Monday, April 26, 2010


Some of you may be familiar with the little mind game called: What would Jesus do? For Christians, it's a way of dealing with sticky moral conundrums. When faced with a tricky moral dilemma you ask yourself, What would Jesus do?

Well, I'm an atheist. So Jesus and I are on an "agree to disagree" kind of footing. So what powerful, omnipotent, world altering deity do I turn to in my moments of moral dilemma? How about Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano that for a short time, showed its dominance over the planet by stopping air traffic, altering the environment and generally show us all who's boss.

So at those times when I seek guidance, when the world has gone all murky and I need a role model to pattern my behaviour after I ask myself: What would Eyjafjallajokull do?

Let's look at a few hypotheticals, and try to determine what a true deity would do.

1) I'm walking down Younge Street, a panhandler asks me for money, I can see that he is desperately hungry, dirty, not dressed for the season .. but I also see the needle tracks on his arms and if I give him money, he would probably just use it to buy drugs. Still, the man needs help ...

What would Jesus do? Jesus may embrace the man and take him home and clean him up and feed him and show him Love and give him the strength to help himself

What would Eyjafjallajokull do? The volcano would spout ash into the guy's eyes. That way I wouldn't have to have guilt from the eye contact as I toss him the finger and keep walking.

2) A buddy, whose spouse I am close to, confesses to me that he is having an affair with her best friend

What would Jesus do? Jesus may create a miracle that shows my buddy how his wife would be hurt and sad, that a terrible rift would be created between the two friends and that his infidelity would scar all of them forever

What would Eyjafjallajokull do? The volcano would spit a boiling hot ember of lava into buddy's pants, burning off his penis and just saving everybody a lot of headaches.

3) I'm walking along and see a pile of cash on the sidewalk, I'm about to pick it up, when I notice an armoured car right there, the doors blown off, and two guards on the ground, as well as a robber, all shot and stunned. I could take the money but I know it's from a robbery where men are hurt

What would Jesus do? Jesus would point out to me that the money is evil, it's ill gotten gain and he would heal all the men, robber and guards alike because all men deserve mercy and need love

What would Eyjafjallajokull do? The volcano would cause a sudden earthquake, the ground would open, the truck and the men would fall in the hole and I'd pick up the cash saying "Hmm, where did this come from?"

4) I'm in the mall. I see a mom publicly berating and humiliating her kid. The kid is crying but hey, she's not my child but I know this isn't good

What would Jesus do? Jesus may create a miracle whereby Mom would be able to see her daughter in the future, bitter and sad and abusing her own kids, thereby illustrating to Mom the perils of her action.

What would Eyjafjallajokull do? The volcano would hurl a gigantic tsunami, enveloping the mall, totally swamping it, washing away Mom, kid and all the shoppers ...

Did that last one seem a little cruel to you? Well, duh, it's just a volcano ...

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Welcome, my friends, to Ontario Vatican. Or Toronto Mecca. Or Temple GTA

I think I have been living under a serious delusion. Somewhere along the bumpy road of my life, I thought I saw some highway signs that proclaimed Separation of Church and State. I swear I remember hearing something about gov't being for all people, regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack of them. Well, we all know how much bullshit that is. Gov't is about gov't, about itself, about keeping itself in business, nothing else. Gov't is a whore, legs open for the highest bidder and recently, the john in question could have "Pope" in front of it's name.

Yeh, it's going to be one of those posts

Last week the gov't of Ontario announced there would changes to how sex education is taught in our public schools. The plan included beginning said education at earlier grades. This came as somewhat of a surprise to Collette which is interesting, seeing as she works in said public school system

At any rate, the gov't actually seemed to desire putting the "education" into sex ed. They actually seemed to recognize that what we label as sex ed is basically knowledge about our bodies, about ourselves, and that perhaps this knowledge is something with which we may care to arm our children. Yes, they have bodies too. Imagine.

Well, it sounded nice but it didn't last long. Fifty two hours after announcing the program, Premeier McGinty has taken it off the table. It never got to boards of ed, it never got to schools, it never got to teachers, it never got to students. It never got to parents.

It was stopped by threats. Threats primarily levelled by religious groups. Threats about protests and even legal actions. Threats that included the abra cadabra word "votes" The threats worked. McGinty did not change this policy because he sensed some dissatisfaction from his constituents, but because he saw his political career dumped on the bonfire of bad publicity. Caving on this the new sex ed platform was not a premiere taking the public's best interests in mind, it was a professional politician taking care of his job security

There were a few elements of the the new program that seemed to set people off. One of them was this: In Grade 3, students would be taught about "healthy sexual relationships, differences and how they make humans unique (discussion could include sexual orientation, physical abilities, cultural vales)

Other contentious changes included: In Grade 6, teaching about masturbation or, more properly "Emotional, social and physical changes of adolescence (discussion could include wet dreams, erections, vaginal lubrication .... and masturbation"

In Grade 7 "possible discussion of vaginal/anal/oral sex as ways of transmitting infections (of STDs)"

Well now. We know how religious groups feel about discussion, even possible discussion. You have a discussion, you even put a topic on the table, and it may mean that you could actually think about that topic, and thinking is not something that your religious leaders would really like you to do.

Charles McVety, president of the of the Canada Christian College, declared that discussions of masturbation and anal sex were "pandering" to a "special interest" group of homosexuals. I swear, I should return to performing stand up comedy and Mr McVety should write my material

Since when is masturbation and anal sex the exclusive property of the gay community? If masturbation is something exclusive to homosexuals, if they own the patent on it then damn, do I need to write them a huge check ... And we all know that anal sex is something that heterosexuals may indulge in. After hearing these protests, I actually feel like I just took one up the ass

But Mr McVety's funniest joke was the "special interest group" shtick. If homosexuals, who are represented in all relgions, races, cultures etc are a special interest group what the hell are evangelical Christians? Does McVety realize that his particular religious niche may be somewhere down at the bottom of the pile. Mr McVety look up, that huge mass blocking the sun above you are the Catholics, and the Jews, and the Muslims ...

Speaking of the Catholics. Here in Ontario we have Catholic schools that are publicly funded. We also have Jewish schools, Muslim schools and those pesky evangelical Christian schools, but none of those are publicly funded, just the Catholics.

According to an article in the Toronto Star, "various Roman Catholic organizations also expressed concern their... schools would have to teach subject matter forbidden by the church" Ok. Stop right there. Think about this. A publicly funded school board is telling us that it is not the board of ed, or the school trustees, or the education ministry that decides their curriculum, it is the Catholic Church. Not the duly elected premiere of the province, but the leaders of a religious organization.


Where do I live again? I live in Ontario right, where we elect officials and we are permitted input into public policy, not some place like Iran where public decisions are controlled by religious leaders ...

Apparently Dalton McGinty must be a very religious man. Because after these special interest groups whined about other special interest groups, the changes in the curriculum were scrapped. Very quickly, in about 52 hours.

Again, let me emphasize that teachers didn't get to comment on these changes. Parents were not afforded time to go through the program and, through their school trustees or even their provincial members of parliament, able to make comments or register complaints. Oh, don't you fret now, citizens of Ontario, no need to worry yourself with the details of how your children are educated. Mr McVinty and your local diocese have that covered for you.

No need to think at all. Let Mother Church do the thinking for you

And no need to even bother going out to vote or spending time discussing public "issues" Your politicians have that covered as well. I don't know if Mr McGinty pays attention to public opinion polls but I'm imagining that he has a red phone on his desk, directly connected to the religious lobby. All he has to do is pick that phone up, nod his head and and bend over and let the religious right feed him his instructions through his sphincter. Hmm, now I'm truly beginning to understand this fascination religion has with anal sex.

All of us have heard the phrase "freedom of religion" Well, as an atheist, who does not share the same values or mindset with any church or sect, what I would like is freedom from religion.

And yeh, I'm speaking as a member of a special interest group. Those of us who prefer to do our own thinking. Apparently these days, we are a quickly dwindling group.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Bicycles and politicians and the environment oh my!

Bicycles. In the city. In my city and your city. Here we go

Before I begin this rant (and if you didn't see a rant coming, well, welcome to my blog and hang on) I want to say that I have nothing against the idea of cycling. I've been an avid cyclist most of my life. I've cycled as a form of transportation and I've cycled as form of recreation. I've cycled sober, I've cycled stoned and I picked up girl while on my bike .. no, not picked up physically ..oh, never mind

Cycling as a mode of transportation, particularly to take you to work sounds like a lovely idea. When I lived in the north end of Kingston, I could cycle downtown in under 30 minutes. I would cycle in the rain, I would cycle when it was cold but no, I did not cycle in the dead of winter.

Cycling to work in Toronto, and the GTA, is another matter. Yes, some people live downtown and work downtown and can keep their cycling commute in that 30 minute time frame. And while there are a few hearty souls who cycle all year round most people do not. The "but" here, is that most people do not live a 30 minute cycle from their place of employment. I've never lived that close to any place I've worked here even by car. I've worked in the far west end and I've worked to the north, in Vaughn. By car, in good weather, at least a 40 minute drive, closer to an hour. By bike much, much longer because I would be restricted to surface streets instead of highways, that's the way it is for most people.

Here in Toronto, our local politicians are bike crazy. They think bicycles are some kind of viable transportation mode for 3 million people whose regular commute is a minimum 90 mins .. at car speeds .. each way. Their own surveys tell them that the number of people who commute to work via bicycle is very small and those who do it in the winter, almost none

Still ...

The city is going ahead transforming the city into some kind of Green bike paradise. There are plans to reduce University Avenue from 8 lanes to six, to accommodate bike lanes. What? University Ave is one of the busiest streets in the general downtown area. It services, business, hospitals, public institutions and if you've driven on it, you know that it already is not big enough to accommodate the vehicular traffic.

The fact is, Toronto as a whole is not large enough to effectively deal with the amount of cars now clogging its streets and highways every day. One solution to this problem is obvious: transit. Oh, the politicians know that of course; they sing the transit blues everyday. But no one seems to want to foot the bill. The province promises billions of dollars in new transit infrastructure then reneges on the promise. The city promises millions but only if the province comes through ... Don't look at the dove in my hands, ladies and gentlemen, please pay attention the hand that is gently probing your rectum ... Yeh, the old sleight of hand while you get fondled.

It is interesting that the city cries poor for transit but finds millions of dollars to construct these bike lanes, not to mention causing months and months of added traffic congestion as the project goes on. For what? A fraction of the population? How green is it actually to expend all that diesel and gas that will be used to make the bikes lanes for a few hundred, even thousand people who will use the lanes only part of the year.

And let's talk a little bit about these user shall we. If you have driven, or even walked around Toronto, and are perfectly honest, you will know the typical big city cyclist: Rude, arrogant, self involved, aggressive, oblivious to cars and pedestrians, disdainful of the rules of the road. It's true. I see it every day.

I have rarely been driving around cyclists where they are not committing some infraction against the Motor Vehicles Act. I've seen a bike coming down a street where there are stop signs every two blocks; instead of actually stopping at the signs the cyclist just blew through, ringing his little bell. I've seen them riding three abreast on a two lane street with parallel parking on both sides, causing cars to slalom dangerously around them. A huge issue is adult cyclists riding on the sidewalk, no matter how crowded they are. I've seem them come up behind women with strollers and ring the bell, as if expecting the woman and her stroller to get off the sidewalk. Hey Lance Armstrong, you are not even allowed on the fricking sidewalk.

I've written before about the boorish behaviour of cyclists on the paths and trails through the city parks. I'm not talking about dedicated bike paths, I'm talking about shared usage sidewalks. It is becoming dangerous. I've had the dogs, pulled them off to the side to bend over and give them water or whatever, only to rise to be narrowly brushed past by some speeding cyclist; when I tell them to use their bell so I know they are there, I usually get the finger. Hey Lance Armstrong, you know I could put my border collies on you and your rear tire would be shredded in seconds. You know that, right?

I'm pretty much getting to the point where I question the viability of bikes in a city like this. I definitely would like to see cyclists breaking the road rules targeted more aggressively, like with the same tenacity they come after dog owners perhaps. Cyclists seem to have a sense of entitlement and with all this Green concern, and with this bunch of gooey eyed morons in Council, I can understand why. But it's dangerous out there.

So if in the next year or two you decide to visit my city I really would leave your car behind, you're going to spend way too much time fuming behind the wheel, stuck in traffic, stuck for construction, watching the cyclists whipping by, sliding by the wrong side of your door, pulling illegal U turns, blasting through red lights ...

If you do, give them the one fingered cyclist salute for me

Saturday, April 10, 2010


OK, you have to love any post you begin with a quote from Buckaroo Banzai

But the quote actually does pertain to what I want to talk about. In my recent post on Dundas Square I described a lovely evening spent by Collette and I in downtown Toronto. It was kind of a perfect urban night; warm weather, outside on the patio, the bright city lights around us, surrounded by people, traffic, music coming from different sources. I love that kind of night. It is the kind of thing that makes city dwelling so worthwhile

Some people, people from rural areas, may have difficulty thinking of such an evening as being enjoyable. For them, the night lights they want to see are the stars, so bright and numerous away from the city and the sounds they want to hear are natural sounds; the sussurus of the wind in pin boughs, the mummer of water running over rocks, maybe the keen of a hawk in the distance.

I've been lucky in my life. I've lived in different kinds of environment's. Urban environments like Montreal and Toronto. Rural environment's like northern Manitoba and the farming areas of Prince Edward Island. I understand and appreciate the appeal of both

There is nothing like walking down to a tiny lake, 40 miles north of Thompson Manitoba, the surface still and dark and reflective as a mirror, mist wreathing the jack pines; looking across the lake to see the obdurance of the prevailing green disrupted here and there by explosions of yellow as the birch trees changed colour, the sound of the wind high in the trees and the splash of an otter, close to shore. Peaceful, tranquil

I'm able to find similar emotions in a city. That night at Dundas Square I was able to cut through the background clutter of the city and hear the sounds of spoons clinking against coffee cups, see the gleam of chrome on the exhaust of a Harley Davidson motorcycle, the click of a woman's high heels as she walked hand in hand with her lover across the square, the smell of a hot dog sizzling on the grille of a sausage vendor, felt the warm breeze moving through my hair. And yes, it brought me a peacefulness and a kind of tranquility.

I've often said that I could be happy living in a lot of different kinds of places. City, country both have appeals to me, both have draw backs. I've hitched hiked across the country a couple of times and I've lived out of a back pack. I can't imagine enjoying that experience now but I still have the feeling that I could live most places. Perhaps I'm a kind of an insular person, I'm happy in my head, I'm happy if I have good people around me, I'm content in a parka or a tank top (OK, I know that's an ugly image, live with it), trudging through a forest, walking down Yonge Street. When I'm too long in the city, I want to find some quiet lake and lurk in a tent for a while; but after a time in that tent I want pavement under my street and breathe some exhaust fumes.

Collette and I love to travel, we love to experience new places, new people, new things. Sometimes it's not always comfortable or convenient, but we enjoy it for the novelty, for the experience. I think I would grow incredibly, if not dangerously, bored if I spent too long in one place. We've live a couple of decades in Toronto but we get to go up north to Parry Sound, or to Kingston, or to Quebec or Costa Rica or Belize ...

I can find that peace and tranquility in many places. Perhaps it's because I seek it out. I look for it, I listen for it, I try to open my eyes and ears and the pores of my skin to let it seep on in.

Where I go, there I am, wherever I am, it's where I want to be.

Thursday, April 8, 2010



It has been a crazy last few days. We have been on an emotional roller coaster, with Miss Hayley at the controls. Sort of.

Monday, she showed signs of not being well. Diarrhea, vomit but her energy level was OK. What alarmed us was her refusal to take treats. Hayley being fussy with her dinner was one thing, but turning down a treat is something else. That's like me turning down a cookie. Then Collette tried to give her the daily thyroid meds. We give her this pill in a little bit of cheese. Hayley refused it. We became concerned. That's like me turning down a beer.

We phoned the vet, let them know what was going, her symptoms didn't seem too severe, except for her refusal to take a treat. I made an appointment for her later in the afternoon. In the meantime I took the girls out for their long walk. At first Hayley was herself, energetic and showing an interest in the ball and in other dogs. But as time went on, I saw her grow more listless and more disinterested. At one point she lay down and didn't want to get back up when I told her it was time to do so.

Yup, she was not feeling well

So off to the vet we went. They took blood etc but really weren't sure what was wrong with her. She had a bit of a fever but otherwise didn't seem too bad. So we took her home to wait for the test results. Unfortunately, from midnight on, she vomited every couple of hours. She was weak and listless and clearly not feeling at all well. She was not even eating the food the vet sent us home with, canned chicken and rice ... that is like steak and mushrooms to me. Not a good sign

We took her in, the next morning, and they kept her. Her blood tests showed a little weakness in the liver, but years ago, she had some mild poisoning that gave her a mild hit to the liver so it usually responds to illness. They took X rays and this is where it gets scary.

The found something on the X Ray. Firstly, there were gas bubbles in the intestine, in of itself not surprising and not worrisome. But they found something else. A section of the intestine seemed to have an odd shape but they did not know what was causing it. If it moved, it would be more gas, if it did not it would be something else; either a foreign object that Hayley ingested, or a mass, like tumours

Miss Hayley is in excellent condition but she is almost 12 years old so those were things I did not want to hear. If it was a an object, I felt she was healthy enough to be able to endure the surgery and recover well. If it was cancer ...

So she was kept overnight and we waited. The vet thought if she continued to vomit, it was a sign that she was in trouble. And we had to think about the possibilities

It was scary of course. Heart wrenching. I say all the time that I love my girls. Most of the time that means playing with them, cuddling with them, taking care of them etc. But at times like this, I really understand what that love entails. It's a big thing. I've heard the cliche a "piece of my heart" At times like this, I know what Janis was singing about. Thinking about Hayley, there in the hospital, not doing well, I really did feel like a piece of my heart was being rended

It's funny. I am not the most demonstrative of people. I don't always find it easy to express the love that I have for people, like Collette and my family. Generally I try to let my actions express that love; I try to take care of people, to do things that make them happy. And that is a big part of having dogs. I devote a lot of time to them, I do what I can to give them healthy happy lives,that is my love

But when Hayley was at the vet's, with me here, I felt this pain. Yes, by taking here there, I was helping her but I still felt this terrible helplessness. I couldn't hold her, talk to her, stroke her fur, all the things I know make her feel better. I could only wait and prepare my mind for that ultimate expression of love; helping her life end in the most humane way possible. Just as we had done for Gigs, many years ago

Luckily, Hayley passed the night well, with no vomiting. They X rayed her in the morning and the images had not really changed. Generally she was doing better but the vet told me that Hayley just seemed "sad and depressed" I told her that may have nothing to do with her illness and that I was coming there

When I got to the vet offices, the girls at the front were laughing and shaking their heads. It appears that the moment I entered the building, Hayley perked right up. When they brought here out to meet me, hooked to an IV machine, the old girl was wiggling,and crying and licking my face. I took here outside for a few minutes, her ears were up, tail wagging and she had a big pee. Then we went back inside and I hand fed her some of the canned food, and she ate it like a starving dog

All good signs

They kept here for a few more hours, feeding her IV fluid and watching her. She ate a bit more and she did not vomit. She remained alert. They wanted to keep her overnight and I asked if she needed to be on the IV, the answer was no. So I brought here home. She was wiggly and excited. She ate ravenously. And she passed last night with no incidents

So she is here at home with us. She is doing very very well. We still don't really know what was wrong but it seems easy to assume it was something she ate, or perhaps even a stomach virus. At this point cancer is unlikely (though it's always a possibility) because she got ill so quickly. The problem with working dogs in general, and Hayley in particular, is that they are very adept at masking symptoms. She can be in pain and you wouldn't know it. Still, this thing came on fast and seems to have passed so I take that as a good sign

We will take her in to the vet next week for an assessment but at the moment it all looks good, we have her on the special diet and some meds to make her belly feel better. She certainly seems better. The moment she nips at Terra to prevent the puppy from running, I know our old girl is back to normal

Love is a kooky thing. It is so powerful and perverse. Love can cause you so much pain, just from a sad pair of eyes and a little whimper. But it can also give you so much joy, with the wag of a tail

I'll take the pain, for all that I get back from a warm furry head on my lap

Saturday, April 3, 2010


What makes a city

Is it the buildings that fill it. Is it the industries that purposed it. Is it the people that inhabit it. Is it the history, the art, the geographical locale. Is it the sidewalks and the steel and the gleaming glass. Or is the ancient trees and the grass and the water that surges in the harbour

We live in Toronto but we don't live in downtown Toronto. We love our neighbourhood for many reasons; it's safe, it's residential, it's convenient to public transit as well as highways. One of the biggest appeals of living here are the public spaces, the parks and trails where we walk and play with the dogs.

Public spaces are important to cities. It's where we come together. Where we play and meet and breathe. But public spaces are just not parks and waterfront. The Zoo is a public space. So is the ROM. So is the Art Gallery of Ontario, though in this case the public doesn't always seem so welcome.

One of our favourite public spaces in Toronto has become Dundas Square. And for me to admit that, involves a bit of irony.

The intersection of Yonge & Dundas is right downtown, you could call it the heart of downtown. The Eaton Centre is there. Sam's was there. The Eaton Centre multiplex movie theatre was there. So was the Silver Rail (a quaint old bar not to be confused with The Brass Rail, if you don't know what The Brass Rail is, ask your favorite pervert) and Yonge Street Station and many other bars. Most of that all went the way of the wind and VHS tapes. The Eaton Centre still stands of course but for a long time that's all there was, and the area kind of fell a bit to seed
Things began to change over time. The Pantages Theatre was revitalized. The Hard Rock moved in. But what was lacking was a viable public space. Then came the proposal for Dundas Square, a public space directly across from the Eaton Centre.

When I first heard about a public square my mind turned to grass, to trees, some shade, some place to take off your shoes ... Of course that didn't happen. What we got was a black of pavement. With a fountain that was nothing more than jets of water shooting up out of the concrete. And a ton of gigantic billboards and commercial video screens. Toronto's very own miniature Times Square.

I was not at all happy with the design. It seemed sterile to me, lifeless. But as time has gone on, I will have to admit that I was quite wrong. Dundas Square has become the centerpiece for public festivals like Luminato and Nuit Blanche, both of which Collette and I regularly attend. In the summer there are free concerts and smaller cultural festivals. On the weekends, it's always jammed pack. This has brought back movie theatres and some nice restaurants.

Even when there is not an "event" happening, the Square is doing what public spaces are supposed to be doing. This weekend, with the warm weather, Collette and did some patio surfing. We made a stop at the Hard Rock patio, right beside the square. There were people seated at the tables, enjoying the warm air. A bunch of kids were batting about a soccer ball. A motorcycle club convened there, standing about and admiring each other's bikes. It was quite nice. There was energy, humanity, people enjoying their city.

But there are changes afoot. The square has helped to revitalize that neighbourhood and that usually, in Toronto, means one thing: Condos. I know they are planning to build some condo's right around the square. I've heard rumours that they may even build some right on the square itself but I haven't been able to confirm this. It all leaves a bad taste in my mouth and just makes me weary.

This city seems determined to defeat itself. Make the downtown accessible and interesting and a place where people can just hang out and what do we want to do: Make some money. But it's more than that. It's taking a public space, that can be enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people, and transform it to a place owned by a couple of thousand places.


Private. No longer public.

This city is owned but I wonder by who. You can walk downtown and watch a Lamborghini drive past a homeless person. The homeless people may outnumber the expensive sports cars. But the sports cars carry the freight. Well, they own the freight at any rate.

This is a city of a couple of million people. But the waterfront sometimes seems like a private community where the giant condo buildings serve as a wall between you and the water. I know Toronto is not alone in this. My home town of Kingston has struggled with the same issue for years.

How do these things happens. Politicians made Dundas Square .. or did they. Or were they able to make the space because enough public concerns jumped on to the project. At first the pay off seemed to be those annoying giant billboards. Perhaps it was something different. Perhaps the pay off was a few multi million dollar condo's. So we lose our public space and our public servants fill out their 50,000 dollar expense tabs and always seem to have nice jobs when their terms end ...

The question isn't really what makes a city. It is who's city is it. Is it the kids playing soccer, the couple enjoying a cold drink on a sultry summer night, or is it someone who is willing to pay millions of dollars, just so they can stare out their window at the lights of the city.

The real problem seems to be this: To whom do we ask this question.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


This week Collette and I decided to check out the travelling expedition of King Tut that is currently being held at the Art Gallery of Ontario here in Toronto. I never did get see the Tut exhibit the first time it came here, many years ago and this is a time limit exhibit. Cameras are not permitted at this exhibit so no home made images. Actually, a lot of things are not allowed at the AGO, including having fun and being allowed to breathe but I'll get to those shortly

I'll start with the exhibit first. Overall it was pretty good. I've been reading a lot, lately, about Egyptian history and anytime you can stand in the presence of objects thousands of years old, it is impressive. I was a bit disappointed that this exhibit did not include some to the truly "sexy" Tut items, like the gold funerary mask
As I said, I never got to see the first Tut exhibit which included some of the more spectacular items Carter pulled out of the tomb. Still, there were some items truly beautiful and inspiring in their workmanship and detail. Some of the gold, stonework and jewelry were so intricate and delicate it took your breath away. I enjoyed the everyday items as well, such as footwear and toilet seats (yes, I said toilet seat, shut up) These more prosaic pieces helped connect me with the actual people who lived those thousands of years ago, not just the Pharaohs.

The exhibit was organized as the tomb was found, in several rooms, with a selection of items from each chamber. And it featured a little introductory video narrated by Harrison Ford. Hey, it's Indiana Jones .. um, did someone check Mr Harrison's coat for that golden mask?

Besides Tut, the exhibit featured artifacts from the reigns of several other Pharaohs, whose tyrannical powers are exceeded only by the AGO itself ...

Collette is not fond of the Art Gallery of Ontario. She went on a school trip from teacher's college (is it just me or is the idea of teachers taking a school trip just a bit bizarre) and was not happy with the way she was treated by the gallery's staff. This trip did nothing to change her mind. The gallery has gone through an expansion and some of the new space is truly stunning.

Everywhere you turn, you are confronted with signs declaring "Do not touch the artwork" Anybody who knows Collette understands that not only is she quite literal, she is not one to flaunt the rules for the sake of flaunting. In the above gallery, we were looking at a large piece of carved tree when an almost equally large piece of publicly employed dead wood .. aka a security guard .. comes rumbling down the gallery to proclaim in a very loud voice "Don't touch the art" When Collette assured him that she did not, this Robocop wannabe sneered "Oh yes you did" then proceeded to smirk like the school bully


Think about this. You run a business. I'm your customer. Yes, you have placed certain conditions on me, but I'm your customer. And you call me a liar. And smirk. Well, bye bye employee, bye bye business.

Only it's not so easy. This is not a private business, this is a public institution. Yeh, that's right, it's my institution, it's our institution and while in it, you're made to feel like some kind of criminal.

While in another gallery, featuring paintings by the Group of Seven, another guard literally followed me around, giving me the hard eyeball. What the fuck ... the smallest painting was about 4' by 3' and I was wearing a T shirt and jeans. What did he think? I was going to stash this canvas and wooden frame under my hat?

The whole time we were there we were placed in lines, held up behind ropes, glared at and monitored ... how the hell are you supposed to enjoy all this art if you are made to feel like an intruder? And how the fuck can you be intruding on something that is, after all, public.

We are members of the ROM, the Royal Ontario Museum, another public space filled with countless priceless, precious items. And yes, there are signs about touching the artifacts but there are also cheerful helpful people who answer your questions about the exhibits and who seem to actually want to enhance your experience. And although certain special exhibits like the Dead Sea Scrolls are off limits for cameras, you can make images almost anywhere else in the building.
Isn't this how a public space should operate? Don't we maintain these places, at some great expense, to benefit people, to provide them with an enjoyable experience and hopefully a little mind expansion? I don't want to feel like an intruder in a public space. I want to feel that it does, indeed belong to me.

I was a bit disappointed at the Tut exhibit but I was vastly disappointed at the AGO itself. I just read that the director of the Art Gallery of Ontario makes 100,000 dollars a year. To me, this is another case of a public institution and a public employee who has completely lost touch with the public.

I don't see us returning to the AGO any time soon. I can't imagine how I'll get Collette back there. In the mean time, I guess we'll renew our subscription to the ROM

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