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Walking by cars on a sunny evening.

I used to walk from “A” to “B” in downtown Toronto to feel good about myself. Clocking 10,000 steps on my FitBit; finding delightful new alleyways and shortcuts; neither spending money nor polluting the world; all these gave my steps an extra lift.

That’s all changed now, and for the better.

This summer Toronto’s traffic congestion will be something the city itself perpetually strives for and fails to be: world-class. Indeed, it’s already on the podium. Last year Toronto ranked 7th among the worst cities in the world for traffic congestion, just below New York and Bogota.

This happened because City Hall and Queen’s Park banded together (a rare thing) and green-lighted the annual pothole repair work, lane widening, lane narrowing, and bike-lane building that turns every summer into a driver’s nightmare.

AND they decided to dig up Queen Street West and East at the same time.

AND do major repairs to the Gardiner (through to 2027).

AND build the Ontario Line, a major new subway that runs through gobs of blocks of downtown.

AND keep postponing the end-date for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, whose first shovel pierced the pavement in 2011 when Barack Obama was President, Dalton McGuinty was Premier and Rob Ford was Mayor. Do our planners not know the phrase: “Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once?”

Our reaction to this poly-chaos has been to ask: “Why can’t our governments coordinate their road-improving programs to avoid this?”

Perhaps we should change the question to: “What possible benefit could the City and Province get from citizens who are terrified of driving in Toronto for fear it will take two hours to drive the two blocks from Avenue Road to Yonge?”

I can tell you what will benefit: your health.

I admit, being deprived of the ability to drive, while paying for parking in your driveway or underground lot, with the good chance your car will get stolen anyway, may not be great for your mental health. But it’s fantastic for your physical health – and your mood in the moment.

Walking is now The Better Way for anyone who lives within 4 or 5 miles of King and Bay. Indeed, I can walk from our apartment at Bloor and Yonge to King and Bay in 35 minutes. And I don’t have to find a parking space, let alone pay for it. I also don’t have to lock my bike or worry what time I set out in order to avoid the bumper-to-bumper-to-bike traffic.

How long to walk from Yonge and St. Clair to King and Bay? 45 minutes. Yonge and Eglinton to King and Bay? An hour and a half.

These are now all respectable times for driving those distances.

Afraid of getting bored on your walk? There are billions of podcasts for you to listen to. Afraid of freezing or boiling? There’s no such thing as bad weather; there’s only bad gear.

So let the planners turn our roads into parking malls; let vehicular traffic grind to a halt. Toronto is on the march.

Meanwhile…..

1. How many real millionaires live in Toronto? I don’t mean ‘house-and-home’ millionaires in a city where the average price of a home is $1,152,615 (Toronto MLS April 2024).

I mean people who have a million dollars or more beyond their home. The answer is 106,000 which ranks Toronto fifth in North America behind New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago – and 13th in the world. Toronto also has 195 centi-millionaires and 18 billionaires. This, from the latest report from Henley & Partners.

2. What do you know about the science of physiognomy? First of all, it’s not a science. But predicting someone’s behaviour by their appearance has a long and sordid history that threatens to grow worse via AI, i.e. it can tell if you’re a criminal from your driver’s license photo. I hear the police knocking on my door now.

Meanwhile, this just in from the American Urological Association convention: Is there an Over-the-Counter solution for erectile dysfunction?

3. All are welcome. Except those who aren’t. And the same group feels strongly about another issue. And please eat your rainbow of fruits and vegetables. And where to hook up with a new companion. Plus best puns ever. Finally, all are welcome at this new Greenwich Village fitness club: fees are just $10,000 a month.

4. AI advances. No more crying “Nurse! Plus how Pearson Airport uses AI. And….an incredible advance, now you can have a conversation in real-time with an AI bot. (start at 8:58).

5. The media was a thing once. Britain’s big papers have called out Apple over ad blocking. They’ve warned Apple that imposing a “web eraser” to block ads would starve the papers even more than online and social media news services do now. Apple’s move is the indirect result of a new AI-based privacy feature that removes unwanted content.

Next, how the fall of journalism means the fall of swagger.

And Tara Henley on how to restore trust in the media. Better happen soon.

6. Finally, a Canadian Pulitzer winner. A Canadian woman won the Pulitzer Prize last month, America’s premier award in journalism, books, music and drama. Katie Englehart, based in Toronto and New York, won for her feature article, “The Mother Who Changed: A Story of Dementia” in The New York Times Magazine.

Canadians win only rarely, given that the winners’ work must be published or performed in the US. One of the very few was Carol Shields who won in 1995 for her novel, The Stone Diaries.

7. The man whose musings fuel Musk. He’s a Concordia marketing professor and Elon hangs on his words, as Gad Saad hangs on Elon’s. They’re both into the Woke Mind Virus, which Gaad spelled out in his 2020 book, The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas are Killing Common Sense, and in his YouTube show, The Saad Truth.

Plus, a timely note on extremophiles.

8. De-composing. How was the iconic BBC News theme tune created 25 years ago? Composer David Lowe describes what he did.

9. “We’ve become addicted to explosions.” The IDF unit responsible for demolishing homes across Gaza.” From Bellingcat, the unimpeachable source for open-source intelligence.

But I’m caught in the shrill counter-claims of my Jewish and Muslim friends. I think Hamas is monstrous. I think Bibi Netanyahu and his cabinet are monstrous. I think Sam Harris has as close to a realistic view of this tragedy as one can get.

10. From a homeless shelter to Carnegie Hall. Elijah Stevens’ story actually lands in Toronto at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Provoke yourself next weekend. Take in the Provocation Ideas Festival, on the U of T campus. Most events are free.

Plus, it’s 2008 and Arlo Guthrie takes Amazing Grace to new heights. And it was Star Wars Day earlier this month on May 4th, to be exact (“May the Fourth Be With You”). Let’s all sing along.

Finally, what happened to “Choir! Choir! Choir!”? Their next “Hallelujah” concert is on June 29th at Harbourfront. Weep here.

11. What I’m liking. Canadian women novelists. Here’s Alice Munro at her best, interviewed in 1996 by Peter Gzowski at his best.

Also, last week, the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction was won by V. V. Ganeshananthan for her novel Brotherless Night. The winner gets US $150,000, which makes it the largest English-language literary prize in the world for women and non-binary authors. You can change your life with that.

One question: why has Margaret Atwood not been awarded the Nobel Prize yet?

_________________

COME SEPTEMBER, THE BEARS WILL STILL HANG OUT IN THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST. BUT YOU MIGHT NOT IF YOU DON’T BOOK YOUR CABIN SOON ON THE LINDBLAD NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPEDITION TO BC’S GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST.

 

So join us …in BC’s fabled Great Bear Rainforest…. aboard the National Geographic Venture… on a Lindblad Expedition.  The adventure starts in Ketchikan, Alaska, on September 2nd, 2024, and ends on September 9th, 2024  in Prince Rupert, BC.

It’s May right now and summer is just a month away. Time’s running short to book the trip of a lifetime in your home and native land.

So if you want this summer to be deep and memorable, join us.

Here are the details of the trip.

You can register in one of two ways:

1.  Download the application form and fill it out by hand, click here and then email it to the Lindblad Groups at groups@expeditions.com.

2.  Fill  out the form online, click here and your completed copy will automatically be sent to Lindblad Groups and to RamsayTravel.

Onward,

Bob

 

 

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