Ron Nurwisah, Boy Reporter

Boy Reporter is a Toronto-based journalist and blogger. He frequently writes about urban life, visual arts, culture and anything else that strikes his fancy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Turning Torontonian

The opening essay in Colson Whitehead's amazing book The Colossus of New York talks about the first time you know you're a New Yorker.

"No matter how long you've been here you're a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge. That before the internet cafe plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now."

Whitehead goes on to talk about the New York that he's constructed in his head made up of his dry cleaners and his cafes and shops, a city constructed through habit and history. I've been noticing it more because I'm quickly coming up on two-years of living in Toronto.

Things have disappeared. There's the Uptown theatre, not too far from my house, which I walked past regularly not realizing that it would soon be gone. There's KOS, a greasy spoon diner that a friend used to work at and where my sister and our breakfast place of last resort when everything else on College was packed by Sunday morning hangover sufferers and couples.

I've also constructed my version of Toronto and it's not a very big city. I once joked that I only went to twelve places in the entire city. But as I drew up a list I realized that this was true. I really only DO go to a dozen places. It's not that I don't want to go to new places, it's just, I haven't really found a need to.... yet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Culturejamming to the next level

Spraypainting and defacing ads and billboards is soo 1997. Having the cojones to install your own work in four of NYC’s biggest museums now that’s interesting! The amazing thing is it took the guards at the MOMA three whole days before they realized that the work didn’t belong there. Probably because the guards are still getting used to the new space.

Thanks to Kottke.org for the link.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The OTHER 50 tracks...

I bumped into Zoilus last night at Trampoline Hall and we ended up chatting about his alterna-50 tracks exercise with Ottawa blogger Pregnant Without Intercourse. There are some genuinely insightful and also some amazingly funny moments so far:

1) Tragically Hip Vs. Rush
2) Lenny and his Casio
3) Why “A Case of You” is really a shitty song

And more gentle (or not so gentle) reader, oh so much more. Go check it out. I’m also going to keep plugging Sheila Heti’s book launch until the electric current jolts me and I pass out from arrythmia.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Book Reviews and Angry Asian Man

I'm writing a couple of book reviews for Broken Pencil. I also have reviews in the issue that's about to hit newsstands (eee, Steve Kado centrefold!).

Also, if you're in Toronto and want to start on the road of being a policy wonk, check out this event I'm helping to organize.

Also, if you haven't seen it yet check out Angry Asian Man's blog! Culture, politics, from an Asian American perspective, and not all of it angry!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Toronto the Beautiful

I went to the packed launch for PubliCity last night and between chatting with half of the editorial board of Spacing, sifting through buttons and chatting with photobloggers I came to the realization that Toronto is actually quite beautiful.

It's not like Vancouver or Sydney, which are just plain out, jawdroppingly, achingly beautiful but the fact that I'm living in Toronto now and not missing these places (Sydney, a little) is testament to something.

But many of these photobloggers have been impressing me for a long time. Just when I thought the city was an ugly, cruel, grey place that was beating me around; Rannie Turingan posts a photo that makes me do a double take. Just when I start cursing my neighbourhood and Kyle Rae for his soulsucking development Matt O'Sullivan reminds me that there are some achingly beautiful places in the big smoke.

That doesn't mean that those of us living here should be complacent (ahem Vancouverites, are you listening). For every gorgeous photo of the lake I see on a photoblog, I'm reminded that an ugly highway still cuts off most of the city from the lake. A photo of rusted bikes reminds me that biking on the roads in Toronto means you're a second class citizen at the mercy of the cars on the road.

Yes Toronto, you really are beautiful but you can still be so cruel.

Photo from Daily Dose of Imagery

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A few thoughts about Massive Change

So a few more things about Massive Change that didn't make it into my Torontoist piece:

In note form:
  • All this stuff was in Wired Magazine last year....
  • This feels like EPCOT, where's the monorail? And where's the overpriced food at the Japan Pavillion? (Sarah L. my editor felt like this too)
  • Why is the rubber chicken the defining souvenir from Massive Change? Is this a joke?
  • The room of photos is pretty cool!
  • Not being able to touch the cool textiles isn't, they're textiles damnit.
  • What?! No flying cars?
  • eye on blogs

    Ooh, eye Weekly writes about blogs. I don't really agree with their picks for Toronto city blogs, but hey, no such thing as bad coverage.

    Also, I'm scared of Bruce Mau (pictured here on the left). Here's why.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2005

    Bowling for Immigrants

    No, it's not the new Michael Moore film. It's my friend's event.

    Bowlers of the World Unite!
    a fundraiser for immigrant rights

    5-pins and a glowing disco ball!
    Live music set from The Pick-Ups!
    Rockin' tunes courtesy of Rose B. and Kristine K.!
    Raffle Prizes from Cheese Magic, Images Festival,
    I Deal Coffee,
    Public,
    Uprising Books, and more!
    and... a LUNGE CONTEST!
    with MC Maggie M. stirring up trouble!

    @ Danforth Bowl
    (1554 Danforth Ave., just steps west from Coxwell
    subway station)
    Friday March 18th, 7:30pm - midnight

    $10-$20 sliding scale for a full night of bowling fun.
    All proceeds from the event will benefit No One is
    Illegal (Toronto).

    Just in case you were wondering here are the pickups, aren't they just adorable.



    Also raffle prizes from where I buy my cheese and my coffee! Bowling, alt country, and a good cause! How can you lose?!

    Meanwhile, in another part of Boy Reporter's Brain

    Boy Reporter is also Boy PR person. Here's an event I'm helping organize. Come on down if you're in Toronto and interested in policy (and who isn't!)

    Title: POLICY FROM THE GROUND UP

    Date: Tuesday, March 22

    Time: Reception, 6:30pm; speeches begin 7:15pm

    Place: International Living Learning Centre, Ryerson University.
    International Room.

    Confirmed Speakers:

    BOB RAE, Author of the Rae Report on Post-Secondary Education;

    KEN OGILVIE, Executive Director of Pollution Probe;

    DAVID MESLIN Coordinator of the Toronto Public Space Committee and

    GUY GIORNO, lawyer – Fasken and Martineau and former Mike Harris Chief of Staff.

    Monday, March 14, 2005

    Jens? Jens!

    Go see my post on Torontoist about this man. After you read the post, go buy his album.

    Friday, March 11, 2005

    Swoon...

    Sheila Heti (known as Mrs. Zoilus in some circles), quite possibly one of the first people I met in Toronto, all around great person and great writer has a new site and a new book (pictured here). I'm trying to wrangle her for an interview on Torontoist.

    Crazy for Comics!

    I picked up Men of Tommorow at the library today. A book about the early early days of comic books. Coincidentally this is the historical setting for one of my favourite books EVER Michael Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay. I read comic books when I was a kid, and heck I read comic books now too. I find it interesting how the genre has become quite normalized and almost no longer has a stigma attached to it.

    This is all old news of course, Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer for Maus, Adrian Tomine does covers for the New Yorker and a book about a boy and his comics (the very same Kavalier and Klay also won a Pulitzer!)

    I was also reminded by Guy Leshinski over at the Cultural Gutter that I should make my way up to the Toronto Reference Library to catch the comics exhibit before it closes.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    Boy Reporter on Mixed Media Watch

    It's official.... I'm contributing to yet another blog! You can find my writing on the Bloggie nominated site Mixed Media Watch. The boys and girls at MMC look at representations of mixed race peoples in the media, race relations and more. Always a good read.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    T-Shirt Watch continues

    What's not to like about these shirts.... the tag line is awesome, "putting the racy back in conspiracy." Thanks boing boing.

    I love my neighbourhood

    Sooner or later something really bad is going to happen in my neighbourhood. But for now I just have to contend with the silliness of urban life.

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Punk Rockers vs. Homeless Advocates

    Wow, I'm not sure who to root for in this fight. I was reading just last week that the Bowery, historically a pretty shady neighbourhood in NYC, is gentrifying fast. Now there's this lovely little scuffle between punk rock mecca CBGB and the homeless services committee that owns the building.

    There seems to be a lot of lousy accounting on both sides here and a general sense of flakiness but there really aren't any winners in this fight.

    The most powerful design tool ever!

    Most people will argue that the computer is arguably the most powerful design tool ever. Yes with programs like Photoshop and the ability to design things down to the millimetre electronically and make changes on the fly the computer has ushered in a new age of design. But I posit the humble restaurant napkin as our most powerful design tool. I was inspired when I read a post on Torontoist about Bruce Mau's Massive Change exhibit. Apparently the idea for the exhibit was concocted on a napkin and is shown above. Uber-architect Frank Gehry also designs buildings like the Disney Hall and the Guggenheim Bilbao on a paper napkin

    And what's this scribbly looking thing? Well that's Alexander Graham Bell's preliminary sketches for the phone. . Imagine where we'd be if Graham Bell was sitting in a fancier restaurant that used cloth napkins? Or if his assistant Watson got a little tipsy and spilled something on the sketch? Or had his eye on a young philly across the room and decided to borrow Alex's napkin? [Boy Reporter's note: go to this website it's quite funny!] No phone, no telecommunications revolution! One wonders how many other of Graham Bell's many many inventions were done first on paper napkin? This is after all the man who Evan Solomon claims helped invent the modern world as we know it. I think the napkin wins this argument hands down.

    Reading Minds...

    I can officially add telling the future as one of my skills (also on the list: making a mean quiche, copy-editing and trivia skills. I'm also a good kisser). In today's paper Christopher Hume, Toronto Star architecture critic, also harps on the evils of suburbia and why that's coming to an end soon, but not soon enough.

    Sunday, March 06, 2005

    Fighting Sprawl

    Everyone seems to be talking about sprawl. Now magazine has written recently about what to do with all that open space outside the GTA (turn it into organic farmland growing a diversity of crops). The Star weighed in with this feature on small shops, new urbanism and why sprawl makes for boring cities (anybody who's been to the Dallas Ft. Worth area or any other second rate American city can testify to this). The Globe talked about an idea that's been floating around the Toronto blogosphere, a subway that covers everything in the city and not just the three lines we've got now.

    Maybe it was that rather scary winter smog day we got a little while back (it looked pretty disgusting and probably wasn't that healthy) but I'm glad that the public is thinking about this. Sadly our best weapon for fighting sprawl, the TTC just got a little worse with a fare hike ($2.50 for an adult to ride the Rocket! "The Better Way" indeed). So what exactly should we do about sprawl? How can we change the hearts and minds of people who have been indoctrinated by car companies and popular culture to want cars in the driveway, a big fancy house in the burbs with a manicured lawn? How do we get the Joneses to stop wanting the now outdated and constructed fantasy of a "Leave it to Beaver" life?

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    Stay Tuned!

    I've registered and hosted this site on www.boyreporter.ca. I'm also working on migrating this site over to Movable Type. I'm starting to find Blogger a little bit annoying and not as flexible as I would like. So stay tuned, changes are afoot.

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    The clearinghouse

    I liked the Decemberists since my friend Hanson introduced them to me a couple of years back. Any band that can name drop Marcel Duchamp and write sea shanties and songs that make fun of Los Angeles is alright with me. I've been listening to a copy of their soon to be released album, Picaresque (mea culpa on internet piracy here). Well the new album is more of the same, which is a good thing. What the world needs now isn't love but tightly written, comical songs about maritime life.

    I'm also going to take this opportunity to gush about wunderkind Jonathan Safran Foer. I gobbled up his debut novel Everything is Illuminated and I've been shoving that book into people's hands for the last three years now. It's a story about a young Ukrainian-American named Jonathan looking for his grandfather's destroyed shetl. He's coming out with a new novel, soon, but not soon enough. Here's an interview with Jonathan from the NYT magazine. Also, because I'm actually reading again I want to heartily recommend Ken Kalfus' novel the Commissariat of the Enlightenment, about the fictional meeting of Lenin, Stalin and a filmmaker witnessing the death of Leo Tolstoy.

    Bye Radio3 website thanks for the memories

    Although I promised that I wouldn't plug the Radio3 website so much, I can't help but do it this time. If you don't already know the Radio3 website is being shutdown because the higher-ups want to focus on the radio side of things.

    Check out my friend Charlie Cho's piece "at the end of the day." Yep that's him on the couch. Also my old boss Sally McKay blows our minds with an alternative viewpoint on the nature of time. Yep, that's her holding the Stephen Hawking-like diagram.

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    Boy Reporter at MOMA

    Hypothetical conversation between MOMA architect Yoshio Taniguchi and a member of the MOMA board:

    Board Member: Uhm, Yoshio these drawings look great. We especially love the way you're using glass to dissect the staircase. It frames our gallery goers quite well. There is a problem though.

    Yoshio Taniguchi: Problems?! What problems, I made sure I looked over everything. I even made sure you got light into that square box of a building. Natural light! In Mid-town Manhattan, do you know how hard that is?!

    BM: But uhm....

    YT: No buts, I've designed nine museums. I won't listen to your philistine arguments.

    BM: Yoshio, you left something out.

    YT: Left something out? Would you tell Frank Lloyd Wright to change something?! I don't think so.

    BM: Uhm, really it's quite important!

    YT: This should be good....

    BM: You forgot the coat-check.

    YT: @#$%%#$#

    I'm sure that Mr. Taniguchi is a lovely individual.... and the new MOMA is a gorgeous building and the $20 fee is almost, uhm, justified. But for all that money, couldn't you have designed a bigger more efficient coat-check? I know it's busy in the winter with all those coats and scarves and mittens. And I know it's probably busy right now because everyone is ogling the lovely new building. but couldn't you have come up with a more efficient system? One that helps out those tourists that speak 80 languages trying to figure out where they can retrieve their backpacks and coats after entering a zen-like state staring at a Malevich painting? I only write this because I was waiting for close to an hour to check in my bag, when I could've been staring at Warhols and Dalis and Jeff Walls and Gurskys!

    Boy Reporter at the Gates

    I'm quite sure everyone is sick and tired of hearing about the Gates, so I promise that this will be my only and my last post about Christo's installation. I went to the Central Park last Saturday on a breezy winter day, and also the second to last day the installation was completely up.

    The critical round-up about the Gates has been mixed. Timothy Comeau's Good Reads has done a good job rounding up critiques about the Gates including a very funny segment from the Daily Show. There's this Talk of the Town piece. And my old boss, Sally McKay's rousing commentary on the piece.

    There's a strange tension in this work and indeed in many of Christo's work. The Gates is arguably a democratic piece. It was free (it didn't cost anything, but miraculously also free of ads), open to the public and in Central Park, a space that many New Yorkers use and frequent on a regular basis. But also strangely dictatorial, Sally commented on the massive police presence to protect the Gates. But the Gates is also Christo imposing his will and force of personality upon the environment. When he places giant umbrellas or a giant curtain out in the middle of nowhere, it's probably seen as artistic quaintness. But when you intervene in America's most famous park, you're going to piss a few people off.

    I spoke to a few locals about the Gates and the conversation swung back and forth from, 'I loved it. I mean, all those people came and it looks great in the park' to 'It was ugly. They look like shower curtains, or an ad for Home Depot, give me back my park.'

    It's conversations like this, which I heard all week that has me echoing Peter Schjeldahl's comment that the work rendered art critics helpless, "that “The Gates” is a populist affront to the authority of art critics, and [that he had to] accept being just another shuffling, jostling, helplessly chummy citizen." Here was a work in one of the most public of public spaces. Hundreds of thousands went to see the Gates, a work of relatively challenging contemporary art.

    When was the last time that many people engaged with a work of contemporary art? It's heartening to see, but of course leads me to ask whether it takes a $21 million art project in one of the world's most famous parks to get people to actually look at, gasp in wonder or boo and hiss at a piece of art?