The Girdler

The Girdler

With the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, opening today, and traffic to my own Dark Knight page skyrocketing over the last week, now would be a good time to ponder a question that’s vexed my curious mind for some 30 years now: would The Girdler be a better name for a superhero or supervillain? And in either case, what would his superpower be? And who would be his nemesis?

According to the Girdler Family web site, the Girdler name—like Cooper, Miller, and Smith—originates with a profession: a girdle maker, in this case. The girdles in question more resemble belts than the modern Playtex variety, though.

Signs of velleity

No access to LCBO

An old article in Slate declared that the Random House Dictionary contains the best definition of velleity:

1. volition in its weakest form
2. a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it.

That is precisely the word (and definition) that came to mind when I first saw this sign guarding a driveway leading to the LCBO store on Yonge Street north of Davisville Avenue. The driveway joins two small parking lots, one that serves the LCBO store to the north and another that serves a smattering of other stores to the south. At some point, someone must have decided that they no longer wanted LCBO customers using the southern lot and the connecting drive. But in the place of an actual barrier to block access, this sign was erected to declare what is quite demonstrably untrue, as both cars and pedestrians regularly cross the unbridgeable (yet smoothly paved) chasm to access the LCBO store’s main entrance.

The bilingual nature of the sign indicates that it was almost certainly erected by the LCBO. Bad attempt at traffic control, or psychological experiment? You be the judge.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

House on the hill

Lonely house on a hill

I came across this curious sight out near Guelph this past weekend. The old house, no doubt saved from demolition by a heritage designation, sits in the middle of a large lot that has been scraped clean of soil and flattened for what is sure to be a completely unremarkable subdivision. The patch of soil the house sits on is now maybe 8 feet above the surrounding terrain. The interesting thing is that there’s absolutely no sign of action here: there’s no equipment on site, no sales pavilion, no signs, no building material, nothing. It’s almost like someone just wanted to cart away all the topsoil and leave behind a moonscape.

The view reminded me of this spectacle last year in China.

Chester Hill bike lane makes another giant leap

Chester Hill bike lane, now with extra stencilly goodness.

It’s been three months since any progress has been made on the semi-completed bike lane on Chester Hill Road between Broadview and Cambridge Avenues. Just when I was beginning to give up hope that work would ever resume on this project that started way back in November, the lane was finally painted with two diamond and bicycle stencils today. Some work remains to be done—the temporary stop sign at Cambridge needs to be replaced by a permanent sign, and the signs prohibiting turns onto Chester Hill from Broadview must be updated to allow cyclists to make the turn—but once again I have some hope that the lane will be finished before the end of time.

To recap the work done so far:

Late November: A 70 metre line of yellow paint goes down marking the lane. Two bike lane signs are attached to poles, but one of them remains covered by black plastic.

Mid-April: The second sign is uncovered and a temporary stop sign is erected at the Cambridge Avenue end of the lane, held up by three sandbags.

July: Two stencils are painted to mark the lane.

Surely there’s a joke in there somewhere.

At just 70 metres long, this is probably the city’s shortest bike lane. At close to eight months and counting since work started, it’s taking an unbelievably long time to slap down some paint and post some signs. Back in April, I wrote that the early spring progress on this lane was a good sign because the cynic in me had expected completion of the lane to “languish well into the summer.” Um…

The loud pipes of a what?

I am the loud pipes of a Harley…

The great thing about what is euphemistically called pre-need funeral planning is that you not only get to pick what goes on your headstone, but you get to admire it yourself. I can only assume that’s the explanation behind this seemingly pre-need headstone in Ashburn‘s Burns Cemetery. The inscribed poem is so familiar that the second rhyming couplet almost slips past without notice:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am the loud pipes of a Harley, Chevy or Ford,
Or an Elvis song played in three chords.

I like it.


In memory of Jane Linton who died April 13, 1875 aged 74 years, 4 days

This marker is in Bethel Cemetery in Pickering.

If you walk through any cemetery that’s been in operation for more than a hundred years, you’ll soon notice two things. The first is the sheer number of children that used to die before they were old enough to crawl and how many families had two, three, or more children that didn’t live to their tenth birthdays.

The second is an unusual obsession with precision exhibited on many markers. I can understand marking a dead child’s age as three weeks or 22 days, but many of the markers for older people also include precise counts of months and days. It always seems a little odd to see a grandmother’s age tallied up in the same manner as a toddler’s.

A lot of people shy away from cemeteries, but I always find them fascinating. Taking a stroll through an old cemetery is like walking through a highly-condensed social history of a region. As you progress from older graves to newer ones, the names change, occupations shift, family relationships become clear, and tributes to achievements both major and minor abound.

Dumbing it down

No dumbing

It looks like someone in rural northeastern Pickering has had enough of idiots treating this vacant lot like their own private dumb and has chosen to combat the problem by posting this notice at the entrance. And who can blame the poor owner? No one wants to visit their plot of land only to discover that they’ve been dumbed on again. Do you have any idea how much it costs to clean up after that kind of stupidity?