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The Informer

Features

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Inside the nasty, bizarro, contemptible, gobsmackingly screwed-up soap opera that is the TDSB

In a perfect world, the Toronto District School Board would receive zero attention. Its trustees and bureaucrats would hum away quietly in the background, dutifully ensuring the safety and functionality of the city’s 589 public schools. Instead, it’s a perpetual headline generator, churning out sordid tales of dysfunction, infighting and impropriety with such regularity that it’s hard to keep up. Here’s what’s wrong, and who’s to blame.

Director Donna Quan refused to hand over her contract, which spelled out an illegal $17,000 pay raise

Director Donna Quan refused to hand over her contract, which spelled out an illegal $17,000 pay raise (Image: Getty Images)

Problem No. 1

DONNA QUAN NEARLY SPARKED WWIII OVER $17,000

The evening of Wednesday October 29 was possibly the most absurd in the history of the Toronto District School Board. The board of trustees met in camera to discuss the contract of their sole employee, Donna Quan, the director of education. Quan is the most powerful school bureaucrat in the city, responsible for ­educating the TDSB’s 250,000 elementary and secondary students and managing its 38,000 employees. She first took on the position in January 2013 and initially had the board’s confidence. She and Mari Rutka, the diminutive, mild-mannered, consensus-driven trustee and wife of Toronto pediatric neurosurgeon Jim Rutka, sometimes met for tea on weekends. But after Quan’s first two years on the job—a scandal-plagued stretch punctuated by allegations of fiscal mismanagement, a forensic audit, police presence at board meetings, harassment allegations against a trustee, revelations of a shady deal with a Chinese government agency—let’s just say that confidence had eroded.

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The Informer

Events

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Discover the earth’s raw beauty through the lens of Sebastião Salgado

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

Sebastião Salgado. (Image: Dave Gillespie)

The Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado made his name with stunning images that document humanity’s devastating footprint on the natural world. Now he’s gone in a more optimistic direction with his latest project, Genesis. Travelling by boat, bush plane and hot-air balloon, Salgado visited 32 countries over eight years to capture the raw beauty of untouched—and, in many cases, un-photographed—mountains, oceans and deserts. At A Fragile Beauty, his ongoing exhibition at Nicholas Metivier Gallery, he showcases gelatin silver prints that feel more like chrome-infused paintings than true-to-life photographs: a colony of penguins playfully parading down an icy slide, a timid leopard stooping by the side of a lake and the claw of an iguana stretched out on a rock like a baby’s foot. The works may not be as damning as Salgado’s earlier images, but their message—one of hope—is just as affecting. Click through the image gallery for a look.

To Feb. 28. Nicholas Metivier Gallery, 451 King St. W., 416-205-9000, metiviergallery.com.

The Informer

Real Estate

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House of the Week: $2.35 million for a home with easy access to Eglinton West

toronto-house-of-the-week-113-wembley-avenue-intro

Address: 113 Wembley Road
Neighbourhood: Humewood-Cedarvale
Agent: Matthew Wise, Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage
Price: $2,349,000

The Place: A six-bedroom, five-bathroom home located just north of Eglinton and east of the Allen Expressway.

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The Informer

Events

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Worship at the altar of Father John Misty at the Danforth Music Hall

(Image: Emma Tillman)

(Image: Emma Tillman)

When the American folk musician Father John Misty (otherwise known as Josh Tillman) released his debut album, Fear Fun, in 2012, he quickly transformed from an obscure ex–Fleet Foxes drummer into a solo heavy-hitter. His arsenal of psychedelic folk evokes the roots-rock forefathers of the 1960s and ’70s: drawled-out melodies, twangy guitar licks, ubiquitous tambourine. Where Fear Fun found success in tradition, Tillman’s sophomore record, I Love You, Honeybear, finds its groove breaking the rules. The new batch of love songs, which Tillman wrote for his wife, are still steeped in the tradition of solo-era John Lennon and Harry Nilsson, but feature a slew of compelling accompanists—a ragtime jazz combo, electronic percussionist, and mariachi band—that lend spontaneity to the disc. Hear it for yourself when Tillman brings his vintage persona to Toronto this Wednesday. The event is sold out, but, as always, there are ways.

Wed. Feb. 18. $29.50–$32.75. Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., 416-778-8163, collectiveconcerts.com.

The Informer

Real Estate

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Sale of the Week: the $950,000 Summerhill semi that shows the power of waiting for the right offer

toronto-sale-of-the-week-1a-oaklands-avenue-intro

Address: 1A Oaklands Avenue
Neighbourhood: Summerhill
Agent: Kara Reed, Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited, Brokerage

The Property: This freehold Summerhill semi is set up for couples or small families, with just two bedrooms spread over its four levels. Its open concept living area has floor-to-ceiling windows, and the third floor master bedroom has its own massive marble en suite.

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The Informer

Culture

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Started from the bottom now we sad: a second-by-second breakdown of Drake’s new short film

(Image: OctobersVeryOwn/Vimeo)

(Image: OctobersVeryOwn/Vimeo)

Yesterday, mayor of Toronto Aubrey “Drake” Graham released a 15-minute short-film thing called Jungle that we now know was a cryptic promo for his new surprise album. Mostly, though, the video (which you can watch right here) is like a glossy ad for Drake’s persona, as he struggles with the wages of superstardom and tries to stay true to his roots in Toronto (aka “The Six,” aka “The Bottom”).

In order to help us all understand what, exactly, is going on in Jungle—if anything’s going on other than Drake stomping around looking sad—here’s a second-by-second breakdown:

0:00:08: “How was your night, pop?” asks Drake’s driver. Drake, or “pop,” is a sort of patriarchal figure, a primal father of commercial hip-hop.

0:00:13: Our hero struggles to respond, practically choking as the words escape his mouth: “It was arrrrrrr…it was alright.” You get the sense that his night wasn’t alright. Not at all.

0:00:23: The car drives on ceremoniously, like a reflective chrome casket carrying Drake’s artistically compromised soul into the next life.

0:00:45: Drake begins describing his apparent melancholy. “The whole energy out here is just changing, you know?” As a successful rap mogul, merchandiser and courtside Raptors sycophant, yes, I do know.

0:00:43–0:01:30: Drake is venting about his problems. Is this Drake’s Birdman? He’s “drinkin’ more, smokin’ more.” Why is it that every time Drake mentions—or even suggests—that he smokes weed he sounds like a hunched uncle raising his eyebrows mischievously and asking if anyone at the Red Rider concert wants to “do a doobie”?

0:01:55: There it is. The title: JUNGLE. A staple of rock metaphor: the jungle, that tangle of trees and brush and growth signifying…I don’t know, like an emotional tangle I guess?

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Condo of the Week: $460,000 for a Riverdale suite with a rooftop retreat

(Image: Robert Holowka)

(Image: Robert Holowka)

Address: 625 Queen Street East, Unit 205
Neighbourhood: South Riverdale
Agent: Alex Brott, Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty Inc.
Price: $459,000

The Place: A one-bedroom unit with a decent-sized den in a 2009 building across from Dark Horse Espresso.

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Events

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Rewrite Canadian history with the Cree artist Kent Monkman

(Image: Kent Monkman, Expelling the Vices, 2014. Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain)

(Image: Kent Monkman, Expelling the Vices, 2014. Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain)

Paintings by the Canadian Cree artist Kent Monkman feel familiar at first—romantic landscapes, coniferous forest, Mount Rushmore—but quickly reveal their surrealism: indigenous warriors reign mightily from rearing stallions, stoic rhinos and sleek red motorcycles, empowered in a way that native North Americans have rarely been in western art. In a new series of works on display at Toronto’s Centre Space until the end of February, Monkman hyperbolizes, subverts and prods the power dynamics that governed the relationship between European colonizers and North America’s first inhabitants. Instead of somber sermonizing, he goes for playful exuberance: the works feature outlandish allusions to Greek mythology and frequent cameos from the artist’s queer alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle.

To Feb. 28. Centre Space, 65 George St., centre-space.ca.

The Informer

Politics

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Rob Ford gets kicked out of council chambers for (what else?) not apologizing for doing something wrong

now-what-newIt started as most things do with Rob Ford: with a dispute over a vanishingly small amount of money. At today’s city council meeting, according to the Sun’s Don Peat and other reporters there, Councillor Ford (he’s a councillor now, remember?) accused city staff of deliberately omitting $20,000 in travel fees from an estimate of the cost of planning Toronto’s participation in the upcoming Milan Expo 2015—an omission that he implied was made so those staffers could score free trips to Italy without anyone noticing. When Ford refused to retract the comment, speaker Frances Nunziata ordered him to leave the council chamber. Ford demanded a vote on his ejection, which he lost, 29 to 4. He left on his own before council’s sergeant-at-arms could escort him out.

The Informer

Streeters

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“We got our LCBO, so we’re good”: Liberty Villagers on their neighbourhood’s bad rap

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

Liberty Village takes a lot of flack, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a heavily developed condo community that’s cut off from the rest of the city by railroad tracks, leaving only two major routes in and out. Liberty Village Park, the only green space of note, includes just a single small play area, even though, elsewhere in the neighbourhood, plenty of space is devoted to unsightly swaths of surface parking. The 504 King streetcar, the area’s main TTC connection to downtown, is almost unridable during rush hour. There are even battles over dog shit. But how do the people who live and work in Liberty Village feel about it? We asked some of them whether the neighbourhood deserves the put-downs.

The Informer

Events

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Watch Angela Lansbury bring Blithe Spirit to life

(Image: Joan Marcus)

(Image: Joan Marcus)

Separately, Angela Lansbury and Blithe Spirit have been around for ages. One is the 89-year-old British star of Murder, She Wrote; the other is a witty 64-year-old play by Noël Coward that ran for nearly 2,000 performances in its initial stretch. Put the two together, though, and you get an entirely new piece of theatrical magic. In this new production—which sold out in New York and London—Lansbury plays Madame Arcati, an eccentric psychic who mistakenly summons the ghost of her client’s dead wife during a séance with his new wife. The wives proceed to feud over their husband—albeit indirectly, given only he can see the dead wife—in the company of the idiosyncratic Arcati, whose personality is as colourful as her copper hair and billowing caftans. Lansbury won a Tony for the role in 2009. With sharp delivery and star presence, she commands the stage and makes an old work feel brand new.

Feb. 11 to Mar. 15. $35–$175. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W., 416-872-1212, mirvish.com.

The Informer

Real Estate

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House of the Week: $1.8 million for a contemporary Baby Point home with a park view

toronto-house-of-the-week-69b-harshaw-avenue-intro

Address: 69B Harshaw Ave
Neighbourhood: Lambton Baby Point
Agent: David Anderson Oey, Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage
Price: $1,775,000

The Place: A contemporary detached home backing onto Lessard Park in Baby Point Village.

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Events

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Listen to the sound of old meeting new, with pianists Emanuel Ax and Jan Lisiecki

(Image: Ax: Lisa Marie Mazzucco; Lisiecki: Mathias Bothor)

(Image: Ax: Lisa Marie Mazzucco; Lisiecki: Mathias Bothor)

Age difference aside, the international piano superstar Emanuel Ax and Calgary-born teen sensation Jan Lisiecki have a lot in common. They’ve both played Carnegie Hall, collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma and toured the world to showcase their mastery of the classical and contemporary piano repertoire. The two will also share the same stage this Wednesday, as part of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Piano Extravaganza, an 11-day music festival curated by Ax. Together, they’ll perform Mozart’s playful concerto for two pianos and Saint-Saëns’s regal The Carnival of the Animals, as well as a world premiere of local composer Kevin Lau’s Foothills of Heaven, backed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It’s a rare opportunity to see the established past and emerging future of North American piano music tickle the ivories together.

Wed. Feb. 11. $33–$145. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., 416-872-4255, tso.ca.

The Informer

Columns

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Memoir: I was terrified of having my son circumcised

Memoir: The Last Cut

My son, Ezra, was born last spring—a jarring six weeks early, after more hours of labour than I care to remember. At six pounds, three ounces, he was by far the biggest baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, but to me he was the smallest creature in the world. Eight days later, he was released into the care of his two first-time moms. My partner, Sarah, and I were filled with an urgent mix of elation and terror.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: how do I get my Ford-hating coworkers to stop mocking me?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Ford National

(Image: Nisarg Lakhmani)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I’m a supporter of the Fords. When people badmouthed them at work, I stood up for them. Now that Tory’s mayor, my colleagues continue to rip on me. My boss is in on it too, so I have nobody to complain to. I feel like my only option to get respect is to ask one of them to go outside and settle it. Should I?

—Ford National, East York

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