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Toronto a model of how big cities can still be *nice*

Big cities can be NICE! This might not be news to fellow Torontonians, but it is to the BBC, who recently expressed shock at the--well--niceness of major Canadian cities. And even the major-est Canadian city (yes, that's us, Toronto) gets due credit, despite our reputation elsewhere in Canada of being less-than-loveable. 

The BBC writes:

Traffic in Toronto and Montreal may be awful, but “you almost never hear a horn, even in the most frustrating traffic jams”, said Jeffrey Dvorkin, a Canadian journalism professor at the University of Toronto. Horn-honking is regarded as unnecessarily aggressive. And murder rates in Canada are low, he said, partly because “it’s quite rude to murder someone”.

Read more here
Source: BBC. 


Toronto psychogeography guest-stars on actress Kim Cattrall's new series

Kim Cattrall might be best-known for playing the sex-crazed New Yorker on HBO's Sex and the City, but the Canadian-raised actress' newest project plays a little closer to home. Cattrall is both starring in and producing Sensitive Skin, the North American iteration of the 2005 BBC series of the same name, which teases out the neuroses of middle age to mostly comic effect. And, the actress-producer finding some parallels between the city of Toronto--where the show is being shot--and the subject matter at hand. 

"The city is going through this condo transition, a sort of architectural middle-age crisis all of its own," said Cattrall in an interview with The Irish Times. "So we’re shooting in parts of the city that had never even been photographed before. Because they simply didn’t exist before.”

An astute observation for a city that's frequently filmed in other cities' drag. 

Read the full article here.
Source: The Irish Times.

University of Toronto professor's Icicle Atlas explains why icicles look how they look

"Being Canadian, I see a lot of icicles," said University of Toronto physics professor Dr. Stephen Morris in a recent New York Times interview in explaining why he, along with Southern Alberta Institute of Technology instructor Antony Chen, set out to create an Icicle Atlas. But create one they did, and now other scientists and icicle aficionados are invited to check out their collection of roughly 237,000 pictures, and hundreds of time-lapse movies, of icicles.

The atlas also includes data points on water, airflow and temperature, all of which contribute to how an icicle takes shape. It's the largest icicle database on earth, and points to classical physics' current renaissance "because of the tools we have now to analyze and look at systems where there are huge amounts of data," according to Dr. Morris. Now that is cool...as ice. 

Read the full article here
Source: The New York Times. 

The sound of New York rap is being reinvented by a Torontonian

The New York producer who can be credited for helping keep the sound of '90s boom-bap rap alive is, in fact, a Torontonian. 

Born Marco Bruno, the producer who works by the name Marco Polo has been featured in The Guardian music blog as an unlikely cult hero in the industry. The blog writes:

It would be wrong to say that Marco Polo is solely responsible for keeping 90s-style boom-bap alive, but it’s hard to say what it would look like without him.Duck Down, a label that had been a 90s rap mainstay, was slowly going to seed until the artists there hipped to Marco’s production. He played a major role in launching the careers of rappers such as Torae, with whom he hooked up for a collaboration album, and he has a knack for digging up long-forgotten artists such as Last Emperor and giving them fresh life. He has produced for Masta Ace, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch and KRS-One. A lot of rap artists talk about putting the whole scene on their back and carrying it, but Marco Polo is one of the few who could actually make good on that claim.

Take that, Drake. 

Read the full article here. 
Source: The Guardian

A tour of Drake's Toronto

Who needs a board of tourism when we have Drake?

The Toronto rapper is a vocal advocate of his hometown (lovingly nicknamed "The 6" for its 416 and 647 area codes), and the popular online music magazine Pitchfork has taken note. The publication went ahead and mapped the Toronto locales named the artist's many, many songs, and contextualized them for a non-Toronto audience. 

The article writes:
When he celebrates the power of the 6, he’s talking about more than a specific neighborhood: From Rexdale to the Bluffs, from the Zoo to Long Branch, that one number encompasses nearly every inch of Toronto. The purity of his affection for the city can touch anyone who’s ever known what it’s meant to call somewhere home.
Talk about public relations. 

Read the full story here
Source: Pitchfork

A love letter to lost pets turns 15

In the late 1990s, Toronto artist Ian Phillips turned the lost pet posters he'd begun collecting from signposts around the city into handmade zines. 15 years ago, he combined these and others from around the world into a book, Lost, which is being reissued by Princeton Architectural Press this month.

"They're like love letters," says Phillips of the posters' appeal. More than that, they offer insight into the human psyche. 

The Guardian writes:

Naturally, owners tend to want their beloved pets back in one piece, though one rabbit in France, interestingly, would have been taken back “vivant ou mort” (alive or dead). Phillips was contacted by one couple who’d sent him their poster and then found their cat, dead. “I think they were relieved to know what had happened. When someone loses their pet and never finds out where it went, that’s something they’re going to think about for a long, long time.”

Read the full story here
Source: The Guardian. 

In defence of junk DNA

Most of your DNA is garbage. At least this is what T. Ryan Gregory of the University of Guelph and Alex Palazzo, of the University of Toronto biochemist, have to say. 

The two biochemists co-wrote an article in defence of junk DNA called Is Most of Our DNA Garbage?, which argues that nearly 99 per cent of our DNA has zero coding function. The article was featured prominently in March 8 New York Times magazine, which sings the praises of junk DNA as "evidence of [evolution's] slow and slovenly triumph." 

Read the full article here
Source: New York Times


A storied Toronto play hits New York City

Toronto playwright and author Sheila Heti and her mostly amateur Toronto cast have gotten the New York Times treatment. The play All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, which fans of the author might recognize as the writers' block-inducing nightmare of Heti's semi-autobiographical novel How Should a Person Be? It was originally mounted in Toronto's Videofag in the fall of 2013, then revived for the Harbourfront stage earlier this month, before being brought down for a two-week run in New York. 

The Times writes:

Anyone planning a thesis on Ms. Heti (though it seems early days for such a project) will presumably want to see this production, since it would seem to represent another Hetian (though it seems early days for such a term) intersection of art and life.

And, yes, many of the classic Hetian themes are in place in this story of dysfunctional innocents abroad: female friendship as an elusive holy grail, adulthood as an illusion, the hunger for authenticity and the chimerical nature of happiness.

Read the full story here. 
Source: The New York Times

UK music festival announces Toronto debut

The UK is known for its wild and well-attended music festival. One of these, the Isle of Wight-based Bestival, is making its way across the pond and into the North American market this summer. And its point of entry? None other than Toronto. 

The new festival will be held in the Toronto Islands on June 12 and 13, and while a lineup isn't ready yet, festival organizers promise it will mix illustrious electronic acts with rock, pop, and rap. In true British music festival fashion, Bestival also promises to be massive and kooky. 

“No disrespect to the festivals in North America, but a lot of them are very much stages, bars, food tents,” founder Rob da Bank said in The New York Times. “This festival will look very different. It will have theatricality, ambition.”

Read the full story here
Source: The New York Times

Mystery tunnel has international media on the case

A mysterious tunnel has appeared near York University, and even The Guardian can't help but notice. 

The UK newspaper reported:

"A CBC News report said “the sophisticated bunker with tunnel” ran for about seven metres (23ft) and was large enough for an adult to stand in. Police did not believe the tunnel was being used for the illegal drug trade."

One can only imagine what their newsroom's tunnel theory betting pool is looking like right about now. 

Read the entire article here
Source: The Guardian

Toronto is officially the best

As good-news stories go, this one’s hard to beat: The Economist’s Intelligence Unit ranked Toronto as the world’s overall best place to live.

The British newspaper’s analysis came to the conclusion by combining analyses from several different metrics - none of which, incidentally, Toronto was on top of. “Often choice will be based on a mixture of reasons: an entrepreneur looking for the best city to start a business may also intend to start a family.” Taken together, the Economist found that Toronto offered the world’s best balance. 

Read the full story here. 
Source: The Economist

Toronto's neuroplasticity theorist makes a return

It’s been seven years since Toronto-based psychiatrist Norman Doidge entered the mainstream consciousness with “The Brain that Changes Itself,” his international bestseller about neuroplasticity. Now, the author has released a sequel, “The Brain’s Way of Healing,” and it’s attracting attention from around the world.

And, what's more, the title is garnering international attention. 

"Doctors, scientists and patients from all over the world got in touch to tell him their stories about brain plasticity. He spent the next seven years travelling the world, meeting these people and turning their stories into The Brain's Way of Healing,” writes The Independent. 

Read more here
Source: The Independent. 

Scientific wedding vows

In the New York Times, we read of University of Toronto psychology grad student Samantha Joel, whose research into human relationships led her to craft a series of ten scientifically sound wedding vows – for her own wedding.

Drawn from the best research into what makes relationships thrive, her vows include items like "I promise to nurture your goals and ambitions; to support you through misfortune, and to celebrate your triumphs.” (She and her fiance are having the items engraved into a plaque to hang in their hallway.) 

Yay, science?
Yay, science!

Read the full story here
Source: New York Times. 

Target who? Japanese retailer Uniqlo to set up shop in Toronto

For many Torontonians, a trip to New York used to also mean a trip to Uniqlo, the Japanese cheap-chic clothing retailer that had yet to make its way north of the border. But that's about to change, with two Toronto locations to open next year.

The International Business Times reports:
The stores will be in the city’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre and at the Toronto Eaton Centre. The first is a 24,000-square-foot shopping haven, while the second is 28,000 square feet. Both Japanese cheap-chic fashion stores will be launched in the fall of 2016.
Uniqlo’s announcement comes after days of Target Canada’s closure after two years of doing business in the country. Target is closing all its 133 stores in Canada, leaving 17,000 without jobs and a $5 billion debt to creditors, suppliers, and even taxes to the federal and provincial governments.
Target Canada’s experience is surely going to be inserted into the book of lessons for all retailers wanting to set shop in Canada. Jeffrey Berkowitz, president of retail specialist Aurora Realty Consultants Inc., told the Globe and Mail that the Japanese merchant will enter the Canadian retail scene along a different route. For one, they intend to enter the scene slowly but surely, making expansions as the need arises.
“They’re not looking at a mass approach,” Berkowitz said. His company advises Uniqlo on store locations in Canada. It was basically the same approach Uniqlo made when it first entered the U.S. in 2006. From its flagship store in New York, Uniqlo now has almost 40 stores in the U.S.

Read the full article here.
Source: International Business Times.
Photo: Howard County Library System via Compfight cc

U of T researchers make a breakthrough on the study of autism within families

A University of Toronto study has found that not only does the incidence of autism increase within families, but that brothers and sisters with the condition are overwhelmingly likelier to carry different genetic risk factors for the disorder.

The Guardian reports:
Research on 85 families found that siblings with autism had the same genetic risk factors less than one third of the time. In nearly 70% of cases, tests on the siblings revealed little or no overlap in the mutations known to contribute to the condition.

The findings challenge the presumption that the same genetic risk factors are at work when autism runs in families. “We knew that there were many differences in autism, but our recent findings firmly nail that down,” said Stephen Scherer at the University of Toronto.

“This means we should not be looking just for suspected autism-risk genes, as is typically done in diagnostic genetic testing,” Scherer added. Instead, he said a full assessment of a person’s genome was needed if genetic information was ever going to inform their treatment

Read the full story here.
Source: The Guardian.
Photo: CLF via Compfight cc
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