Or, according to the timestamp on my most recent blog post, so 2012. But I’ve been far from inactive — I’m just over this slow-blog approach. My ongoing efforts at creation can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.
Photos, video and liveblogging from my trip to Mexico City to train journalists to cover news in real time.
This story was originally published by Dandyhorse, a Toronto bike mag I help edit.
When my boss told me I could tack a few vacation days onto the tail end of a work trip to California, the first thing I thought about were those infamously steep San Francisco hills. My calves whimpered in protest. But, oh yes, I would conquer them.
San Francisco is a pretty small city, stretching only 11 km from coast to coast and 11 km from the northern tip to the southern city limits. I was able to cross a bunch of landmarks off my list during one afternoon ride. I rented a bike ($30/day) at the Fisherman’s Wharf farmers’ market, scooted over to Chinatown (one of the largest in the world) and cruised over the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Biking the bridge was a bit nerve-wracking, considering you’re sharing a narrow strip of pavement with other cyclists and wandering pedestrians, but once in a while you catch a tourist-free patch and you’re sailing.
This city has more to offer cyclists than tourist traps, of course. I asked a few commuter types how they tackle those insane hills, and most told me that they are able to plan routes that skip the worst parts. And when they can’t avoid them, bike lanes, dedicated merge markings and generally wider streets make it easy for cyclists to trundle uphill without worrying about traffic running over the slower folk.
A state culture that values sustainability creates lots of opportunities for cyclists. I spent some time in Berkeley, where the massive student population is served by a wide network of lanes, sharrows and lights specifically for cyclists. I especially liked that free 24-hour indoor parking is available to residents and students.
Further south in Mountain View, Google’s massive headquarters has plenty of bike racks for employees, but it’s also littered with primary-coloured mini bikes for employees to travel from lot to lot.
Back in San Fran, one of the most drool-worthy cyclist features I found is one you can’t see at all. City planners have implemented a “green wave” into a popular stretch of San Fran along Valencia Street. Picture 10 carefully timed lights that allow riders to maintain a reasonable clip without stopping. The wave cuts through the city’s Mission District, home to some of the world’s best burritos (I spotted a few bike stickers that measured fuel in burritos per mile). Valencia St. is home to an up-and-coming neighbourhood with plenty of hip shops and bike stores, and some business owners I spoke with praise the wave for bringing extra traffic to their strip. Almost as impressive, cars are parked in the middle of the road so cyclists can avoid the painful door prize that accompanies a carelessly opened car door.
Infrastructure is key to creating a harmonious relationship between modes of transportation. California state law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians. And that attitude extends toward cyclists as well; I had a few drivers yield me their right-of-way rather than force me to stop on steep hills. Are you taking notes, Toronto?
Those wise words were belted out by the head cheerleader in Bring it On: The Musical, which opened this week at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre. It could be a metaphor expect she means it literally. This show has plenty of flying.
Read the rest of my review over at Mooney On Theatre
Ice bike racing is part of Toronto’s rich cycling history. Going on something like 18 years now, the ice bike race – now known as Icycle – is the most anticipated cycling event of the season. It all started on the Toronto Islands (naturally, a car-free paradise of cycling savvy citizens) when a group of people decided to build a track on a frozen lagoon near Algonquin Island. Here’s a great photo of that original ice wall at one end of the track from Jet Fuel‘s Flickr stream. Legend has it that someone fell through the ice and parks officials put an end to the ice bike races on the lagoon.
So nowadays the ice bike race happens on the much safer Dufferin Grove skating rink. And on the night of February 18, a large crowd of cyclists, having stuck hundreds of little screws into their tires, spent several hours racing in circles and falling on their asses. Welcome to Icycle. Continue reading
Just in times for V-day, Toronto artist Elicser Elliott (the man behind the badass typewriter painting on top of my blog) launched an illustrated book called Know Love, a look at love as kids see it. Here’s a few flicks I took at the launch last Friday.
Famous playwright Sandor Turai has just overheard his nephew’s fiancée cavorting with another man. So has his nephew. This isn’t good for business, since Turai’s nephew composes the sugar-coated melodies that accompany his words on stage. In other words, the playwright has a vested interest in keeping his composer happy.
So, as any reasonably vain man would do, he concocts a plan to save his nephew’s upcoming nuptials with his playwrightfulness. The task: incorporate the cheating pair’s pillow talk to help float a story that the affair was merely rehearsal for an ancient French play that nobody had heard of that would be performed that very night. And so truth becomes a lie and lies become truth. Still with me?
ScribbleLive has had a hand in reporting on the tumultous Arab Spring. A tool that removes traditional barriers to publishing can empower reporters and photographers, and in countries that have a tight grip on information, real-time reporting allows journalists to spread news quickly before governments can clamp down. ScribbleLive is used by news orgs such as Al Jazeera and Reuters to push information from the heart of violent protests to the rest of the world.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still huge challenges facing people working from the field. These brave men and women were honoured last night at the annual awards gala hosted by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), which focussed on courgeaous reporting and whistleblowing.
ScribbleLive donated its liveblog software to the CJFE. The organization uses it to cover their forums and galas: this is Scribble’s second year attending the ceremony (I’ve liveblogged both times, and have written for their International Press Freedom review for the past three years). It’s a humbling night packed with videos and speeches from talented journalists risking their lives, facing threats, jail, beatings and even murder, all in the pursuit of important stories. The most harrowing part of the evening was a slideshow listing the names and countries of journalists killed in 2011 — 89 so far. The audience gasped as Mexico flitted across the screen, where the names of the dead filled the entire page.
My favourite quote of the evening, from Egyptian journalist Mohamed Abdelfattah, talking about how his president equated journalism to spying. “Journalists are like spies: both seek information. But the spy hands it to authorities, and the journalist hands it to the public interest.”
A posthumous award was given to Ron Haggart, and his daughter shared a video of a speech where he derided the state of Canadian journalism, with it’s ever-shrinking pool of voices. A trio of scientists won an award for their whistleblowing role in exposing a dangerous bovine hormone. Abdelfattah and Yemeni journalist Khaled al-Hammadi were awarded the prestiguous International Press Freedom award for their contributions to Arab Spring reporting (I profiled al-Hammadi for the Press Freedom Review.
Check out CJFE’s liveblog for videos and transcripts of speeches, a photojournalism slideshow, tweets from the audience and photos of the powerful editorial cartoons exhibit.
Earlier this week I liveblogged the screening of a documentary called Prosecutor, which followed the first trial of the International Criminal Court and its chief prosecutor, an Argentinian lawyer named Luis Moreno-Ocampo. The ICC was launched in 2002 to deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity, following the footsteps of the Nuremberg Nazi trials, but not beholden to a specific country or travesty. Instead, Moreno-Ocampo is tasked with bringing an end to impunity enjoyed by leaders who engage in rape, murder, genocide and other acts of aggression. As such, plenty of controversy follows the court. The documentary is directed by Torontonian Barry Stevens, who followed Moreno-Ocampo to The Hague, the Democratic Republic of Congo and into the prosecutor’s own home to create a compelling glimpse into one of the world’s toughest gigs. Moreno-Ocampo is charming and affable, but takes a no-bullshit approach to his role. Stevens captures powerful scenes from across war-ridden territories, and doesn’t shy away from pushing the Prosecutor to answer tough questions about the role of the ICC. I loved that he managed to mix plenty of humour and humanity in with devastating testimony from victims and cold hard facts about the terror-mongers who lead child soldiers into unspeakable acts. Following the screening, Stevens joined Moreno-Ocampo and Canadian diplomat Stephen Lewis onstage to answer questions from the audience: and there were plenty of tough questions there as well. ScribbleLive donated the software and I donated my time to liveblog the conversation, giving me the opportunity to meet Moreno-Ocampo in person — which should come in handy should I ever be accused of genocide.
I was in College Park, Maryland to liveblog a journalism conference this weekend and couldn’t resist trekking to nearby Washington to check out #occupyDC. Demonstrators have occupied two parks close to the White House, where food stations, first aid tents and heated debates fill dual tent cities. Handmade signs demanded an end to the US-led wars and country-wide access to health care. The folks in both camps were a mix of students and homeless Washingtonians. One particularly jovial duo even served me up a grilled cheese sandwich from a hotplate atop a shopping cart. Here are photos from both camps:
Earlier this week I volunteered to liveblog a panel discussion called Thrown under the Omnibus, where a passionate collection of experts from the fields of law, harm reduction, prison, women, youth and victims’ rights gathered to discuss the implications of Bill C-10, the new crime bill currently being rushed through Parliament. This “tough on crime” legislation is a big reason why the Conservatives were elected — it was a major part of their platform. The average Canadian is for it — who wouldn’t want to keep their communities safe? Problem is, the actual meat of the bill will do anything but. Continue reading
“Life is going to kill you, whether you advance or you retreat.” That’s my favourite line from a poem my cousin performed at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word last week. I was there to cheer on his team – The Burlington Slam Project – while they competed for a spot in the semi-finals, but I needn’t of worried: the team quickly earned their own cheering section.
Biking home through the financial district during rush hour is normally the most stressful part of my day. But thanks to a gaggle of Occupy Toronto protesters, the road was shut down to vehiclar traffic yesterday. That left streetcars, pedestrians and cyclists to reign over a long, smooth, obstacle-less stretch of asphalt along King Street. Made it home in record time, even though I stopped to take some flicks with my phone. Bike cops stood around, looking bored and herding people away from the streetcar tracks. The Guy Fawkes character up top had about a dozen photographers around him. Me included.
The second day of the official occupation of a usually-empty park, blocks away from the heart of the financial district, was pretty low key. The multi-generation protesters of Occupy Toronto that took part in the march on Saturday had largely disappeared, leaving behind a gaggle of student-aged people who sat around the park reading books, setting up tents and painting slogans onto pieces of cardboard. A few political evangalists held court, while a group of loosely-organized young people attempted to plan a meeting, in hopes of making their message clear. It’s worth checking out if only to read the homemade signs.