Blog Posts by Marc Weisblott

  • Polaris Music Prize pits Arcade Fire against names who need the money more

    Arcade Fire won over judges at the Grammy and Juno awards earlier this year with the album "The Suburbs."

    But they have yet to face their most critical jury of all.

    The Montreal band was the most popular name among the acts shortlisted for the sixth annual Polaris Music Prize, whose $30,000 winner will be selected by a group of 11 journalists, broadcasters and bloggers during a gala in Toronto on Sept. 19.

    An announcement on Wednesday at the city's Drake Hotel narrowed a longer list of 40 contenders down to 10, based on input from more than 200 tastemakers from across the country, who were asked to pick their five favourite Canadian discs released in the preceding year.

    Yet one of the albums featured on the shortlist, "House of Balloons," was neither released on a CD nor made available for sale.

    Rather, the debut collection by the Weeknd, the alter ego of 20-year-old Toronto singer Abel Tesfaye, was distributed as a free online download, which gained attention due to an endorsement

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  • TTC tries to spin controversial scheme to sell subway station names like Dundas

    Are any public spaces too sacred to carry the name of a sponsor?

    The question has recently been pondered in Toronto, where the cash-strapped transit system has announced plans to incorporate the names of corporate brands into subway stops, starting with the one most popular with those who go downtown.

    Dundas station, which is adjacent to the Toronto Eaton Centre, has been long overdue for a facelift. Selling its identity to a corporation is considered the most realistic way for renovations to be underwritten.

    Buffering criticism the identity will be sold off to the highest bidder, though, Toronto Transit Commission chair Karen Stintz has mentioned another potential partner for the project would be the school right above the subway station: Ryerson University.

    Ryerson started construction of a new student centre on the former site of Sam the Record Man, which it purchased in 2008, along with other efforts to integrate academia into the surrounding Yonge-Dundas neighbourhood.

    But those

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  • MORNING BREW: CRTC hearings on Netflix boycotted by citizen advocacy group

    Welcome to Morning Brew, our daily roundup of early-bird news:

    • OpenMedia.ca, the organization that led the charge against usage-based Internet billing, has announced that it will boycott the forthcoming CRTC hearings on services like Netflix on the grounds that media industry interests are being favoured over Canadian interests. (OpenMedia.ca)

    • "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig and "The Hangover" star Ken Jeong have been confirmed as guests at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, where they will be presented with awards along with Louis C.K. and creators of the sitcom "Modern Family." (Montreal Gazette)

    • Yann Martel has filmed an appearance, as an extra, for director Ang Lee's 3-D adaptation of "Life of Pi," which star Tobey Maguire prepared for his role in by growing out his curly hair and maintaining a few days' growth of facial hair in order to help resemble the author. (The Globe and Mail)

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  • The price of parking a car never ceases to annoy Canadian drivers

    Few things annoy a driver more than having to dig around for change in order to be allowed to leave their vehicle, particularly when they were under the assumption parking was free.

    A town councillor in Truro, N.S. has expressed annoyance over the fact that after its tourism committee encouraged people from across the province to attend its Canada Day festivities, a full lot forced some cars to the streets where they were dinged for $15 each.

    The lack of signage to adequately explain where out-of-town visitors weren't supposed to park their cars was blamed for the confusion.

    Nonetheless, parking has continued to be seen as a revenue generator for municipalities, with the presumption there's even more money to be made from ticketing those who don't pay attention to time and space restrictions.

    Parking meters have become a contentious issue in Hamilton where residents balked at paying $1 per hour in spots that used to be free. The machines have only netted a small fraction of the

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  • Canada turns to America’s ‘The Onion’ for a look at satirical news and pop culture

    The publication that proclaimed itself "America's Finest News Source" for the past 23 years will soon be printed in Canada.

    A deal to print a weekly edition of The Onion was announced by the Toronto Star on Tuesday. The free publication will also reportedly incorporate local stories into its pop culture section, The A.V. Club.

    While its target audience is already familiar with the deadpan news parody style, which was established at the University of Wisconsin in 1988, its online popularity led to the decision to franchise local versions. Toronto has joined 14 U.S. cities where The Onion is currently published.

    But the concept hasn't taken off everywhere. Versions in Los Angeles and San Francisco closed a couple of years ago.

    When it comes to making fun of current events, though, Canadians seem dependent upon U.S. imports as much as ever.

    Comedy Central staples "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" have thrived for the past few years on CTV, which doesn't produce any equivalent

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  • MORNING BREW: Justin Bieber flops for Vanity Fair; The Onion coming to Toronto

    Welcome to Morning Brew, our daily roundup of early-bird news:

    • Justin Bieber's appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair might have gained attention online back in February for the provocative photos of the teen singing star, but the print issue is on track to being the worst-selling issue in the magazine's recent history. (WWD)

    • The Toronto Star has signed a deal to publish and distribute the first Canadian print edition of the Chicago-based satirical weekly newspaper The Onion, which will also feature original local content in The A.V. Club section, similar to its arrangement in 14 U.S. cities. (Marketwire)

    • Calgarian small business owners work longer hours than their counterparts in every other major Canadian city, according to the TD Canada Trust Small Business Survey, but they also report being in higher spirits after working an average of 52.1 hours per week. (CNW)

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  • Criminal status for public nudity could be struck down by Ontario court this week

    Not many Canadians wanted to think about wearing fewer clothing items outside when a constitutional challenge over public nudity was postponed in January due to a winter storm.

    Now, in the hazy days of summer, the public could be more sympathetic to the plight of Brian Coldin of Bracebridge, Ont.

    Lawyers plan to argue in provincial court on Tuesday the clothing-optional resort owner did nothing criminal by allegedly placing an order at a Tim Hortons drive-thru without a pocket in which to keep his wallet. Another charge was laid after he was spotted hiking in the woods wearing nothing but a pair of sandals.

    But, according the applicable section of the Criminal Code, you are equally liable for being naked in your own home.

    An employee of an area A&W, who testified at the assault trial over incidents in May 2009, nonetheless wept as she recalled what she noticed about Coldin's lap as he placed an order from his front seat.

    Forensic psychologist Dr. Ronald Langevin, who was also called to

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  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s brother hopes he will ‘rethink’ Pride Week no-show

    Following the most controversial cottage weekend ever taken by a Canadian politician, Rob Ford was expected to be back on the job Monday, rejuvenated by a few days away from Toronto to spend time with his family.

    While a million or so gay-positive revellers lined downtown streets on Sunday afternoon as the culmination of a week of Pride celebrations, the mayor was in Muskoka. Speculation he would make a surprise cameo appearance at the parade was ultimately unfounded.

    A reporter from the Toronto Star was dispatched to peep Ford at the cottage during those hours and failed to spot him, although other members of the clan were observed as they packed up cars at the end of the afternoon. The mayor, guessed his niece, was out shopping for groceries.

    Still, the parade featured no shortage of visual references to the absentee Ford, who signed the Pride Week proclamation yet avoided the small flag-raising ceremony last week where it was read aloud.

    Doug Ford, the city councillor who happens to

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  • Wellbeing Toronto website takes step in opening more data to local taxpayers

    Cities across Canada have grappled with efforts to move data from the file cabinets of city hall to the computers of the people.

    A new municipal venture called Wellbeing Toronto has marked a new step in that direction, since it will allow users to research statistics about 140 different neighbourhoods, and compare how they stack up.

    Information collected by Statistics Canada, local school boards and the city itself was compiled to give residents a sense of how their streets compare to other parts of Toronto.  The access could certainly transform how politicians decide to spend their money.

    On the other hand, while the data could assist potential home buyers who want to settle around more trees or transit, detail about the number of car crashes or high school dropouts in one specific area might negatively affect property values.

    Toronto had previously identified 13 "priority neighbourhoods" that were most in need of municipal investment. Critics claimed the designation stigmatized those

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  • EZ Rock radio signs off the air in favour of a more upbeat retro sound

    The radio brand name most synonymous with Canadian dentist offices had more of its novocaine wear off this week.

    EZ Rock 97.7, an Ottawa station owned by Astral Media, announced it would change its format to Boom FM, a concept that originated in Quebec and replaced Toronto's EZ Rock 97.3 in late 2009.

    When the "EZ Rock" handle was first attached to stations across the country in 1995 as a translation of the Quebecois "Rock Détente" format, it proved successful. Nonetheless, the once-popular 104.9 FM in Edmonton ditched the identity in February.

    With its retirement in Ottawa, the EZ Rock positioning will no longer be found on the dial in any major market, although it has survived in some smaller B.C. and Ontario cities. But for how much longer?

    While it lasted for about 14 years in Toronto and Edmonton, the Ottawa version took just 13 months to flame out after its debut in May 2010. EZ Rock's sleepier connotations didn't catch on with listeners in the capital city.

    The new Boom 97.7

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