Archive for May, 2008


Sardonic City

5 May 2008

If I could afford it, I would subscribe to at least two Canadian magazines (The Walrus and MacLean’s) and two Canadian newspapers (The Globe & Mail and The Toronto Star; The National Post is traditionally more conservative than I—and we didn’t leave the USA to go conservative—and the Toronto Sun is a tabloid and all that infers).

But I can’t afford it, so I only get the Star. The Globe & Mail is a better paper (and I randomly read parts of it online) but I feel the need to connect first and foremost with my city. 

I am beginning to identify staff writers to read or to avoid. Easily my favourite is architecture and urban affairs columnist Christopher Hume. So when I learned he would be a guest speaker at a neighbourhood event a mere 3 or 4 blocks from our house, I made a point of attending. I was not disappointed.

Curmudgeonly, opinionated, blunt, wry, erudite and entertaining, Mr. Hume does not much seem to care whom he is likely to offend, and that is just fine with me. (And indeed, he has detractors, including some I otherwise respect.) He began by stating, “I have no faith in planners, the city planning department, no faith in our politicians, in city government.” And then he took off the gloves. It was marvelous.

Three days later Katharine and I joined Mr. Hume on a “Jane’s Walk” for which he gave an historical overview of bank towers in downtown Toronto. What little I could hear through the wind, rain, traffic and assorted city noises was insightful and engaging. 

I admit that I am more interested in architecture than knowledgeable about it, but Chris Hume makes me wish I could be his apprentice.