Thursday, January 31, 2008

St. Terry of Assisi

Ah, Terry is tired tonight. I am on a committee that reviews animal research that's done at one of the teaching hospitals. I am tired because tonight I read all 17 new research proposals we'll be discussing at next week's meeting. It's mostly mice and rats that are involved, but they have to have adequate anesthesia and analgesia too.
I just got home and it's late and I'm tired and Euripides wants to play and his claws need trimming so when he paws at me to be picked up, he really scratches. And then I bark at him.
I gave most of my energy tonight to little mice and rats, and now I am barking at my cat. Not so saintly...

Oh, the picture. It's the neon sign for a pet supply store in my neighbourhood. I also shoot clever neon signs. Remind me to tell you someday the hilarious story about how I looked all over San Francisco for a neon penny loafer.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New gargoyles for Oxford

Oxford is a city of dreaming spires, but also one of the gargoyle capitals of the world.
Last June, the be-gargoyled university launched a competition for six- to 18-year-olds to design new gargoyles for the Bodleian Library. There is apparently extensive damage to 10 of the current gargoyles on the northwest face of the building, and with no historical records showing what the originals looked like, officials opted to commission new ones.
“The University is taking an exciting opportunity to create a lasting community monument in the heart of the university and the city that will celebrate 1,000 years of Oxfordshire history,” according to Dr John Hood, vice-chancellor of the university.
The ideas were to be based on one of three themes – myths, monsters or people – and have a historical connection with Oxfordshire within the last millennium.
The entrants were asked to give reasons for their choices—which will help gargoyle hunters of the future to understand why the figures appear where they do. In most cases, such information has been lost, if it was recorded at all, or extremely difficult to find.

Nine entries were selected to be carved by a stonemason and placed on the library. They included figures of Oxfordshire author J.R.R. Tolkien and Thomas Bodley.
“After all, he founded the library and the library is named after him,” said Alfie Turner, who submitted that entry.
The other winning entries can be seen here .

Monday, January 21, 2008

New identification?

On Saturday, I spoke to the ROM Walkers, the volunteers who lead walking tours around Toronto and environs, based at the Royal Ontario Museum.
They're such a knowledgeable group, I'm not sure I told them much they didn't already know.
While I often learn things when I give these talks, I came away with a huge prize on Saturday.
When I was talking about what fun it is to wander around the Queen's Park legislature building and spot all the anonymous faces in the carved foliage, I showed the above picture.
Regina Virgo, the ROM Walkers' leader, immediately said, "Laura Secord!"
And I think she's right! I hadn't considered that before, but I could see it almost immediately. Look at this common portrait of Secord, one of our heroes of the War of 1812, and tell me you don't see the resemblance:

Thanks, Regina!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I haven't posted for a few days. I'm tired of taking pictures of the hole in the ground at the end of the street. I'll return to that when there's something more to show.
I'm also having some trouble with post-holiday re-entry to real life. So I thought I'd post this picture I took last summer of Kali, my friend Denyse's cat, meditating before one of the several shrines Denyse has in her apartment in Montreal. She looked so ... meditative and serene and placid...

...until she decided to jump up and check out the Buddha and the bamboo more closely.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Our Lady of York (aka Deeds Speak), cont'd

Leslie Gash from Toronto Housing kindly sent me this picture (courtesy of Bird Construction), showing the two sculptures from the old 60 Richmond Street East building safely in storage.
The pieces—of the County of York coat of arms, with its motto "Deeds Speak," and a woman holding a building and a scroll and standing atop the coat of arms (I've named her "Our Lady of York")—were created by Jacobine Jones, a prominent Canadian sculptor of the mid-20th century. Jones was the sculptor behind several other bits of architectural decoration in Toronto—notably some of those on Kerr Hall on the Ryerson campus, and the four figures in high relief on the Canadiana Building, across Queen's Park Crescent West from Queen's Park.

There goes the neighbourhood (part 3)

When I got home from work on Tuesday evening, I was surprised to see that even this little bit of the House on the Corner was still standing. I don't know why they couldn't finish the job on Tuesday.
When I arrived home on Wednesday, the lot was empty. I wasn't surprised.
But even the backhoe was gone. The flatbed had come, loaded up the backhoe and drove off ... no doubt to the next demolition site. And they seem to have taken their portable loo with them.

CORRECTION: The portable loo is still there. It just didn't show up in the picture.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

There goes the neighbourhood (part 2)

On Saturday, the backhoe landed with much noise, arriving as it did on a flatbed. There was a great cacaphonous chorus of backing-up beeping announcing its arrival—which was actually a help, I suppose, as it was the signal for me to get my camera.

Here you can kind of see that the front door has been removed, possibly sold to an architectural salvage firm. This view adds to the eeriness, though, because the interior stairs, bannister and railing make it so clear that someone lived here relatively recently.
On Monday morning, the garage was levelled and the upper right part of the house had been demolished.
I fully expected to find only an empty lot when I arrived home from work on Tuesday, but there's still a bit left—probably because piles of brick and whatnot had to be carted off before any more could be torn down. So if I get up early on Wednesday, I'll have another picture of the last bits of this house.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

There goes the neighbourhood (part 1)

This corner house (before the fence) was the grand entrance to our stretch of Woburn Avenue in North Toronto. It was listed for sale in the Fall of 2006 thusly: "100 WOBURN AVE, TORONTO, Ontario - $1,300,000 — Large Gracious Traditional 2&3/4 Storey Centre Hall 5 Bdrm Brick Family Home. Double Garage With 2nd Floor. Extra Large Lot. 1 Blk To Subway. Opposite Parks. Walk To Wanless & Bedford Pk Schools, & Yonge St Shops…"
It sold about a year ago and its demolition has begun in earnest.

I took these pictures in the August and November of 2007 ( although I intended to start sooner, before the fence went up), to document the decontextualized destruction of a sense of neighbourhood. This grand old house is going to be replaced by three — count 'em: three — townhouses, which you can read about here, here and here.
You'll note that while the asking price for the original house was
$1.3-million, the listed prices for the three that will replace it total about $4-million.
Sometime in November, the tree was taken down, and in the last week or 10 days, the front door disappeared.
Today, some heavy equipment was moved onto the site. Pictures to follow.
So continues the stucco-ification and shoe-horning of North Toronto residential neighbourhoods.
To be continued.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hoppy New Year!

No, no, no. It's not the Chinese Year of the Frog. (According to the Chinese zodiac, it's the Year of the Rat.)
Amphibian Ark has declared it the Year of the Frog, to call attention to the "amphibian extinction crisis which represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity."
(The journalist in me feels I must tell you that Amphibian Ark is a joint effort of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) of the IUCN/SSC (World Conservation Union/Species Survival Commission) and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG).)

So have a hoppy new year—and remember, it's a leap year so there will be a leapfrog day.

Also remember: Time's fun when you're having flies.