The Life of Riley w/ special guest, Gord Lewis

The Life of Riley w/ special guest, Gord Lewis

I popped by International Village’s first Oktoberfest last night.  Lots of folks were there enjoying the music, food and great atmosphere — the organizers should be very proud.  Ferguson Ave makes such a great spot for a street festival.   Hopefully this becomes an annual event.

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Sunset at Cootes (Aug 26)


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Local Theatre – The Pajama Game

Some friends of mine are involved with Shooting Star’s production of the Pajama Game.  It closes this weekend.  Check out Shooting Star’s website for details.   I’ve been to lots of Shooting Star shows and they’re always well done.

It’s 1954 and the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory is anything but peaceful. The workers only want one thing– a 7 and a half cent raise – and they won’t take no for an answer! When union head Babe Williamsfinds herself squaring off with the new guy in town, superintendent Sid Sorokin, sparks of all kindsbegin to fly in this fast-paced, all-singing and all-dancing musical comedy. Complete with a bouncy score and a cast of quirky characters, The Pajama Game is one classic you don’t want to miss!

Shooting Star


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Top 10 Reasons to go to Supercrawl

That time is upon us.  Soon we will be celebrating our local art and music scenes, our fantastic restaurants, and the renaissance of our downtown.  In case you actually needed them, here are the top 10 reasons to go to Supercrawl 2013:

  1. James Street North will be closed to cars.  You can fulfill your lifelong dream of lying down in the middle of the street without getting hit by the #2 bus, if that’s your thing. Don’t mind the fact that there will be tens of thousands of people walking, dancing and potentially unicycling over you.  Ok so don’t lie down in the street, forget I said that.
  2. There will be stages and stages of great music from local acts to big-time international type bands. I hear there might even be a micro-stage inside the Wilson Street phone booth (that’s where they told me I could sing my Rod Stewart karaoke).
  3. There will be art; Big art installations on the street as well as galleries and studios full of paintings, pottery, sculptures and photography that James North has become famous for.  Look for my solo, mobile exhibit “Ordinary Man Enjoys Amazing Festival”
  4. There will be FOOD.  While I’m sure the organizers have lined up some fantastic food trucks and such, remember to also stop by the dozens of fantastic local downtown restaurants.  No joke here, just keep eating until you can’t walk.
  5. Pillows. (Shameless Plug for my brother’s crafts).  Seriously though Maker’s Market runs both Friday and Saturday at the Cathedral near James and Colborne.  If pillows, t-shirts and neighbourhood maps aren’t your thing, there will be a ton of other vendors on hand.  The great thing about this sale is that everything is made by local folks, and it’s all good stuff.
  6. Kids stuff.  There’s a whole bunch of kid-friendly activities; Various arts and crafts stations, a puppet theatre, storytelling, and something called an “instrument petting zoo”.  I can only assume that either means your kid gets to play a trumpet for the first time, or she gets to feed a handful of pellets to a trumpet for the first time. Either way it sounds like fun.
  7. There will be performers.  The Zacada Circus School will even be there.  You can stand and watch somebody twist themselves into a giant pretzel, while you EAT a giant pretzel. Woah.
  8. No Theory of a Deadman anywhere.
  9. Have I mentioned admission is free?  As always, there are some great sponsors, and the City kicks in some cash.  The festival itself, because it’s in the middle of a vibrant commercial district, generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic activity, so that’s nothing but good news.
  10. Lastly, It’ll just be plain old fun.  Downtown Hamilton is an amazing place any day, but this is its best two days of the year.  Get out, enjoy it, even just walking down the street you’ll feel an amazing vibe from all the new and exciting stuff that’s going on down here.  And… wait for it… it’s all happening without a Casino (.. not sorry)
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Spring (yes I know it’s not spring)

Spring? (Yes, I know it's not spring)

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Why am I writing about Hamilton’s taxi industry?

Hamilton taxi drivers are demanding better safety measures in response to the recent beating of a driver after an apparent fare dispute.  Obviously this is a situation that should never happen, and something should be done to prevent it from happening again.

Many are suggesting that, as in other cities, a partition should be installed between the front and back seat of each taxi to isolate and protect the driver from his or her passengers.   While this does make it more difficult for a passenger to assault a driver, it does create problems of its own.

If a partition isn’t mandatory, some cabbies will not want to put one in for various reasons (personal preference, cost, eliminates the front seat for passenger use). In a competitive industry, where not having a partition is an advantage over those who do, the only way to make the partitions work is to mandate them city-wide, which is apparently not easily done.

Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla is filing a notice of motion that will require passengers to pre-pay their fares between 10pm and 5am, presumably the hours when most robberies and violence will occur.  In theory this will ensure that everyone getting in a cab will pay at least an approximate amount of their fare, so any dispute at the end of the trip will at least leave the driver partially paid.

Does this entirely reduce the risk of violence towards cab drivers?  I would argue it doesn’t.  I like the idea behind a prepaid fare, but ultimately I think it will cause more grief and violence than it solves.  The initial transition won’t be easy, as passengers may not feel comfortable pre-paying, or forking over an estimated fare based on the driver’s estimate.   Any perceived discrepancy at the end of the trip will also be a source of conflict.

The requirement to prepay also adds another layer of difficulty.  Sometimes, people call a taxi in an emergency situation (need to get to a hospital, need to get away from wherever they are, etc).  While these folks may fully intend to have someone pay their fare when they get to their destination, it does increase the chances that a driver will simply refuse to accept the trip, leaving their passenger in a difficult spot.

The bottom line is that generally there seems to be an underlying mutual distrust between drivers and passengers.  So far passengers have had the advantage of being able to walk away without paying, this will hand that advantage to the drivers.  This may result in fewer unpaid fares, which is a good thing for the industry, but whether it cuts down on assaults on drivers is another matter entirely.


Note:  I had a chance to speak with a Hamilton cab driver about this recently, and he is also doubtful about the late night pre-payment model.   I know that’s hardly a conclusive survey, but it confirms I’m not entirely in the weeds on this one.

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Fixed it.


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