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Culture

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Heroine Chic: the problem with feminist fairy tales

The Heart of Robin Hood, a new feminist fairy tale from Mirvish, morphs Maid Marion from a prissy damsel into a spunky swashbuckler

Heroine Chic

(Photograph courtesy of Mirvish)

For little girls, the most indelible image of 2014 was that of Frozen’s Queen Elsa, shimmying and shimmering as she discarded the manacles of her regal existence. At that moment, Elsa became an avatar of tweenage girl power, trumpeting the virtues of self-expression, pragmatism and independence. Frozen, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, is the latest fairy tale to be ­reimagined as a badass feminist manifesto. We’ve also seen Snow White and the Huntsman, which recast the porcelain princess as a ­hard-core warrior played by Kristen Stewart; ­Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as an evil fairy turned motherly martyr; and Wicked, which transformed Elphaba, The Wizard of Oz’s reptilian witch, into a sensitive victim of bullying. After centuries of docile damsels and nefarious crones, the new fairy-tale heroines have pluck. They fight battles, stand up for themselves and belt out the swelling go-girl anthems that inspire millions of ­YouTube covers. As female role models, they form an unimpeachable sorority.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: was I wrong to show my new doctor neighbour my rash?

Dear Urban Diplomat: was I wrong to show my new doctor neighbour my rash?

(Image: clintjcl/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My husband and I just moved to the Beach. We had our neighbours over—he’s a banker, she’s a family doctor—and after a few lycheetinis I pulled her aside to show her a crazy rash on my upper thigh that’s got me worried. She dodged my questions, then suddenly they had to leave. I’m a bit embarrassed, but also annoyed: what are neighbours for if you can’t help each other out?

—Rash Decision, The Beach

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The Informer

Culture

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See a radiant retrospective of Art  Spiegelman’s comic (and not-so-comic) art

House of Maus: the irreverent cartoonist Art  Spiegelman gets a radiant retrospective

Art Spiegelman never wanted a retrospective. “It feels like walking around among a bunch of tombstones,” he recently pronounced. It’s no surprise the famously anti-establishment cartoonist would be ambivalent about hanging his work in museum halls: he’s a cultural heretic who got his start scribbling satirical cartoons in the early ’70s as part of an underground comics ring in San Francisco. In 1991, he completed his Pulitzer-winning Maus, a disturbing parable based on his father’s experience in the Holocaust, that reimagined the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats.

Just as Spiegelman inadvertently elevated comic books into literature, he also transformed cartoons into high art. His new AGO show, which opens on Saturday, documents every stage of his creative ­trajectory: his earliest comic strips, the discarded drafts of his 1993 New Yorker cover depicting a Hasidic man kissing a black woman, and studies for a stained glass panel he designed for his alma mater, New York’s High School of Art and Design. Most affecting is the ­section dedicated to Maus, plastered with character studies and family artifacts, where a sound system plays recordings of ­Spiegelman interviewing his father. Click through the gallery for a look at some of his most iconic comics.

Dec. 20 to Mar 15. Included with general admission, $19.50. Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas, St. W., 416-979-6648, ago.net.

The Dish

Restaurants

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All Dressed Up: chopped salads with a twist

Flavour of the Month: clever chefs are gussying up traditional chopped salads with luscious, irresistible ingredients
Clever chefs are gussying up traditional chopped salads with luscious, irresistible ingredients, like fried garlic, frog legs and creamy feta. Here, five of the best plates in the city.

The Informer

Real Estate

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Tower of Power: who lives where at One Bedford, the new downtown address of choice for uptown potentates

Tower of Power: who lives where at One Bedford, the new downtown address of choice for uptown potentates

(Photographs: Tower by Daniel Neuhaus; Bata, Peaches, Stronach, Hackett, Govani, MacMillan by Getty Images; Jackman courtesy of Province of Ontario; Wente courtesy of the Globe and Mail; Kuwabara by Newswire; McEwan courtesy of Smashing Pictures; Broadbent courtesy of Eventi; Tory by Markian Lozowchuk; Oundjian courtesy of Arts Atlanta)

In the three years since it was completed, One Bedford, the 32-storey monolith above, has become de facto HQ for tastemakers in business, media, arts and politics. Chalk it up to its location at the nexus of three high-rent neighbourhoods, which allows residents to self-identify as posh Yorkvillers, U of T brainiacs or quinoa-munching Annexers as needed. One of the latest big-name tenants to join the party is the mayor. Here’s who he calls neighbour.

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The Informer

People

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Uber Toronto general manager Ian Black on why the city hates his company, and why John Tory doesn’t

Q&A: Ian BlackEveryone has heard of Uber, but not everyone’s sure what it is. Help us out.
It’s a smartphone app: click a button and a car arrives within minutes. The options are regular taxi, black-car service or UberX, which is a fleet of cars owned and driven by regular people.

Is it just me, or does UberX sound like the start of a slasher flick?
Not at all. We do a criminal background check, which includes sexual offences, with zero tolerance for any lifetime viol­ation. For DUIs, we won’t hire anyone with an offence, ever; some of the mainstream brokerages only go back five years, so we think ours is a safer platform. In fact, drivers from mainstream brokerages recently applied to be UberX drivers and they failed our checks.

Has UberX Toronto received any complaints of assault?
No. But if we did, we would respond within the hour, if not within minutes.

What percentage of your UberX drivers are male?
About 90 to 95 per cent—higher than we’d like it to be.

You don’t have kids, but if you did, would you let your 17-year-old daughter take UberX?
Not only that, but I’d encourage her to be a driver as soon as she was 21.

If my UberX driver gets in a car accident and mangles my leg, who do I sue?
If you sue the driver, he’ll be covered under his personal insurance. If that maxes out or doesn’t cover the driver, our $5-million policy kicks in.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: am I a jerk for skipping the TTC farebox line?

Dear Urban Diplomat: am I a jerk for skipping the TTC farebox line?

(Image: Bryson Gilbert/Toronto Life Flickr Pool)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I was in the Queen subway station recently and encountered a long lineup, so I did that move where you sneak past people mumbling “Sorry” and dump your fare into the can. One guy yelled, “Oh, only you have places to go?” and I got the stink eye from someone else. What am I supposed to do—wait interminably as trains pass by?

—Line Dancer, North York

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Meathead: Grant van Gameren is Toronto’s hottest chef, and he’s about to prove it again

At the Black Hoof and Bar Isabel, the neurotic, self-taught Grant van Gameren made offal sexy and became an unlikely celebrity chef. Bar Raval, his new restaurant on a prime Little Italy corner, is the most hyped opening of the year. Too bad he loathes the spotlight

Grant van GamerenBar Raval, Grant van Gameren’s latest project, is named after a seedy neighbourhood in Barcelona. You wouldn’t know it from his elaborate plans for the place. He and his two partners, Robin Goodfellow and Mike Webster, are investing somewhere around half a million dollars to renovate the building at the corner of College and Palmerston, where Teatro used to be—a preposterous sum for a 40-seat restaurant that will serve finger food and cocktails. Everything, absolutely everything at Bar Raval, will be custom made: the tamper for the espresso bar, the foot rests, the drip tray with the Wu-Tang logo. The South American mahogany for the walls is being machine-carved and hand-oiled at a millworks in North York. The panels, designed by the boutique architecture firm Partisans, will have swooping rounded contours that replicate the three partners’ bodies. The design was so novel, so complex, that the manufacturers had to develop new algorithms for the software that guides the drill bits over the wood.

The project would seem hubristic if van Gameren had ever failed at a restaurant. But he hasn’t. The man’s sense of what Toronto craves has been impeccable. His food manages to fit the moment and the city with perfect accord.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Branca, the Argentine grill house, is the best new restaurant on Dundas West

The best new restaurant on Dundas West is an Argentine grill house called Branca—a hedonist’s dream of woozy cocktails, swish service and perfectly charred slabs of meat

The Critic: Branca

From left: Branca chef Kanida Chey slow-roasts whole suckling pigs over a smouldering pit in a fire-brick hut behind the restaurant; Argentine shrimp

Branca 2 star
1727 Dundas St. W., 416-519-8165
How our star system works »

For a couple of years in the early 2000s, I shared an apartment on the Brazilian strip of Dundas near Dufferin, which felt like the middle of nowhere, nary a Starbucks for miles. Every so often, I’d awake to the sound of drag-racing Civic hatchbacks. Dundas West always seemed ­gentrification-proof. Only soccer bars, auto garages and funeral homes thrived. Today the street is so trendy it’s surpassing Queen in DJEBs (deejays, espressos and beards) per block. Somehow the neighbourhood’s roughness has become a virtue—the decaying storefronts impart authenticity to a speakeasy-style bar or a Japanese streetwear boutique.

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The Informer

Sports

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Sports Gods: which Toronto pro athletes are truly worth their salaries?

Sports Gods: They’re paid a fortune. Who’s worth it, and who’s not

Mark Buehrle

Mark Buehrle, 35
Starting pitcher, southpaw

Paid: $19 million ($37,000 an hour)
Bang for Buck: He’s reliable and not injury-prone, but he’s in the twilight of his career and no R. A. Dickey.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: what can I do to ward off my neighbour’s pigeon pals?

Dear Urban Diplomat: what can I do to ward off my neighbour's pigeon pals?

(Image: Sarah Cartwright/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I have a neighbour who scatters old bread and bird feed on her driveway for pigeons. While these winged rodents await their feeding, they drop bombs all over the sidewalk. Parents walking their kids to school have learned (the messy way) to cross the street. Short of getting out the BB gun and setting up a blind in a nearby tree, what can I do?

—Tired of This Crap, Leslieville

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The Dish

Food Shops

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Festive Feast: the top 20 artisanal treats of the season

A hedonistic reverie of hand-crafted, artisanal, drop-dead-delicious holiday treats

Holiday Special: Festive Feast

Cinnamon candy apples from Apiecalypse Now

’Tis the season for reckless over-indulgence, so why waste it on frozen turkeys and mass-market confections? We rounded up the city’s most gorge-worthy holiday foods that’ll satisfy every nostalgic craving. Here, the top 20 holiday treats in the city.

The Informer

Columns

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Memoir: I was on the verge of making it big in hockey, and then a concussion ended it all

Memoir: Last Shot

Hockey was my life from age five. By the time I was 12, I practised a couple of hours a day and played up to three games a week. The rest of the time, my best friend, Jake, and I shot pucks in his basement, where his dad later built us a mini-rink with regulation nets and Plexiglas boards.

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The Dish

Drinks

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A Bottle for All Reasons: because every holiday event goes better with wine

A Bottle for All Reasons: Because every holiday event goes better with wine

(Photograph of Buena Vista by Carlo Mendoza)

Numbers: 1 (Green)The Holiday Meal
Buena Vista 2011 Pinot Noir | $24.95 | 91 points 

The riot of scents and flavours in a traditional holiday meal can drown out complicated and refined wines. A tart, full-flavoured pinot noir is the answer. Buena Vista has enough edge to slake, plus the flavour wattage and textural weight to drink with turkey, duck, pork tenderloin, rare roasts and even baked salmon.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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The Chase: a lawyer’s search for a fixer-upper she could grow into

The Chase: a lawyer’s search for a fixer-upper she could grow intoThe buyer: Heather Spence, a 31-year-old partner at Mass Tsang, a criminal defence firm.

The story: The story: In 2008, while Spence was attending Osgoode Hall Law School, she squeezed into a 400-square-foot Annex rental. Six years later, she’d paid off some loans, made partner at her firm and felt ready to take the ownership plunge. Condos held no ­attraction—she knew too many people who had bought units and then quickly outgrown them. If she decided to have kids someday, she didn’t need the hassle, or expense, of moving again. She got approved for a $510,000 mortgage and started the search for a fixer-upper somewhere between Queen and Dupont, from St. George to Dufferin. She was willing to consider any house, as long as it wasn’t about to be condemned, and she still had to up her ante to get into the game. Even $556,000, she discovered, wasn’t enough to make her a bidding-war contender.

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