Category Archives: Current Events

Spacing Magazine launch this Wednesday

This Wednesday July 7th Spacing Magazine will be launching their latest issue (18, which has a similar title to this blog) at the El Mocambo. You can RSVP on Facebook.

Keep an eye open for my illustration accompanying the article on public hanging.


End of chapter

This past Monday, the independent and influential literary haven, Pages Books on Queen street West, closed its doors forever. During its final hours I walked through the naked aisles of my favourite bookstore for the last time. Pages has been under threat of closure for quite some time now and its descending story is a poignant illustration of what happens when the perfectly visible hungry hand of gentrification seeks and destroys the amenities and services of a community. Pages was a well loved shop whose local notoriety spread even to the suburbs.

Queen street east of Spadina has been gentrifying for two decades and the corporate and over-priced presence along the strip is, today, seen as normal. You could say that it’s a surprise Pages lasted this long, especially long after Chapters opened up in the Paramount theatre, only a block away on Richmond street, in May of 1999.

Attending school at OCAD, it was comforting to know that Pages was always a three minute walk away. I often found myself there between and after classes and most of the time I came out with a small pile of books. As cliche as it sounds, my experiences at Pages have been therapeutic. It was a book lovers sanctuary stocked with a generous variety of genres, whether it be controversial, pretentiously arty, or made purely for nonsensical enjoyment.They had a large section devoted for small press, counter-culture and the magazine racks were always full of local independent publications.

Pages wasn’t just a bookstore, but a celebration of culture and literature. This was something that their loyal customers recognized. It was like a bomb shelter from the over-air conditioned, over-priced, over-consuming rent-inflaters of the surrounding blocks. The shelves were decorated with art produced by local artists like Michael Cho and Fiona Smyth and were wonderful distractions for even the most determined of shoppers. There was no other store quite like Pages, a fiercely independent focal point to the city’s reading, intellectual, and creative community that could be called home by people from dozens of backgrounds.
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Toronto garbage strike: Day 36

After 35 long, smelly days, it seems that Toronto’s garbage strike may come to a close tonight. Politics aside, it’s a good thing that the summer hasn’t been scortching or this month without waste pickup would have been unbearable. Both unions on strike have reached a tentative agreement with City Hall but the final agreement may not be for a few days. Read about it in the Toronto Star.

In the past month has been frustrating for homeowners, businesses and citizens who have to maneuver through garbage piles near the newly installed waste bins. Torontoist did an interesting documentation of garbage cans across the city and the state of the streets. When the strike began, every garbage bin in the city was sealed with a couple layers of industrial strength plastic wrap with delightful signs informing the bins were out of service and encouraged people not to litter. It makes you wonder how much waste all that plastic and paper will create once removed. Despite the pandemic, the city has managed to get by without being noticeably littered. If the strike did one thing well, it was to help people use less waste. In a poll in Now Magazine (only in print edition) about a third of homeowners adapted to finding ways to reduce the amount of garbage they go through. Others used dump sites at their local parks and recreation centres, and others simply let their trash pile up. If you live in Etobicoke, however, the strike will have barely affected you at all. The West end, west of the Humber River, has been business as usual because trash pickup is carried out by private contractors, not the city. It’s likely some of the same workers who have helped clean up after big public events like the Pride Parade or Afrofest, and have been cashing in by collecting from businesses in the city. Let’s hope the City and Unions strike up a final deal soon so Toronto can clean up its act.

War on the Car

In Toronto, the phrase, “war on the car” has been passed around a fair bit recently. A couple months ago, the city decided to change the composition of Jarvis street, a five lane roadway downtown with a middle lane that alternated direction according to the time of day. The plan is to get rid of the fifth lane, insert two bike lanes and widen the sidewalk. Brewing for quite some time, this was one of the events that brought upon the so-called “war on the car”. What it seems to be is simply right-wing rhetoric aimed to demonize the city’s acts of ‘diminishing’ spaces for cars and expansion of bike lanes and other forms of transit. After all, it was Premier Mike Harris who mothballed the Eglinton subway launched by Bob Rae in the early 90’s. What had been burrowed out for the subway tunnel was even filled back in.

In the past few years we’ve seen a new wave of environmentalism that has brought us green bins, hybrid cars, decreace of plastic bags and bottles, and global warming awareness. It’s only natural that our focus would eventually lead to the automobile, and it has been the subject of criticism many times in the past. We, the privileged nations of the world, have grown up with the car and have had the upmost dependability on it ever since the suburbs were galvanized in the mid-century. It has lead to us defining our cities with the car. After all, our quaint houses in the suburbs sport the garage as an object of prominence, not the house. The car was the golden chariot that took you to school, to work, to the mall. However, downtown and dense urban centres has all of those amenities and more within arms reach. Streetcars, bikes, and subways are alternate forms of transportation and are often more efficient. Yet, cars have always been graciously accomodated. In this age of growing awareness for the environment, it only makes sense that we need to shift our priorities.

Toronto should follow examples from countless other cities who are taking progressive steps to reduce the reliance on cars. Montreal has recently introduced the city-wide bike-share program, Bixi, where anyone can rent a bike from kiosks found all over the city. Even New York city has made significant changes to the urban landscape to make the streets more pedestrian friendly. Surely it wouldn’t hurt Toronto to make their streets more accessible and friendly towards all forms of traffic (foot traffic including). What the city is doing surely isn’t a war. What these righteous, outspoken motorists are really griping about can be compared to silly schoolyard ‘territory’ fights. To make this city better, we need to share the road.

The above illustration is for the upcoming Spacing Magazine on this subject and the conditions and politics behind it. Look for it on news stands in the late summer.

Calvin and Hobbes get ripped off

Cotton Factory

Above is a promo for a Cotton Factory T-shirt. I found it this morning and I immediately recognized the image from a Calvin and Hobbes strip. I rummaged through my collection of books and found the strip in one of of Bill Watterson‘s later collections, “There’s Treasure Everywhere”.

Calvin and Hobbes

In most cases, syndicate companies like Universal Press (Calvin and Hobbes), King Features, or United Media, represent cartoonists like agents and plug them into various newspapers and other media around the world.

On the Universal Press website, they discuss the difference between Licensing In and Licensing Out. Licensing In is the job of the company’s art direction department that rifles through applications and promotions. Each year, only a few comic strips are chosen for syndication. King Features prints only three new comics a year out of around 5000 applications.

Licensing Out is when the syndicate licenses a comic or character to another company for use on a product or promotion. It’s kind of like celebrity endorsement, only it’s an image of Garfield, which was probably created before the licensing out, slapped on a box of cereal.

I can’t seem to find any information on the input of cartoonists when dealing with the licensing of comics to other outputs. Licensing Out would have been the exchange The Cotton Factory would have made with Universal Press, but the image of the dead bird appeared only once and isn’t iconic to¬† Calvin and Hobbes. That said, it makes me suspicious that the image was stolen and turned into a lame graphic on a t-shirt.

I’m debating whether or not to send my findings to Universal Press, which Calvin and Hobbes were printed under. It seems that in most cases, artists retain ownership of their own work, but the ambiguous rhetoric of the syndicate websites suggest that the companies own the comics and have the freedom to grant specific licensing to advertisers, for packaging, or other outputs. I would much rather contact Bill Watterson directly, but I can’t find his contact info anywhere and all I know is that he lives in Kansas. Maybe I’ll just throw a letter into a passing tornado. I’m just concerned if I notify Universal Press, the company will take the case into their own hands and leave Watterson won’t get any input or see a dime come his way.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour
Earth Hour this year was spent at home with a table full of candles. According to Toronto Hydro, electricity use dropped 15% with many of the hep cats on Bay street and King street powering down ahead of time.