My all-time favorite things Ontario

by on September 9, 2012 at 2:55 am in The Arts, Travel | Permalink

1. Short story author: Alice Munro I consider one of the very best writers ever, from anywhere or any period.  Read them all, and there is a new collection coming this November.  Here is one place to start.

2. Movie, set in: Dead Ringers, by David Cronenberg, one of my favorite films period.

3. Director: After Cronenberg there is James Cameron, hate me if you want but I find his movies splendid.  Sarah Polley remains underrated in the United States, start with Away From Her, another of my all-time favorites.

4. Novelist: Margaret Atwood, especially Cat’s Eye.  I used to like Robertson Davies, but somehow his novels have not stuck with me.

5. Pianist: I used to think that only half of Glenn Gould’s recordings were tolerable, but in the last five years I have come to see his Haydn and Brahms recordings as masterpieces.  Now it’s only the Mozart and Beethoven I can’t stand.  Don’t forget the Berg Sonata and of course the Bach and also his writings.

6. Architect: Frank Gehry comes to mind, though I do not like the new rendition of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

7. Alanis Morissette song: “Head Over Feet.”

8. Comedian: I love Mike Myers in “Wayne’s World” and Jim Carrey in “Ace Ventura” and “The Cable Guy.”

9. Favorite Neil Young album: Everybody Knows this is Nowhere.

10. Blogger: AhemCory Doctorow deserves mention too.

We haven’t even touched the painters.

What strikes me is not only how strong this list is, but how little thought was required to compile it.

Alex Weiner September 9, 2012 at 3:39 am

Would a list of favorite things Canada look terribly different?

Ryan Cousineau September 9, 2012 at 6:53 pm

An apt point. Some possible names that would be added from all of Canada: William Gibson (an expat American but resident in Canada for decades), WP Kinsella? Oscar Peterson, Arthur Erickson, the entire cast of SCTV (some of whom could be from Ontario, but Edmonton has a good claim as the spiritual home of the troupe). If the painters of Ontario are strong, there are also good ones from the Rest of Canada*

Quebec has its own culture, so then you’re into Denys Arcand for director/movie-set-in options, and I’m hardly qualified to speak about the rest.

Missing a mention of “Rush” seems in error, but across Canada you’re now roping in Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, the Tragically Hip, Arcade Fire, Michael Buble, and many other performers who are surely cooler than those I’ve mentioned.

*For those not familiar with Canada, “the rest of Canada ” (“ROC”) is a common shorthand for “not Ontario,” sometimes with a straight face, but often as an ROC-er’s slightly peevish self-description.

anonymousest September 9, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Actually, “ROC” usually means “not Quebec”.

Roy September 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm

That list would have a lot of people from Montreal on it.

obsessed with Beethoven September 9, 2012 at 6:14 am

On classicsl music, I have not seen a single interesting, provocative, or insightful statement by Tyler. Certainly not by Tyler’s high standards.

Kindred Winecoff September 9, 2012 at 6:47 am

You chose the words not me: touch the painters.

shrikanthk September 9, 2012 at 7:50 am

I wonder if you’d have picked Galbraith in the favourite economist category had there been one.
Favourite actor of mine would be Walter Huston who was born in Ontario. Had the Hustons moved to America one generation later, one could’ve picked John Huston as the favourite director instead of Cameron.

Tyler Cowen September 9, 2012 at 10:06 am

Robert Mundell was born in Ontario…

valuethinker September 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

And Michael Spence attended University of Toronto Schools (UTS) for high school.

valuethinker September 12, 2012 at 10:32 am

We should mention Harrold Adams Innis of ‘staple theory’ who really kicked off that type of colonial economic history. Innis College is named after him. His devotion to empirical research (he would get in a canoe in summers and canoe/ portage the routes of the old Northwest Company fur traders) marks him out amongst economists.

U of T was well known for its concentration of economic historians– Polanyi, Karl Heilleiner, Innis, John Munro, Jon Cohen, Scott Eddie, Abraham Rotstein and on the history of economic thought side the incomparable Samuel Hollander.

Ted Craig September 9, 2012 at 7:51 am

3. Start with Away from Her and move to what? Take This Waltz? She’s mostly an actress.

Townes September 9, 2012 at 7:54 am

Cowboy Junkies

Orange14 September 9, 2012 at 8:31 am

#4 – I suspect that Atwood will be short listed for a Nobel Prize as the quality of her work is outstanding and she has the requisite political orientation for the Nobel committee (e.g., they like the apocalyptic in the fashion of ‘Oryx and Crake’).

Engineer September 9, 2012 at 9:20 am

I used to like Robertson Davies>/i>

RD is a mega-pseudointellectual. Very Canadian though.

Engineer September 9, 2012 at 9:23 am

What strikes me is not only how strong this list is, but how little thought was required to compile it.

Funny, that’s exactly what the people who come up with the list of ACTRA award nominees always say.

Roy September 9, 2012 at 8:10 pm

+∞

Edward Burke September 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

11. Literary critic: Northrop Frye (born/raised elsewhere, but spent much/most of his academic career and adult life in Toronto).

Gestater September 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

+1

AIso, is there a worse fiction-writer than Cory Doctorow anywhere?

Scrutineer September 9, 2012 at 11:00 am

A lot of Gould’s early Beethoven is beautiful. He (GG) goes off a cliff around Op 31.

Donald Pretari September 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Bruce Cockburn & Gordon Lightfoot.

Delirious September 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm

No mention of favorite song from Rush’s Moving Pictures

Cowen Fail

Megan September 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm

How about architect Moshe Safdie? Granted, he has projects all over the world at this point, but he does have an office in Toronto.

DW September 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm

So which Toronto restaurant did you pick?

robbl September 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm

How about Director Patricia Rozema? Have you seen “I’ve heard the mermaids singing”?

Thor September 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Perhaps surprisingly, there have been many very very funny Canadians. Leslie Nielsen’s Airplane was just voted the funniest movie in history (google it in Daily Telegraph)

Ben September 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Visual arts:

ROC is not too shabby. There is the Vancouver school of photography (Jeff Wall, Roy Arden), and there is the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), an avant-garde redoubt.

Modern painter Ralston Crawford was born in St. Catharines before heading to Buffalo, L.A., Houston. Today, St. Catharines can boast above all photographer-documentarian Edward Burtynsky. Garry Kennedy left St. Catharines, eventually for NSCAD.

Structuralist filmmaker Michael Snow (Wavelength) is from Toronto. Also Deborah Grant, Scott Lyall, Derek Sullivan, Miriam Schapiro, Shary Boyle, Melanie Gilligan, Kristan Horton, Brad Phillips, Geoffrey James, Max Streicher, Fastwürms.

The Canadian Group of Seven painters: Lawren Harris of Brantford.

Magnum photographer Larry Towell, from Chatham-Kent, ON.

Photographer Julie Moos, from Ottawa, to Birmingham, Ala.

Janice Kerbel, from Don Mills, now works in the UK version of London.

Dave Tufte September 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm

“What strikes me is not only how strong this list is, but how little thought was required to compile it.”

Umm … Ontario has about the same population as Illinois, Pennsylvania, or Ohio. I don’t think you’d have much trouble putting together a strong list with little thought from any of those either.

Art September 10, 2012 at 8:38 am

Marshall McLuhan, Harold Innis, Susar Lee.

Michael Stack September 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

Everybody Knows this is Nowhere is good, but I think Rust Never Sleeps is the very best Neil Young. That is still one of my all-time favorite albums.

Phil Koop September 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Favorite pianist: Angela Hewitt.

valuethinker September 12, 2012 at 10:05 am

I shall put a tick in for CANDU (heavy water) reactors. Not unique to Ontario (New Brunwick has 1, from memory Quebec has 2).

The problem had its financial disasters (partly due to huge government imposed delays on Darlington) and some technical fiascos around corrosion and the need to re-tube.

But Ontario gets 60% of its electricity from a carbon free source– an achievement in a country which leads the world in per capita carbon emissions. The reactors do not use enriched uranium and so do not contribute to the same extent to the spread of nuclear weapons (the Indians did use a Canadian reactor to kick off their bomb programme).

valuethinker September 12, 2012 at 10:27 am

A few other thoughts:

– Toronto Dominion Bank centre is late Mies Van der Roe, a very good example of a modernist office complex. Subsequent post modernist bank buildings around it have just made it look better and better

– the underground city in Toronto is not to all tastes (the PATH) but is perhaps more extensive than the Montreal one. An interesting adaptation to a climate of extremes

– Toronto pioneered a lot of the urban regeneration/ gentrification movement. Kicked off in part by Jane Jacobs, who moved there having bested Robert Moses in Greenwich Village. Although Toronto is now moving into late phase gentrification (condo-mania downtown, and perhaps the site of the next RE bubble) the neighbourhood preservation has generally been very good. I see more individual shops and art galleries in a place like Queen-Ossington than I do in London, England

– streetcars (trams). The electric railway networks which dominated American cities pre 1930s, very few are left. Toronto has a real live, heavily used streetcar system (not a tourist toy). This also spawned one of the great history book titles of all time ‘The Revenge of the Methodist Bicycle Company’ (about a fight between the streetcar companies for control of the mayorship, and thus the right to operate on a Sunday, against Church wishes)

– Karl Polanyi, the economic anthropologist and thinker, came to reside in Ontario at the end of his life. His ?nephew?, John Polanyi, a U of Toronto professor, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Hungarians have always been quite a vibrant part of Toronto intellectual life

– Brian Moore (the Luck of Ginger Coffey) lived in Toronto

– the Group of Seven painters have their art museum at Kleinberg Ontario. Really when Canadian art ‘broke cover’ and became distinct (our equivalent, perhaps, of your ‘Hudson School’ almost a century earlier)

– Chinatown – Toronto has one of the most diverse and energetic China Towns (plural) in North America, if not anywhere outside of Asia

– gay life – Toronto rivalled New York and San Francisco as a city for open gay life (PDAs etc.) from the late 1970s. Cabbagetown in particular

– before that Cabbagetown was said to be the biggest WASP slum in North America, which is something ;-).

– ethnic neighbourhoods generally– Portugese, Greek, Italian, WASP ;-), Jewish, Korean, Vietnamese. I believe Toronto is ranked as the most (or in the top 3) ethnically diverse cities in North America. 50% of the population was not born in Canada

– Toronto Film Festival – one of the world’s leading

– Bakka Books which is an excellent science fiction bookstore with its own in-resident published author (Michel West/ Sagara). Various other SF and Fantasy writers inhabit Ontario (Steve Sterling?)

– Tafelmusik which is a great original instruments baroque ensemble

– Michael Spence – Nobel Prize Winner- although an American, for high school he attended University of Toronto Schools (UTS) then an interesting experience in state funded elite education (it is now private)

– Conrad Black- chucked out of the leading private school, Upper Canada College, for photocopying exam papers and selling them to other students ;-). Recently reclaimed his Canadian citizenship (which he abandoned to become ‘Lord Black of Crossharbour’ following some disagreement with US legal authorities ;-). A famous Canadian ;-).

– you might not like the 401 (the Macdonald Cartier Freeway) but it is reported to be the widest highway in the world (22 lanes at one point with feeders) and in parts, the busiest. It really defines postwar Toronto. The 407 was, I think, the first electronic toll highway in North America? Since the two are parallel, all sorts of interesting data about the efficacy of road pricing against a free alternative, and hence revealed time preference, etc. emerges

– the main north south thru-fare, Yonge Street, is said to be the longest street in the world

– Ontario’s ‘cottage country’ like Muskoka and Haliburton are really fantastic if you get a chance

– the Zoo is excellent

lightreadingguide September 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Somewhere off the coast in the Hudson Bay … The King of the Island of Misfit Toys … possible Ontario citizen … to those familiar with the best known details of his mid 20th century reign, a questionable king, but each of his subjects found him adorable, in his way … as the Poet (pushkin, octosyllabically, not, this time, his ancestral northern neighbor Solomon) might have said, even a man of gold wants to be loved for his soul … lyubi menya kak druga serdtsa, khatya k’zhys’ ya z’lateem …(please love me as a heartfelt friend, although I seem a golden man)

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