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Sliding the Past into the Future

Came across this terrific slide show (in more ways than one, waaah wah) posted on the NY Times examining the fall of the Berlin Wall.  First time I’d seen a technique like this presented so elegantly.  Check it out, I guarantee you’ll get hooked on sliding the pictures back and forth. (As an aside, I can’t figure out if photographers were commissioned to recreate the old pictures, or if they are stock photos photo-shopped to match – anyone know?)

Anyway, as cool as this is, the real reason this grabbed my attention was the perspective it offered on both the loss of older buildings in a city, but more importantly the reuse of older buildings.  Some are restored, some are integrated into newer buildings.  Before/after photo comparisons aren’t anything new, but the ability to seamlessly layer the pictures in this way provides a terrific opportunity to examine what happened to the buildings in the photographs.

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Toronto has design lessons to teach?

Don’t you just love when you come up with a timely post that is validated by someone else?

Benjamin Forgey (all the smart people are named Ben) had a nice piece in the Washington Business Journal recounting his recent visit to Toronto and his impressions of the AGO, ROM and OCAD, and what lessons Washington D.C. planners can take.

His take on the AGO is especially nice, and sums up what I tried to express in my previous post by saying the AGO makes me “happy”.  He just does it a bit more elegantly.

Check out the article here, it’s worth a read.

Thanks go to Urban Toronto contributor yyzer for the tip.

Rules of the Road – or lack thereof

It is good to be back.

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been motivated to take keyboard in hand once again thanks to a random incident a couple of weeks ago.  Let me set the stage.

So, November 3 was a cool and blustery Tuesday.  I had the day off work and decided to go for a bike ride.  I headed south-east from Yonge and Eglinton to Pape and Danforth, just for kicks.  For anyone who hasn’t ridden in Toronto, any time you are heading south it is all downhill.  Conversly, the way home can be a major pain.

So, on the way back home I’m headed uphill with a nasty headwind to boot.  As I’m chugging along a gentleman in a silver PT Cruiser slows down next to me, lowers his window and shouts, “Hey buddy, there’s no bike lane here!”

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Ben Co. is dead. Long live Ben Co.

That’s right, folks. After an extremely extended break I have finally found my muse. All thanks to a jerk in a PT Cruiser (more on that in a while).

In any case, for anyone still out there, Ben Co. will be going through a metamorphoses. We’ll be cocooning for a little bit while we update the site and develop some new material, but will emerge as a glorious, focused, slightly (very slightly) more mature site: Third Rail Repository.

So, dust off that RSS feed and get ready for some new tasty bits from your favourite contributors.

Public Service Announcement #4

To the young woman crossing Broadway Ave. just east of Yonge St.:

Please note that if I ever come across you using the letters “O – M – G” in a sentence in the place of “oh my god” or even “oh my gawd” I will be forced to report you to the province, which will then perform a court ordered hysterectomy on you in order to ensure that your obviously flawed DNA will not be passed on to future generations.

To all others who might consider using texting shorthand in your speech, this serves as a general warning.  These abbreviations shouldn’t have a place in text, let alone speech.  If I catch you saying “L – O – L” instead of actually, well, laughing, the same sterilization awaits you.

End PSA.

Michigan Playing Ping-Pong with Public Health

It’s been roughy a decade since the effort to ban smoking in Michigan’s places of business has begun. Now, it seems that the state’s Senators and Representatives have finally been given the cash vision to see that banning smoking will not harm businesses and could actually be good for the economy in both he short and long term. In fact, both branches of government have already passed bills to ban smoking and Governor Granholm seems poised to sign a smoking ban into effect.

So…….what’s the hold up?

Apparently, the Senate and the House can’t seem to agree on some of the finer details of the bill. While the Senate passed a straight ban across the board, the House feels that a gentler, semi-ban would be more appropriate. Their version includes exempions for casinos, tobacco shops, casinos, cigar bars, casinos, bingo halls, casinos, horse tracks, and casinos. It’s fairly obvious that the states bingo halls have gained enough wealth and influence to lobby the House into stalemating this bill for as long as possible.

And so the match continues. The Senate passes one version and sends it over to the House. The House changes it, passes it and sends it back to the Senate. In the meantime, Michigan is at risk of losing her chance to show her progressive nature by becoming only the 35th state to pass a full/partial ban on smoking.

Thanks a lot checks and balances.

Goodbye, Gardiner?

On Friday the Toronto Star led with a report that Mayor David Miller has finally gotten behind a plan to start tearing down the god awful Gardiner expressway along the Toronto waterfront. While the proposed plan doesn’t remove the entire expressway, it is a promising start.

The proposed plan (which is light on details) suggests tearing down the 2.5 kms of the Gardiner, from the Don Valley Parkway to Jarvis street. The stretch is highlighted below (click for larger image).

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Americans Driving At Historic Lows

The U.S. Department of Transportation is reportingthat Americans are continuing their downward trend in driving, with estimated vehicle miles traveled on all U.S. roads in March 2008 falling 4.3 percent compared to March 2007.

Hand in hand with these posts (here and here), there was a nice op ed piece I wanted to share from the NY Times.

Basically, the author, Thomas Friedman, says that whomever becomes president (he seems to be leaning towards Obama) needs to have enough will to actually tell the American people what they apparently don’t want to hear: High gas prices are not going away and the country needs to change its habits.

A couple of points really jumped out at me.  Most of us have probably seen the Dodge ads where they are offering cheap gas for 3 years – Friedman compares this to tobacco companies offering cheap smokes to kids.  Essentially Dodge is acting as a drug dealer, pushing big old SUVs down the throats of addicts.

I’ll leave you with this bit from the article:

I can’t say it better than my friend Tim Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics, did in a Memorial Day essay in The Washington Post: “So Dodge wants to sell you a car you don’t really want to buy, that is not fuel-efficient, will further damage our environment, and will further subsidize oil states, some of which are on the other side of the wars we’re currently fighting. … The planet be damned, the troops be forgotten, the economy be ignored: buy a Dodge.”

He’s right, too…Obama did have the guts to point out that the McCain/Clinton gas tax holiday proposal was worthless pandering.  Let’s just hope he has the guts to do a big time intervention to get us off our car addictions, as well.

Thanks to Jimsey for the tip on this one.
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