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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Canada now has a gender neutral national anthem

Canada got a new national anthem today when the Senate passed a bill making the national anthem officially gender neutral.

The long overdue update changes the words from "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command". 

The new anthem will likely get its debut on the world stage at the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics which starts in just over a week.

Changes to making the anthem gender neutral have been in the works for some time. The House of Commons gave their approval back in 2016 but Conservatives tried to derail the efforts in the years since.

It took almost a year and a half before the Senate was able to stage a conclusive vote today. It now goes to the Governor General for a final seal of approval.

Here's what the full national anthem looks like now.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

by Staff via blogTO

West Elm opening second Toronto location

West Elm is finally opening a second location in Toronto. It's been nearly ten years since the American store opened its first Canadian location in Liberty Village. Now it's set to open near Yonge and Eglinton.

The furniture chain will be moving into a 16,295 square-foot heritage space that once housed a Restoration Hardware before they consolidated operations and moved to Yorkdale.

Unlike its predecessor Restoration, which deals mostly in hulking classical pieces, West Elm – a division of Williams-Sonoma – retails lighter furniture better suited for condos and tight-space living. 

Along with the brand's own line of home decor, this midtown location will also feature products from seven Toronto-based designers.

Locally made items will include wooden pieces from Son of a Woodcutter and Toronto cityscape photos from Daily City Train.

You can also expect natural soap from The Good Bar, geometric ceramic coasters by Xenia Taler, stationery from Hubbub Paper Co., illustrations from Claire Manning and unique maps from The Neighbourhood Unit.

West Elm will be officially opening its doors on February 15.

by Tanya Mok via blogTO

You can explore an epic ice cave in Ontario this winter

Safety concerns arise after mass overcrowding on the TTC

As I'm sure you all well know by now, the TTC was stupid packed on Tuesday morning thanks to a perfect storm of mechanical issues, signal problems and emergency alarm activations.

Thousands of people were late for work and fuming with frustration by the time they left the subway system, but, despite severe overcrowding, no passengers were seriously injured in the fray.

Could this have played out differently? What if someone had been pushed from an overcrowded platform onto the subway tracks? What if a filled-t0-the-brim underground station needed to evacuate fast?

Some serious concerns are being brought forward in light of yesterday's system-wide snafu –which, it should be noted, almost saw the TTC shut down Bloor-Yonge Station as a means of crowd control.

"It was unbelievably dangerous trying to navigate from Line 2 to Line 1 at Yonge/Bloor this morning," wrote one passenger on Twitter. "Is it going to take some serious harm before something is done?"

"What if there was an emergency? Or a fire? We'd have all been in very serious trouble," wrote someone else. "Please @TTChelps. Do more. Be better. Extreme overcrowding isn't healthy and surely many fire, health, and safety codes are being broken."

So what would the TTC do if, say, an emergency broke out at a station so packed on every level that people could barely move?

"Every station is different and has emergency evacuation procedures in place," says TTC spokesperson Stuart Green. "Our station staff are trained to monitor crowds. In addition to the camera monitoring at Bloor, for example, we have the ability to perform in-person visual inspections and respond accordingly."

As for people falling off open edge platforms, well, it happens – sometimes when service isn't even that busy.

Green says that, because this possibility does exist, it's vitally important for all passengers to observe the yellow warning strips on subway platforms.

"We have a protocol when platforms become crowded which includes enhanced monitoring and slowing trains to 15 km/h so they can safely stop if they need to," he said. "Station staff will also walk the platform to ensure people are a safe distance back from the edge."

The TTC doesn't have any records of people falling to track level due to crowding, according to Green – but should it happen in the future, subway operators are prepared.

"In the rare cases when people are at track level (for whatever reason)," he said, "the priority is to cut power to the third rail and get them back to platform level as quickly and safely as possible."

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

The enduring mystery of the CN Tower Pepsi logo

Do you remember seeing a faded Pepsi logo on the CN Tower’s radome a long time ago?

The radome — that white doughnut shaped ring which protects the microwave equipment at the base of main pod — once bared a phantom reminder of the excesses of the 1980s cola wars, hanging over the skies of Toronto like a giant sugar-water stain for over a decade.

If you do remember it, you are not alone. For some skeptics however, memories of the ghostly Pepsi sign have recently been labeled a local example of the Mandela Effect, a popular internet phenomena named after those strange moments when large numbers of people recall something in a particular way that's wrong or slightly misremembered.

It's named after the curiously great number of people who swear that they saw news reports of Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s when in fact we know he lived until 2012 (other popular examples include a genie movie starring Sinbad called SHAZAAM! and the notion that the Berenstain Bears were originally called the Berenstein Bears). 

The Mandela Effect was the subject of a new episode of The X-Files, wherein the true name of the phenomena itself was called into question (it’s really called the Mingela Effect for those paying attention).

What makes the Pepsi ghost logo such prime fodder for proponents of the Mandela Effect is the fact that not only do many people dispute it ever existed, those who do remember it have wildly differing ideas of when it actually occurred (was it the 80s? the 90s? or 2002?), or what it actually was (a sticker? a banner? a laser show?).

cn tower pepsi logo

You can see the adhesive remains from the the Pepsi logo in this photo from the Toronto Archives.

Further muddying the waters is the lack of any decent photographs detailing the stained logo remnant, or even a single photograph of the supposed original logo before it disappeared.

There exists no official explanation of what it was online; however internet sleuths have popped up over the years attempting to explain it away.

The truth of the ghosting Pepsi logo seems to suggest that no official record was kept of the occurrence because it was an embarrassment for all parties involved.

The brainchild of Pepsi’s maverick group marketing director at the time Roger Baranowski, Pepsi-Cola Canada in association with radio station CFNY 102.1 organized an event called “Pepsi Lights” a laser spectacle atop the CN Tower which ran from late 1986 until early 1987 on a semi-regular basis.

pepsi logo 1980s

The classic Pepsi logo, which temporarily adorned the CN Tower.

The classic 1980s Pepsi logo (created in 1973 and used through until the end of the 1980s) indeed did adorn the CN Tower’s radome, and was created using coloured gels which were stuck to the inside of the radome with an adhesive.

Although few online commentators recall what the laser-driven “Pepsi Lights” show actually looked like, letters to the editor of the Toronto Star from the time reveal a split between those who thought it was cool and those who thought it was a tacky exploitation of a local landmark.

Sadly, attempts to track down video or pictures of the “Pepsi Lights” show have proven to be futile.

When the promotion ended in early 1987, it became apparent that the adhesive used had interacted with the fabric of the radome and left a brownish outline of the logo when the gels were removed.

Quite how the engineers responsible had not anticipated such an effect remains unknown, but the Pepsi ghost logo haunted the Toronto sky until 2002 when the entire radome was replaced.

While it could be argued that Pepsi-Cola Canada got some serious bang-for-their-buck with a logo placement that lasted nearly 16 years on a prime piece of Toronto real estate, the truth is that for 15 and a half of those years it was a blight that most people either didn’t notice or thought was a messy brown stain.

So, not quite the Mandela Effect, but an interesting early use of the Tower as a giant billboard (later initiatives included a Windows ‘95 launch and a Walt Disney World promotion) and a reminder that our collective memories will always be somewhat unreliable.

Thanks to Chris Bateman, Rob Cruickshank, and Tony Chapman for helpful sleuthing efforts.

Ed Conroy's Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at

by Ed Conroy via blogTO

You can spend the night at this urban cottage in Toronto

Toronto is brimming with Airbnb options in downtown condo towers, but the pickings are considerably slimmer if your primary criteria is unique places to stay. Condos are great for business trips, but those looking for a sense of the city's character must look elsewhere.

airbnb cottage torontoOne of my longstanding favourite listings in the city can be found down a laneway in the Annex on Croft St. Described by its owner as an urban cottage, that's exactly what it is, complete with wood beams and a small wood-burning stove. 

airbnb cottage torontoIt's just a short walk from Bathurst Subway Station, but the interior is reminiscent of a cozy cabin in the woods. For yoga fanatics, there's even a studio in the house where the owner conducts classes.

airbnb cottage torontoThe room itself is referred to as the "skylight loft" and has decent separation from the rest of the house, but as a shared space, the interaction with the home owner varies (as the listing freely admits). This probably isn't a good place for super shy types.

airbnb cottage torontoSpecs
  • Address: 94 Croft St.
  • Rental type: Room
  • Max number of guests: 4
  • Neighbourhood: Annex
  • Cost: $68 per night
  • Parking: Not included
  • Pet friendly? No
airbnb cottage torontoWhat's the best feature of the space?

It's oozing with rustic charm, from the fireplace to all the wood and skylights. The dedicated yoga area is a bonus. 

airbnb cottage torontoWhat's something people might not like?

The shared bathroom won't appeal to those who crave privacy. Anyone looking for an upscale short term rental will want to move on. 

by Derek Flack via blogTO

The top 10 events in Toronto this February

The top events in Toronto this February include an epic outdoor beer festival, the newly revamped Fashion Week, and a three day goodbye party for a beloved food and music venue. In addition to all that, there are Valentine's themed pop-up markets, big name concerts, and a number of free events you won't want to miss

Events you might want to check out:

Progress Festival (February 1-18 @ Theatre Centre)
Progress is an international festival of performance and ideas curated and produced by a series of Toronto-based theatres, art centres, and dance communities.
Toronto Tea Festival (February 3-4 @ Toronto Reference Library)
Sample hundreds of the world's finest teas courtesy of over 40 exhibitors stationed at this two day love letter to tea. Last year's over 3000 people attended, so expect to connect with fellow tea lovers.
Toronto Fashion Week (February 5-7 @ Multiple Venues)
The latest installment of Toronto Fashion Week lands this month, and in addition to plenty of runway affairs, it includes an all new speaker series from top voices in the fashion and design industry.
Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival (February 10 @ Roundhouse Park)
Craft beer, food trucks, campfires and DJs await at the Roundhouse’s cheap winter beer festival in February. Tokens sell for $1, then drinks are only one for a half or two for a full pint!
Toronto Black Film Festival (February 14-19 @ Multiple Venues)
Back for a sixth year, the sister festival to the original Montreal show brings films representing storylines about Black people and the work of Black filmmakers to big screens in Toronto.
Rhubarb Festival (February 14-25 @ Buddies in Bad Times Theatre)
Canada's longest running new works festival transforms Toronto into a hotbed of experimentation, creating a space for the most adventurous ideas in theatre, dance, music and performance art.
Wavelength Winter Festival (February 16-18 @ The Garrison)
This is one of the hottest spotlights of indie music all season, with local rising talents like Bossie and Plazas playing the same stage as names like Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning.
Winterfolk (February 16-18 @ Multiple Venues)
Toronto's annual blues and roots music festival returns to the Danforth this month for an all ages tour of five iconic venues over three days, with more than 150 artists performing.
D-Beat Forever Fest (February 17 @ D-Beatstro)
The beloved vegan cafe, live music venue and DIY event space announced earlier this year that they're shutting down in February, but not before a three day music fest in honour of its tight-knit community.
The Artist Project (February 22-25 @ Better Living Centre)
250 of the top contemporary artists from Canada and abroad grace Toronto with their work for the Artist Project. You can even buy pieces directly from the artists who stand out to you.
Yoko Ono The Riverbed (February 22 - June 3 @ Gardiner Museum)
Multi-decade, multi-discipline artist and activist Yoko Ono brings her three part Riverbed installation to Toronto. The installation is billed as something of a temporary art village inside the Gardiner Museum.

by Corey Van Den Hoogenband via blogTO

More grocery stores implicated in bread price-fixing scandal

At least seven companies are now believed to have participated in a nearly 15-year-long, industry-wide "price-fixing arrangement involving certain packaged bread products."

Does this mean we're all getting more free $25 gift cards?

Maybe – but the consequences could be a lot more serious for implicated grocers like Metro, Sobey's and Walmart, who – unlike Loblaws - didn't receive immunity in exchange for cooperating with investigators.

Newly released court documents related to the bread price-fixing scandal show that Canada's Competition Bureau believes the following companies "committed indictable offences under the Competition Act."

Loblaw Companies Ltd., Walmart Canada Corp., Sobeys Inc., Metro Inc., Giant Tiger Stores Ltd., and the wholesale suppliers Canada Bread Company Ltd. and George Weston Ltd.

The independent federal law enforcement agency says that all seven companies colluded to raise the prices of many packaged bread products in their stores for more than a decade.

This saw saw countless customers across the country paying more for bread than they should have between 2001 and 2015.

Both Loblaw and George Weston, as we now know, are paying penance for their participation in the scheme by sending out $25 grocery cards to eligible Canadians.

It is not yet known what will happen to executives involved from the other retailers and wholesaler, but as the Canadian Press reports – the Competition Bureau believes they all committed indictable offences.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

The TTC will close a major portion of Line 1 this weekend

After a rocky week with messy morning commutes on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the TTC will have its first scheduled weekend subway closure of the year.

There will be no subway service on Line 1 between St. Clair West and Union stations on February 3 and 4 due to signal upgrades. 

Shuttle buses will operate between St. Clair West and Spadina stations, stopping at Dupont Station only. Take note, there will be no shuttle bus service south of Bloor Street as passengers are recommended to use the Yonge side of the Line 1.

TTC Subway Closure

Regular scheduled service will resume on Monday morning, assuming that there there are no more cracked rails to deal with. The next scheduled closure will halt weekend service on Line 1 between Lawrence and St. Clair stations on February 10 and 11 due to track work.

by Jaclyn Skrobacky via blogTO

Blue supermoon dazzles skywatchers in Toronto

Toronto is a getting a stunning new contemporary art museum this spring

The brand new Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto is just about ready to open its doors after a nearly three-year-long absence from the city's arts and culture scene. 

Block off May 26, 2018 on your calendars, ladies and gentlemen, for what Architectural Digest has dubbed one of the "most noteworthy museums opening this year."

The museum will launch its programming with an exhibition called BELIEVE, in which 15 local, Canadian and other international artists explore the "beliefs and systems that inform our values and behaviours while touching upon some of the fundamental issues of our times."

MOCA (formerly known as MOCCA – the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art) will be located on the first few floors of the iconic Tower Automotive Building on Sterling Road in the Junction Triangle. 

This new, 55,000 square foot purpose-designed home will be nearly three times larger than the space previously occupied by MOCCA on West Queen West.

It'll also feature over 20 artist studios offered via Akin, which will help to make the place a creative hub more than just an exhibition space, which has been the plan all along. 

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO