Archive for November, 2008

November 30th, 2008

Et si on partageait une voiture ?

Posted in Europe, Transportation by Clotilde Minster

Vers des villes sans congestion ?

Vers des villes sans congestion routière ?

Au cours de mon séjour en Allemagne, j’ai pu découvrir un mode de partage des voitures assez confidentiel (tout du moins pour l’Europe): le car-sharing (ou “carsharing”, ou encore “autopartage”). Le “carsharing” n’a rien à voir avec le covoiturage qui est encouragé depuis quelques années dans la plupart des pays européens. Le principe est simple (et est généralement le même dans tous les pays): les utilisateurs payent un abonnement mensuel ou annuel, prix auquel s’ajoute ensuite le coût de la location (à l’heure) du véhicule. Plusieurs types de véhicules sont proposés afin de s’adapter aux besoins de tous les utilisateurs : voitures citadines pour les célibataires, voitures break pour les familles, … Le client doit simplement prévenir (par Internet ou par téléphone, pas forcément à l’avance) qu’il souhaite utiliser tel type de véhicule à telle heure et le véhicule est mis à sa disposition pour la durée qu’il souhaite.

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November 28th, 2008

Aide-mémoires transport

Posted in Canada, Transportation by Sam Imberman

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Orange Line - Jarry to Rosemont

The scenario works like this: after a night of revelry on Boulevard St-Laurent, it’s time to stagger home. You know the set of night buses you have to take: the 360 to Atwater, say, and then the 356 out to NDG. But, of course, you have no idea what times they’re due to arrive; you didn’t think to write them down.

Montreal does have a phone system, (514) AUTOBUS, that you can call for bus times–but only if you know your stop code. And you probably don’t remember your stop code. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a list of night bus times with you?

I set out to solve this problem, along with several other niggling urban transport matters, with my project: Aide-mémoires transport, which I presented at Expozine on November 29, 2008.

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November 28th, 2008

Back from the Beach

Posted in Asia Pacific by Christopher DeWolf

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November 27th, 2008

Selling Hong Kong’s Heritage

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“A lot of the these things were just picked up from the street. They were just junk, literally, from the skip. It’s interesting how once it’s in here people start to take pictures.”

It’s exactly what Douglas Young had hoped for. The 42-year-old architect, designer and co-founder of Goods of Desire, a Hong Kong lifestyle brand better known as G.O.D., has spent years collecting bits of ephemera – the remnants of everyday Hong Kong life. They have long been the inspiration for the Hong Kong-themed clothes, furniture and accessories that have become G.O.D.’s trademark. Now they are on display at G.O.D.’s latest initiative, the Hong Kong Street Culture Gallery, in the newly-opened Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre.

The Street Culture Gallery is a hybrid gallery-boutique. G.O.D.-designed products are sold there, along with books on Hong Kong history, art and culture, and CDs featuring Cantonese pop hits from the 1960s. But throughout the space are hundreds of relics of Hong Kong life, past and present, from old bottles of Horlicks malt powder to Maoist kitsch that would be familiar to many of the mainland Chinese refugees who settled here in the 1950s and 60s.

“We’re not really doing much sales, full stop,” admits Young. “It’s more like a club, I think, where people can sit and chat, have a drink and absorb the atmosphere, talk about Hong Kong culture. It’s like a Hong Kong culture club.”

In 1996, G.O.D. came into life as a small design firm in Ap Lei Chau. From the beginning, Young’s aim was to create a uniquely Hong Kong brand, starting with its name, which is meant to sound like jyu hou di, a Cantonese expression meaning “live better.” (The character for di, incidentally, is purely local – it cannot be found in standard written Chinese.) Young emblazoned pillows, shirts and notebooks with photos of Kowloon tenements, rusty tin mailboxes and old Chinese newspaper classifieds.

With growth came confidence. G.O.D. now operates three retail stores and a concept department store called Delay No Mall, where temporary “pop-up” fashion boutiques share a former cinema with art and performance spaces. Its approach to design and marketing is decidedly cheeky. The brand’s attention-grabbing slogan, Delay No More, sounds like an especially naughty Cantonese swear. And last year, police raided G.O.D. outlets after they began selling a t-shirt that referred to an infamous Hong Kong triad. 18 people were arrested, including store clerks, designers and Douglas Young himself.

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November 26th, 2008

Pop Art

Posted in Art and Design, Canada by Kate McDonnell

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Posters for Pop Montreal, early October, in an alley near St. Viateur in Mile End

November 20th, 2008

Public Perception of Bicycles

Posted in Canada, Transportation by Zvi Leve

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The City of Montreal recently began its annual operation of removing on-street bike racks. This year, it seems that they have been particularly bad about putting up warning signs on the bike racks and many people have had their bicycles removed together along with the bike rack that it was attached to. One new resident of Montreal called in to one of the local radio programs to complain about just such an incident at a Mile End bike parking site.

This news item generated a few lively responses which demonstrate the range of emotions around bicycles. On voice mail…

I live in Mile End. On Saturday I was standing on my balcony and I saw a black pick-up truck, with no markings on it, towing a trailer taking away bike racks and throwing entire bike racks, with the bikes attached, into the back of the pickup truck and into the trailer. Now the funny part, and maybe it’s not so funny, was that just moments prior to that I saw people locking their bikes to the bike rack and going into the cafe and coming back and their bikes being gone. You know, there is no respect for bicycles. Bicycles are not toys. Bicycles aren’t just somebody’s hobby. People actually use them for transportation, and I don’t think that Helen Fotopulos [the borough, who is also on Montreal's executive committee for urban planning] or anybody else at City Hall realizes that.

And by text message…

That bike story — WOW, that’s hard-hitting news. For a small town! What’s next? Little Billy from Dorval got a scout’s badge?

November 20th, 2008

Karden Chan

Posted in Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation by Christopher DeWolf

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Karden Chan is perhaps best known for her woodblock print of the old Star Ferry clock tower and Queen’s Pier, both of which were demolished in 2006 for a controversial harbour reclamation project, and both of which can be seen at aco, a new bookstore and art space in Wan Chai that is hosting an ongoing exhibition of her work. Last week, I had a chance to meet Karden and chat about her work. Here’s a portion of what she had to say about her most famous work.

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November 17th, 2008

Race Day

Posted in Asia Pacific, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf

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Reading the racing papers at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei

November 12th, 2008

Celebrating Obama’s Victory

Posted in Politics, Public Space, Society and Culture, United States, Video by Christopher DeWolf
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If anyone doubted that the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States was a watershed moment, the sight of him delivering his victory speech before an ecstatic crowd in Chicago’s Grant Park should have changed that. Although every politician’s victory is accompanied by jubilation on the part of his or her supporters, it’s rare to see the kind of public enthusiasm that greeted Obama’s win — and not just in Chicago, but around the world.

Here in Hong Kong, I watched the election results come in at a special event hosted by the Hong Kong Club and organized by a variety of American organizations. Most people were ecstatic when Obama won. It was interesting to be somewhere full of enthusiastic expatriate Americans but, at the same time, I wish I had been somewhere public. Hong Kong isn’t a city prone to spontaneous celebration but I would have liked to see the reaction of people in Times Square or Central as they watched up at the giant video screens broadcasting Obama’s victory speech.

It would have been even more of a thrill to actually be in the United States. In the video above, you can see a people celebrating spontaneously in the streets of New York’s East Village. Similar gatherings occurred throughout the city, including street parties in neighbourhoods like Prospect Heights and Williamsburg and, perhaps most symbolically, Harlem. “Obama win spreads joy through famously cynical New York,” declared a headline in the Daily News.

Last Wednesday, on The Daily Show, comedian Jon Stewart made light of the transformative atmosphere created by Obama’s win: “As you walk the streets of New York City, people are making eye contact and they’re nodding and smiling,” he joked. “I’m literally afraid that someone on the street is going to invite me over for pie.”

November 12th, 2008

Sai Yeung Choi Street

Posted in Asia Pacific by Christopher DeWolf

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One of the best spots for people-watching in Hong Kong is Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mongkok. Each weekday evening, and all day on weekends and holidays, it is closed to traffic and thronged by an incessant flow of pedestrians. (Hong Kong’s urban planning department estimates that, at peak times, more than 16,000 people pass down the street each hour.) The crowds here are a cross-section of Hong Kong youth: pouty “MK girls” with trucker caps perched lightly on bleached hair; trendy young men in slim jeans and stylish t-shirts; kids in school uniforms munching on fishballs and street sausages.

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November 11th, 2008

Fighting the Rent Hike

Posted in Asia Pacific, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf

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Every so often in Hong Kong, you’ll come across a protest banner like this one, hanging from the window of a decrepit apartment and bearing a message usually related to rents. In this case, tenants in a building near the Central street market are angry that their landlord wants to raise their rent three-fold.

Rents in Hong Kong are expensive, but not quite as outrageous as they’re made out to be — you can easily find a nice apartment in a central area for no more than what you’d pay for an equivalent place in Toronto, let alone London or New York. But what makes things tricky is that rents in Hong Kong are completely unregulated: if your lease is up and your landlord decides to triple your rent, your choice is to either pay up, move out or, in the case of these residents of Central, mount a collective protest.

The only reason this system hasn’t resulted in rampant homelessness is because nearly half of all Hong Kong residents live in some form of public housing. The government here has done an remarkably good job of providing relatively high-quality, affordable homes to those who need them. This becomes less admirable, however, when you realize that the government is largely responsible for perennially high property values. Because the government owns virtually all of the land in Hong Kong, it wields enormous influence over property values: in order to keep prices high, it selectively leases land to a small group of property developers.

It’s a bit alarming to live in a place whose entire political and economic structure rests on something so inequitable. But how to change it when that change would require a complete upheaval of the current system?

November 11th, 2008

Cloud Cover

Posted in Canada by Kate McDonnell

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Scenes from around the Lachine Canal

November 5th, 2008

Waiting for Customers

Posted in Canada, Interior Space by Kate McDonnell

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Through the window on St. Viateur Street

November 3rd, 2008

Darkness Falls

Posted in Asia Pacific by Christopher DeWolf

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South Bay Beach, near Repulse Bay, at 7:30pm