Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Marilyn Monroe’s concrete body now finished


Marilyn Monroe’s concrete body now finished

December 03, 2010
Stephen Weir

Special to the Toronto Star
Posted on the Star's YourHome.ca site

Hazel McCallion believes that the “topping-off” of the 56-storey Absolute condominium is a giant step in making Mississauga a “Global City.”
The completion of the new 428-unit curvy cement and glass building is the making of an iconic attraction that will bring more boldly designed high-rises to the city and create a tourist attraction, Mississauga’s mayor says.
“This building has already set a new standard for design in Mississauga,” McCallion told a happy crowd of construction workers last week at a top-off party for the recently completed building.
The mayor, sharing a stage with the officials of Fernbrook Homes, Cityzen Development Group, Dominus Group and the Beijing based MAD Architects, urged the consortium to build again in her city and as soon as possible. Calling the Absolute tower, also known as the Marilyn Monroe building because of its curvy silhouette, an icon, she expects more builders will be inspired to use eye-catching designs in future projects.
The “topping-off” ceremony — the traditional way construction crews celebrate the end of pouring concrete on a major site — was held to mark the completion of Absolute 4 late last month.. Over 500 guests gathered in the building’s cavernous podium to wildly cheer on the mayor as she signaled the end of heavy construction on the twisty shaped condo.
The individual units are still to be completed, but the project is just a few months away occupation of the lower floors. Heavy construction continues on Absolute 5, Marilyn’s 50-storey equally curvaceous next-door neighbour.
In the growing forest of Mississauga condominium towers, the Marilyn Monroe is seen as the tallest, most striking tree in the woods. Construction on the tower began three years ago. It is one of five buildings and townhouses that make up the Absolute project, located at Hurontario St. Burnhamthorpe Rd., adjacent to the Square One Shopping Centre.
“We broke industry conventions and believe the affectionately called ‘Marilyn’ set new standards for design and certainly raises the bar for all future projects (in Mississauga),” said Sam Crignano, principal with Cityzen Development Group. Cityzen is a high-profile real estate development firm, and it and its sister company, Dominus Construction, are headquartered in downtown Toronto.
“The result has been a success in every regard. The number of enquires and the rate of sales set new records for the Mississauga condominium market.”
Crignano told the Toronto Star that only 10 of the building’s 428 suites are still available for purchase.
“This tower and its soon to be complete companion might not have been possible in many other cities” continued Crignano. “But what we found in Mississauga was a shared vision of the future and an unwavering belief that great design is the path to creating enduring value.”
Possibly inspired by the words of the late actress Marilyn Monroe — “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world” — McCallion predicts that international interest in the project and her city will only grow. “This is not the end,” she said, “it is just the beginning.”


photo by: Bernard Weil/TORONTO STAR
Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and Absolute architect Ping Jiang are framed by the two Absolute towers. A topping off ceremony took place last month at the Marilyn Monroe tower at left.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Jill Heinreth: A Canadian life where blue is anything but

Jill Heinreth: A Canadian life where blue is anything but
By Stephen Weir

It's like going next door to borrow a cuppa sugar and coming back with filet mignon. It is not what you wanted, but who is going to complain. Whenever Jill Heinreth speaks at a Niagara Falls wreck diving symposium, you can pretty well count on her talking about anything other than Great Lake shipwrecks - but, that is okay, the audiences adore her!
Earlier this year she was the headline speaker at the 16th annual Niagara Divers' Association Shipwreck Festival in Welland, Ontario. While people like wreck hunter Dave Trotter and Georgann and Mike Wachter showed film from their latest fresh water discovies, Jill got up on stage and talked about why divers die using rebreathers! A few years before at the same wreck-heavy conference Jill wowed the audiences with stories and pictures of her dives in Mexican caves and Antarctic iceberg fissures!
The audience in Welland, Ontario love her. She has spoken twice and post conference surveys show divers want her back in a big way! She can't stay on topic worth a damn but come break-time they are lined up to buy her books, her DVDs and get her autograph. She is Ontario's hometown diving girl. Awe shucks and all that, but, she is the real deal, she has worked on Hollywood underwater movies, dove inside uncharted mile long caves, set underwater records, risked death to explore ice fissures at the bottom of the globe and, unfortunately has learned lots about rebreather dive fatalities.
“I have worked as an expert witness and have also been called on by Coroners’ offices to examine rebreathers after a fatality has occurred,” explained the 45-year old diver. “My life's resume is my expertise. I have no official training specifically in court testimony or legal affairs (but I am called to testify). I just tell them what I see.”
That massive dive resume is the long successful story of a Canadian who learned to dive in the Great Lakes. Raised in Mississauga, Ontario (it was called Clarkson back then) she took her first scuba lesson in nearby Toronto at the Diving Store in west end Toronto (or “Rexdale” in those days).
The Diving Store operated one of the province’s first charter boats in Georgian Bay – the Aquanaut Diver – and students got to take their Open Water tests in the wreck filled waters around Tobermory. “ A week after the open water class was completed, I jumped straight into advanced classes. I was hooked.”
After graduating with an honours arts degree from York University, Heinreth supported her diving habit by launching herself into the advertising industry. Owning her own agency gave her the freedom to go and get wet when and where she felt the need.
As a diver trained in the sometimes-harsh conditions of the Great Lakes, she found her skills were in demand by dive shops around the world. Her advertising career was wound down and she headed south. Heinreth put in 3-years at the Cayman Lodge, teaching basic scuba, shepherding groups along the world famous Babylon Wall off Grand Cayman’s east end and instructing in the relatively new art of underwater photography.
Working underwater almost daily didn’t stifle the Canadian’s desire to learn. She took almost every SCUBA certification offered. She also earned Cave Diving, and Closed Circuit Rebreather instructor credentials. It was an easy step from underwater photography in the Caymans to underwater filming anywhere dangerous.
Since those Cayman days she has become an award-winning filmmaker. She produced, and appeared in Water's Journey, an American PBS documentary series that takes viewers on travels through the world's greatest water systems. Hollywood directors call on her to produce difficult underwater scenes and international magazines and websites look to her to document extreme environments with high technology.
“ I used to say there is nothing more dangerous in diving than to be in a cave on a rebreather,” Jill Heinreth told Diver Magazine “until I worked on a Hollywood horror movie shot in Romania. Now that is scary.”
The movie was The Cave, a not-very successful 2005 release that has bloodthirsty creatures stalking a team of divers who are trapped in an underwater cave. Most of the film was made underwater in a Romanian film tank studio; Heinreth was the production’s technical advisor and underwater coordinator.
“ An underwater movie studio in Romania can be built for a million and a half, but do it here and it is $200 million,” said Heinreth. “It was an incredibly elaborate studio, but “safe”??? We had to be on our game.”
Other movies followed. Underwater scenes in The Real Nightmare on Elm Street, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Surviving the Worst (Alligator Attack, Shark Attack) needed Heinreth’s sure touch.
While the Blood and Bubble movies can now only be found by diving into the delete bin at Blockbuster, the work did pay the bills and paved the way to her working on a number of award winning film and photography assignments.
Jill Heinreth has written, produced, and appeared in Water's Journey, the American PBS TV documentary series that takes viewers on travels through the world's greatest water systems. Earlier this year National Geographic aired NOVA Extreme Cave Diving, which follows a scientific expedition into watery caves in the Bahama Banks.
Her many dive-filming accomplishments are best highlighted by an Antarctic cave diving expedition inside the largest iceberg known to man, (National Geographic - Ice Island). She also made significant contributions to the United States Deep Caving Team’s Wakulla 2 project, using paradigm-changing technology to map a Florida underwater cave system in three dimensions. It was at Wakulla that she established a women's diving world record.
“Its a strange record ... it was the "longest deep cave penetration" by a woman,” she explained. “It was on a rebreather on a mission that spanned almost 22 hours and included 5 hours of actual bottom time at 300 feet prior to decompression. I was also the first person to dive in iceberg caves in Antarctica, likely in the world.”
“I have several exciting projects on the go now. I am shooting "We Are Water" a documentary about our relationship with water. I am also working on preparations for two film projects - one that will take me to one of the hottest places on the planet and one to the Arctic. It should be quite a year ahead!”
I am heading to Australia in the spring and that will fall in the same time frame as Niagara Shipwreck 2011, so I probably won’t be able to make this time. I will be back in Toronto, next summer for 6-8 weeks though.”
Heinreth won’t teach divers how to dive in the Arctic, but she still does find time to teach specialized programs including cave diving, side mount diving and rebreathers for small groups of up to three people. “However, I am usually booked about six months in advance.”
Heinreth doesn’t have far to travel to class. She and her husband Robert McClellan live in High Springs, Florida. “I ride my bike over to Ginnie Springs (popular Florida freshwater cave) and swim at the springs and in the Santa Fe River. It's a beautiful way to celebrate the dawn! ”

Cutlines: Pictures taken By Stephen Weir at the annual Niagara Divers Association Shipwreck Convention, held in Welland, Ontario.

Sidebar: Jill Heinreth


Sidebar to the Diver Magazine feature
By Stephen Weir

Jill Heinreth Milestones

Heinreth’s numerous milestones include induction to the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame and being named a living legend by Sport Diving Magazine. She was named Canadian Technical Diver of the Year, and holds various pioneering diving records. She won the STAND Award for Environmental Photography in 2008. Among her many documentary film making awards are the Cine Golden Eagle and a Redemptive Film Festival Storyteller award. Jill is consistently among the top winners of many prestigious photography competitions and salons.


Technical Rebreather Instructor, Cave & Mixed Gas Instructor - International Association of Nitrox and Tech Divers (IANTD)
Extended Range Cave Diving Instructor - National Speleological Society (NSS)
Master Instructor - Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)
Specialty Instructor - Rebreather Association of International Divers (RAID)
Medic First Aid Instructor
Emergency First Responder Instructor
Member of the Explorer's Club
Member of the B.O.D. of the U.S. Deep Caving Team
Fellow of the National Speleological Society
Member of the International Board of Advisors IANTD

Jill Heinreth Websites


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Marilyn Monroe’s concrete body now finished and fireworks lit the sky in Mississauga Top-Off ceremony


This is a follow-up story to the large How Is It Built Feature published by the Toronto Star earlier this fall.

Mississauga mayor says it is only the beginning
By Stephen Weir

Hazel McCallion believes that the "topping-off" of the 56-storey Marilyn Monroe condominium is a giant step in making Mississauga a “Global City”. The mayor says the completion of the new 428-unit curvy cement and glass building is the making of an iconic attraction that will bring more boldly designed high-rises to the city and create a tourist attraction!
“ This building has already set a new standard for design in Mississauga!” Mayor Hazel McCallion told a happy crowd of construction workers last week at a top-off party for the recently completed building.
The mayor, sharing a stage with the top officials of Fernbrook Homes, Cityzen Development Group, Dominus Group and the Beijing based Mad Design Inc., urged the consortium to build again in her city and as soon as possible. Calling the Marilyn Monroe an icon, she expects more builders will be inspired to use eye-catching designs in future Mississauga projects.
The "topping-off" ceremony – the traditional way construction crews celebrate the end of pouring concrete on a major site - was held to mark the completion of Fernbrook Homes’ Absolute 4 (the Marilyn Monroe’s official name) last Friday afternoon. Over 500 guests, most of them wearing hard hats and work boots, gathered in the building’s cavernous podium to wildly cheer on the Mayor as she signaled the end of heavy construction on the twisty shaped condo.
The individual units are still to be completed, but the project is just a few months away from suite owners on the lower floors being able to move in. Heavy construction continues on Absolute 5, Marilyn’s 50-storey equally curvaceous next-door neighbour.
In the growing forest of Mississauga condominium towers, the recently top-off Marilyn Monroe Building is seen as the tallest, most striking tree in the woods. Construction on Marilyn Monroe began three years ago. It is one of five buildings and townhouses that make up the Absolute project located at Hurontario Street and Burnathorpe Road in “downtown Mississauga”, adjacent to the Square One Shopping Centre.
“We broke industry conventions and believe the affectionately called ‘Marilyn’ set new standards for design and certainly raises the bar for all future projects (in Mississauga),” said Sam Crignano, principal with the Toronto based Cityzen Development Group. Cityzen is a high profile real estate development firm, it and its sister company, Dominus Construction are headquartered in downtown Toronto.
“The result has been a success in every regard. The number of enquires and the page of sales set new records for the Mississauga condominium market”
Crignano told the Star that only 10 of the building’s 428 suites are available for purchase. He expects that Marilyn Monroe will be sold out soon. Even though no one has moved into the building, some of the units have already been flipped by their original owners, their resale price rumoured to be over $100 a square foot more than they were purchased for.
“This tower and its soon to be complete companion might not have been possible in many other cities” continued Crignano. “But what we found in Mississauga was a shared vision of the future and an unwavering belief that great design is the path to creating enduring value.”
Possibly inspired by the words of the late actress Marilyn Monroe – ‘Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world’ – Mayor McCallion predicts that international interest in the project and her city will only grow. “This is not the end,” she said, “ it is just the beginning.”

Cutlines: Top Right: Jiang Ping, principal of Bejing's MAD Design, spoke at the November Top-Off ceremony for Mississauga's Marilyn Monroe building. Photo by Linda Crane.
Left Top: Absolute 4 and 5. The Marilyn Monroe building is the building on the left. Photo by Stephen Weir
Bottom Photographs - By Linda Crane. Mayor Hazel warms up the crowd.
Stephen Weir
stephen@stephenweir.com, sweir5492@rogers,com

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Canada's Capital Region hangs out the Christmas lights


Visitors to Ottawa have plenty of choice this winter whether they want to stay inside or outside. This December, the Ottawa region will be energized by the lights of Christmas, outdoor skating, the Nutcracker and, of course, hockey! And if you book your hotel or getaway package before March 31, 2011 , you can enjoy a 3rd night free at participating hotels. Visit www.ottawatourism.ca for full details on this as well as the other special offers and packages available.
Over the coming weeks, Ottawa will play host to Christmas Lights Across Canada; performances of The Nutcracker and Nativity: a Coyote’s Christmas at the National Arts Centre, The Bell Capital Cup hockey tournament and the 41st skating season on the Rideau Canal Skateway where visitors can skate, for free, on the world’s largest outdoor rink.
For the past 25 years, Ottawa has had a Christmas lights festival to brighten the Ottawa winter for visitors and local residents. At first, the lights were only ablaze on Parliament Hill, but since then the programme has expanded. This year, there will be over 60 spectacularly lit sites along Confederation Boulevard downtown. Christmas Lights Across Canada begins on December 2 on Parliament Hill with a free 6 pm Illumination Ceremony. Over 300,000 lights will be switched on and will make the city glow until January 7, 2011. www.christmaslights.gc.ca
The National Arts Centre (NAC) in downtown Ottawa is the country’s premier performing arts complex. This winter, the NAC will stage a series of dance, music and drama performances, all marking the Holiday Traditions of Canada.
The Alberta Ballet will be on stage at the National Arts Centre December 1-5 dancing the colourful Nutcracker. From December 8 to 23, the NAC presents its own interpretation of the First Christmas as seen through the eyes of three wise coyotes! Nativity is a holiday musical comedy for the whole family. The hot ticket for cultural tourists this Christmas? The National Art Centre Orchestra's evening performances of Handel’s Messiah on December 14 and 15. www.nac-cna.ca
The world’s largest hockey tournament, the Bell Capital Cup, will be staged for the 12th year at ice rinks all across the Ottawa region. For spectators, this is a very affordable hockey tournament to watch—day passes start at $3 for seniors, and full tourney passports cost just $12. Children under 12 are free! Visitors to the city are welcome to watch over 2,000 players on more than 500 teams from Canada, U.S. and Europe compete December 30, 2010-January 3, 2011. www.bellcapitalcup.ca
The city of Ottawa is treasured for the beautiful Rideau Canal, which winds its way through the downtown core. Each winter, once the canal freezes, thousands of visitors and locals head downtown, day and night, to skate on the 7.8 km long Rideau Canal Skateway. It is free; there are change facilities, food concessions, skate rentals and sharpening stations right on the frozen surface. Weather dictates when the canal is actually available to skaters; but it usually happens in late December or early January. www.canadascapital.gc.ca/skateway
Tourists wanting information, tickets and lodging reservations for events and festivals can visit www.ottawatourism.ca, a powerful website operated by Ottawa Tourism and supported by the region’s growing tourism industry. There are many packages available including Hockey Night in the Capital, Rendez-vous for Two, Family Discovery, and Cultural Odyssey.
Ottawa Tourism provides destination marketing, strategic direction and leadership in cooperation with members and partners to service the travel media and attract visitors, tours and conventions to Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region. Its vision is to build recognition of Ottawa as an outstanding four-season tourism destination.
from Chris Ryall
Poster for Nativity Play at the National Art Centre this Christmas

Friday, 5 November 2010

Maori elders greeted the dawn and then rubbed our noses in it!


A few minutes into the official opening of Whales | Tohora, a Maori elder told the invited audience that at one time her people were fierce hunters of whales. But, she said, the Maori have changed their ways and are helping the scientific community in New Zealand study the world's largest creatures.

Whales | Tohora is a new travelling exhibition that just rolled into Toronto. Opening at the Ontario Science Centre, the whale show includes two enormous, fully-articulated sperm whale skeletons, life-sized reproductions and a crawl-through model of a whale heart.
Objects in this 750 square metre exhibition include rare specimens from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa's whale collection, one of the largest in the world. In addition to the science and biology of whales, Whales | Tohora explores the cultural and historical significance of these creatures to the Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori) cultures of New Zealand and other Pacific island nations.
Early whaling provided many trading opportunities between cultures in this region, illustrated in the exhibition by harpoons, scrimshaw (whale tooth carvings) and other taonga (treasures). A large contingent of New Zealand officials including politicians, museum expertsand Maori elders came to Toronto to official open the exhibition. Beginning just before 8am in the parking lot of Science Centre, the Maori elders held a short spiritual ceremony before coming indoors to meet the media and the invited guests. Over the next hour the New Zealanders traded speeches, traditional songs and rubbed noses (traditional Maori practice of hongi) with their Canadian counterparts. Chief Bryan LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation was at the event to welcome "his Maori brothers and sisters" to an area of the country "where the nearest whale was probably 1,000 kms away!"
The new exhibition Whales / Tohora is on display at the Ontario Science Centre until late March.

Cut lines
Top: Sporting traditional Maori facial tattoos Rhonda Paku, Senior Curator, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, stands with a tribal in front of a whale's head movie prop at the Science Centre. and Lesley Lewis, CEO, Ontario Science Centre. The fibreglass whale head was used in the making of the film Whale Rider. It is now used as a small theatre in this touring educational exhibition.
Second left: Matiu Rei (left) and Huia Winiata (right), lead Chief Bryan LaForme of the Mississaugas (middle) of the New Credit First Nation, through the new exhibition Whales / Tohora.
Second right: Just how big is a whale? There are two fully-articulated sperm whale skeletons in the exhibition.
Bottom: Matiu Rei (Maori Elder) listens as a New Zealand diplomat speaks at the morning opening of a new whale exhibition.

Wildlife Artist George Mclean signs Andy Donato's copy of his new book, 'George McLean: The Living Landscape'



Toronto Sun photographer Andy Donato (right) chats to artist George McLean (left) at the Toronto launch of George McLean: The Living Landscape. The book, written by Virginia Eichhorn, Tom Smart and Adam Duncan Harris, was launched at the Ben McNally Bookstore in downtown Toronto.

McLean is one of Canada’s finest wildlife artist. His technical prowess, his affinity for his subject matter, and his densely layered depictions of the natural world emerge directly from his intense interest in wildlife.
Now in his seventies, his passion for the creatures and the habitat that surrounds him is as intense as it ever was, as is his desire to share his passion with others through his art.
In this new book, Tom Thomson Gallery curator Virginia Eichhorn, examines the development of McLean’s art and trace his varied influences, casting his work in the light of early 20th-century artists Carl Rungius , Bruno Liljefors, and Andrew Wyeth, with whom McLean feels a profound kinship. The $64.00 book features more than 90 large-scale colour reproductions, and is published by Goose Lane.
The launch of The Living Landscape coincides with the opening of an international touring exhibition of McLean’s work at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound. The exhibition will tour to The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Toronto in January 2010. The show will also travel to galleries in Sudbury,Ontario and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Get your '50s kicks for FREE ...

On New Hampshire's Retro Route # 3
(from New Hampshire's Maple Gazette)

Who says you can't turn back the hands of time? It can if you take a motor trip to New Hampshire. The State's Route 3 Retro Tour shows you how to drive back in time.
The 133 miles of gorgeous byways between Tilton and Pittsburg contain a treasure chest of affordable, 1950's and 1960's-era, owner-operated motels, motor courts and attractions.Route 3 is situated between Lake Winnipesaukee and the northern border of New Hampshire. This was the main north-south travel route for vacation and business travellers alike during the 1950's and 1960's. Attractions still abound along the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, in both Weirs Beach and Meredith's abundant shopping areas, where New Hampshire's Route 3 Retro Tour begins.
It is surprising how much of the 50s has survived. The 104 Diner -- the last Worcester (railroad) Lunch Car to be built in America -- is a must stop. So is Chutters (and its world's longest candy counter) in Littleton and the 58-year old Santa's Village in Jefferson.
The New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development has recently published a colourful 8-page Route 3 Retro Tour brochure that highlights all the 50s style diners, motels and attractions alongside the scenic highway. The brochure is available on the department's website www.visitnh.gov as a downloadable PDF: http://www.visitnh.gov/uploads/itineraries/retro-tour.pdf

"Won't you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that Granite State trip
Get your 50s retro kicks for free
On New Hampshire's Route Number 3*** "

***Apologizes to Little Richard's Route 66

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Vampire Rules In Toronto Condos - Candidates Have To Be Asked In

Leaving the Vampire Rules Behind
Will Condo Owners Flex their electoral muscle this October?

Edited Version Of This Story To Appear In Torontoist October 25

By Stephen Weir

When it comes to talking politics in most condo buildings, Vampire rules are in effect … no politician can cross the threshold unless invited in and best that they come after dark. Hundreds of thousands of voters in the GTA keep their crypts in condominiums – is this the October that a stake is driven through the heart of the condo group apathy towards all things political, and this block of voters takes its rightful place in the sunlight?
Some high profile city candidates including both mayoral and city council seat seekers, wonder and worry whether 2010 is the year that condo owners exercise their franchise. A fledging condo association has flagged civic issues that condo owners should take an interest in, and a veteran NDP MPP has once again introduced a private member’s bill that, in effect, will create a charter of rights for people who own condos.
“ The voice of the condominium is beginning to be heard (this campaign),” says councillor Adam Vaughan who is seeking reelection in the multi-dwelling riding of Trinity Spadina. Vaughan, the defacto voice of the condo owner at City Hall, says that owners are now realizing that politics, be it local, provincial or federal has a bearing on their downtown lifestyle.
“The kick start (for condo owners to take an interest in civic politics) is based on time. The longer you are there, the more you are aware,” he continued. “And, at the same time, the older the building is the stronger the condominium corporation (the building’s ratepayers association).
“In the first few years there are the growing pains of the building that the corporation deals with. As the building stabilizes, they start to look outside the building and begin to deal with other issues. For example, in my area, it is how close are the nightclubs? What can be done (at City Hall) about the noise?”
Zip Car parking. One-way streets. Bike lanes for car-free condo owners. Even the noise of late night garbage collections in the city core, are issues that candidates are being asked now by the condo-ites.
Adam Vaughan has been working the condos this fall. He lives in a house but he knows the issues. He has been speaking about high-density living issues long enough that condo associations are inviting him into buildings to knock on doors and speak to voters.
“It is significant (getting permission to get into a condo building during election time) especially when you are new candidate. Over the past four years I have attended many of the condo corporation meetings, so I am known, which makes it easier to interact with condo owners.”
Permission for access to buildings is a difficult task for anyone running for government. The halls of a condo are private property, private security often controls access to buildings, and, jaded suite owners are more likely to ask their corporation to keep canvassing candidates out rather than ask them in.
The hallways are considered private property, there is hired security at the front door, and, while some condo corporations encourage canvassing a lot don’t. Most condos don’t allow signs in the windows or flyers at the doorstep. It is like that vampire rule; you have to get invited in before you can step over the threshold.
“ Getting into rental buildings is easy. As a candidate you have rights and you can walk the halls and knock on doors,” said Rosario Marchese, the MPP for Trinity Spadina. He is working with city politicians, condo corporation presidents, unit owners, and a fledgling association of Ontario Condo Corporations. and fellow NDP MPPs to pass a private members bill that will modernize provincial laws governing condominium ownership.
“ There are currently no politicians in the House that I know of who have been elected while living in a condo,” said Marchese. “My sense is that most of them (sitting members at Queen’s Park) are homeowners. I’d wager a bet and say 99% of them are homeowners. The same holds true at City Hall … how many live in condos? There is (retiring) Kyle Rae and not many after that.”
“We have some big issues. There are over a million condo owners who can cast a ballot (in provincial civic elections). That is a powerful block of power … if they decide to actually vote.”
“It is my belief that we are seeing a community arising out of condominium living. I believe it is emerging, where they are beginning to exert themselves and creating an identity,” explained Marchese. “They didn’t have one before. They are beginning to create one. So whatever issues are happening, let us say, in the Queen’s Quay district, people are beginning to talk to each other. People are beginning to respond to things because this affects my condominium community, and me, which is what my Condo Association Bill is all about. This community has not been able to influence governments in the past, I believe that they will begin to do so.”
I do believe that it (the political might of the condominium) is going to get stronger and governments are going to have to listen to them. I suspect that as the identity grows and as the problems grow, people are going to ask governments what they are going to do for condominium owners.”
Two of the three major mayoral candidates live in houses. George Smitherman lives in a condo in central Toronto and Joe Patalone has part ownership in a Bathurst and Bloor area condominium.
“ I am addressing the condo owners in this campaign,” said Patalone. “The growth of this kind of housing – efficient urban housing – is very important to the health of the city. By-laws, zoning and an understanding of the condo lifestyle have to keep pace with this (condo boom).”
“Civic engagement (with condo owners) is a serious issue and here in Toronto there is a real problem,” said the mayoral candidate. He feels that communication between the city and the condo, or the lack there of, keeps tower dwellers out of the political milieu.
Privacy concerns at times trump city efforts to keep condo owners informed. Patalone points out that with owners of low-rise housing (detached, semi’s, quads etc) receive notices of all proposed rezoning matters in their neighbourhood. “In the towers, the only name we have is the condo corporation board, not the individual owners. The condo board know what is happening but the individual owners may not.”
There are over 2,000 condo buildings in Toronto; some have over 500 individual owners. Each condo corporation may not know who owns the suites in their buildings. Towers in the downtown core have significant numbers of units rented out by absentee owners, some don’t even live in the country.
“Historically, condo owners in my riding don’t vote. Simple as that” said veteran St. Paul’s West councillor Joe Mihevc. “ They have not engaged themselves politically to the same extent as house dwellers. I believe it is a lifestyle thing.”
“One thing is important, people choose a condo lifestyle to make living in Toronto easy. They focus very much on their personal life, whether it is extra curricular activity, or maybe their profession. They have very much a more simplified life,” says Linda Pinizzotto.
“It is amazing. They basically want to take that whole side of their lifestyle and put it in the hands of the property management and of course the board of directors who oversee the corporation. If you have a good board of directors the building will work extremely well, but …”
She is the founder and the Political Action Chair for the new Condo Owners Association Ontario (COA) and the owner of several condos in downtown Toronto. COA was launched in April of last year; it is an association that draws its membership from individual condominium corporations in the province. By mid-summer there were about a dozen buildings involved.
Pinizzotto’s association wants to create a cohesive united voice on behalf of the condo corporations and to represent them to all levels of government. Warranty issues, the impact of HST on condo fees, the Condo Act and city standards for buildings yet to be built, are all part of their mandate. COA wants to get condo owners involved in the political process.
Why are there no sitting members (Queens Park) and few City Hallers who have been elected while living in a condo? “It is a matter of timing. The new wave of condo owners could move towards that direction. You see the condominium didn’t really take off until 1999 and most of the people that are in politics are beyond the age of the ’99 condo lift,” she continued.
“The age of most condo owners tends to be between 25 and 35 (younger than most elected officials). That is a very strong age limit. Some people stay in condos (past 35) depending on what their desires are. But a lot start to have children and then move out to a single-family house.” Trish Mason owns a co-op suite in the Spadina Village District. She has over the years sat on the building’s board and has taken an active interest in politics. Mason is no longer on the board and her interest in civic politics has waned. She says that it is a lifestyle thing for many people in her building, they have simply opted out.
“Not sure if I am going to vote. I have made my place a refuge away from the city,” she said. “I happen to be at the top at the back of an old building. It is an illusion, I know, but I feel so lucky, that I feel away from it all. I don’t mind buzzing in a politician, but, on the other hand I don’t want one sitting on my couch for half an hour!”
For Mason, her building has issues with the city that the high-end Forest Hill homes in her riding don’t face. “It is all about garbage. Our building was built before recycling and so we have to use big bins that are easily accessible from the street. Sometimes they fill up quickly, and the garbage ends up out in the open. Strangers go through our recycle bins, I don’t mind homeless people harvesting liquor bottles, but they do it loudly at night on what is supposed to be private property – who is going to police our blue bins?” “I do vote when there's a candidate that I want to vote for ... otherwise I don't bother,” said Harbourfront District condo owner Laurie Sakamoto “If the voting station is in an inconvenient location I don't vote. Last election I didn’t vote because they told me to leave Yas (her small dog) outside, which I refused to do since someone would probably have stolen her.”
“I just don't want the airport to get any bigger. I love the fact that I can walk there and that it's small with short wait times,” she continued. “The only thing that really bothers me about Queens Quay is if they decide to close it for events and charity walks I can’t use my car. I wish the new mayor would stop closing automobile lanes for bike lanes. He should also make cyclists abide by the same rules as motorists ... no drinking and riding, no going through red lights, no cutting off motorists. We all have to get along.”

Top Two: One day before the election only one election sign could be seen in the windows of downtown condos. This highly visible condo on Parliament Street (Distillery District) sports a George Smitherman sign.
Second from Bottom: Condo as Refuge
Bottom: Joe Patalone finds it easier campaigning outdoors than inside Toronto's downtown condo towers. Photo taken by sweir at Word On The Street book festival (Queen's Park)

Do Toronto Condo Dwellers Vote In Civic Elections?

Sidebar: Voting by the numbers.

Councillor Mihevcfeels that condo residents tend to not take as much of interest in local politics as people who live in houses and apartment buildings. MPP Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina) agrees that Toronto’s condo culture works against residents – owners and renters alike – to get involved in civic politics, but feels that it is changing.
“This is one of the things that come out of that culture of living in a condo, it was sold as ‘you live in your unit, you go away for a holiday, and here is your key’. You lock the door and you are gone, you don’t have to worry about a thing. The point of a condo living in the beginning of the boom was that you don’t have to talk to anyone. You don’t have to be part of a community, “explained Marchese. “The culture of it was based on the idea that you have got things you want to do in life and your condominium offers you an opportunity to do just that, and it gives you the privacy you are looking for. That is changing!”
“It is a mixed bag, in condominiums you have got renters, (which is another reality within a condominium reality) to what extent renters vote versus condominium owners voting is an interesting question that we haven’t analyzed but that effects community living as well,” he continue. “There is no ideology in a condominium at all. Some are New Democrats, more condominium owners are Liberal, and an equal number of them vote for the Conservative candidate. It is pretty representative of the way people vote in general.”

High Rise vs. Houses – who votes more?

Statistics on the voting record for condominium residents is not readable available. However, one can look at voter percentage turnout is wards that have a lot of condos against those that don’t.
In Trinity Spadina, Ward 20 there are 197 registered condominiums and more are being built. City hall statistics show that in 2006, just fewer than 60,000 people lived in the ward. 87% of voters live in high-rises and low rises dwellings. 13% live in single or semi-detached residences. Voter turnout last election was 39%.
In St Paul’s (Ward 22) there are just under 60,000 and 74 % of the voters live in high-rises and low rises dwellings. 26% of voters live in semi-detached duplexes, single, semi and row houses. Voter turnout last election was 42%

CUTLINE: Fortress Condo - keeping the politicans out!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Background for Nassau Article - Log Books

Photos of Stephen Weir by Janine, Halifax underwater shark wrangler and photographer at Stuart Cove, Nassau

Dive #1
Wreck of the port royal and bacardii reef
Stuart cove
Depth 109 ft
Buddy – some guy from texas
In; 3,100 LBS 32% NITROX OUT 100 lbs
Stops 4 minutes computer on setting for air and it NEVER went into decompression

Worst dive since the time maria got lost in the dam in peterborough. Lost my camera, flooded. O-rings. I was stressed. Checked out a wreck. Govt gun ship, now an artificial reef. Covered in small fish. Quite a colony of groupers there. Lion fish abound. Stuart Cover says he has a licence to trap the lionfish but he says he has lost the battle. Got the resident photographer to take a picture of me inside the wreck with a lion fish.
Lost my buddy. Instructor from texas. He was wearing earphones and listening to music. Found him as he was going over to the wall. It started at 100 feet. \he said let’s take a look but since \i only had 1,000 lbs by this pt, \i couldn’t stay. Next thing \i knew we were at 109 ft. . Just hung in the water staring at the computer. Sunk in \i had a minute before getting in to deco. Went up as fast as \I could without fgetting warning. Worried about oxygen problems with nitrox. But I was aware enough not to go too fast. My buddy actually went down farther. 140. He acknowledge my wave. I went to 15 feet and hung till my tank was almost dry watching him break all the rules.
Full suit. 86 degrees. 14 lbs. calm. Viz 60 ft.
Bottom time 45 minutes
Dive #2
Mini wall
Same buddy
3,100 lbs nitrox 32 %
Out – 1,000 lbs
Bottom time 50 minutes
Viz 60 feet
Nice mini wall dive. 24 in the water. Most following the guide. Took us to a very small lobster and then took my buddiu and others down to a sponge a 75FT where there was a small crab! Underwhelming. I stopped at 59 ft and watched everyone go down to see the crab. Could tell that the divers let him know that he should only tell them about bigger stuff. \He didn’t bang his tank when a 6ft reef shark came by. |My buddy and I found each other off from the rest of the group and this large shark circled us and then kept circling us at the edge of visiion. Reef in great shape. Called pumpkin reef because of the orange sponges. We kept looking at the reef while the shark lurked. We got bored, came back to main ground just as a 3 ft shark swam between us.
a-1 dive site. Coral colourful for the bahamas. Orange and green and umber. Lots of blood red sponges too.
Stuart cove will give us photos. I am relieved.
Maximum depth 59ft

Dive #3
Shark and Wreck
3,100 lbds
Post lunch dive
Same buddy

Story Idea – Ladies of Steel

Trio came from around the world. Halifax (my mother always writes and says Why Can’t You Feed Whales like your sister. 24 year old from Australia and a videographer from Germany. All under 30, all quite willing to wrestle with potentially deadly sharks, most bigger than them, two or three times a week …. And for no extra money.

Dive #3 – 60-80 feet
Shark orientation dive
3,200 lbs of nitrox at 32%
Wearing bathing suit and t-shirt and 6lbs of lead
Calm. Water 86 degrees F
Bottom time 50 minutes 3 min deco out with 1,000 lbs
Maximum depth 60ft

Probably one of the nicest dives I have done. We got in the water and swam over to a set of wrecks. No coral grown there yet. Stuart put them down, just like he has done on over 20 other wrecks. He gets them from the govt. cleans them up and sinks them.
These wrecks were covered in fish. Yellow tails. Schools of small silver fish engulfed the wreck, and the divers. Moved leisurely around the bottom like a cloud. A living cloud
The publisher of Sport Diver was lying on the bottom with Janine the videographer photographing a huge sting ray. Probably 9 ft from head to end of the whip tail. Body size about 4 ft across wasn’t going to move no matter how many times the strobe fired in his eyes.
I stayed out of the pictured and checked out the remains of an old frieghter. As I drifted down towards It huge, ugly gnarley turtle swam into the wreck area. Seeing me it turn 90 degrees and started swimming away. But, another diver there, so it turned a second 90 degrees and headed out towards the drop off. Will check the charts to see what species it was.
As our air ran low we swam back towards the boat over a rolling coral bed. Came to a flat bit of sand – the arena. Janine says that it is like the Colisuem of old, and she is one of the gladiators.
There are enough stones and blocks for 24 divers. Most of the stones are grouped in twos to allow for pairs. This is where the sharks will feed on our second dive of the afternoon (O#4)
Even though we don’t have food there are still big sharks in the water. 8ft was about the biggest | saw. They weren’t aggressive but swam in lazy circles around the arena.
We were being shown where the next dive was going to be, but I think that the crew wanted to check us out to see how we would react to the big fish. No one bolted for the wsurface. Everyone did their 3 minutes on the line while shaqrks were circling under our flippers.

Dive #4

Have to really look at the briefing as part of the dive. Three women. The aussie did most of the talking. Good natured but warned men to keep their legs close together or the sharks will try to swim between your legs. “Their dorsal fin is very hard, like steel, if it swims through your legs, well men, you do have a package under there, and that dorsal fin hurts. (We girls don’t have to worry, she said with a wicked grin, we just ride it out!. Anyway men, if you get hit, you will fall over, just lie in the sand and we girls will come over and set you right.
Warned us not to extend the camera from our body to take a picture. They will go for our hands and they might take it with them. No camera? Just tuck hands under armpits. No holding camera out to take self portraits.
Stay in the circle. Don’t bolt for the surface.. Okay if the shark touches you (and it will) but not touching the sharks. You will get slapped in the face by a fin. You won’t get bit.
But in saying that the girls struggled into armlets made of steel. Like the suits that knights of the round table used to wear. They had protecton. Aussie didn’t have a sword. Just a long fork, not unlike a bbq cooking utensil.
Nova Scotia Janine talked about taking photos. Bait, fish heads and stuff, inside a baitbox. Almost like a two level strong box. Colourful, like the rental suits and everything else, had stuart cove logo.on it. \
Aussie would bring the box close to each diver to allow cdn janine to photograph each diver with a halo of sharks. Janine’s massive, expenswive underwter digital camera has a fish eye (or should it be shark’s eye) lens with a clear glass portal. Our dive masks enhance everything by 20%, this lens does even more than this. These sharks are big, and the camera makes the tourist shots they sell at the end of the dive even more imposing.
German Janine will work another part of the circle with her video camera. After the still photographer has left, Aussie girl feeds near each diver. Before the sharks were slow moving as they swam near the divers, the opening of the box sends them into a frenzy. They circle the box and aussie girl in increasingly tight circles and incre3asing high speed. Absolutely terrifying to see a shark switch gears from lazy to attack. |And yes, the lictating lens does cover their eyes.
They do bang into the divers, they do try to swim under arms and they do scratch their bellies over peoples head.
Aussie girl had warned the men in the group – mostly men – who had bristle brush cuts (most were brush cut, shaved or just simply focilly challenged, this is a$150 experience plus video, plus stills, plus t-shirts, plus food (to replace what you might have shit out under water, so it attracts older crowd. 60 something have a lot less to lose I guess). Anyway bristle head divers she warned are favoured by the female sharks who want to use their heads to scratch their bellies. Sharks don’t have hands you know, so, they can’t scratch.

Tur ns out just aussie humour. Sharks too busy competiting for a bite of fish heads, to notice who had hair and who didn’t.
Aussie girl did scratch bellies for some of the big female sharks. She used her chain mail hand to scratch snots of the Bahamian reef shark matrons. Memorized them. They stop swimming. She says they go under, into a trance. She is a tall woman but says she doesn’t have the strength to flip them over. They will go limp and allow you to flip them on their backs and rub the bellies. Janine says the young ones are too skittish to allow the handlers to put them under.

Aussie girl has to fight them off. She is gentle. No need though. The sharks are battled scarred. Some have gashes in their back and flippers, mating wounds. Another has 2 ft plastic line attached to a fish hook buried in its iron tough hide. Another has junks of flesh missing where a motor prop hit it. |there is also a shark with a broken jaw. Not recent. 6 years has been feeding. Cqa n’t miss its lopside grin as it swims by.
“why are doing this?” asked a 60 something dive travel agent white haired granny. Janine shrugs, no answer. But, even after a 20 minute briefing on the 50 ways you can leave your hand, or your foot or the family jewells at the bottom of the warm Caribbean sea, everyone got in the water.
“ Theatre, of coures there is. We plays thinkgs up. The main thing is to deliver entertainment. People learn more about the animal, they appreciate the experience, they loose their fear, we hope of sharks, but, it is entertainment. And they sure treasure my photos and our videos!”

Janine Boyetche, from Halifax. Worked twice at Stuart Cove, quit to work Easy Dive??? in Port Hawkesbury. Left NS wnen the cold water hit. She worked in Dundee Australia
The staff haul tanks. No extra money for working with sharks. Women and Men work equal. No rules that say only men feed and handle shark. But Janine and Janine and Michelle make up the only female shark handling team in the world.

“ I think we three take a bit of the macho out of the experience (compared to male divers), well, (thinking back to Michelle’s talk about loosing one’s balls) we take a little Macho out of it.”

“There is a pecking order. Big females came in first. There are a few that 8 to 10 feet long. Probably 30 to 40 resident sharks who take part in the feeds (not all at the same time”
Some 30 might feed at any one time but only a dozen might actually get a bite of the food. And then “ it is a small amount (compared to how much they need to eat in a day) like dessert.”
“The more aggetated they get the less they get,” she said. “ It is strange what effects their level of aggitation. Low pressure on the surface and they seem to be nervous underwater.”

The three women don’t have shark bites to show for their work, but, they do get bumped and scrapped by the course skin of a shark suit. Michelle’s chain mail is ripped where sharks have got their teeth caught in the mesh and they have thrashed until eitheir the chain mail or teeth have snapped. The sand in the arena has bits of teeth that can be recovered and taken home as souvenirs.
While Janine was videotaping me a small shark came in fast, flicked his snout down to her feet, shook his head and swam off. Janine grabbed her foot as he sped off into the blue. The shark had bite her flipper. Missed the foot but left a gash in her flipper … seconds later she showed me the rent!
“ that is not the first time,” she told me, back on Cenote, the 58ft long dive boat (check name and length) “Always the same foot and the same flipper. Don ‘t know why – is the colour or the straps or what that attracts them to that flipper”
Suit made by Neptune Suit info@neptune.com. Who knew there were enough shark handlers out there to warrant have a suit manufacturer. Put on in segments. Like nylons and glves.

All three women have tatoos. All are blond. All are fearless
Just fell into the job. Came here 4 years ago. Started feeding them 3 years ago. Usually twice a week.
“Little ones won’t go into a trance. Now the 8 to 10 footers, all females are the easiest to get down. I get them down but once I try to lft them they come out of it and (sluggishly) swim away. Small onces are more my size but they are to skittsh to toucch.”

Names for the big sharks. Males are smaller. It is the females that they recognize. They have markeings that “we get to recognize” The shark with the borken jawa has been here for 6 years. Was pregnant earlier this summer. Was really fat for awhile and then was thin again!

#1 group dive
No dive suit, 3,000 lb, no nitrox, 6lbs of lead
Depth 60ft
Name of site – check boo
85 degrees, 4 ft swells – hurricane
small sharks. Fish, eel

#2 Landing Strip
60 ft 55 minutes
small patch

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Looking up Marilyn Monroe's concrete skirt


Construction company using concrete, and lots of it, to give Marilyn Monroe curves that will stand the test of time.

Toronto Star September 18th feature story (Condo Section: http://www.yourhome.ca/homes/realestate/article/861508--mississauga-condos-absolutely-brilliant)
By Stephen Weir

Long after the world has forgotten Marilyn Monroe, two well endowed condos will still be twisting the years away in downtown Mississauga. Curvaceous. Shockingly new. Absolute Buildings 4 and 5 are being built to last for the next century and beyond.
While their growing shapes are unconventional (Absolute 4 been dubbed the Marilyn Monroe because of its curves while Absolute 5 will sport a masculine big butt profile) it is the traditional application of concrete, and lots of it, that will make these buildings an eye-catching monument in time.
The 50 and 56 story condominiums have been under construction for over three years. Now, as the structures begin to tower over the nearby City Hall and Square One shopping centre, motorists, pedestrians and probably even the pilots of low flying planes are making note of the now undulating skyline.
Designed by MAD Inc, a very cutting edge and oh-so-chic Beijing based architectural firm, their Mississauga condos with curves are being hailed as examples of "structural expressionism". Needless to say there is nothing like them anywhere else in the Greater Toronto Area.
Both condos break the mold on status quo. And, of the two, Marilyn Monroe is the most different, and therefore most interesting in terms of how it is being built.
Anthony Pignetti of the Dominus Construction Group is the director of high-rise construction of the Marilyn Monroe Building. Dominus is overseeing the building for Fernbrook Homes and Cityzen Development Group.
Pignetti is quite used to being asked how an under-construction building can be rotated in space. Taking up a stack of his business cards, he shows how it is being done on the worksite. He holds the cards tightly in the centre and fans them out. While each card is the same size, the overall shape of the deck has morphed.
The cards, like the 56 egg shaped floors in the new Marilyn Monroe condo, remain rooted to the center (where fingers hold them in place) but are angled away from each other at a measurable angle.

“Each floor in Absolute 4 (Marilyn Monroe) is egg shaped and like the cards, are fanned out from the centre of the building. The angle of difference between one floor and another ranges from 1 to 8-degrees,” explained Anthony Pignetti. “Absolute 5 is different because the floors are shifted (from the core) at a constant angle shift of 4 degrees.”


The business of building a condo with off-centered ovoid floors began not with a deep hole, but rather in a wind tunnel. Since this is the first building of its kind in Ontario it was essential for the architects to find out how a non-rectangular building would be affected by the elements.
“The wind tunnel tests at the University of Waterloo showed we had to build heavy, underground and the first 25-floors above ground,” said Pignetti.
He estimates that the building’s base is about 20% stronger than a traditional condo of the same size. Not surprising, the actual construction cost of the building will be about 20% more than a typical 400 unit glass -lined skyscraper.
What will be under Marilyn Monroe’s glass exterior? Special concrete and steel, and lots of it.
The basement, all six floors of it, was dug like any other big Mississauga project. The differences come into play with the Marilyn Monroe when her foundation – the basement walls and the floors – was made. Her bottom was constructed using a thick network of reinforced steel poles (reinforced bars or rebar) that increases the tensile strength of the concrete that now cover it.
All buildings rely on rebar, but, in the case of Marilyn Monroe, a bigger rebar has been used. “Not only is it a thicker grade of rebar, we have used more of it” explained Pignetti “It is so tightly packed together you could easily walk across the rebar in the beams.”
So dense is this forest of rebar that traditional concrete could not be poured over and around it. Instead a flowing concrete has been used on the lower floors.
Dump run-of-the-mill concrete inside a form made of plywood and you won’t get a solid wall after it has set. Concrete, when left on its own, leaves large air gaps inside the mix. In fact construction experts say that with traditional concrete as much of 20% of its volume is made of trapped air. Bubbles reduce the density of concrete and that lowers it strength while increasing the chances that water will do damage to mix.
On “typical” construction sites it is very much a case of shake while you bake. The concrete is vibrated to shake all the big air bubbles out. The oversized rebar used in the Marilyn Monroe is too thick and too close together to allow for equipment to vibrate poured concrete. Instead, a relatively new and more expensive concrete has been used for the foundation and the first 25-floors above ground.
“We have been pouring SCC – self-consolidating concrete,” explained Sergio Vacilotto, Dominus’ director of site operations. “It is highly flowable. In fact it fills the forms so completely we have to seal off their ends so that the SCC doesn’t drain right out of the seams onto the floor.”
This new expensive concrete uses superplasticizers and it is the weight of its mass, not vibration that allows it to set without air pockets or seams. The concrete now exposed in Marilyn Monroe’s unfinished first floor lobby has a noticeable superior, almost polished, surface finish.
This summer Marilyn Monroe’s SCC passed the earthquake test. Workers already working on the 50th floor barely felt the 5.5 earthquake that rumbled through Ontario in July. “We didn’t even lay down our tools” said Vacilotto.
Because the windows have not yet been installed – the Marilyn Monroe – the innards of the building are easy to see. There are five ramrod straight concrete pillars that run from her bottom to her top. These pillars, the building’s core, form a tower that each floor, no matter its angle, is attached to.
Inside these pillars six high-speed elevators will soon be installed. “Sure the building has curves … but you can’t run elevators at an angle so there has to a perpendicular core.”
At right angles to the centre tower there are four “c” shaped smaller concrete pillars. Like the central core, the squared Cs run straight and true from the basement to the roof. These are the passageways that carry the electricity and waters upwards and residential garbage and recycled goods downwards.
Sounds normal. Where it gets a little wacky is in the building of each individual floor around these core shafts and tower.
The floors are egg shaped concrete platters. Since each individual ovoid plate is skewed at a different angle than the floor directly below or above it, each suite in the building is different.
While in a traditional condo tower each unit’s kitchen and bathroom is directly in line with the kitchen and bathroom above and below it, the same isn’t true in the Marilyn Monroe.
Wearing a hard hat and work boots and standing on the 49th floor of the under construction building Vacilotto uses his hands to show where a unit’s bathrooms and kitchen will be. “If we drilled down to the 48th floor chances are there wouldn’t be a kitchen or bathroom there. They could be here (pointing to a spot close to the open edge of the building) or over there (gesturing back to the core tower).”
This gives unit owners a uniqueness not found in any other large format condo build in this country. But, by not having water and sewage services running down the building in a straight line, the actual placement of pipes becomes an integral part of the initial stages of the build.

“On some floors we have more piping running horizontally across the ceiling than we do going vertically through the floor to the next unit below.”
Pipes line the ceiling like a Water Works Board game. Long before people start moving in 2011, ceiling material, drywall and paneling will hide those fixing.
Building a tall condo is akin to creating a vertical assembly line. Each floor has to be created by a team of skilled tradesmen, before the next level can be added.
Pouring concrete inside standing plywood forms creates the load bearing walls. Since the ceiling (and the next level’s floor) comes after the walls, so the concrete is poured in between the wooden forms from above.
When the walls have firmly set, the plywood forms comes down. The ceiling is poured and the basic services … electricity, water, sewage and gas are roughed in.
There are no outside walls, so the forms are bundled up and put on a platform on the outside of Ms. Monroe and lifted up to the next level so the floor building process can continue.
“We can’t “fly” form (a crane swings the forms out the side of a building and lifts it up to the next level) the way other buildings do,” said Vacilotto. “The shape doesn’t allow for it.”
It takes about 4-days to build a floor at the Marilyn Monroe site. Periodically the roof crane and a concrete pumping rig are raised to keep pace with the growing condo.
Driving by, you can’t see how busy the construction site is. The top two floors of Marilyn Monroe have a downward slanting brightly coloured wrap around it.
It looks like one of those protective cones a veterinarian might put around a dog’s neck to make sure he doesn’t rub at his head. Tight at the neck, wide at the top and red all over!

The covering is there to make sure the workers; their tools and building material don’t fall down onto a busy Burnhamthorpe Road below. The barrier protects the workers from the constant wind. And it takes the edge off anyone suffering from a fear of heights.
Watching the concrete being pumped from a crane you don’t see that you are at the top of the tallest building in Mississauga. But, once the structure is complete the view from inside will be just as interesting as the view from outside!
Cookie cutter and tiny boxes on boxes are two condo clichés that don’t get used much when talking about how the individual suites in the Marilyn Monroe will be created once the building shell is completed.
Each suite is aligned differently than the units above and below it. And each suite varies in shapes and sizes depending on where it is on the ovoid shaped floor.
A unit’s view of the outside world will be through a curved bank of windows and glass doors. Where there isn’t window glass there will be spandrel opaque glass panels giving Marilyn Monroe a wall-of-glass look.
These windows don’t open, instead there are sliding doors leading out to balconies. The balconies range in size; from 10 to 50ft – it all depends if you are on a hip or a waist. Stand on the bulge side of the ovoid and look down, can’t see any other balconies at all. Go to another unit and look over the edge and you see a stepped progression of balconies below you! Look up and you will see ledge upon ledge of concrete.
Dominus Construction Group readily admits that the building is over-built. All that extra concrete, rebar and snaking pipe-works does have its advantages. This is a building that could well be standing in the year 2110.
The project has caught the interest of buyers and builders alike. Only a handful of suites are left for sale and the top floor was snapped up long ago by a single customer. A steady stream of companies from across the country have sent their own builders in to look up Marilyn Monroe’s skirt to see for themselves how it is being done.
Check out the follow-up story November 24th - top-off of the Marilyn Monroe building.

CUTLINES: Top - Artist's rendition of Absolute 4, the Marilyn Monroe building,
Second from top: Cards spread out to show how the floors share a common core but differ in their angle to the middle
Second from bottom: Sergio Vacilotto underneath a maze of water and sewage pipes.
Bottom: The red protective skirt around Absolute 5.

Factoids about the Marilyn Monroe Building and Absolute 5


Condo Trivia By Stephen Weir
Mississsauga's startling new condominium project. Story appeared in September 18, 2010 Toronto Star. Factoids only on website. Main feature appeared in print.


• Absolute 4 (Marilyn Monroe) has a rotation of 207 degrees from the base to the top.
• Absolute 5 has a rotation of 200 degrees from the base to the top.
• Absolute 4 (Marilyn Monroe) will reach 56 storeys. Each level has 9ft ceilings except the penthouse levels which will have 10ft ceilings
• Marilyn Monroe has 428 suites; her shorter companion will have more … 453 in total.
• Marilyn Monroe’s largest suite will be 3,500 sq feet, her smallest will be 545 sq ft
• Marilyn Monroe will have 6 penthouse units, 100 21/2 -bedroom suites, 217 2-bedroom suites and only 28 1-bedroom units. There will be no bachelor units.
• Amount of concrete that has been poured: 4400 cubic meters
• Amount of concrete still to be poured: 1500 cubic meters
• Absolute 4 and 5 share a common garage. There will be 954 parking spaces.
• There will be a retail space built between buildings 4 and 5.
• A 30,000-sq. ft., three-storey recreation center has already been built. It has an indoor and outdoor pool, basketball court, 2 squash courts, weight room, cardio room, games room, 3 party room, 5 furnished guest suites, theater (seats 48), spa, indoor and outdoor whirlpool, men’s and women change room with showers, lockers and sauna/steam room, library room and outdoor barbeque facilities.
• There will be public art in front of Marilyn Monroe building at the corner of Hurontario and Burnhamthorpe.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Winnipeg sculptor donates pieces to the McMichael

The McMichael unveiled its plans to enhance the gallery grounds and build an outdoor Sculpture Garden featuring works by a well known Canadian artist Ivan Eyres at a media event early in September. Two of the large nine pieces that Ayres is donating have been cast and will soon be installed in Kleinburg. The remaining pieces will be cast over the next 18-months.
The McMichael previously received confirmation on March 12, 2010 that the Federal and Provincial governments will contribute $4.2 million through the Infrastructure Stimulus Funding program to complete this major project. This money will be used to enhance the grounds of the public gallery. A fund raising project has been launched to cover the costs of installing Mr. Ayres work.

CUTLINE: Upkar Arora, chair of the McMichael board of trustees, with from left, Michael Johnston, chair of the McMichael Foundation, Tom Smart, outgoing gallery executive director and board member David Loch. Three of nine maquettes created by Winnipeg artist Ivan Eyre's sculptures are displayed in foreground. In background, Kim Good stands at the podium.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Lucky Gord. Poor Hilly. Renfrew Tales

Renfrew. The luckiest town in the Ottawa Valley
The unfortunate love story of Lucky Gord and Hilly.

By Stephen Weir
a rare unpublished fiction short-story based on fact/family history

DeMoss, the hired hand who spent his winters in the lean-to barn at the end of our unpaved lane, said I was lucky that I lived in Renfrew. The clean Ottawa Valley air. The good huntin'. Best of all, an arena that let you play full contact hockey without havin' to wear sissy protective gear.
DeMoss never thought to talk to me about the women. Didn't say anything about the men either. He was blissfully unaware of Renfrew mating practices.
The young males and females in Renfrew had no trouble finding each other, but they were really lucky if they could find a place to be alone together. Priests. Neighbours. Fathers. Mothers. Noisy brothers and sisters. You know the drill.
My 17-year old sister Hilly and her 30-year old fiancée, Gord Ford, took to parking his Dodge (no kidding) in a field near our home every Friday night. There was a huge sycamore bush that Gord could hide his '59 Dodge behind.
It was a piece of junk. The bumper was held onto the frame with binder twine (these were pre-Duct Tape days). He had covered up the bigger rust holes in the trunk with stick-on letters that he bought from Canadian Tire. G-O-R-D on the driver's side and H-I-L-L-Y on the right -- because that is where Hilly sat when they drove past our house (the rest of the time she was pretty well on his lap).
Gord was a "Stash" grad. In Renfrew that was the term given to kids who never made it into high school. The principal let the perennially failing male students stay in Grade School until such a time as their moustache grew longer than that of the gym teacher, one Weiner Waite.
Gord was lucky that the Weiner sported a Clark Gable style pencil moustache under his oft broken nose. He only had to repeat Grade-8 a couple of times before the Stash Rule was invoked and he was set free into the working world.
His first job (and only job) was working in the Renfrew Foundry making manhole covers. True fact, there are Renfrew-made manhole covers on streets in every city in Canada, and, most of them were made by Gord Ford.
The money he saved from working in the Foundry went into the Ford Dodge. We all knew when Hilly was going out on a date; that noisy backfiring beast could be heard 10-minutes before it came to a shuddering gasping stop outside our home. Gord was lucky that my father preferred to stay in the basement whenever he heard the Dodge’s death rattle. If he had taken a close look at it he would have forbade sis from climbing in. It was the Friday Fright Night Ride and Hilly lived for it.
One cold fall evening I was on my way home and I happen to amble by the sycamore stand. I could see the glow of the Ford Dodge taillights through the foliage. The engine was running, the headlights were out, and two small purple passion lights blazed under the dash.
Gord is afraid of ghosts. I thought I would put a scare into him. I crawled on the ground beside the car and then jumped up and yelled Boo! No reaction from Gord. His head was against the window; Hilly had her head leaning against his chest.
I rattled the door handle, rocked the car and yelled some more.
I looked in. Gord and Hilly were both mouth-open unconscious.
I pulled them out. I gave mouth-to-mouth to my sister (and it is indeed like getting a tie in hockey) and booted Harvey a few times in the ribs to get his heart going.
They lived. Lucky thing too ... the rag that Gord had tied around the muffler had slipped and the exhaust had found its way into the car – not a mean feat considering the porous car floor.
Nursing his sore ribs Gord said he sure was lucky and swore he would never forget what I had done and promised to reward me. Hilly made me promise I wouldn't tell.
Yes he was lucky. Shortly after that he won the lottery. I bought the ticket for him. Wintario. He also won my sister's hand. Gord never noticed my hand out at the wedding reception nor heard me muttering about saving his life.
The new couple bought a modest bungalow in town near the Legion Hall (Gord's home away from home). It had running water but no fridge. Had a Renfrew ceiling; pull the tarp off the roof when it isn't raining and you get direct sunlight down into the kitchen!
Hilly was lucky if she saw her hubby once a week. Making manhole covers is a dirty thirsty business and thanks to his change in fortunes, Gord had a means of quenching that thirst (too bad he didn’t fix the dirt problem while he was at it).
I was working at Butson's Bar on the edge of town. I was locally famous because I invented a drink I called Renfrew's Lucky Red Eye. It was a mug of Brador malt liquor (over-proof beer from Quebec) and Heinz tomato juice. At the bottom of the mug was an upside down shot glass filled with Seagram's whisky, which oozed into the beer as you tipped the stein up to your mouth. What was so lucky about my concoction? You were, if you could drink three glasses and still be able to find your pickup truck in the parking lot.
Gord had had four Lucky Red Eyes before closing time. I told him that if he drove like the wind he could make it to Club Riviere in Portage-du-Fort on the other side of the Ottawa River. The Quebec bar closed one hour later than us.
Gord was fortunate to make it over to the Riviere in time. In fact he was able to down two quick Oeil Rouge Chanceux (they stole my recipe). He also bought the house a round (remember he won the lottery).
On the way home to Hilly he decided he would have to stop and answer nature's call. He pulled over halfway across the Chenaux Bridge that traversed high over the mighty Ottawa River. Standing on the edge of the structure, in the still of a very cold night, he looked up to see dancing green lights in the black sky. "Lucky to see the Northern Lights this far south" he said to himself.
It was then that he lost his balance and tumbled over the bridge. It was a 90 ft fall into the half-frozen river below. The Rescue Team said he was really lucky that he was able to make it ashore with two broken legs. He was also lucky they only dropped him twice as they climbed up the slippery hill to the waiting ambulance.
Hilly was some mad. But Gord won her back by buying their first fridge once the casts came off. She loved that refrigerator. Gord kept opening the door to see if the light was still on.
One warm day when the tarp was off, a raven flew in through the hole and into the kitchen. Gord thought it was a bad omen. He grabbed his 22 from under the bed and fired off a round or two at the black bird. Untouched the startled raven escaped back through the roof opening.
Gord missed the bird but hit the fridge. Lucky he aimed high, he destroyed the meat freezer but the beer in the vegetable crisper was only shaken but not stirred (by the bullets).
That was about when Hilly left him. Lucky for Gord my sister didn't know about support payments.
I didn't see him all that next winter. In the spring he dragged himself up to my bar and asked for another Renfrew Lucky Red Eye. I told him I wouldn't serve him because he owed my sister half of his assets, and, “by-the-way you owed me something for saving your life.”
He pulled out his wallet and handed me a $5 bill. Said he’d been saving it since that night in the field. He swore that it was his lucky sawbuck and told me to split it with Hilly, because it was also the last money he had left in the world.
The next day I bought a lottery ticket.
Cutline: Gord Ford's lucky day - His Wintario number comes up
Picture of downtown Renfrew's post office

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Sublimnos - Muse for James Cameron



Sublimnos No Longer Out Of Sight
… And Definitely Not Out of Mind

By Stephen Weir

It will take a long long time for a piece of Canadian dive history to rust into dust. Given the hard feelings surrounding the historic Sublimnos Project, the deteriorating, remains of that underwater habitat could well be an above-water Lake Ontario eyesore for years until rust indeed becomes dust.
Back in the summer of 1969 Sublimnos was set down in the waters of Georgian Bay near Tobermory, Ontario the self-described "fresh water scuba diving capital of the world" .It was a bargain basement underwater research station. Constructed from a railroad tanker for just $10,000.00, Sublimnos became Canada’s first subsurface research laboratory.
From 1969 to 1971 the Sublimnos project, funded and spearhead by physician, author, explorer and frequent Diver Magazine contributor Dr. Joe McInnis, was headline news around the world. Built to accommodate up to four divers at a time, in its first two-years of operation it is reported that over 3,000 divers (from high school students to scientists to artists) had used it.
Constructed at a time when many other countries were creating their first underwater research stations, Sublimnos stood out. That is because it was the only freshwater underwater lab, the only under-ice station and it was the only “free “submerged habitat in the world. Dr. Joe McInnis called it his “Open Hatch” policy.
“Any qualified diver of any age from anywhere who has a legitimate reason for using Sublimnos is welcome to do so free,” Dr. Joe McInnis told Popular Mechanics Magazine in April 1971. “All he has to do is write me so we can schedule a diving time. We can afford the open-hatch policy because we operate on what I call people power instead of money power. Enthusiasm frequently can be more effective than dollars and most of our workers are enthusiastic volunteers.”
Sublimnos resembled an hourglass. At the top was a yellow and blue air filled pod with windows and a small dome. The much larger bottom pod was a weighted ballast tank, which kept the top section from bobbing up to the surface. Four lifeline cables and pipes fed Sublimnos compressed air, hot water, electricity and communications linked from a small building on shore.
2009 is the 40th anniversary of Sublimnos being installed on the bottom of Georgian Bay. The grand experiment ran for about five years. The habitat was eventually brought out of the water and taken to the Seneca College’s lake north of Toronto where it was used by the College’s commercial diver programme. By 1988 it was acquired by Kenn Feigelman, who had formed a non-profit company called Deep Quest. Deep Quest had provincial funding to study freshwater artificial reefs and wanted to use Sublimnos once again as a subsurface research station.
Sublimnos was taken to Prince Edward County (a peninsula in Lake Ontario) cleaned up and re-sunk. When Deep Quest lost its funding 15-years Sublimnos was abandoned on the bottom of Lake Ontario, a few hundred feet from shore in just 10 feet of water. There it stayed, a foul weather dive site and a popular shore dive site.
In 2007 it was pulled out of the water, apparently by a local dive shop and left on shore. It remains there today.

“It is an historical Canadian artifact. It was a pioneer, now it is a rusting piece of shit.” said Kenn Feigelman, the outspoken former owner of the underwater habitat. “ It should be underwater or in a museum. I don’t think Canadians would learn anything from it now but it is a remnant of Canada’s first ever-underwater research laboratory. As rudimentary as it was, it was our first and it is history.”
“ It belongs in a museum,” said Toronto filmmaker Diane Woods. “ I think it should be on display at the Fathom Five interpretation centre in Tobermory. It should be back where it all started.”
Diane Woods has wanted to produce a documentary movie, Saving Sublimnos, Canada’s First Underwater Comes Home, for over a decade. She sees the project – proving that humans can live underwater – as a catalyst that encouraged Canadians to take up diving.
“ The Americans had Sea Hunt (a weekly black and white TV action show) and we had Sublimnos,” she continued. “It was inspiration to Pierre Trudeau, who himself was a diver. It is said that Canadian film director James Cameron (Abyss, Titanic, etc) was inspired to dive after seeing Sublimnos on a flatbed truck in front of the Royal Ontario Museum here in Toronto.”
Wood’s company, aquaCULTURE Pictures Inc, has shelved its plan to film the history of the Sublimnos, because of an apparent disagreement between the current owners of what is left of the underwater habitat and a group of divers, including Dr. Joe McInnis, who want to see it become part of a historical display.
George Wheeler and Susan Yankoo own and operate Ducks Dive in Lake Ontario. They, and a number of volunteer divers brought the habitat up from the bottom of Lake Ontario and placed it on shore near their Point Traverse lakeside resort.
“The Sublimnos was 'recovered' in August 2007. At that time it was inaccessible and stuck deep in mud. You can see how deep (it was stuck in the mud) based on the lack of zebras mussels on much of it” posted Paul Tetley on the popular Ontario Diving social media website. “It was quite the exercise to 'recover' it.”
“There was a project last summer (2007) to refurbish it and return it to a usable position in the lake, using elevator cable to secure it to the bottom,” continued Mr. Tetley in response to written questions from Diver Magazine. “That project didn't gel, and I'm not sure if there is a project on the books for this summer.”
Susan Yankoo doesn’t want to be quoted about what happened when she and George Wheeler were approached about the habitat and asked to bring it up from the bottom and give it up for a museum display. She does say that there was a disagreement when they talked to Dr McInnis about the museum project five or six years ago. Ms. Yankoo will say that she and George Wheeler were dissed during those talks to bring what was left of Sublimnos to a museum. She did say that they have no plans to move it from the shoreline at least not this year.
“ We are more concerned about what is happening to shipwrecks at this end of the Lake than we are about that (Sublimnos) thing,” said Ms. Yankoo.
“Joe wanted to put into Fathom Five, and went to see them (George Wheeler and Susan Yankoo) and they were really rude to him. I think Joe was willing to pay $1,000 for it,” said Feigelman. “But they told him to fuck off. That was the end of that, at least for now.”
Now it is on the shore. Battered. Half covered in Zebra mussels. Lying on its side looking like an over-grown blue and yellow beer can. It wasn’t always so.
“ Sublimnos was built from a couple of old propane rail‐cars. (Dr Joe) McInnis had envisioned thee design and had the build done to be inexpensive and genuinely “low key” and on a budget. It simply worked!” explained Doug Elsey, the 1970 Project Manager, for the Sublimnos Project.
“ I joined the Sublimnos Project in the spring of 1970 – just after it had been placed in the water in Tobermory. I was a student in Ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University and I was on a 6-month co-op work-study program. I was “hired” (more like volunteered) as the pay was absolutely minimal – just enough for food – but the opportunity to work on the project far outweighed the financial return.”
“ Now we have this technology passport that allows us to go underwater and spend a lot of time there,” Dr Joe McInnis tells Canadian in a CBC news documentary that aired nationally March 23rd 1971 and can be seen on the web at: http://archives.cbc.ca/science_technology/natural_science/clips/14947/
“ It is really a very primitive kind of place in many ways in this habitat Sublimnos, it is very Spartan in the fittings. You see we have dials and a clock, windows. It is much like an explorers tent – it allows us the most important element to any observer, the artist or scientist that is the element of time. We can look at the whole pyramid of life that exists down here below the surface. “
“Edwin Link and his wife Marion became life long friends of Dr. Joe McInnis,” said Diane Woods in describing the scope of the project. “Link built SPID which stands for a Submersible Portable Inflatable Dwelling. SPID and Sublimnos plus three other underwater habitats (Sub Igloo) were in Dunk's Bay (Tobermory) for one season. This was a world first! “
“Link was a remarkable man and had a major impact on underwater diving, “ she continued. “SPID was at one time in the lake at Seneca College King Campus (with Sublimnos) for many years, then in a farmer’s field, and then sent to the land fill - the Smithsonian would kill to get their hands on it!”
“ I had heard it was molding away at Seneca. It was no longer being used, students would get into just to have a smoke,” explain Kenn Feigelman. “We are talking 1988 and Sublimnos, or what was left of it, looked at it. The school said I could have it if I talked to Joe (McInnis). I did and he said okay.”
Feigelman and Deep Quest were going to build four artificial reefs near Port Traverse. One reef would be made of tires, the second of retired ships, the third of cinder blocks and the fourth of concrete water pipes. Sublimnos was to be the hub of the reefs.
“ At that point in time Ducks Dive was just getting started,” said Feigelman. “ We were all good friends. We sunk Sublimnos near their resort – no one know about their facility until we did that.”
His provincial government funding ran out in 1991. Feigelman quit the organization he started, and everyone but the dive community once again abandoned Sublimnos.
Sublimnos’ upper pod (the lower ballast pod is still submerged near Tobermory) sat in 30 ft of water, perfect for night dives, navigational training dives and for novice check-out dives. Hundreds of divers have visited the popular site from ’91 until its removal from the water last year.
Questions have been raised about who exactly owns the habitat. Feigelman figures the province might own it since it has been on the bottom of Lake Ontario for 20 years.
The owners of Ducks Dive don’t agree. “We own it,” said Susan Yankoo, “and if someone wants to buy it, we can prove it.”
Top: Sublimnos on land. Photo taken summer of 2010 by Jim Kozmik
Bottom: Aaron Szimanski took this picture several years as the Sublimnos was lifted off the bottom of Lake Ontario.