October 2013


The transit generation

Throw a rock these days and you’re likely to hit a discussion or news story on transit in the GTA. The rumblings began just over a year ago when Mayor Rob Ford announced the cancellation of his predecessor’s Transit City plan, and now that the budget debate has subsided, the transit issue has exploded to dominate much of the public discourse.  And justifiably so. The city and province have made a hot mess of the transit file in the last few decades, and the long-suffering public is understandably frustrated by the inability of any level of government to commit to a transit plan for Toronto and stick to it. That the media and people are talking loudly about transit, recognizing the need to solve an ever-growing economic and environmental problem that can no longer simply be kicked down the road, is the good news.

The bad news is that transit is still plagued by the same old political problems it faced in the 1970s, when the last major subway expansion occurred. The lines drawn between the suburbs and downtown are even more well-defined, and competing interests continue to stall and sabotage construction projects. In recent months, nobody working on the transit issue has appeared to be on the same page or squarely in charge—not the province and Metrolinx, not council and the mayor, not lawyers and consultants, not engineers and the TTC.  The latest round of finger pointing and manoeuvering is a reminder that the greatest failure of transit in Toronto is not financing but coming up with a transit plan impervious to politics.

How does a city with limited taxation powers of its own pay for the transit system it needs? For starters, it can look to its own past and to comparable foreign peers for lessons learned and best practices. The 1970s were also the last decade when the TTC had a double-fare system for suburban riders. While the definition and composition of suburbs have changed considerably in 40 years, and the idea of zoned fares might seem politically unviable in an already divided city, it is worth looking at this financing model again as one in a variety of ways to fund an expanding transit system.

A  peek at  how cities from Vancouver to New York to London pay for their transit systems shows that other jurisdictions  get their transit dollar from a variety of sources and levels of government, including fuel and sales taxes, vehicle registration, road tolls, parking, and hydro levies. The city of Toronto can no longer continue to rely solely on user fees, one-time monies from senior levels of government, and the gas tax. We need steady and dedicated funding streams from a variety of sources to pay the massive transit bill we have been putting off for decades.

It’s also worth engaging the younger generation in the transit discussion if the region hopes to keep their talent here. They are the future stakeholders of transit and deserve to be invited to the table and listened to on public projects that will take years to come to fruition. A youth task force on transit with its eyes on the future and a hunger for change could be another key ingredient to sustainable planning in a city too long going in reverse on transit.



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BOOK REVIEW: This storybook will make you reconsider putting off kids

If you are one who has decided to put off the child you want until later here is some good advice contained in a children’s book.

The Little Red Stocking:  Help Make Us Three is a well illustrated book, for both children and the adults who read to them.
Now that so many of us have put off motherhood (and fatherhood) indefinitely for, well, for whatever reason, we find sometimes it’s not as easy to become pregnant as we thought. We find there are many reasons why we can’t conceive. Finally we accept the bad news, that we can’t, and we accept the idea of adoption.  Then to our chagrin, we often find that it can be just as daunting to find a way to adopt.
Tina Dine, an exceptional primary school teacher from Burlington, Ontario has written a book for her adopted daughter Ava.  This book is a challenge to the adults among us to not give up, even when everything seems to be going the wrong way.
Behind the scenes for Tina and her husband there were years of longing and finally their own determination to adopt. Of these many trials only their enduring hope is described to the child. Only that hope can be understood.
It is a fifteen minute read that will bring a tear to your eye, give you time to enjoy the situations, and the delight of the illustrations.  A child will enjoy it for much longer.  I can see it becoming a favorite bed time story. It has the repetitive charm of the three bears. But it is a message to the reader as much as the child.
A story to tell any child so they understand and they do understand; a lesson of hope instilled early, for all our endeavors. So many people have said “Try and Try Again”.  Never give up hope, it will keep you alive.
 It’s good advice.

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“Most degrading things I could ever do” — Miley’s little person backup dancer comes forward about VMA performance

“I will be the first one to tell you that standing on that stage, in that costume was one of the most degrading things I felt like I could ever do.”

One of the bear-costumed backup dancers from Miley Cyrus’ now infamous VMA performance has come forward to answer questions about the performance. Hollis Jane, the 24 year old actress who is also a little person was one of the dancers in bear costumes surrounding Miley on stage while she performed at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards in Brooklyn.

The actress posted her feelings first on her blog before taking to Reddit to answer questions from users.

She explained that she felt degraded from her experience and that she had been laughed at for being a little person overall slamming Miley Cyrus and the planners of the performance for mocking little people as nothing more than freaks, an experience that left her in tears.

Most of the time, getting a job purely because you’re a little person (in my opinion) is not a good thing. It is further fulfilling society’s idea that we are something to laugh at; that our value is simply to shock. We can all agree that right now all Miley Cyrus wants to do is make society’s jaw drop. So what’s more “weird” or “freaky” than having little people parading around in your show?

I was a bear in Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance and it was my first time doing anything like that — anything where I was being used because of my height, not because of my talent. And I will be the first one to tell you that standing on that stage, in that costume was one of the most degrading things I felt like I could ever do. I realize not everyone shares my opinion and I might just be young and naive, but I feel like the acceptance of this kind of treatment has got to stop.

… I had never been in a performance where I was purely meant to be gawked or laughed at. I will never forget that performance because it is what forced me to draw my personal line in the sand. After our first dress rehearsal in the costumes with the crew, publicists, performers etc watching us, I walked out of the Barclay Center shaking and crying. Thankfully, my best friends, Kelly and Kerri, happened to be NYC to visit me. They were waiting for me and I walked up to them and broke down. I love being the center of attention, but that was something different. I was being stared and laughed at for all of the wrong reasons. I was being looked at as a prop …as something less than human.

She answered some of the basics from Reddit users about the experience.

Was the money worth it? [link]


How has being part of this performance impacted your life? [link]

It’s forced me to learn where my line is drawn when it comes to what I will do for money. It taught me that no amount of money is worth my self-worth. (And I got to meet 2Chainz so…not all that bad).

Did the other LP performers share your views (i.e. did they regret agreeing to a performance where their height was being used as some kind of joke)? [link]

If any from Miley’s performance did, they haven’t mentioned it to me. The girls who are on tour with her now are really upset by what I have to say. But frankly, it’s just my opinion. If that’s what they want to do and they feel comfortable doing it, that’s their own business. I just feel that it’s not doing society’s idea of little people any justice.

Why would they be upset? Don’t they feel like they are being publicly ridiculed? [link]

They feel like I am bashing their line of work and “hating” on them. They basically attacked me on Facebook and seemed to refuse to understand that I was stating my personal opinion. I’m not trying to get an angry mob after anyone by any means. Just trying to bring an issue to light.

What do you think of Miley in general? [link]

I think she is a 20 year old kid who has been given a lot of money and freedom. To be fair, I don’t think anyone is super proud of how they act/behave in their 20’s, she just happens to have a platform to demonstrate immaturity. That being said, I think the girl can SING.



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RELATIONSHIPS: I’m all growed up

I’m feeling like a genuine, for real, totally grown up adult these days; even though I’m not at all done learning or growing up. Boyfriend and I have been planning our Thanksgiving weekend and this year we’re doing both my family and his which feels like a thing that grown-ups do in sitcoms but I’ve never actually done in real life.  So tomorrow we’re taking off to visit my mum and on Sunday we’re driving back to the city to see his parents, there were car rentals and planning involved, big stuff for this little girl.

I know we’ve been committed to each other for more than a year now but there’s something very real about spending holidays together and something even more surreal about spending holidays with each other’s families. I’m not sure exactly when I grew up or when families came into play but when Boyfriend’s mom asked if I would be coming for Thanksgiving it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling, like hugging a stuffed creature, and suddenly it was as if I realized that there are other people invested in our relationship, other people who want us to work out just as much as we do.

I’m not concerned about breaking up, not even a little bit, but I wonder how much harder it must be to break up with someone who you love when you love their family and friends too. Does that make ending things even worse? Maybe that’s why I’ve stayed away from anything serious for so long, because I knew the next time it would be real and until last year I wasn’t ready for that, I wasn’t ready to be all in if it meant that it could end one day.

So my mum loves Boyfriend, I love his family and tomorrow Boyfriend will meet my little brother for the first time; Boyfriend insists that they will tag team the mocking and by the end of the weekend they will totally be friends forever. I would say that I’m nervous but I’m not really I’m actually excited to include Boyfriend in all the family activities, mostly the turkey eating though because turkey is awesome.

I still feel like I’m playing house a little bit, I’m not the girl who goes home for Thanksgiving let alone going home with a boyfriend, I usually spend turkey day drinking wine and catching up on the TV I’ve missed in the past week it’s a long weekend that I enjoy because the pressure to go home is limited until Christmas comes around.

I don’t know that being a fully fledged grown up lady will ever feel normal, maybe I’ll always feel like I’m 6 years old walking around the house in my mum’s heels pretending to be a fabulous twenty something before I even knew what that meant. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a year or two from now but for now I like this game of dress-up.

Canada’s Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize in literature. Kudos from another Winghamite — for escaping that town

“The local high school just boasted a government certified rate of illiteracy at over one quarter for their Grade 10s. Not exactly the kind of place you’d expect to birth a Nobel laureate.”

Canadian author Alice Munro has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in literature, the first time the award has been given to a Canadian woman and only the 13th time it has been given to a Canadian. Good for her!

The author, a true master of the short story, released her latest collection Dear Life in 2012. She is best known for her short stories detailing the lives of small-town Canadian women.

The closest she has come to a novel is her 1971 collection The Lives of Girls and Women, a collection of short stories centered around the same character (presumably modeled after Munro herself in her youth) growing up in Wingham, Ontario.

As someone who grew up in Wingham it always pleases me to see the accolades given to the town’s literary regent Munro, and even the successes author Andrew Kaufman and CBC’s Bob McDonald, a few other notable Winghamites, always make me pause and smile. Half of me happy because someone with my background has done so well for themselves, and half of me happy to see that someone made it out of that godforsaken town — a place where homophobia, sexism, and ignorance are virtues to be celebrated.

The local high school just boasted a government certified rate of illiteracy at over one quarter for their Grade 10s. Not exactly the kind of place you’d expect to birth a Nobel laureate.

Munro’s stories in The Lives of Girls and Women are character focused but the hallmarks of the town I grew up in were easy to spot, even more than half a century since it is set. Everything about the book rang true, the sexual misconduct of the townsfolk, the unfriendly church-goers, the miserable second nature of everyone — and still it carried the enveloping sense that the protagonist is a part of the fabric of the town, it is where she belongs, whether she wants to or not.

Munro didn’t make very many friends in Wingham by writing that book (I’d heard a story that on the week of it’s release the embarrassed went down to the book store at the corner of John and Josephine streets and bought up as many copies as they could to keep them out of the hands of others) but years later they honoured her with a park in her name along the town’s main street.

It’s no wonder so few people go beyond the borders of that wretched, ignorant township. Even when they hate you they lay claim to a part of your success.

The few escapees I’ve met on the outside all seem to have a similar view: Wingham is this bizarre place where right is wrong and wrong is right.

Wingham is the kind of place where Grade 12 formal is held in a barn with an explicit warning of “no fags allowed” just in case one might assume that formal should be enjoyed by all.

Wingham is the kind of place where a person of authority drunk driving into and killing a young person, also drunk driving, isn’t that big of a deal.

Wingham is the kind of place where a pedophile teacher’s aide can reside unchecked by the near-useless Wingham Police for a number of years despite everyone knowing he touches kids and a steady stream of complaints, that is, until he moves a few townships over and is immediately arrested by the OPP for his long history of sexual impropriety.

Wingham is a crippled community, and while Munro did a fantastic job describing the town as it was in decades past, there are countless more stories to be told about everything upside down in that place. The town’s obsession with quashing everything that deviates from its cruel norms and praising stupidity is not the recipe for a world renown author, and Munro deserves all the accolades in the world for overcoming the nature of this town.

Munro lives down the road in Clinton now, a span of 35 kilometers that can make a world of difference.

I’m sure that in the days to come the folks at Wingham’s town hall will come up with a way to celebrate a Nobel laureate in their midst, but anyone who ever breathed the air in Wingham will tell you that any small scrap of accomplishment, any one little bit of achievement to come out of that town did not happen because of it — it happened in spite of it.




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Gay Pennsylvania man takes to Facebook after brutal attack

On October 6th Ben Stoviak was brutally attacked by a group of homophobes in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.

A group of strangers began by yelling slurs across the street at Stoviak and his boyfriend the group violently attacked the two men leaving Stoviak’s face covered in bruises.

He went  to Facebook the day after the attack to tell his story and, since then, the post has been shared over 3,000 times, ‘liked’ over 5,000 times, and has over 600 comments.

Take a look at the photo and his original posting about the disgusting display of ignorance below.


Collected from Ben Stoviak’s Facebook.

“Last night, a group of men attacked me and my boyfriend on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. After yelling, from across the street, “Faggot!” at us, I replied, “yes, we’re faggots!” Immediately after, the group of men ran across the street and began hitting, kicking, and stomping me. The mark on my right cheek is a bootprint. Aaron threw himself on top of me to discourage them from continuing the assault, but they began kicking him in the head, as well.

“To the women who saw the ordeal, wrote down their license plate number, and stayed to talk with the police, thank you.

“Three of these men have been arrested since the assault. Aaron and I were in the hospital until almost 10 am so that the doctors could take MRI, CT scans, and x-rays to make sure there was no internal bleeding.

“I don’t ask you to cheer on my romantic and sexual lives. I do, however, expect people not to act violently against one another because they do not share tastes and preferences.”

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5 mistakes that are keeping you unhappy in your 20s

Your 20s are a difficult time. Britney said it best with the line “not a girl, not yet a woman.” And we all know how that turned out for poor Britney back in her 20s.

The truth of the matter is that, especially in this day and age, a lot of people in their 20s just aren’t happy. Some people will tell you it is because you are setting your goals too high without doing the work to deserve big rewards, and maybe you are. Others still will tell you that the world the Baby Boomers left for you has been picked clean of good jobs and financial stability, and it certainly seems like it has been.

But beyond the broad strokes, there are a million smaller things a lot of twenty-somethings do wrong that are keeping you in a funk. Here are five of the top offenders.

5. You keep circling back to your ex.

He was awesome when you dated him the first time around, things were okay for a while after the awesome wore off, and finally things weren’t okay. Either you made a smart decision and broke it off before things got too unhappy, or he did the same to you. But like your own version of The Walking Dead, the animated corpse of your once brilliant relationship keeps trudging back into your life.

Neither of you know to leave good enough alone and you find yourselves meeting for casual coffees that turn into sex, or you find yourself stressed out about something completely unrelated and send him “I miss you” in a text message.

Maybe it was growing up on a diet of chick flicks where true love always comes after a series of tumultuous breakups that makes you feel like you always need to bring him back around. Or maybe you just get lonely and he is someone who understands you, or at least did at one point.

You’re both clinging onto the bit of comfort you have for each other and, surprise, are doing yourselves more harm than good by retracing familiar territory. The longer you entertain these ghosts of a past relationship the more you keep yourself from finding someone new who is right for you.


4. You keep hanging out with your friends who do more harm than good.

Everyone has these friends: the ones who keep you miserable. At this point in your life they are more than likely just vestiges of periods past — maybe an old friend from high school or university, a cousin your age, a friend from your first job — and you keep them around because… Well you don’t know why you keep them around.

They are your friends, and friends stick together until the end, right? Well that attitude has only really brought you heaps of misery. Your relationship consists almost entirely of them putting you down about the clothes you buy, making you feel bad about the guys you date, or giving you grief about how much money you (don’t) make.

Alternatively you could have the friend who always needs you. They’re always in some kind of trouble, they’re always dating someone they need to be saved from, they’re always taking up all of your time and energy. They’re always just exhausting you.

Despite the fact that you are no longer in high school and you don’t need to worry about who to sit with at lunch every day, for some reason you’re hesitant to break off these friendships, even though you know you need to and you know that the repercussions in grown-up-world don’t matter.

You need to help yourself feel better by stepping back from these friendships and giving yourself a little space to breathe. One of the sad realities of being a grownup is that sometimes friendships just don’t work out, and no matter how much you care about them you have to let them go and wish them the best if they are hurting you — especially if they don’t realise they are doing it. It doesn’t have to be a big blowout, but missing a few phone calls and being busy a few too many times can go a long way.


3. You drink too much.

It was one thing to go out partying every weekend when you were 19, but now you’re a big ol’ grown up in their twenties and you’ve got to start acting the part.

Have you noticed that when you get together with that certain group of friends (your “weekend friends”)  all they want to do is go drink somewhere? And are you even having fun waiting in big lines and spending way too much money just so you can say you went somewhere or did something?

There is nothing wrong with going out every once in a while, you are still young after all, but if you can’t remember the last weekend you didn’t spend getting drunk you should probably take a step back and analyse your life. Try playing board games, or video games, or doing a movie night this weekend and try doing it all without drinking. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll also feel good about the productive next morning you’ll have sans hangover.


2. You hate your job.

So you hate your job, congrats, along with breathing this is one of the major signs of being alive. But you hate your job in a way that goes beyond the woman across the office breathing too loud or parts of your lunch getting stolen.

You hate everything about your job, you hate what you’re going in every day to do, you spend half an hour in bed every morning staring at the ceiling thinking of ways you would quit if you didn’t need the scraps of money they pay you that you need so badly. You stare out the door of the stops on the subway leading up to yours just dreaming of hopping out and doing anything but going to work.

While you probably already spend countless hours every week searching for and applying for other jobs, you’re still stuck where you are. You already know that a change in your daily life is what you need to get you out of your funk, either that or electroshock therapy.

For the time being you need to work harder to find something — anything — you like about your job and hold on to it for dear life. If your favourite part of the week is your group meeting offer to take charge and plan it. If you really love those brief seconds out of the office grabbing coffee for yourself offer to grab coffee for everyone else and buy yourself a few extra minutes. Treat the symptoms for the time being while you look for a cure.

Then spend evenings and weekends working to make yourself that much more hireable to other companies. Take on small side projects, volunteer your skills, do anything to make yourself more marketable to other employers. Even if you can’t get hired somewhere else right away you’ll at least have something to look forward to during your miserable day at work.

And do yourself a favour and don’t try to explain this problem to a Baby Boomer, their sense of entitlement has clouded any understanding for the blights they have committed against your generation.


1. You aren’t exerting enough control over your life, your situation, and your own happiness.

At the end of the day it all boils down to you. You need to stand up and make a firm commitment to your own happiness everywhere in your life. If your ex calling you up makes you feel confused, nix him and start looking for someone new. If your friend is saying hurtful things to you, send her packing and make some kinder friends. If your drinking is interfering with your life, dump that shit down the drain and start waking up before noon on Sundays. If your job is making you miserable, work your ass off and find one that doesn’t.

You’re behind the wheel here, this is your life, and every decision ultimately comes back around on you. You’re a grown up, remember? You can’t blame this on your parents anymore. You’ve got to take control in every possible facet and steer your life away from the rocks before you’re 35 and thinking about how much you fucked things up in your 20s.

Make a conscious decision to work on your happiness and take it from there.




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WATCH: This Carrie prank is the best thing you’ll see this afternoon

In the lead up to the release of the re-make of the horror classic Carrie the special effects experts behind the film took to a coffee shop to trick some normal folks. With the help of a couple pulleys and a few actors they manage to convince these people in line for their java that this girl has telekinetic powers spurred on by some coffee being spilled on her laptop.



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