Week 12 Main Post: Nostalgic

I’ve procrastinated as long as I can from writing these final blog posts for this class. For good reason.

I hate to see it come to an end. It feels like I started this blog yesterday.

Seriously three years of dabbling in blogging has felt like three days. When you’re doing what you love, time tends to pass quickly.

And even though I haven’t decided whether I’ll continue posting on this blog specifically, I know I won’t ever stop blogging. Especially since it took me almost three years to make a cent from it. If I could blog for one thousand days for free, surely I can blog for a thousand more when there’s potential to earn money. It isn’t a lot. But it’s enough for now.

This course and the subsequent creation of this blog has taught me:

To time manage.

I think if people really want to write or a book or start a blog, they should stop wishing and start working. We all have 24 hours in a day. If others can do it, so can you. In order to set aside enough time for this blog, I tried to spend my hours effectively. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have posted anything.

To do my research.

I very much have a love-hate relationship with research. Usually hate wins. But when it doesn’t, I could spend forever reading and researching. Because I didn’t know much about some of these social justice issues, I made an effort to educate myself. Besides, there are many experts out there who are much more eloquent than I am, so why not take a page out of their proverbial book?

To appreciate but critique the city.

Just because you love something doesn’t mean you should be blinded by the good and don’t see the bad. I feel like in being able to notice the flaws, my fondness for Toronto has skyrocketed

In five years, I hope I’ll still remember I was able to publish 11 posts a week. Okay so maybe they weren’t perfect or as polished as a diamond. But I still managed the feat nonetheless. So when I’m complaining about doing 7 or 8, I’ll quickly shut up and solider on.

Week 11 Main Post: Reimagining Public and Private Space

What is public space? What is private space?

Although the lines can be a little blurry, in my opinion, private space is owned by a company or organization although it could also be open to the public. Public space is for the people, for the masses. That means that public sites like parks should be easily accessible by the public and benefit them too. But that doesn’t mean humans can do as they please. There’s a fine line between public space and private space. And I think people in general are better at respecting private space than they are with public places.

Why is it important?

Life isn’t just about getting from one place to another. True, living in the city means people are constantly on the go. And most individuals travel through public spaces without realizing it. It’s important to take the time to appreciate what’s around us because we spend a great deal of time in motion, hurrying to our next class or rushing to catch a bus. But we still spend countless hours in one place. And does our environment contribute to our quality of life? You bet it does.

What about interior spaces?

I argue most of us spend a large portion of our day inside. Inside a classroom, inside an office, inside a building of some sort. So although outdoor public spaces such as beaches are great, there needs to be a greater emphasis on improving indoor spaces. Besides, have you experienced the weather in Toronto?

How can we make the city better?

Whether it’s public or private, I think improvement starts with us. The people who use the space. Oftentimes we encounter rude people that ruin our experience at the library, at the beach, etc. On the TTC, for example, I don’t know why some individuals think it’s okay to have their feet on another seat. It’s equally frustrating when someone takes up multiple seats during rush hour even while other riders are looking to sit down. Regardless of whether it’s rush hour or not, I still think a little courtesy for others goes a long way.

Where do we go from here?

I can’t predict the future, but I look forward to seeing what Toronto does next for public and private spaces. I think the city and the people in it will continue to make me proud.

Week 10 Main Post: Transit Crisis in Toronto

The more time I spend on the subway and bus, the more I realize there are issues with accessibility that isn’t easy to address.

For one, the price just keeps going up. As the price of tokens and tickets increase, accessibility decreases. Not everyone can afford to compensate for the costs of their commute. Sure, some individuals will continue to use the TTC regardless, but at some point, carpooling or biking when possible could become a cheaper alternative.

Another issue is the location of bus routes, subway lines, etc. There is a heavy concentration of transit options in the downtown core of Toronto, which is understandable but still a shame nonetheless. For those living in suburban or rural areas who need to take the subway or bus, they have a long commute before they can reach the first bus route and probably an even longer commute to find a subway line. I realize it’s impossible to have the TTC cover every part of the city, but as of right now, Toronto only has 4 subway lines and 11 streetcar routes, with 4 of them running at night. This coupled with the fare can be a major turn-off for potential and even present commuters.

Access to transit is not equal. However, it should be for both the rich and poor as well as those living downtown along with people residing in suburban neighbourhoods. If something doesn’t change soon, I feel as though the rich will become richer while the poor have little to no opportunity to prosper since they cannot even leave their community. And even if they can, they will still face a difficult commute. It is hard enough to meet basic survival needs while living under the poverty line. It’ll be even harder saving enough money to take a bus or train.

I believe the TTC can help in bridging the city to make it more accessible. They need to start freezing fare prices or even consider lowering them in order to allow a greater number of individuals to take public transportation. And expanding routes or lines in the future to other busy, populated areas outside of downtown Toronto will help passengers reach the subway or streetcar.

Week 9 Main Post: Daniels Spectrum and Artscape

Having never been to Regent Park, I didn’t know what to expect. But safe to say the community surprised me in many ways.

We stopped at Daniels Spectrum and found out about many different organizations.

On their official website, they describe the place as a

cultural hub in Regent Park open to everyone.

They also go on to say that

it is home to many outstanding arts-based and community-focused organizations, and contains several event, performance and exhibition spaces that host tens of thousands of visitors and hundreds of arts and cultural events each year.

Daniel Spectrum

I found that I was very drawn to Artscape and what they were doing not just for people living in Regent Park but other individuals or groups from other communities.

Artscape is a not-for-profit urban development organization that makes space for creativity and transforms communities.

Our work involves clustering creative people together in real estate projects that serve the needs of the arts and cultural community and advance multiple public policy objectives, private development interests, community and neighbourhood aspirations and philanthropic missions.

Their work got me thinking about the lack of spacing that’s often an issue when it comes to housing, schooling, as well as other important areas in bringing people together.

I think it’s very important for children and adults to have a place where they can sing, dance, act, etc. Unfortunately, some individuals aren’t able to afford to rent a recording booth or theatre for the creative endeavours they hope to pursue. And sometimes the community as a whole can’t set aside a decent sized space with the right resources for the arts.

Often times academics come first. Then athletics. The arts are sometimes abandoned and neglected.

However, Artscape wants to offer a safe space for artistic, creative expression.

I admire that the group aims to foster the arts by giving incredible people the right place come together.

Every day, Artscape spaces come alive with the ideas and passion of the 116 organizations and 2,300+ people who work and/or live within our portfolio of buildings. Thirty-two public venues pulse with the energy of the 247,000+ people who take part in exhibitions and performances annually and the thousands more who participate in our programs, tenant-driven activities and city-wide events.

Artscape

And they are just as incredible.

Week 8 Main Post: A Small But Significant Publishing House

One of the sites we stopped at on our walk through downtown Toronto was the Coach House Books. It was called Coach House Press at first in 1965. Coach House is a small Candian publishing company that has printed its fair share of books spanning various genres.

I’ve never heard of the publishing house prior to the walk and I’m kind of ashamed to say that, seeing as I aspire to work in the industry.

Nevertheless, it is discouraging to hear about small publishing houses not doing well. Either they’re quickly going under, closing down completely, or barely making ends meet.

Michael Ondaatje who published with Coach House has said:

The thing about small presses is they always die young – that’s the tradition.”

Aside from the Canadian government cutting budget on all things arts, other big business moguls make it tough for smaller companies to stay afloat.

Even John Lorinc, an editor for an anthology published by the imprint had this to say:

There really are not a lot of houses like that around any more – they either got run over or sort of soaked up by the American houses.

One might assume that because Coach House is based in downtown Toronto that they are doing fairly well. After all, there are parts in Toronto where individuals and businesses are wealthy or well off. But Coach House Press has had a history of hardships.

For one, they don’t have the best location despite being downtown. The building doesn’t tower over others. In fact, Coach House seems to be flanked by larger, more prominent structures. It’s not very easy to spot either. Although the Coach House is near the University of Toronto Campus, it’s literally in an alleyway.

Unsurprisingly, they’ve had their ups and downs financially with budget cuts and debt, which would hurt any company, much less a small printing press.

And now with the electronic, digital age revolutionizing the way readers read, the publishing imprint will face a whole new set of challenges.

(Source: The Globe and Mail)

Week 7 Main Post: Vital Signs

After reading the Toronto Vital Signs report for 2015, I’m struck by some of the statistics.

For example, the safety section in the Toronto Star overview made me reconsider just how safe the city is.

While overall violent crime is declining, reported sexual assaults and stabbings are going up.

It pleases me to hear there weren’t as many violent crimes the previous year. However, I’m troubled there are more reported cases of sexual assaults and stabbings. On one hand, I respect the men and women who have had the courage to come forward either as a bystander or victim. On the other hand, more reports probably means more incidents of assault, sexual or otherwise.

Reported sexual assaults increased in Toronto in 2014, to 66.8 per 100,000 persons, up 12.5% over 2013, and higher than the provincial (55.7) and national (58.5) averages.

I hope to see these numbers decline in the following years. I believe everyone, boy or girl, young or old, should feel safe walking down the streets of their home town.

Incidents of stabbings in Toronto jumped dramatically in 2014. There were 815 stabbings, a 36% increase from the 599 the previous year.

Although youth violence is decreasing, more needs to be done to prevent crime from transpiring in the first place. It’s especially important to address violence to stop young offenders from reoffending later as an adult.

The youth crime rate decreased 44.9% between 2004 and 2013.

In terms of work, I personally think Toronto has room to grow, especially as more people enter the city, looking for opportunities.

Toronto’s job numbers are increasing, but almost 1 in 4 is part-time: The city’s overall employment grew 1.5% in 2014 with 20,850 jobs added.

I can only hope jobs are added in the coming years for graduating students and new immigrants. The statistics reveal that these two groups, in particular, seem to face a harder time securing jobs.

Toronto’s youth face troubling trends: The youth unemployment rate reached a high of 21.65% in 2014. The rate has hovered near 20% for more than a decade.

Unfortunately, immigrants also face a greater risk of unemployment. It’s likely because English is their second or even third language. In some instances, employers may be discriminating, perhaps without realizing it, against people of colour or individuals belonging to minorities.

Unemployment is more likely among Toronto’s recent immigrants than Canadian-born workers: In Toronto, the unemployment rate for those aged 15 and over born in Canada was 9.0% in 2014 (up from 7.9% in 2013).

For the city’s recent immigrants (entered Canada within the last 5 years) unemployment stood at 16.2%. For Toronto immigrants in Canada 5-10 years, unemployment was 12.9% (up from 9.7% in 2012). For recent immigrant youth in the city (15-24 yrs. old), the unemployment rate was 24.1% vs. 21.65% for all youth.

(Information taken from the Toronto Foundation: Toronto’s Vital Signs Report 2015.)

Week 6 Main Post: Lack of Diversity in the Media  

David Baldacci. James Dashner. James Frey. Stephen King. James Patterson. Christopher Pike. Rick Yancey.

What do they have in common aside from being authors I’ve read in recent months? They’re all white men.

The only Asian female author I’ve read is Jenny Han. Despite that her book, The Summer I Turned Pretty, revolves around a Caucasian teenager. If my memory serves me correctly, there’s not a single character who isn’t Caucasian in that story.

Safe to say I’ve never encountered an Asian character written by an Asian author.

I do appreciate writers who try to include diversity in their stories. But often times people of colour are portrayed inaccurately. As a result they are in inferior roles while perpetuating negative stereotypes.

Try naming a book, movie, or TV show that features a Chinese female as the main character who was created by an Asian woman.

Does that sound like a feat? Well, it shouldn’t be.

I’ve also come to realize that there’s a fundamental problem with the way events are reported and the way stories are told.

Listening to one side of the story is one thing. But only hearing one side from one person is something else entirely.

We aren’t the same. We’re vastly different from one another. And because of our differences in race, socioeconomic status, etc., it’s important for everyone’s voices to be heard. All voices. Not just the typical voice we’re used to hearing. Not just the voice society has deemed to be the “majority”.

Individuals of other ethnicities tend to be pushed to the background. It sometimes feels as though their struggles aren’t as significant. But their stories are just as important, if not more so.

Fortunately Toronto is a very multicultural city. While Toronto isn’t terrible in respect to its diversity of individuals in the media, that isn’t to say the city doesn’t have room for improvement. Over these past few years, I have noticed the publishing industry and blogging community isn’t as diverse as I initially thought.

Society needs to stop discriminating against people of colour, people perceived to be part of a minority. If not we’ll continue to perpetuate these stereotypes and sustain all sorts of stigma, which ultimately leads to more discrimination and less diversity.