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    On September 24th the The Masonic Temple will be packed for the 2012 Polaris Prize Gala. The fantastic lineup of live performances has just been announced with all but three of the nominees set to grace the stage for the annual event:

    The Grand Jury, made up of 11 journalists, broadcasters and bloggers has also been announced and can be found here along with more info about the gala. The entire event streams live on muchmusic.com and on SiriusXM radio (channels 151 and 152; XM channel 151) and CBC Radio 3.

    Who do you think will take home the $30 000?


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    TIFF Hotel TorontoWith TIFF 2012 about to get underway, the luxury hotels of Toronto are booked to capacity with movie stars and their handlers rolling through town. Formerly centred around Yorkville and the Four Seasons, the Festival's move to the Lightbox in 2010 has brought a lot of this action further downtown. And given that this opulent hotel opened its doors only earlier this year, you can bet it's going to be a busy place in the week ahead.

    Have a look inside the Trump Hotel Toronto in the hotels section.


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    toronto vintage classroomHeading back to school after the summer break is always a day of mixed emotions for kids. I recall bursting to tell my friends about my summer vacation and which Sega games I had completed while simultaneously dreading the prospect of being trapped in a tiny classroom for much of the next ten months.

    Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Ontario school kids went through the same time-honored tradition of traipsing back into the classroom for the first day of the new academic year, so what better time to round-up vintage pictures of Toronto's schools.

    You will most likely recognize many of the buildings shown here since so many of them are still in use. There's a common design thread linking all of the structures - many of the schools built in the early part of the 20th century are, frankly, terrifying in their institutional grandeur. There's no chance kids looked forward to a nose-blowing class (yep, it's real) in the middle of winter at any of these institutions.

    Shots of the classrooms, however, don't seem half as scary. Sure, there's a sense of strict discipline, but the outdoor classes at Victoria Park Forest School can't have been so bad. Some of the creative classes look fairly decent, too. That said, the thick coats and hats some students wore indoors in one of the classroom shots make it seem like winter education was something of a drag. I'm glad I could take the furnace at my school for granted.

    IN THE CLASSROOM:toronto vintage school class roomStudents take part in an auxiliary art classtoronto vintage school class roomBoy caning a chairtoronto vintage school class roomHealth inspection by the school nursetoronto vintage school class roomBoy taking an auxiliary mental test with shapestoronto vintage school class roomMimico school band pose for a photographtoronto vintage school class roomStudents take part in a public nose-blowing class in 1913toronto vintage school class roomMr. Brown's outdoor art classtoronto vintage school class roomAn outdoor class at Victoria Park Forest Schooltoronto vintage school class roomPuppet making classtoronto vintage school class roomOutdoor classes in falltoronto vintage school class roomA chilly classroom in wintertoronto vintage school class roomStudents drink up all their milk, like good little kids

    EXTERIORS:toronto vintage schoolAdam Beck Junior Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolAgincourt CItoronto vintage schoolAllenby Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolBroadview Avenue Schooltoronto vintage schoolCharles G. Fraser Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolCrawford Street Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolDanforth Techtoronto vintage schoolDuke of Connaught Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolEarl Beatty Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolEarl Grey Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolEdith L. Groves Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolGivens Street Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolHarbord Street Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolHillcrest Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolHuron Street Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolIslington School Housetoronto vintage schoolThe original Jarvis CI buildingtoronto vintage schoolKent Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolLeslie Street Schooltoronto vintage schoolMalvern Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolNorthern Secondary Schooltoronto vintage schoolParkdale Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolRiverdale CItoronto vintage schoolRosedale Schooltoronto vintage schoolToronto Junction High Schooltoronto vintage schoolVictoria Street Public Schooltoronto vintage schoolWestern Techtoronto vintage schoolWilkinson Public School

    Images: City of Toronto Archives


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    Lake Ontario TorontoFILM | Toronto International Film Festival 2012
    With cinephile hearts pounding in anticipation, today marks the first day of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Running until September 16th, this year's festival boasts over 300 films in every genre from over 60 countries. Check out our lists of Top 10 Movies to Watch and 10 Movies Getting The Most Advance Buzz for the best of this year's festival. If you're in it just for the celebrity sightings, head down to festival central in the King West neighbourhood and try not to be too creepy. Tickets are available through the TIFF website and at the Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West).
    Various theatres 9AM ticket prices may vary

    FASHION | Fashion's Night Out
    Finally, Fashion's Night Out arrives in Toronto, taking over boutiques, retail stores and shopping centres for five hours tonight to drive local consumerism in an effort to ensure we're all well dressed. Happening worldwide tonight at 6PM, this initiative that originated in New York City will feature events happening across Toronto in high-end stores like Holt Renfrew as well as fast fashion shops like H&M but we'd recommend trying out local boutiques like RAC's Bazaar at The Burroughes and Comrags collaborative event with Plaid Magazine. For more info, check out our full preview post.
    Various locations 6PM Free

    ART | WE ARE LIGHT RAYS
    Film and photography converge in this projection by multimedia artist Sook-Yin Lee, where a sequence of unlinked photographs is projected to create a narrative. Curated by Rafi Ghanaghounian and presented with the Toronto International Film Festival Future Projections, Lee's work is both stunning and mysterious in how it connects images of solitary humans into a film. WE ARE LIGHT RAYS opens at Oz Studios tonight with an Q&A between Lee and painter Margaux Williamson happening at the gallery on Saturday at 3PM. It will remain on display until September 16th.
    Oz Studios (134 Ossington Avenue) 7PM Free

    PHOTOGRAPHY | Close
    In close proximity to loved ones, comfort exists. This is the thesis behind Michelle Louise Wilson's Close, a photography exhibit featuring her friends and acquaintances with their loved ones to portray the meaning of closeness. The opening reception happens tonight at Campbell House Museum, where Wilson's photography will examine the unpenetrated world that exists between two human beings who are close with one another. The exhibit closes October 5th.
    Campbell House Museum (160 Queen Street West) 5PM Free

    ILLUSTRATION | "It's An Illustration Show!"
    When it comes to making art entertaining, #Hashtag Gallery never fails and tonight's presentation of Sketch Motel's illustrations will not disappoint. The international sketch group gathers this evening for a display of commercial artwork from artists like Anna Shipside, Charlene Chua, Jack Dylan and 10 others whose client lists include companies like Rolling Stones, Coca-Cola, Google and National Geographic. Join #Hashtag for the opening reception tonight but be sure to catch the exhibit before it packs its bags on the 21st.
    #Hashtag Gallery (801 Dundas Street West) 7PM Free

    OTHER EVENTS ON OUR RADAR:

    Have an event you'd like to plug? Submit your own listing to the blogTO Toronto events calendar or contact us directly.

    For Toronto movie showtimes, view our Movie Listings section.

    Photo by Oscar Tosso in the blogTO Flickr pool


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    toronto rain umbrellasAs you may have heard, Rob Ford was cross-examined by lawyer Clayton Ruby in front of a packed courtroom of councillors, media and concerned citizens yesterday. In his testimony, the mayor suggested he was unaware he breached provincial conflict-of-interest legislation earlier this year and implied he follows his own, incorrect, version of the rules. A quick round-up of the day's events is available here.

    The city could charge developers building anywhere in Toronto a fee that would be used to cover the enormous cost of flood-proofing and redeveloping the Port Lands at the mouth of the Don River. According to the National Post, the cost of building in the city could go up by about five-percent as a result. Is it about time developers chipped in for improvements in the Toronto?

    The Toronto Zoo board endorsed plans to cut ties with council starting in December at a meeting yesterday. Under the changes, the six members of city council that sit on the board would be removed and all city funding cancelled in the coming years. The decision comes after council intervened in the transfer of two elephants to a California sanctuary earlier this year.

    In case you missed it at the Ex, a mock-up of Toronto's new LRVs will be on display at the Evergreen Brick Works until the end of October. The short display vehicle carries a preliminary version of the green Metrolinx livery the Flexity Freedom vehicles will use when the cars enter service on completion of the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT in 2020.

    Finally, an eagle-eyed nine-year-old who found an iPhone in a Centre Island lake, revived the soaked handset in a bag of rice, and tracked down the owner by email is getting plenty of attention on Reddit. The honest guy admits he considered keeping the phone but his parents persuaded him to do the right thing. What a champ.

    *An earlier version of this post confused the LRVs vehicles on display at the Evergreen Brick Works for the new streetcars entering service next year. Apologies for the mix-up.

    IN BRIEF:

    Photo: "Three's a crowd" by asianz in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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    toronto mayor rob fordTestifying before a packed University Ave. courtroom yesterday, mayor Rob Ford told lawyer Clayton Ruby that he has never read crucial parts of the provincial conflict-of-interest legislation it's alleged he breached earlier this year. Revealing the basis of his defense, Ford repeatedly suggested he unwittingly broke the rules when he voted to overturn a decision by council that ordered he pay back $3,150 in lobbyist donations to his football foundation.

    Ford will keep his job if the judge decides any breach of the rules was accidental - an angle the mayor seems to be playing up with persistent stonewalling and redefinition of the conflict-of-interest laws based on his own, apparently confused, ideas.

    During a four-hour cross-examination, Ford told Ruby that he believes conflicts of interest only occur when the city and the councillor are both set to gain financially - something not reflected in the official wording. Ruby answered by detailing other times the mayor had correctly stepped aside to avoid a conflict.

    Throughout the exchange, the mayor maintained he had never actually read the legislation in question - despite being handed briefing materials on four separate occasions - and said he waits for city legal staff to advise him of any conflicts before a vote, providing very similar statements to those he made in an earlier deposition.

    In order to win the case, Ruby must to prove to the judge that Ford knowingly voted to save himself $3,150 or, as he put it yesterday, "whether it is an honest and good faith belief, or just a smoke screen for determined defiance of the integrity commissioner's continuing critical examination of [the mayor's] affairs."

    Speaking about the foundation that helps schools start football programs, Ford restated his emotional commitment to community work and told the judge he gives out his business card - bearing the city logo and his title - when to everyone he meets, which he follows up with a request for a donation.

    Ford's lawyer, Alan Lenczner, told Justice Hackland that the provincial conflict of interest laws don't apply in this case because the matter is related to a code of conduct matter - Ford's failure to refund donations - and not a city council matter.

    The trial resumes later this morning and a decision by Justice Charles Hackland is expected at a later date.

    Image: "Good Friday parade, Little Italy, Toronto" by BruceK in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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    Film TorontoThis Week in Film rounds up noteworthy new releases in theatres, as well as key DVD / Blu-Ray releases, festivals, and other cinema-related events happening in Toronto.

    IN THEATRES

    The Words (Rainbow Market Sq.)

    This week and even next week TIFF is king, which means there isn't much going on in Toronto where new releases are concerned. The Words is the only film opening in Toronto's downtown core this week, and it's not a bad choice of a title to fly solo. Premiering to pretty decent word (sorry) in Sundance last January, this is about a writer at the peak of his literary success who finds out the hard way what happens when you steal another man's work. Starring the reigning Sexiest Man Alive, Bradley Cooper, in case such information factors into your film selection protocol.

    IN REP CINEMA

    For recommendations on what to catch at Toronto's rep cinemas this week, check out This Week in Rep Cinema.

    FILMS FESTIVALS

    Toronto Independent Film Festival (September 6-15; Toronto Underground)
    Toronto Independent Film Festival is to TIFF what Slamdance is to Sundance. If you're not familiar with TIndieFF and Slamdance, then all there is to no is that they are the micro/no-budget siblings to their Gala-centric concurrent festivals. This edition - their fifth anniversary - will be bittersweet, as the end of the festival also means the end of the Toronto Underground's brief run, which will leave a gaping hole in Toronto's cult, horror, fantasy sphere what with the Bloor being the Hot Docs cinema now. Tickets are $8 per evening (including all films screened that evening), while festival passes (which include all films shown during the festival) cost $50.

    TIFF (September 6-16; various venues)
    There's no point wasting too much space introducing TIFF here, and everyone probably has their festival planned inside-and-out already anyway. Instead, I'll use this space to give props to the absolute best films of the lot that I have seen so far:

    Beyond the Hills (Wednesday, September 12 at 9:30PM & Thursday, September 13 at 5:45PM)
    Cristian Mungiu's follow-up to his Palme d'Or-winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is an exhausting and intense depiction of three individuals who stubbornly reject any sort of compromise to the film's central conflict. The second half of the film in particular is just crescendo after crescendo of pure emotion that's as visceral as in any recent film I can recall. Many intelligent persons are calling this film boring, and I do not know what film they were watching. Wiped the floor with me, pretty much.

    Leviathan (Wednesday, September 12 at 7:00PM & Friday, September 14 at 3:30PM)
    Filmmakers Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass) and Véréna Paravel (Foreign Parts) are attaching a special note for projectionists of this film asking them to crank up the volume as far as they're allowed to. When you see the film - ostensibly a doc about a fishing boat - you'll know why. One of the most immersive and terrifying films of last decade, Leviathan holds up digital video and lets you watch it corrupt itself before your very eyes, framing the demonic bloodbath of the fishermen's trade in gloriously gruesome, downright Brakhagian fashion.

    Like Someone in Love (Friday, September 7 at 9:30PM & Sunday, September 9 at 9:00AM)
    Playing off of Certified Copy's interests in what makes us love another person, and the way the behaviours of loving someone are ingrained in our DNA, this is a minimal, sorrowful and absurdist package that contains dozens of breathtakingly serene car rides and blissfully drawn-out conversations. One scene I keep coming back to shows Akiko (the 'protagonist', I guess...) being chauffeured through downtown Tokyo at night as she scans through voicemail after voicemail from her grandmother, growing more emotional for reasons we never fully comprehend. Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami is practically confrontational in his challenge for us to add it all up to something, only refusing to easily define it.

    Wavelengths 1: Under a Pacific Sun (Friday, September 7 at 7:00PM)
    And here's just a quick shout out to my own film, the 3D short Many a Swan, which will be playing in the first of four Wavelengths shorts programmes. It's pretty good, if I may say so myself.

    DVD & BLU-RAY


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    Sook-Yin Lee TIFFIt's been a busy year for Sook-Yin Lee. In between playing Olivia Chow in the upcoming TV movie Smilin' Jack: The Jack Layton Story, location-scouting Mexico for a ghost story she'll be directing, and keeping up with her duties hosting CBC Radio's DNTO, the multi-talented ex-VJ has now launched a solo show to display her recent work with experimental film and photography.

    Opening tomorrow at Oz Studios, Lee's latest creative endeavor is part of the TIFF Future Projections Programme, an offshoot of the festival that combines visual art with the moving image. Eight artists are participating this year, with exhibits as varied as a shot-by-shot remake of Roman Polanski's Chinatown, to a project allowing shock-rocker and performance artist Peaches to run wild through the Drake Hotel.

    Sook Yin-Lee TIFFLee's show, entitled WE ARE LIGHT RAYS, is the unexpected result of an abandoned film project she began in 2011. After her sister Deanna was diagnosed with cancer, Lee flew out to her hometown of Vancouver to visit, and the feature was put on hold indefinitely. Coping with the residual feelings left behind by her untold story, Lee found a new kind of inspiration through conventional photography. When Lee then organised the unrelated shots into pairings, she found that the combinations had a kind of "weird chemistry." And thus, a new project was born.

    Sook-Yin Lee TIFFWE ARE LIGHT RAYS is a presentation of these merged photographs, or what Lee calls "collage poetry." It was a productive exercise for Lee, as she says that her experiment with photography had "really honed my storytelling chops." Many of the works gesture towards narrative through a strong contrast between their two images, while others calmly share a visual element, but all of the pieces reflect the pull that narratives still have on us, even when we are forced to largely imagine them. Displayed in light boxes, and accompanied by the gallery's ambient music, the photographs almost succeed as two-frame films.

    Sook-Yin Lee TIFFIronically, the photographs end up topping the show's actual film: a montage of test shots from the abandoned feature. A three minute loop of old architecture, grainy newscasts, and street performers, the piece is an oddly-paced exercise in free association. Labelling it a "video sketch," Lee's video provides no hints at the narrative of the film she left behind, and instead acts as an "evocation of mood." Combined with ominous music, also composed by Lee, the film's tone is one of suspense and unease, and the choppy editing and uncanny imagery is often difficult to watch.

    Sook-Yin Lee TIFFThe Future Projections Programme is predominantly based on the moving image, and unfortunately, the show suffers from this constraint. The photographs succeed so strongly on their own that the film feels unnecessary. As they were conceived through a film project, and challenge the ways in which we interpret film, it would be a stronger (and still relevant) exhibit with them on their own. But despite this one discordant element, WE ARE LIGHT RAYS is very much worth a visit. The merged photographs are truly stunning, and provide a contemplative counterpoint to TIFF's usual sensory overload.

    WE ARE LIGHT RAYS opens Thursday September 6th, 7:00, and features a live improv music performance at 8PM, directed by Sook- Yin Lee featuring Valerie Uher, Adam Litovitz, Mani Mazinani and Brandon Valdivia. Gallery Hours are September 6th - 16th 12:00pm - 6:00pm, Monday- Sunday, or by appointment.

    Photos by Kyle Burton


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    Sterling Condo TorontoThe Sterling is a hot new loft conversion slated for the Junction Triangle. Up yours, Toy Factory! Ahem. Located on Sterling Road just south of Bloor and Lansdowne, this project will take a heritage structure (first constructed as an aluminum factory back in 1919) and turn it into a chic first-time-homeowner hub (most likely). A Castlepoint Numa project, The Sterling will boast three storeys of commercial space and over 100 loft units of sealed concrete floors and 13' ceilings. Here are some of the finer details of The Sterling.

    SPECS

    Exterior: Heritage structure

    Number of floors: 13

    Number of elevators: 2

    Number of units: 109

    Unit sizes (in square feet): 426 - 1153

    Ceiling height: 13.0 ft (most units)

    Price range (approx): $199,900 - $561,900+

    Number of parking spots: TBD (Garage will be built adjacent to structure)

    Locker: $3,000

    Maintenance: $0.46/ sf

    Interior design: Age of Design Inc.

    Architect: Page+Steele

    Amenities: Gym, yoga studio, sauna, meeting room

    Expected occupancy: March 2015

    Sterling KitchenTHE GOOD

    The Junction Triangle is on the up (of course, you could say that of nearly every accessible Toronto community — what up, Rexdale?). But in all seriousness, the area has seen an influx of new cafes, stores, and restaurants of late, all of which help to deflect from the brazen "adult club" at the corner of Bloor and Lansdowne. The Sterling will be just the first in a series of new developments slated for the immediate area around Sterling Road, not the least of which include rows of new townhouses and a couple more residential structures. But that's all to come. In the meantime, the area offers superb accessibility to both TTC and GO transit systems, with direct access to bike paths and a Loblaws just over on Dundas. Don't get me wrong — this area isn't a Queen and Ossington just yet — but it is for that reason that you can get in at under $500 per square foot. And if and when the community evolves for the better, you'll be laughing.

    Sterling Condo BathroomLet me just say, I don't totally despite these floor plans! (A big revelation, if you've read any of my past posts.) Beyond one (potentially major) Achilles heel I'll mention in the next section, these layouts do seem to offer quite a few boons. The 13' ceilings are an obvious sell, but so too are the rather expansive bathrooms with double-faucet sinks. As well, most of the kitchens round a corner allowing for maximum counter space (a failing of many new Toronto condos.) My dream layout? The 1,153 square foot two-bedroom, complete with his/her closets in the master, two generously spaced bathrooms, and plenty of room in the common areas. And starting from $487 per square foot, it is not a totally outrageous dream (albeit, I'll concede, still a dream).

    And whether constrained by the heritage shell or simply good sense, Castlepoint has kept outrageous amenities to a minimum. Granted, the amenity space will occupy a full 3,000 square feet, but I doubt it has the potential to inflate maintenance fees the way a virtual golf room or lavish infinity pool might. A good thing for residents' bottom lines.

    THE BAD

    Ask Junction Triangle residents, and they'll likely be split on what it's like to live by the tracks. Some scoff it off as no bother, while others (likely renters) are moved to the point of...well...moving. I know I'd be hesitant to make a serious bid before vetting the pros and cons, and let's face it — I'd feel more secure in my investment if Club Paradise found another urban oasis.

    But onto that Achilles heel I mentioned above. Now, I should disclose that I've struggled with a lifelong clutter battle wherein I tend to throw all of my clothes/work/the occasional dirty dish (I know!) on my bed and shut the door. But that's the thing — I close the door. While I understand loft living is all about room-sovereignty and openness and all of those other lovely urban adjectives, I do enjoy the freedom of inviting guests and keeping my troglodyte-like living conditions shrouded from their view. Impossible with most Sterling lofts. Some one-bedrooms do offer a 6-foot "privacy wall" that separates the bed from the living area, but access to the bathroom still necessitates a bedroom-area walk-by. A little too open for my taste.

    Sterling CondoThere are two other obvious failings of most (if not all) of the floor plans. One is the lack of closet space (I get it — cool open lofts can't be confined by constrictive closets), and the other is the lack of balconies. The latter is understandable since the shell will be left as is, though I wonder if I'd go just a wee bit stir crazy with just a Juliet balcony offering me a suite-side taste of the outdoors. Of course, I could just actually go outside, but I am part of "Generation We," after all.

    THE VERDICT

    A toughie. I do believe Bloor and Lansdowne will shed more of its "Bloor and Blandsdowne" reputation by the time 2015 swings around, but those tracks, surely, aren't going anywhere. I guess this really all comes down to whether I can commit to making my bed daily. I'll sleep on the answer.

    What do you think? Would you live here? Add your comments to the thread below.

    Read other posts in this series via our Toronto Condos and Lofts Pinterest board


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    Canadian Barista ChamionshipsCall it the Olympics for Canada's professional baristas, wherein espresso (rather than "methasterone") is the drug of choice. Competitors will battle it out September 9 and 10 at the International Centre in Toronto for the title of the country's best barista, fighting to achieve top coffee glory and the chance to compete on an international stage.

    Sameer Mohamed and Brad Bauder from Fahrenheit Coffee are just two of the competitors gunning for the top prize — Sameer as a competition veteran, and Brad, a Nationals newb. They will be battling against Georgia Henry of Dark Horse, Geoff Woodly of Detour Roasters, and other primo baristas from across Canada this weekend. But it was Sameer and Mohamed who let us in to get a glimpse of just how they prepare for the national espresso event.

    Canadian Barista ChampionshipsI arrived after 6 p.m. and Sameer had closed up shop for the night. Brad was preparing for a run-through, and he needed the run of the space. "You're judged on two components," Sameer says, "sensory and technique."

    "If there's a little dribble of milk on the side of your milk container when you're making a cappuccino, you're going to lose marks."

    Canadian Barista ChampionshipsEach competitor has 15 minutes to create four espressos, four cappuccinos, and four signature drinks (one for each of the judges) during the competition. Sameer explains that it is just as important to describe your coffee as it is to craft it properly.

    "Communication is key," he says. "You want to point out the nuances; if there is slight acidity, you want to point that out to the judges."

    And I realize that as I sit down to play "judge" for Brad's run-through. He sets up a judges table using Fahrenheit's tasting bar, and assembles all of the materials he will need for his performance. And it really is a performance. Sameer flicks his timer on as music from Nino Rota's "Amaracord" wafts through the cafe's speakers.

    20120905-fahrenheit-07.jpg"Hello," Brad says beginning a gentle, polished cadence. "My name is Brad Bauder, and I want to start by telling you a bit about myself."

    Brad continues his monologue, stating that he worked for a "commercial coffee chain" for five years before venturing in a new direction. He is calm and collected, carefully reciting his memorized verse, while I frantically look at the clock thinking, "He's eating up all of the espresso-making time!!"

    Canadian Barista ChampionshipsNo matter; Brad soon gets to it, excusing himself to the "judges" as he disappears behind the espresso machine to craft four espressos from his single-original Brazil selection. As he presents the espresso, he notes its aroma and what to look for in the first, second, and third sip. Next comes the cappuccinos (later admitted by Brad to be his weakest drink), followed by the signature concoction — undoubtedly, my favourite.

    Canadian Barista ChampionshipsBrad presents his take on the espresso campana first by explaining his glassware selection, and then rimming the glass with a delicious border of crushed peanuts. Using espresso and 35 per cent whipping cream with a hint of vanilla (am I giving away all of his secrets?), Brad competes the drink and sets it before the judges. It's incredible; creamy and smooth with that complementary peanut flavour, through balance enough to still allow the espresso to come through (an important aspect, says Sameer).

    Canadian Barista ChampionshipsAfter the run-though, it's time to debrief. Sameer (who will do his run-through the following day), assigns points for each component, noting that Brad poured one of his cappuccinos a little short and that one of the campanas had a slight drip down the side. They discuss the espresso crema colour, aroma, and details to add to Brad's monologue, with Brad coming the conclusion that he basically needs to "pump out cap after cap" until competition time. It's not quite Michael Phelps prepping for the 200-metre butterfly, but it will come with quite the buzz.

    Photos by Jesse Milns


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    Hits and Misses ClosingHits and Misses days are numbered. The Queen West punk record store, which has been around (in various locations) for 20 years, announced yesterday that it would have to close its doors in less than two weeks on account of a breach of contract with the landlord of the storefront it occupies. It's a familiar tale. Store owner Pete Genest notes that he's drowning in debt, and one presumes just can't keep up with the rent.

    This is sad news for Toronto music fans in general, but will hurt punk and hardcore lovers the most. Where else can you find the variety of seven inch singles that Hits and Misses stocks? Yeah, nowhere. And that, of course, might be part of the problem. Record stores face serious challenges as it is, and the niche players must be struggling even more to remain financially viable.

    The exact date of closure and the concomitant fire sale are due to be announced later today. For now, here's the note that Genest posted to the store's blog yesterday. And, as he says, now would be a good time to go buy something!

    The landlord is sending me a breach of contract against me at the store. It is for many reasons, but he has the right to do so. With this breach of contract he can legally give me a 14 day notice to vacate the premises. He did that a few days ago. I have been trying to work something out over the last few days to stay open until the end of October, but he is not buying and wants me out.

    In the next 24 hours I will announce the final day the store is open, etc. This all went down today around 2pm this afternoon. So I am still in a bit of shock and totally overwhelmed with what has to get down before closing the store.

    I am in debt over my head and with no store front to sell stuff out of, so PLEASE if possible in the next week and half, if you can afford to buy anything from the store, it would be greatly appreciated.


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    Judith and Charles TorontoJudith & Charles, the luxe women's fashion brand popular among Bay St. professionals opened a new store this week at First Canadian Place. It's their second Toronto store - the other is in Bayview Village.

    View the photos from the Judith & Charles opening in the Style section.


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    Jr FloThe first time I saw Keys N Krates, I was immediately captivated by the band's DJ, Jr Flo. Lacking adequate vocabulary and imagination, I settled on describing Dawson's contribution to the band as "obscenely skilled."

    Regrettably, my vocabulary has yet to improve, and despite catching the band multiple times since, I still have trouble describing to my friends exactly what makes Flo and the rest of the band so engaging. So, when the opportunity came up to sit down and talk to Dawson, I jumped at the chance. Despite describing himself as "a simple dude," there's a lot to the Toronto via Markham DJ. Read on to find about Dawson's love of documentaries, his commendable drive to be a well-rounded person, and check out the mix he was kind enough to put together for us.

    How did you get started deejaying?

    I've probably wanted to be a DJ since I was 9 Years old, and finally got started when I was around 14. I was a fan of rap music from a really young age, and whenever I would watch a rap video — more so than anybody else in the video — I was always interested in what the DJ was doing. I think that naturally drew me to deejaying, and the whole romantic aspect of having two turntables and scratching.

    And like any kid does when they want something, I started shovelling driveways for money and my parents helped me, too. I bought a pair of turntable and mixer from the guitar shop in Markville Mall — I'm from Markham — It was a really shitty guitar shop that it sold really shitty stuff, but I didn't know that at the time. I bought this really whack WB turntable with a mixer that didn't have a crossfader... I was oblivious, but soon after that I realized I needed a mixer with a crossfader and a more functional turntable, so I bought an SL 1200, and then I ended up buying a used mixer that actually had a crossfader.

    Thankfully, my parents were cool with the whole thing, though they were definitely weirded out by it at the same time. At that point, no parent from the suburbs really understood deejaying. They were like, "What are you doing? What is the point of this? Why are you destroying the records?"

    Before we get to your work with Keys N Krates, I understand you won a lot deejaying competitions before forming the band. Do you want to tell us about that?

    When I started at fourteen, I spent the first couple of years buying records and noodling around, but by the time I was sixteen, I was really into the battle stuff. I had watched videos of guys like the X-Ecutioners and Invisibl Skratch Piklz performing, and guys like Roc Raida, DJ Qbert, and Mix Master Mike were my idols. From a Toronto perspective, I was listening to DJ X, DJ Mastermind on the mixshow tip, but looking up to dudes like Lil Jaz, D-Scratch and Grouch on the competitive side of things.

    I started entering battles when I was sixteen, and one of the first ones I entered was put on by the Turnstyles crew — Lil Jaz, Grouch, and D-Scratch. That was a cool moment for me, because I was so young and placed well. I did the battle thing for a number of years and retired in 2002 after I won the World ITF Beat Juggling category, and the Canadian DMCs. Battling was an amazing experience, but I also was eager at that point to try other things.

    Jr FloCan you explain how you and Matisse (David Matisse, Keys N Krates's keyboardist) met, and how that meeting lead to the creation of Keys N Krates?

    Matisse and I have a mutual friend named Abby who is our business partner in the band now. When I was first thinking about the concept of Keys N Krates, I was talking to Abby about it. He's a good schemer, and he also knows a lot of musicians; I didn't know a lot of other musicians at the time, I just knew other DJs. He said Matisse would be great to work with.

    When Matisse and I met, we started bouncing ideas off each other, and then Matisse brought in Tune into the mix (that is, Adam Tune, the band's drummer). Matisse and Tune had been playing in funk bands together for years and the two of them went to school together for audio engineering. We started messing around and rehearsing, and we spent a good six months in a rehearsal room trying to figure out how to start to do what we wanted to do and how to even communicate to people what we were doing.

    It seems like this was an idea that you had been working on for a long time? Where did the idea and desire for Keys N Krates originate from?

    To be honest with you, the idea wasn't that well thought out. The early 2000s was the peak of my battling career — I was twenty-two when I stopped, and twenty-one when I had my big victories. From my perspective, I had done everything I wanted to do with battling: I wanted to start playing clubs, and, to be honest, I was tired of the whole nerd culture that surrounds battling. Since party rocking was the antithesis of battling, I decided to do that. I did it for three or four years in Toronto before I started to get really tired of just doing that on its own.

    So, Keys N Krates was something where I could explore production, live performance, and rock a party at the same time. The idea was to form this remix band, which I didn't know what it was going to be sonically, I just knew that it was going to be something with musicians and me reinterpreting music live. It wasn't like I had a master plan, but as it started to evolve, I think we all started to see where we wanted it to go.

    For the people that don't know much about Keys N Krates, can you in your own words describe the band's sound?

    It's basically live electronic, hip hop, and remix music: Me on turntables, Matisse on keys, and Tune on drums. We create a remix right before your eyes. So, it's an instrumental party band that that samples references that you may or may not already know, and creates a fun kind of vibe. I think that's the best way to describe it.

    Okay, and how would you say it's different from what a DJ does?

    Well first off, we're playing all our own stuff; for example, we might use a familiar sample, but it's our own remix of it. It's also more of a performance and jam than a DJ set. Unlike a DJ, we can't just play someone else's track, because we have to build everything from scratch. All the arrangements are ours, even though it has a ton of samples. Even from a visual perspective, it's not like the band is just one guy standing behind a laptop, it's a band with live energy.

    Jr FloI've read in past interviews that you consider your work with Keys N Krates as more compositional than improvisational. Can you explain how you and the band put together a remix and then an eventual mix tape?

    Well, it's different every time. I'll come with an idea, and if Matisse and Tune think it's interesting, we'll mess around with it; by mess around with it, I mean we'll try different drum grooves under it, different drum sounds, different synth textures. We approach it from a production angle: You find sounds, snippets, references you like, and then you try to build upon to make a song. Often, it starts with a sample, but sometimes we now start a song with a drum groove Tune brings, or a crazy synth lick Matisse brings.

    Almost 39 Minutes was a mix tape which was a live capture of us doing our live show. We recorded our existing show at the time onto analog tape, and that was almost thirty-nine minutes. It's the same with Live Remixing 101, which was also a recording of our live set at the time. Blackout was actually an EP that started out as production. We made that music in the studio, and so when you hear it live, that's our live interpretation of the music we made in the studio.

    That was the beginning of what we are now as a band, which is producers that create music in the studio and then play a live set afterwards. It's interesting, because some stuff now starts in the rehearsal room, some stuff starts in the studio, and we're always translating it from one context to another. So, we'll come up with an idea, and then try to play some version or some interpretation of it live, and that becomes something that we put out.

    Did you ever expect the band to become this successful?

    I'm not going to lie to you and say, "We were just messing around and having fun; we definitely wanted this to go somewhere. There was the idea of forming a unique live experience that could rock festivals like Osheaga. And that's happened, so we are really happy about that.

    Any funny stories from touring with Keys?

    We were at Shambhala, and we were hanging out at something called the "Labyrinth Stage." The festival has this Burning Man vibe. We were at the stage, and I can't remember who was playing, but this dude wearing a full out wizard cloak with some kind of a burning rod walks up to the DJ on stage and literally stands over him. The security has this look on his face that says, "Is this part of the show? I don't know what's going on."

    The DJ, on the other hand, looks puzzled. The wizard puts his rod over the DJ's head and then puts it back as if he's blessing him or something, and then he just turns around and walks off the stage. He walks right pass us and into the woods, with zero expression on his face. After that, I never saw him again. I think that was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen.

    Did you manage to get a picture of him?

    No, I wish I did. There was another point where we were up really late at night after catching somebody's set. We were hanging out in the VIP area, and there were some weird characters with us there. I asked this person across the coach from me where she was from and she said, "I'm from Calgary, that's my seventh dimension, but Shambhala is my twelfth dimension, and who wouldn't want to be in there twelfth dimension."

    Jr FloAny funny stories from touring with Keys? And on that note, how about you tell us a bit about Greg the person?

    I'm a pretty simple dude. You know, family is super important to me. I like good food, and I like to be active. Going for a run and staying relatively healthy is a bit tough while doing music, being on the road, and touring. The whole music thing is jarring, because you're are constantly working. I like to chill, and just hang out with my girlfriend, go for a walk, watch documentaries, and somewhat keep up with what's going on with the world.

    What was the last documentary you watched?

    What was the last documentary I watched (slight pause)? I can't remember what it was called, but it was a documentary on the university system in the States. It was basically shitting on the whole post-secondary education system in the States, and how student loans in dig you into this hole of debt. It was pretty interesting, because I had gone to school in the States for a bit.

    Going forward, what's next for Jr Flo?

    I've started working on something on the side with someone else, but I don't want to get too into it, because I'd rather talk about it once we're ready to release something. Keys N Krates is still a main focus, however: We're working on an EP that's going to be released this fall and have a ton more tour dates coming up. I'm also continuing to do fun DJ gigs on the side.

    Personally, I think music takes up so much of my time, and I'm constantly consumed by music every second of the day, that I feel like less of a well-rounded individual than I maybe want to be. So, more and more I'm trying to make an effort to be more well-rounded, and just even do a lot of the things that I used to do when I was younger -- like playing more sports and keeping in touch with the world. I'm starting to play squash in the fall.

    On the band side of things, that means that when we're on the road, I'll try to and make an attempt to get the band to climb up a mountain if we're in a mountain town, or just go see some tourist stuff. It's super easy to go and play a gig, go to some after party, and then get on your flight without having made the effort to go out and take stuff in.

    Anything to add?

    I usually deejay in Toronto few times a month (when touring allows for it). Right now, I play at the F-Stop monthly and the Drake Underground. I basically do these when I can, so come hear me play tunes some time, and look out for all the Keys N Krates stuff (tour dates, releases, rehearsal videos) coming this fall.

    MIX

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    Is there a DJ you would like to see profiled on blogTO? Email us at editors [at] blogto [dotcom].

    Photos by Dylan Leeder


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    Veal Sandwich TorontoThe best veal sandwich in Toronto is a matter of very bitterly divided opinion, which might have something to do with how aficionados consume them - either voraciously, to quench their midday lunch hunger, or late at night, to fill up a beer-filled belly after hitting the town.

    Halifax has its Donair, Montreal has poutine, and New York its famous pizza, but Toronto's favorite after-midnight food is quite possibly the veal sandwich; served on an Italian bun, drenched in sauce and covered with mushrooms, cheese and peppers (hot or sweet). You can argue about the details - the breading and thickness of the veal, the sweetness of the sauce, and whether hot peppers are essential or pointless - and chances are people will get pretty passionate about their favorite.

    Here are the best veal sandwiches in Toronto.

    See also:

    The best sandwiches in Toronto
    The best panini in Toronto
    The best Italian hot tables in Toronto

    Photo by sharp.photo in the blogTO Flickr pool


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    Festival Music HouseThis was my second year attending Festival Music House at the Mod Club, and it's become one of my favourite nights of the entire year. And judging from the reaction of everyone in attendance last night, which was night two of the annual event, I'm not alone in this way of thinking.

    Granted, the open bar and endless trays of finger foods are certainly a nice touch. As the night went on, the crowd became increasingly jovial and appreciative, and the endless flow of beer, wine, and vodka were probably a part of this. But this night was all about celebrating Canadian music, and my oh my, what a celebration it was. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this was one of the finest nights of live music that I've ever been a part of.

    The evening's festivities kicked off with Humans, an electro-pop duo from East Vancouver. I must confess that I wasn't too familiar with their work prior to last night, but they did a great job of setting the tone. The first thing I noticed about them was their awesome stage presence - these guys truly love what they're doing, and were bouncing around the stage like a pair of kids jumping on a bed. Their music was far from the generic electro-pop that's been eating up the airwaves as of late, and songs like "De Ciel" had those who had arrived to the Mod Club early nodding their heads and moving to the beats. I sense that these guys are destined for big things, and deservedly so.

    PS I Love YouNext up was hard rock duo PS I Love You, out of Kingston. I have to admit that I've been underwhelmed by these guys in the past, but after seeing them live last night, I'm forced to eat my words. Paul Saulnier is an absolute beast on the guitar - he was shredding like a seasoned pro last night, even using his beer bottle at one point.

    In between songs, he kept the chatter with the crowd to a minimum, and he comes across as a very humble and shy dude. When he breaks into song, however, he's all business, and his distinctive voice and lamenting wails are the perfect complement to the grooves from his guitar and the excellent drumming by Benjamin Nelson. "Red Quarter," which was a hit last night, is the perfect introduction to this duo if you're not familiar with them. Trust me, they're worth your attention.

    When Hey Ocean! took the stage just past 10:00 pm, you could feel the crowd's excitement beginning to grow. What followed was one of the most enjoyable sets that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing live. After last night, I can easily say that Hey Ocean! is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting and enjoyable acts on the Canadian music scene today.

    Hey OceanMaybe it was the unbelievable stage presence of front-woman Ashleigh Ball, whose gorgeous voice is matched only by her awesome flute-playing skills. Or maybe it was the fact that the band shares a chemistry that is obvious from the minute they take the stage. Whatever it was, the band had the crowd eating out of their hand.

    From their opening song, the incredible "I Am a Heart," which starts off with a mean little bit of flute playing from Ball, it was clear that we were seeing something special. Tracks such as "Jolene" and "Islands" had the crowd going nuts. But the last song, "Make a New Dance Up"...shit, you had to see it to believe it. As the song built to its climax, the entire band gathered around the drum kit and banged away on it in unison, before Ball took a huge bundle of balloons and jumped into the crowd before letting them go. It was really something to behold.

    Dan ManganFollowing that epic set, you may have thought that the crowd might be a little more subdued. But as soon as Dan Mangan took the stage, all bets were off - he absolutely killed it. Over the last couple of years, Mangan's popularity has soared, and it's easy to see why. If you've noticed that I've mentioned stage presence a few times throughout this post, it's because I truly believe that good stage presence is an invaluable component of any live show. If the artist looks like they're enjoying themselves on stage, this enthusiasm will carry over to the crowd. Mangan...well, let's just say that Mangan appeared as though he was having the time of his life.

    His opening track, "About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All," really set the tone perfectly. "We're kinda pressed for time tonight, so we're gonna play nothing but bangers," exclaimed Mangan with a grin at the song's conclusion. And man, he wasn't kidding. He pulled out all the stops on "Leaves, Trees, Forest," the astonishing "Post War Blues," and the Stephen King-inspired "Rows of Houses."

    Yukon BlondeFinally, just past midnight, Yukon Blonde took the stage. And just when it seemed like the crowd had nothing left, they seemed to collectively get their second wind. For my money, Yukon Blonde has one of the best songs of 2012 - the magnificent "Stairway" - and in this, their breakout year, they've really made their mark on the scene. As they started in on their opening track, "My Girl," the Mod Club roared their approval, as many of those in the crowd began to dance along to the music (including one girl near the front who kept screaming that she wanted to get on stage and dance). Song such as "Radio" and "Iron Fist" helped the crowd maintain their enthusiasm, even as the night winded down and the inevitable fatigue began to set in.

    When the night finally came to a close, it was very clear that no one was going away unhappy. Festival Music House is quickly becoming the can't-miss party of TIFF, and, I would argue, of the entire year.

    Photos courtesy of Rocket-It Promotions


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    Roach o RamaIt won't have Hot Box's famous "Freakin' French Toast" or "Chronic Quesadillas," but the new Hot Box Lounge will be a spot for regulars to convene after the Cafe's closure.

    Hot Box Cafe — one of Toronto's most beloved pot-positive spots — will shut down its 11-year operation this coming weekend. The BYOP cafe (Bring Your Own Pot; that is, "no dealing, fishing, mooching or asking") is losing its home to Jimmy's Coffee, which purchased the building at 191 Baldwin from its current owner.

    "Actually, I heard about it from you guys," owner Abi Roach tells me as she prepares to close up the business. Despite their long relationship, Abi says her landlord didn't tell her about the sale. "It doesn't matter at this point, though," she says. "Essentially, we're just going to move; no point in fighting rich people."

    Hot Box is going to move in back of Roach-O-Rama at 204 Augusta and operate pretty much as a vapour lounge. Though the space is currently being renovated to include bathrooms, Abi hopes it will be open by the end of next week.

    "We're probably going to keep it as a lounge for a year or two," Abi says. "After that, we'll see what happens." She adds that the lounge will likely offer small snacks and munchies, but not full meals. Someone has also offered Abi a pool table, and she says that if she finds the space, she'll fit it in the lounge as well.

    191 Baldwin Street TorontoAs for the Cafe, Hot Box is in full liquidation mode. Friday will be "All-You-Can-Eat" for $10 all day ("Stoners will have no problem with that," Abi quips), as the kitchen tries to make use of most of its remaining food. After a final "goodbye" party on Saturday and TBD for Sunday, Hot Box Cafe will host an equipment sale Monday, clearing out the rest of its kitchen. Then it's onto the Roach.

    I ask Abi how regulars have responded to news of the closure/move. "There's more excitement than sadness," she says. "And we're excited, so that helps. It'll still be the same place in essence."

    "Kensington's my hood," she adds. "I've been a resident for 20 years, plus the cafe. There's no way I'm leaving."

    First photo by Derek Flack / second by William Kimber


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  • 09/12/12--22:25: Diagonal Reflection
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    Toronto streetMUSIC | Diplo
    American DJ, producer and rapper Diplo has been running the world of electro house and dubstep for almost a decade but tonight he performs at The Hoxton with special guests. Playing mixes from his three solo albums as well as samples from his various mix tapes and side projects like Major Lazer, it will be all about Diplo (no guest appearance from Skrillex this time around, unfortunately). Tickets are available through Ticketweb and at Rotate This and Soundscapes. If you can't make it, fear not--Diplo returns to The Hoxton on October 4th.
    The Hoxton (69 Bathurst Street) 10PM $10

    GAMES | The Dodger 2012
    Whip your friends with balls for charity at The Dodger, a fundraising dodgeball tournament raising money for St. Michael's Hospital. Steam Whistle Brewery plays host to the event where 18-24 teams of dodgers will compete in a round robin battle for expensive prizes like Blu-Ray players and a Steam Whistle hosted keg party. Sign up with a team or donate to a dodger through the St. Mike's website to get into this party that boasts a silent auction and prizes for the best dressed dodgeball team. Don't be the last one picked.
    Steam Whistle Brewery (255 Bremner Boulevard) 6PM $10 for ticket, $20 for tax receipt

    SPORT | Paddle Royale
    This adorably named event is not-so-adorable when you consider that participants will be beating each other with paddles but becomes delightful again when you hear that there will be booze, glow-in-the-dark popcorn and sno cones. If that doesn't get you ready to paddle, get in on the tournament, where 64 teams will compete to raise money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto. Huge prizes will be given away to the winners, including a WestJet fly anywhere package. DJs will be around to get the after-party going at 11PM. Entry price will get you boozy and fed, with a tax receipt. Join the battle!
    SPiN Toronto (461 King Street West) 6PM $40

    ART | LOOPS
    Escapism and coming back to what once was is the idea behind Peter Chan's LOOPS, a solo show opening tonight at the Dundas West Arts Building. The repetition and roller coaster spirals of Chan's paintings dictate how the artist feels about nostalgia and the malleability of memory, each loop signifying how things can repeat and yet change during each variation. The opening reception is open to the public and the exhibit will be on display until the end of the month.
    Dundas West Arts Building (2466 Dundas Street West) 7PM Free

    FILM | A FILM/VIDEO PROJECT
    You are a muse and artists need you. Everyone Is An Artist Studio opens their doors tonight to anyone willing to take part in an exciting installation that will be revealed during Culture Day on September 28th. A cultural film installation that requires 5 second spots of individuals doing whatever they'd like to the camera will be shooting on site and the public is needed to participate so that every culture is represented in the piece. Furthermore, Everyone Is An Artist will be updating their I AM AN ARTIST videos and they want to hear people speak about what kind of artists they are for future installations and the studio's website. Please see event page for a list of what is required of attendees. Be an artist!
    Everyone Is An Artist Studio (104-302 Carlaw Street) Free

    OTHER EVENTS ON OUR RADAR:

    Have an event you'd like to plug? Submit your own listing to the blogTO Toronto events calendar or contact us directly.

    For Toronto movie showtimes, view our Movie Listings section.

    Photo by 3_three_3 in the blogTO Flickr pool


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    Toronto trees roofRob Ford has responded to allegations yesterday that taxpayer-funded "special assistants" from his office help coach his football teams. In a statement, Ford called his accusers "cowards" but did not directly address the accusations. Later that day, an anti-waste taxpayer's group, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, criticized Ford. Even the The Sun, usually a dependable ally, said Ford needs to "smarten up." No love from taxpayers and The Sun? Yikes.

    Developers unveiled their plans for phase three of the Regent Park revitalization yesterday. A new park, Regent Park Athletic Grounds, will add a soccer pitch and cricket ground to the neighbourhood between Sumach and River, north of Shuter. The construction project could also add more then 2,500 new homes to the area.

    Looks like the TTC will increase fares in the new year. TTC chair Karen Stintz says the hike, which will likely be kept in line with inflation, hasn't been finalized. The Commission also has to hammer out the details of its proposed outsourcing of cleaning duties.

    The west end intersection where cyclist Jenna Morrison was killed last November is getting traffic lights and a ban on right turns on red. The public works and infrastructure committee voted yesterday to spend $175,000 on the upgrades in the hope of making the intersection of Sterling Road and Dundas West safer.

    Finally, bike thefts in Toronto usually end the same way: police reports are filed, insurance pays out (ideally), and the property is never recovered. Recently Redditor David Park spotted someone with his stolen bike and decided to confront the rider. His girlfriend caught the exchange on video.

    ALSO HAPPENING:

    Photo: "Linseed: Green Roof" by Vic Gedris in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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