A Minor Adjustment

Spadina Station is a quaint little subway hub that’s the unofficial third of stations where two lines – the Bloor-Danforth (BD) and the Yonge-University-Spadina (YUS) – cross. Added to this is an underground streetcar station outside the one at Union Station, and that there are two separate stops in the same station for each line. It is also one of the most impractically designed of all the stations of the city. While not as warren and intricate as some other stations, it is among the most poorly conceived of the stations.

Take a look at any map that shows the subway system, and you’ll find that both the BD and YUS lines go from St. George to Spadina, then diverge, with the BD continuing west, and the YUS turning north. The main problem lies just north of Spadina, connected by a tunnel, where there is a separate platform for the YUS line. This raises several questions. If the lines diverge at Spadina Station proper, then why isn’t there a platform within the station in the same manner as St. George and Yonge station? There is a platform yes, but it’s about a block away underground and only connected by a tunnel. The whole setup, whatever the reason, has been completely unnecessary.

What should be done is simply scrap the Spadina platform for the YUS line, and close the tunnel to it. This would undoubtedly shorten commute time between St. George and Dupont. While a small handful of people will complain about the closure of the tunnel between the YUS platform and the main station, they’re just only a handful of people who didn’t offer any real solutions to this problem.

What can make the commute time even shorter is to have the line between Dupont and St. George more direct. Make the track diagonal from St. George to Dupont instead of  going west to Spadina then make a 90 degree turn north. If not possible, even making the tunnel from St. George to Dupont diagonal just enough, will shorten commuting time. If people wanted to get to Spadina Station from the YUS line, they should first go to St. George, then take the BD line heading westbound to Spadina.

For a city threatening to spill over its rim with people, and centuries-old urban planning full of traffic nightmares thanks to British knowhow in terms of road systems, it takes merely baby steps like this,  executed quickly and carefully, with enough people with enough skill, and the will and determination to do it and to do it right, in order to bring about change.

The Analogue Revival

(A long time ago, I wrote this and posted on the community bulletin of GOOD Magazine’s website. Since then . . . I lost the password to my online account there. So I’m having to cut and past it and re-post it here. I’m tempted to tweak certain parts of this article for the sake of making myself more clear, but I don’t want to spoil the original text. Enjoy, indulge, or endure.)

Technology is as much a part of man as is his heart, civilization as his body. Technology is absolutely necessary in the survival and advancement of the species, to gain knowledge and master his environs faster, higher, and farther with more efficiency. Yet there comes a time when everything must have a limit in its advancements or its use. Digital is not environmentally friendly and everything from digital phones to digital video is meant to be used and stored onto a computer. Digital is the worst thing to happen to artists. Convenience causes laziness. Digital has the least resolution that worsens over time and cannot be restored; it deteriorates much more quickly and cannot be stored for long periods of time, nor properly archived because of constant changes and outdating of the formats it’s been recorded on; it can be copied and deleted with a click, accidental or intentional, and with or without consent when it comes to the latter; its cameras last for only a few good months because technology is changing so rapidly; it relies on electricity (batteries or not) that needs constant changing and requires money to provide, which doesn’t make it free or environmentally friendly; it is not secure and cannot be secured from computer glitches, file corruption, viruses or hackers; it can easily be manipulated and tampered with; if your computer forces to close the program you were using to tweak the photograph, you lose it and have to start again or, if you were stupid enough to delete the original on your camera and not save an original copy of the one you’re using, you’re fucked; if your computer shuts down or can no longer function, you’re forced to get a new one instead of sending it away for maintenance and spare parts or doing repairs yourself; when you keep buying new machines within six months, the old one becomes a waste of the very few resources this planet has; and every time you turn on and use a cell phone or camera or computer, you receive an amount of radiation, where its uncertain if it causes cancer. Since when did someone get a tumour for looking at a paper photo or processing film and photographs under the light of a darkroom? There’s a long, detailed list. We have people who read using a Kindle, a stupid electronic gadget for readers too lazy to turn a page. Books are the foundation of civilization as is paper and machines. Why need to have a backlit digital frame for your digital photos when you could use the fucking sun, for free, to look at pictures of people, places and things printed on paper? While a digital camera would short-circuit in the rain, mechanical ones are almost multi-seasonal and last for decades if given regular maintenance and good care. As for money, cheap digital cameras that you can’t really use manually and personalize their photographs can be found anywhere, catering to the common customer, not the photographer. They’re designed for only family moments, not artistic creativity; the former requires no effort, while the latter inspires real effort. Granted, digital can be only useful in the newsroom, science lab and army, since it is instantaneous and the speed of information is necessary for news and journalism, analysis and research and experimentation, intelligence and tactics … but that is where it should stay, and that’s how far it should only go. Only news, scientific and military video and photos should be digital. Print news must also move back from cyberspace to the paper pages of a newspaper or magazine. Important and crucial online news articles and reporting can’t last long, because they end up as a dead link or 404 or defaced by bored vandals within months, with the original article forever lost. The largest threat to digital photography and digital filmmaking is the possibility of collateral damage in the midst of a cyber-war. At least, though, that would rid the internet of the puerile junk that occupies 90% of YouTube, especially ones that overuse the soundtrack of Requiem For A Dream, which is a film that one could bet 99% of all who uses its soundtrack never saw it. However, it would also rid YouTube of the other (excluding 9% that are corporate channels) 1% that are original productions of users. Internet is no different from television. It gets its revenues from advertisers, and in turn the website modifies itself to keep those advertisers. What is so wrong with working to earn a living so you can buy what you want, to simply pay a few dollars for a book or magazine or a book of photographs or a film? Because something is free, it means you have no need to work to earn money, but rely on others that do, becoming a useless parasite who will one day lose his internet and find himself in the dark, alone, fat, powerless and broke? Thus to all artists and filmmakers, photographers and designers, calligraphers and writers, go back to 35mm and 120 film, go back to film projectors and splicers, go back to the darkroom, go back to the printing press with its crisp type and handmade covers. Getting something for free isn’t defying the corporation that owns your technology and your communication. You’re still paying it your internet fees. When you buy a book or zine, all (or most of) your money goes to its creator to create more. Your interest feeds the author or artist of the work you bought, not their interest in you. There’s a difference between a fast food menu and an art gallery. Return your digital cameras and camcorders and buy or demand a film one. If you want to digitize your photos, save enough to get a film scanner so that your original negatives don’t get destroyed if some hacker shitwad raids your hard drive and either deletes it, corrupts it or, horror of horrors, copies or steals your lovely works and claim it as their own, selling it online for 99¢. In fact, buy a new or used enlarger and other darkroom equipment, and look around the house for a room to work in. Learn how to manually focus again and what film speed to use; know the difference between depth of field and depth of focus, what papers have the best grain for the look on your photographs, how to dodge and burn. Forget the blog and start publishing in magazines and anthologies again or start your own.

It’s time for an analogue revival, a counter-digital revolution.

Factories, Not Condos!!!

Recently, I watched a documentary called Poor Us: An Animated History about the history of world poverty, and it got me thinking about what I’ve been wanting to say over the past few years.

In the economic heart of this fair “country” of ours, Toronto has a serious problem: there’s too many condos being built. These ugly buildings made of glass and steel are houses in the form of apartment complexes which, in turn, creates no profit for the owners of the building. This isn’t creating jobs either here, nor anywhere else in Canada.

The only solution to poverty is employment. Not just that, but employment with good wages, enough for a decent living. Maximize profit without it being at the expense of the environment or the rights of the worker or the needs of the state. But condos don’t create jobs. Factories do. Because once a condo’s finished, what happens? Do we just keep building condos for the imaginary broad number of affluent people out there? These condos, constructed entirely out of concrete and glass, won’t even last ten to fifteen years!

Toronto itself should either hire local companies who are in good standing, or form its own construction company, with workers who are able-bodied and of sound mind (even going as far as literally picking them from off the street and paying them in cash), and after vigorous training and organizing unemployed people into public construction workers, give them the task of building at least two factories and one apartment complex near them per year, and that the property of these factories are owned by the City. Not just factories, but also all public buildings within the City, be them libraries, schools, subway stations, hospitals, etc. Now, of course, schools aren’t actually public but run by the churches

The only way this can be achieved is with political willpower and public pressure, two things that Toronto lacks. Petitions, protests, even civil disobedience, should be only the beginning. Local elections are important, because it affects us the most directly. We need to organize, and not just elect active, energetic and dedicated politicians who represent the needs and interests of the people, but also be part of the political process, going as far as running for office. Those who don’t should either be bribed with the promise of re-election if they act (regardless of their conviction), or dump their ass and replace them with someone who would act on the people’s behalf. We need to remove those who are corporate whores out of office, and put in those who want things to work for the benefit of all.

If I were city councillor, I’d push for three things:

  1. Focus on building factories that would be owned by the city and rented out to companies who’d be willing to pay the rent of a fair rate per month;
  2. Slash TTC fares and passes down to affordable rates (for example: $2 adult, $1.75 senior; $10 day pass; $100 adult metro pass), then impose a requirement that in future, only raising rates of TTC fares and passes must be approved by at least two-thirds of all members of City Council; and finally
  3. Impose a luxury sales tax of one cent for every item of at least $500 sold, in exchange for Toronto to be given the right to allow stores here to sell their goods HST-free because, well, we’re the capital of Ontario.

This should be the bare minimum of any local politician’s agenda, and a realistic yet worthy cause to push for. Though more extreme ideas, such as scrapping the HST altogether, and providing free TTC, should be considered. Personally, I’d like to see the TTC fares (for adults as an example) be slashed down to $1, Day Passes to $5, and MetroPasses to $75, but we should be realistic in our goals. While free is tempting, we also got to be mindful of the problem of population control in the city, an issue I’ll get to at another time. In the meanwhile, let’s begin change at home.

A Brief Case for Hydrogen Fuel

In these times, as the crisis of peak oil and environmental collapse looms and threatens all life, one of the biggest questions remain: what on earth and in hell do we use as a replacement for fossil fuels? The answers could surprise us all. Solar and wind energy are not enough.

See, burning gasoline is a waste. It is composed of hydrocarbons, and every hydrocarbon consists of hydrogen and carbon, and in some cases oxygen. We could be harvesting it for hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, with the first two used for fuelling our vehicles, and carbon to be used for other things such as enriching the soil or creating carbon fibre materials. This may not be an easy task considering the obstacles, but remember that it was once said that humans couldn’t fly. Hydrogen contains a huge amount of energy that is released when it bonds with oxygen molecules. Because of this factor, we could provide much more power on so little fuel, replacing coal, which contains hydrogen and oxygen molecules, and gasoline. Of the little fuel that is produced, we can use it to create electricity that, in turn, powers the plant that harvests hydrogen from gasoline and coal. It should also be considered that some toxic chemicals even contain hydrogen that can be harvested and used for hydrogen fuel.