Chris Loblaw's Blog

July 11, 2014

The London Plan – White Oaks Wants In #ldnont

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris @ 10:56 pm

It is an exciting time for London. We’re building the plan that will steer our city’s development for the next 20 years: how we embrace and celebrate our diversity, grow our economy, strengthen our neighbourhoods.

The draft version of the London Plan ( available at http://thelondonplan.ca/) includes a focus on placemaking, places like Wortley Village and Richmond Row among others. It talks about the idea of these main street as “cherished historical business areas”, and that they are important in defining our identity as a city. I agree with the idea, but I think they’ve come up short in its application. 

One of London’s best kept secret is the wonderful and vibrant community of South London. If you take a walk Down Jalna boulevard, you’ll find healthy and friendly neighbourhoods that are all connected to a beautiful pedestrian highway, the White Oaks Optimist Park. Beside the park is the South London Community centre, the Jalna Library, the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre and the South London pool. It’s one of the best places in the city. But to the London Plan so far, it’s nothing but a retail area. It doesn’t have a main street, but it needs one.

The area directly around White Oaks Mall is designated as a “Transit village”, and that’s definitely needed. What’s also needed is a space that is designed to become a main street, a plan that allows for the creation of a public commercial space for small businesses that creates the same atmosphere that SoHo or downtown or Lambeth have.

The challenge is that there currently isn’t a suitable area for a main street, but that’s a challenge that our city planners can find a creative answer to. Instead of focusing on a straight thoroughfare as a main street, why not take an underutilized commercial area and create a commons? As an example, look at the southern side of the intersection of Ernest and Bradley. The rundown, nondescript commercial plazas on both sides of Ernest that constantly struggle to find and keep tenants could be replaced with a distinctive community building design with a public square in the middle. There are several locations like this in South London that could blossom into a truly spectacular main street, but it won’t happen by accident.

When we recognize the vibrant, mutlicultural nature of the community of South London, it becomes clear that it deserves to have it’s own distinct identity. It needs a place to grow it’s history as the city grows over the next 20 years. And the residents of South London need their city councillor to speak up and champion their great neighbourhood to ensure that the London Plan will work for them, to help their community reach it’s full potential.

December 31, 2013

New Year’s Clean Slate

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris @ 4:57 pm

At first blush, I thought that I would have another year of no real resolutions (if I made any recently, I sure don’t remember them). Most of the self-improvement vows that people take are activities I’m already working on. I go to the gym, and I’m trying to be a little more enthusiastic about it. I try to watch what I eat. The only addiction I am currently in the thrall of is my earthy mistress coffee, and I’m okay with our 4 cup a day dance. I regularly end up outside of my comfort zone, and it’s only going to get more exciting/terrifying in 2014.

But I had a walk down memory lane yesterday that gave me something to resolve. I was giving myself a haircut and reflecting on the nostalgic feeling brought on by the giant wad of hubba bubba gum I was chewing. Max didn’t like the flavour of the bubblegum tape he got in his stocking, so he gave it to me, and I decided to show off by eating the entire roll. I can safely say that, though I can chew a whole roll of bubbletape, it is not a good idea. But the gooey, overly sweet blob I quickly spit out is beside the point.

The memory of eating cheap bubble gum from packages of hockey cards led me to remember the small variety store near the house where I grew up. And that led to the memory of the time when I was 10 and I bought a playboy from that same store, egged on by my school chums to do so. The store clerk challenged me by asking if I was buying it for my father, and my mumbled ‘yes’ was good enough for her. Seems a little lax in retrospect. Along with the memory came a flush of guilt. I stared in the mirror and realized I was feeling bad about something that happened 30 years ago, something that hurt no one and had no value now other than a funny story. Carrying around this guilt was doing nothing for me.

So, my New Year’s resolution is to declare complete amnesty for any and everything I did before the age of 18. That isn’t to say that I didn’t make mistakes as a kid. Heck, that’s one of the primary functions of childhood: making dumb choices and learning from the fallout. But feeling guilty about those dumb moments is unfair. It’s reviewing my past actions using my current experience and cognitive ability, instead of seeing those actions in the proper context.

This resolution gets a bit trickier when I consider the awful years from age 15 to 18.  Those memories are foggy, but their proximity to adulthood makes me feel like I should take full ownership of them. But the reality is that those years were marked by social anxiety, depression, and self-medication through alcohol. That doesn’t excuse the mistakes I made during that time, but the past is past. That kid (and he still was very much a kid) was doing the best that he could. Being angry at him and feeling guilty for his decisions won’t fix anything now. Even worse, beating up the memory of that kid would leave bruises on who I am today.

 

October 25, 2013

Book review: “Shades & Shadows, a Paranormal Anthology”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chris @ 7:28 pm

Through a series of random events, I was able to get my hands on an advance copy of “Shades And Shadows: A paranormal Anthology”.  As a fan of seasonally-appropriate fiction, this bundle of strange and scary short stories was a good way to spend an evening.

The stories range in skill level and scope, which makes the entire thing a more interesting read. The high point for me was “Cost of Custody” by R.M. Ridley, a well-paced story about an arcane detective who takes one last sob story case for the day and gets more than he bargains for. The author is very aware of the space he has in the story: a lot of writers can lose track of the limited room a short story has and end up spending too much time on extraneous details about weather and their character’s food choices. Ridley has prune the superfluous out of the story so every paragraph pushes the narrative towards a satisfying conclusion.  And I’m a sucker for a polycultural magic system-why use one civilization’s magic and myth when you can throw them all together in a spellcasting stew? All in all, the ebook anthology is well worth the cost.

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