the Siberian steppes)

Monday, June 2, 2008

The History of Tomorrow

I've often thought it's criminal that there is nowhere to see Toronto's history. There are a series of plaques around town telling you where things used to be. Every once in a while you'll see a historical board plaque on a sterile glass office building telling you that they knocked down a founding father's birthplace to build it.

The Royal Ontario Museum has shelved a good part of its displays because all that old stuff was getting in the way of finding space for holding corporate fundraisers. There are a few places like Mackenzie House on Bond Street, but you have to look pretty hard to find much in the way of relics of Toronto's history.

So the City has been kicking around the idea of a museum dedicated to our history and artifacts. But of course in this point and click world, you can't just have glass cases full of interesting things from days gone by. The City has been thinking about a "highly interactive" learnatorium where busloads of bored kids can be dragged in to push buttons, or put on a helmet and virtually experience getting typhoid.

The site chosen is the desolate and unworkable foot of Bathurst, where the old Canada Malting silo sits mocking any useful purpose, but are in some twisted universe now considered "historical".

The rub is the City wants someone - anyone - to pay the $100 million they figure it will take to make it useful, with the obligatory mixed housing, restaurant by some obscure chef who makes everything out of moosemeat, fiddleheads and maple syrup, and an observation deck on the top, where on a clear night you will be able to see Hamilton.

The museum is already planning to "emphasize Toronto's multicultural fabric" according to the Toronto Star, which means large, shame-inducing sections on the handful of early minority settlers and virtually nothing devoted to the English, Irish and Scots who made up 99% of the population.

Speaking as if the museum has already passed the many financial and intellectual hurdles, Rita Davies, the city's executive director of culture, says: "It's not a museum that's just rooted in the past."

Say what? A museum not about the past? Let's see what the dictionary says about "museum":

museum, noun
depository for collecting and displaying objects having scientific or historical or artistic value

So Toronto's museum is going to be about the history of the future, and not about the artifacts it is being built for?

Apparently that's right - it is going to be about "looking ahead to the future of cities around the world" according to the Star. And of course Toronto is such a great example of a city with a great future due to its forward-thinking policies, sound fiscal planning and good management.

Here's an idea - how about putting the City's collection of artifacts on-line? Get a couple of summer students to photograph them and put them up on a website so we can enjoy them while the City goes cap in hand to a series of corporations for the right to sell burgers to student groups and searches for a community board that knows nothing about history but comes in all the right social flavours.

That would show a commitment to history.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Drop That Gun

The mayor, at a loss for real ideas and solutions to Toronto's relatively insignificant gun problem, announced he wants to close the few existing legal gun ranges in the city.

U of T already succumbed to this idiocy by closing the Hart House range, deep in the bowels of the ancient building. My Alma Mater announced last year that there was "no place for guns on a university campus".

Oh really? Maybe they haven't walked through the Hart House bell tower and seen all the names of dead alumni who gave their lives in WWI and WWII. The University was a training ground for soldiers, and I'm sure they appreciated going to war knowing which end of a gun to point at the enemy, and being able to hit a target that was trying to hit them in return.

Besides, from my time as a member of the Hart House pistol club, I can tell you that you won't meet a nerdier bunch of guys and gals. They treated their guns like violins - no quick draw, stunt shooting or weapons of mass destruction. They did their best to make shooting boring. Most target guns actually look pretty dorky. No self-respecting Gangsta would ever pull one out to satisfy his honour or protect his turf. Everyone would laugh at him, and then pull out a gun really meant to kill someone that was smuggled across the border in someone's trunk. Something from a Quentin Tarantino movie - not a blocky .22 made for punching small holes in paper.

And the paperwork required to be a target shooter? Enough to choke an elephant. There's the acquisition permit, the restricted permit, the transportation permit, permit to buy bullets. It's much easier to buy one out of a trunk behind the 7-11.

So is there a problem with gun ranges in the city? Are their guns being misused, stolen or otherwise inconveniencing the citizens of this fair burgh?

No - but what would you expect from a city that prizes posturing and empty gestures over and above rational thinking and cause and effect?