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David Byrne Talks American Utopia, Broadway, And Bicycling Despite Tragedy

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David Byrne in American Utopia

We recently spoke with Byrne, a longtime New Yorker, about the show, the nation, and other NYC topics. [ more › ]

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samuel
16 days ago
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I love how this turned into an interview about bike lanes. It’s the way to experience a city with being carcooned.
Cambridge, Massachusetts
mkalus
5 days ago
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iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
sillygwailo
5 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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The Ironies of Columbus Day

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This morning I helped my older son work on a short school assignment about whether Americans should continue to celebrate Columbus Day or replace it with some holiday celebrating America’s native inhabitants. My own thoughts on this have always been muddled since we shouldn’t be wasting a national day of remembrance on Columbus even if he’d been a great guy. We have many actual Americans who should be put in or put back in the national pantheon.

The actual man Columbus had little conscious understanding of or much to do with the reign of horrors his arrival in the Caribbean rapidly brought in its wake. (The story of European colonization of America and the catastrophic demographic decline and subjugation of its native peoples is fundamentally a story of epidemic disease. Absent disease Europeans would have been equally cruel and rapacious but far less successful in their efforts.) Columbus was personally brutal enough in his treatment of the native inhabitants of Hispaniola to justify his currently awful reputation. And in any case, Columbus the man as opposed to Columbus the impact or the effect hardly matters very much since the entire issue is one of symbols and commemoration, which are matters of the contemporary world, rather than history.

But the origins of the day are more complex and multivalent than the current debate lets on. As Brent Staples notes in this illustrated column, Columbus Day origins begin in a very different context: the efforts of Italian-American immigrants – often relatively dark skinned Sicilians and southern Italians who were a cultural world away from the Genoese Columbus – to find social acceptance as Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The myth of the Italian-American Columbus was an ingenious end-run around the pride of place and status hierarchy of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans. Italians weren’t alien looking and sounding newcomers entering the country in the late 19th century, unknown to and ignorant of the nation’s history and values. They were in fact here at the very beginning, long before English settlers even came into the picture. Without the person of the Italian Columbus (actually a subject of and sailing on behalf of the Spanish Crown of Castile, but whatever…) the whole national experiment wouldn’t even have been possible. Just because he never set foot on any ground the United States has ever held or claimed sovereignty over is just a quibble.

The first Columbus Day Parade in New York City dates to 1929 and in its current, more formalized form to 1944. Today the parade celebrates its 75th anniversary. The 1929 effort and the formalization in 1944 were both the handiwork of Generoso Pope, an Italian-American businessmen who owned a chain of Italian-language newspapers and was a major political figure in New York and national politics. A classic immigrant success story: arrived at 15, worked menial jobs, a millionaire by his thirties, the most prominent and powerful Italian-born American by the time he died at 59.

But as Staples notes, the veneration of Columbus as a sort of patron saint of Italian-Americanism isn’t simply one of benign acceptance. It was also about putting Italian-Americans firmly on the white side of America’s binary, black and white racial divide. In the South especially Italian immigrants were themselves targets of lynchings and the first Columbus Day, declared by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892, was a directly response to lynchings in New Orleans that left 11 Italian immigrants dead. There was no such response to the widespread lynchings of African-American which were reaching their peak at just this time. And as Staples notes, part of that was that there was an Italian government which was able to force a diplomatic crisis with the United States and successfully demand an indemnity for the killings.

In the early decades of Italian mass immigration, Italian immigrants were frequently portrayed as closer to blacks than whites or at least clearly lower on a racial hierarchy than other white Americans. In the South and particularly in Louisiana, they also often built businesses that catered to African-Americans, lived in African-American neighborhoods and intermarried with them.

In this sense, Columbus Day, Columbus Day Parades and the broader movement for acceptance of Italian-Americans as fully-fledged Americans by the 20th century wasn’t merely a matter of benign social acceptance but also involved, indeed was premised upon, buying into America’s ideology of white supremacy: Italians could be full-fledged Americans because they were white. Any ambiguity about where they fit on an imagined racialist spectrum had to be to firmly ironed out of the equation. And yet, in the hothouse politics of New York City, far from the Caribbean and distant from the history of the continent’s indigenous peoples, we cannot ignore the fact that Italian-Americans were genuinely underdogs, the targets of discrimination rather than its authors.

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sillygwailo
7 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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Burritos Are Indeed Tacos

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Tacos vs Burritos IllustrationLet the debate rage on no longer. Taco: Jody Horton; burrito: Shana Novak/Getty. Hello, I’m José R. Ralat, your new Texas Monthly taco editor. Since the magazine announced earlier this month that such a job existed and that I was the lucky soul hired to fill the role, I’ve heard from media outlets from all over, from the New York Times to the BBC. During my interview with Helen Rosner, the James Beard Award–winning food correspondent for the New Yorker, I threw out the fact that burritos are tacos. When I said as much, I did so without intending to blaspheme or provoke #TacoTwitter. I certainly didn’t expect it to be the headline of the piece, or for the Today show to do a segment based on the article. Stirring…View Original Post

The post Burritos Are Indeed Tacos appeared first on Texas Monthly.

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sillygwailo
7 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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Things Chefs Do That You Should Not Do

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Just say no to lemon zest, “ripping hot” pans, and the ice bath. Pity the chef who lets me into their kitchen. As the coauthor of cookbooks, I help them transfer their recipes from brain to paper. And while I might initially present as a mere nuisance, reminding them to weigh winter squash or requesting […]

The post Things Chefs Do That You Should Not Do appeared first on TASTE.

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sillygwailo
7 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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Scenes From Toronto Railway Museum & Roundhouse Park

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Since the train first tracks in the 1850s, Toronto’s railways have been a big part of its geography and history. They connect the city and its surroundings, joining neighbourhoods and people. They were also the driving force of industry. Founded in 2001, the Toronto Railway Museum tells their stories. One finds it across the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, and Ripley’s Aquarium in the appropriately named Roundhouse Park.

Map of Toronto’s Railways, date unknown. Credit: Toronto Public Library.

Operated by the Toronto Railway Historical Association, the Toronto Railway Museum is based in the great John Street Roundhouse and the surrounding Roundhouse Park. The location is appropriate: Toronto’s railway corridor extended east and west of Union Station and was once the nexus of the city’s transportation network. In many ways, it still is.

Union Station Railway Corridor, 1969. Credit: City of Toronto Archives.

The John Street Roundhouse was part of that infrastructure. The structure itself was built by Canadian Pacific Railway between 1929 and 1931 as a maintenance and storage facility and to allow trains to, well, turn around.

As an interpretive experience, Toronto Railway Museum is immersive. It starts with an interior space in the Roundhouse’s Stall 17. There are maps and train memorabilia. There’s even a simulator which allows you to conduct a train around historic Toronto.

Outside, it functions as an open air museum. Well-produced plaques are located around park, often near significant landmarks. There are of course some train cars, some of which allow entry inside.

Most notable to me is the marker about the Workers of John Street. Most of Roundhouse Park’s landmarks highlight something physically awing like the Water Tower or a Canadian National Railway train, but this plaque focuses on the easily forgotten human element behind this tough industry.

Of course, Don Station is a remarkable site too. It is part of Toronto’s lost geography of bygone railway stations, companies, structures, and tracks. It operated 1896 to 1967 at Queen Street and the Don River. Then it spent time at Todmorden Mills until 2008 when it was moved to Roundhouse Park and subsequently restored. It also serves the museum’s gift shop and departure point for the park’s own train rides.

CPR Don Station looking west, 1910. Credit: City of Toronto Archives.

Goads Map, 1913. Credit: Old Toronto Maps

John Street Roundhouse closed in 1986. It marked an era where the railways were taking a bit of a backseat in Toronto’s development. Industry within the city was declining as manufacturing moved elsewhere. The physical lands of the railroads shifted too. Tracks were removed and lands — and some remaining sites — were redeveloped for new residential, commecial, and entertainment uses.

Union Station Railway Corridor, 1992. Credit: City of Toronto Archives.

The Corridor just south Union Station saw a lot of this transformation. In 1976, the CN Tower was completed. The 1980s saw opening of the Metro Convention Centre and SkyDome (now Rogers Centre). The latter actually replaced another roundhouse. Using the facade of the old Postal Delivery Building, the Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank Arena) came in 1999 as the new home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and newly created Toronto Raptors. Since then, a condo community has grown up around it since as well as a fan area called Maple Leaf Square in 2010. Most recently, the area got the impressive Ripleys Aquarium in 2013.

Union Station Railway Corridor, 2019. Credit: Google Maps.

The John Street Roundhouse was designated a National Historic Site in 1990. Its heritage value comes from being the best example of a roundhouse in the country — its turntable actually works! Roundhouse Park opened around it in 1997 to further its legacy. In 1999, the roundhouse’s stalls became home to the aptly-named Steam Whistle Brewery and then Leon’s in 2009 (it closed for the Rec Room two years ago).

In 2019, the John Street Roundhouse celebrates its 90th birthday, making it a good time to reflect on its related history and geography. And stories. Lot of stories.

Useful Links

Old Time Trains

Toronto’s Railway Heritage by Derek Boles

Toronto Railway Historical Association

Toronto Railway Museum













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sillygwailo
9 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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The Missing Dimension in the Sidewalk Toronto Vision

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Some of the urban-design and technology ideas in Sidewalk’s plan, from tall timber to automated shuttles, get a lot of attention. But there’s something else about the plan to consider, something less easy to grasp or see: time.

Technology companies have an interesting strategic relationship with time. When Uber arrived in Toronto years ago, it wasn’t explicitly announced as a competitor to public transit. Political leadership embraced the company, despite the way it steamrolled civic stakeholders, doing what it wanted and begging forgiveness later. In recent months, as Uber prepared a regulatory filing prior to its IPO, it stated that “its growth depends on better competing with public transportation, which it identifies as a $1 trillion market it can grab a share of over the long term.”

Beyond the fact that Uber is now competing with public transit, the regulatory vacuum from which it emerged created other unresolved issues that have become clearer over time, including its impact on congestion, public safety and labour. With Uber, corporate capture of our regulatory environments occurred in two distinct ways through the use of time. First, time went fast: The company went directly to the public to build a user base and support. But concurrently, time was slow to reveal the company’s long-term plan. Uber has been burning through hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital over the years to establish market position and compete with public transit. Earlier this year, it lost over a billion dollars in its first quarter as a publicly traded company. 

Uber is an example of the direct-to-consumer threat that Internet-enabled businesses pose to the democratic governance of the city. Through software and the use of time, tech companies can go straight to their users via the Internet. They build a supportive constituency for their product before it’s regulated. People get used to something they enjoy and don’t want it to change. Social norms are established before policy is created and cities are left to clean up the mess. 

Airbnb followed a similar cycle. Policy-makers are playing catch-up to deal with negative impact on rental stock and quality of life for those living in buildings with a lot of Airbnb activity. As with Uber, a supportive constituency – property owners – was created, presenting the same political challenge for regulators. The business strategy here is consistent: Tech companies use time to wedge themselves between residents and government, painting governments into difficult corners when it comes to dealing with any negative consequences that fall onto the collective. When tech companies invariably need to be reined in, political leaders are fearful of appearing anti-innovation or anti-progress.

Many potential cases of long-term privatization exist in the Sidewalk plan. In the mobility space alone, where Alphabet has a deep portfolio of subsidiary companies, there are several proposed urban innovations that fit the pattern: dynamic curbs, mobility management subscription plans, parking. The integrated mobility package subscription idea, for example, imagines a monthly plan that integrates various modes of public and private transportation, one that would “enable residents and workers to see all their trip choices in real time and pay in one place.”

A number of Sidewalk Labs’ urban innovation ideas merge the physical with the digital at a high level. Public assets are combined with hardware (such as sensors and mobile phones), software and data to create a layer of digital infrastructure. These urban innovations turn what were once publicly managed infrastructure assets into markets where mediating companies can make money. Now extend this thinking and pattern to any of the products that could be sold directly to a resident or commercial buyer in a more relaxed regulatory environment: energy, waste management, telecommunications – the list goes on. 

None of these technologies appear as privatization plays in the plan. They are presented as seemingly neutral technology products. Urban innovations. But time is the unknown. And just as with Uber and the taxi industry, the public administration regimes overseeing these infrastructures are dysfunctional. Or, as the tech industry likes to say, “ripe for disruption.”  

Sidewalk Toronto is the continuation of an arc created by decades of neglect and privatization of public assets. This round adds new features: the ruthless instincts of venture capital and monopoly power. The project as a whole brings Toronto to a distinct fork in the road. Do we want to reorganize the status quo of public infrastructure asset management through democratic or through corporate thinking? Speed has given corporate capture the advantage, but there’s time yet to correct course. 

Bianca Wylie is an open-government advocate with a dual background in technology and public engagement. She is the co-founder of Tech Reset Canada and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

The post The Missing Dimension in the Sidewalk Toronto Vision appeared first on Azure Magazine.

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sillygwailo
28 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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