Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

Where's Zanta?

zantaI'm not sure I miss the guy, in fact I'm fairly certain I don't, but I'm still curious...

Where's Zanta these days?

I haven't seen the guy or read anything about him in at least a year.

Here's the doc about Zanta from Pietro Gagliano.

Here's a Valentine's Day card I cooked up in 2008.


Is Zanta fulfilling his life-long dream of opening an ESL Ontario school? If you know where Zanta is these days and how he's doing, please update us here.

Rob Ford's So Ridiculous, Even His Allies Think He's Nuts

city hallIt's shit like this, Rob Ford.

Mayor Rob Ford opposed every one of Toronto’s community grants programs at a council meeting Tuesday.

The city's grants allocations for 2011 were about to sail through council without a discussion or vote when Ford rose to say he wanted to be recorded as opposing all of the grants programs. Council then voted on them individually.

Ford lost 43-1 in votes on four of the programs: Access, Equity and Human Rights, which provides money to groups working on issues related to “race relations, gender equity, literacy, disability, sexual orientation, and Aboriginal affairs”; Community Safety, for groups that work to prevent violence in priority neighbourhoods; Community Recreation, for groups “providing activities that address gaps in available services provided by city recreation services”; and Community Festivals and Special Events.

His brother, Councillor Doug Ford, joined him in opposing Community Service Partnership grants, for groups working to improve access to services “that improve social outcomes for vulnerable, marginalized and high-risk communities.” They lost 42-2.

Rob Ford did not explain his opposition to the programs during the meeting. He has not yet spoken to reporters.

To recap, Ford declares he's not going to support any of the grants programs, refuses to say why, and gets destroyed in the subsequent votes. 43-1 until his bro steps in on one to make it 42-2.

Even Rob Ford's allies on council wouldn't vote with him. Vulnerable, marginalized and high-risk communities be damned! Ridiculous.

Rob Ford Has No Pride

city hallI gave Rob Ford the benefit of the doubt all week. Surely he'd come to his senses, follow the avalanche of good advice he received from Toronto mayors past, and march in today's Pride Parade. He didn't.

Mayor Rob Ford successfully boycotted Pride Week, avoiding all 10 days of events. He even blew off a Pride Toronto flag-raising at Nathan Philips Square so that he could meet Leafs GM Brian Burke, a man who marched in the Pride Parade last year and today in support of his late son. Now that took balls.

This is the first time the city’s mayor has missed Pride since Barbara Hall started the tradition during her term in office. Refusing to give Pride Week even 10 minutes of his time, Rob Ford went to to great lengths to ensure this proud tradition ended. Instead of sending a powerful message that homophobia is not tolerated in our city, Rob Ford gave homophobes throughout the city a poster boy for their hateful cause.

Rob Ford has no pride. What an embarrassment to this great city.


What Happens to the Poo at the High Park Zoo?

zooI've written about the High Park Zoo before. If you're looking for deer, llama, various sheep and goats, yaks, bisons, peacocks and more, why drive all the way to the Meadowvale Road and 401 and spend a fortune?

The kids and I were checking out the aforementioned deer, llama, various sheep and goats, yaks, bisons and peacocks, and noticed some new signage, including an answer to the question you've likely asked yourself countless times. What happens to the poo at the High Park Zoo?


The zookeepers collect the poo every morning and take it to the manure pit. Once a week, the poo is collected by a large tractor and taken to a compost pit in the High Park service yard. There, the poo is left to break down or decompose. The poo is turned so the air can reach to the middle of the pile, and is then left to continue decomposing. The finished product is called compost and is rich in nutrients. It is then used in the gardens and flower beds of High Park to make the plants grow.

Personally, I think that story is full of shit.

Mike Wilner on Aaron Lobel: Where's Aaron Today?

questionmarkI used to watch a little call-in sports show on Cable 10 called Let's Talk Sports. I wrote about Let's Talk Sports over six years ago if you want to read a little more about my memories of this cheesy local sports show from yesteryear.


The hosts were Mike Wilner and Aaron Lobel. We all know what happened to Mike Wilner: he's host of Jays Talk on The Fan 590 and one of the top Jays reporters in the city. But what of Aaron Lobel?

Thanks to a twitter exchange with Mike Wilner yesterday, we know what happened to Aaron Lobel, and it might surprise you.


From America Abroad Media:

Aaron Lobel founded America Abroad Media (AAM) and serves as the organization's president and chairman of the board, as well as executive producer of America Abroad and AAM Television. Mr. Lobel received a Ph.D. in International Affairs from Harvard University's Department of Government, where he was also awarded the University's top teaching award, the Joseph Levenson Prize. Prior to founding America Abroad Media, Mr. Lobel was a Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.; National Security Fellow at the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University; and a National Security Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he edited Presidential Judgment: Foreign Policy Decision Making in the White House (Hollis Press 2001).

Mr. Lobel currently serves on the Advisory Board of Business for Diplomatic Action, Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a consultant to the Bipartisan Policy Center. Mr. Lobel is a native of Toronto, Canada. He lives in Washington, D.C with his wife and son.

I'd still prefer to fill Mike's shoes than Aaron's.

Let's Complain About The Weather

weatherIt's May 17. June is right around the corner. On my drive into work this morning, I had to put on the heat.


Did spring sleep in? Will somebody wake her up?

Join me as we mass complain about the weather. You'll feel better, I promise.

What the Hell Just Happened? #elxn41

voteToronto, what the hell did you just do?

Prior to last night's federal election, there had never been a Conservative Party MP in the 416. Now there are eight.

Prior to last night's federal election, the Liberal Party dominated Toronto, holding every seat except for Jack and Olivia's. Today, they hold but seven. The NDP now hold eight. If you're keeping score at home, here's how Toronto's 23 seats measure up.

  • NDP: 8
  • Conservatives: 8
  • Liberals: 7


That's a sea of blue, ensuring Stephen Harper was delivered a majority. I'm not going to be overly dramatic here. I'm not leaving this country. But I am concerned with what King Harper will do with his majority. His ego, his right-wing Reform agenda, unchallenged in parliament - eek!

I've got my first three slo-pitch games scheduled for later this week. My comp team's 2nd baseman's dad tweeted what shall be my entry-closing statement.


Jane Finch Centre Revitalization with Starbucks and Volunteer Canada

rainI'm as cynical as anybody. I understand Starbucks is in the business of selling highly priced hot beverages and hooking us all on caffeine, but I was very impressed by what I participated in yesterday.

As part of their Month of Service initiative, Starbucks got 750 of us to gather at 8am yesterday morning in the cold, pouring rain so we could beautify, clean up, sustain and improve the Jane and Finch community. Yes, they gave us tee-shirts and an unlimited supply of coffee, hot chocolate and Starbucks grub, all part of their corporate branding strategy, but we were also greeted by volunteer carpenters and an abundance of materials and collectively spent several hours building educational gardens, cleaning and painting (both interior and exterior), and building structures such as park-style seating greenhouses, a rainwater catchment system, composters, fencing and retaining walls.

Other than the 90 minutes we were spike-less (I was building these cool benches), it all went off without a hitch, even in the pouring rain. At the end of it all, before I left, I walked around the Jane Finch Centre to see what 750 people high on caffeine could accomplish in one day. It was awfully encouraging.

Good job, Starbucks.


[photo by Becky Hewlett]

680 News Storm Centre Exposed - Exclusive!

SnowHave you heard? It's going to snow tonight. The local media is ecstatic. 680 News, for example, opened their Storm Centre.

It was about seven years ago that I first wondered aloud as to what opening their Storm Centre would entail.

I wonder what setting up the Storm Centre entails exactly. As far as I can tell, it's business as usual with more time devoted to the top story of the morning, our little snow storm. Media outlets like 680News thrive when their listeners in are in a state of fear. Listening to them you'd have thought we were all buried and trapped in our homes living off the food and drink we have stored away. In reality, it's not that bad. Really.

The Storm Centre guy back then was Scott Simpson. I had a chat with Scott Simpson and got an exclusive inside look at the 680 News Storm Centre. We'll call this "680 News Storm Centre Exposed", because that sounds a lot more exciting. The words below belong to Scott.

Setting up the storm centre basically entails somebody telling me, "Simpson, you're on standby for Storm Centre tomorrow." That means I try to get to bed early, but end up tossing and turning until 4:15am when I call the newsroom ... I say, "It's not even snowing. The Weather Network says we're only getting 5cm." They say "Well, it's hit Chicago and they've cancelled a ton of flights. Come on in, you're our man."

That's about it. I get in, I see if any schools are closed, I find out what's up at the airport, maybe call Gary Welsh from Toronto Transportation to see what gear they're sending out, load up the admin side of the web site, and climb on the news wheel ... There's no time to run back and forth into and out of the control room, so I sit at a desk (the proverbial "Storm Centre" which, internally, is dialed up as CHFINEWS, even though they haven't done CHFI news from the newsroom in ... erm ... well, I don't think they ever did. Legacy tech, natch.) and broadcast from there, getting up now and then for fluid management.

So I sit there at the desk, and every half hour they throw to me, I read a sponsor or two, and try to tell it like it is .... sometimes it's a brain-bending five-hour whirlwind of bus cancellations and school closures (how many Montessori schools *are* there in the GTA, and why can't they get their kids to class when it snows?!) though, thankfully, most days I end up saying "Well, there's no big storm here ... but if you're travelling by air, you're screwed." I would rather be the voice of "everything's fine, get out and live your lives!" than the voice of doom and gloom when there's nothing to freak out about. I don't want to get a reputation as Chicken Little. If anything, I downplay the severity of what's going on out of the fact that I don't drive.

I saw Bowling For Columbine and some other stuff that has convinced me that keeping listeners "in a state of fear" is a terrible thing to do. I also don't like "neighbourhoods in a state of shock" or "outraged residents" or such things. I have two rules: tell the truth, and never be boring. They rarely clash, because the truth well told is usually a really interesting story.

There you have it, a Toronto Mike exclusive. Since Scott's left, I think they've gone all "state of fear" on us. Now be afraid... very afraid. White substance is falling from the heavens!

We Burn Down Oshawa First...

cntowerJohn Hastings is a Toronto Comedian and he's doing his very first headlining appearance as a stand-up comedian at the Downtown Yuk Yuks on January 12th to the 16th.

I told him if he wanted a plug he had to write an essay on what he loves and/or hates about Toronto. Here's what he sent me.

I John Hastings love Toronto but like any great love affair a tiny hate sprinkle keeps my love for this city of large towers and bizarrely performing sports teams interesting. I hate the fact that nobody defends this city to the outside criticism that gets thrown at “Big Smoke” on a second by second basis by the people who do not live here. I am a comedian, which is a job that I have, and one of the tasks of that job is to go to every ridiculously tiny town and listen to someone who considers lack of teeth to be a point of pride bash my adoptive home.

Now these naysayers of my apartments location never mention massive traffic, a mayor who looks like a baby with his period or the extreme amount of taxes we face (the taxes in this town are so extreme I as a comedian who does not own a couch is aware that the taxes are outlandish). These summer teeth dolts mention things that do not make any sense when you think about the context in which the complaint is delivered. For example last while in Highland Hamlet Ontario (Not the real name of the town, the change was to protect the innocent it was to protect but due to the fact that I cannot remember the precise name of the town) and while there a man who was chewing tobacco and smoking a cigarette at the same time came up and asked how do I live in Toronto there seems to be nothing going on there. He said this as a resident of a town that did not have a grocery store and what was my response to this attack on my home. I stood there and nodded and said I know what I mean. I should have slapped the cigarette out his mouth and said listen up you hick in my town we burned police cars just because it was weekend in June but no as I previously stated I stood there, I starred, and said I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.

I have no idea what causes this lack of defensive attitude in our people but we need to take a stand and explain to the rest of the country that we Toronto are the big dog in the yard and stop biting our ears of we are going to start biting back. Now how do we send this message? We burn down Oshawa first off I never trust a town that has three Wal-Marts that you can see from the highway yet no houses. As well nobody I am sure will miss it and finally I will roll into Blyth Ontario only to here somebody on snow-mobile say “Be complimentary that joker is from Toronto and last time I made fun of that big stupid tower Tie Domi showed up at my house and punched my dog”. For more gems like this come watch me yell at Yuk Yuks this week the 12th to the 17th 224 Richmond street all shows are at 8 and then 8 and 10:30 on Friday and Saturday.

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