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Review of the August Issue of Toronto Life

Posted by phduffy on 2009-08-05 23:30:43
11 forum posts

Review of the August Edition of Toronto Life

I’ve been thinking for a while now that I’d like to review Toronto Life. I have a real love/hate relationship with Toronto Life. As much as they can provide some interesting articles, they’re also writing for an audience that doesn’t exist. What I mean is, I suspect Toronto Life is an ‘aspirational’ magazine. Meaning, they show you a life just a bit more glamourous than yours. Of course many magazines show you a glamourous life, the difference being that they don’t claim to represent your life in Toronto. I’ll get to some specific examples shortly, but essentially Toronto Life thinks that you’re in your late 20s, early 30s, involved in something creative, and make at least 150k a year. I don’t’ know their demographics, but I’m positive that this doesn’t describe most Toronto Life readers. A good recent example of this would be when they included a $1300 couch in their ‘cheap furniture’ section. I will give Toronto Life credit though – unlike men or women’s magazines (everything from Men’s Health to Cosmo to Chatelaine to Maxim), each issue isn’t just “The xx ways to do X!”. It’s actually worth it to read more than one issue a year.

Anyways, on to this issue – I’m probably going to review more in this, the first review, than in subsequent reviews, as I want to touch all the columns here, but that won’t be necessary in the future.

The cover is pretty crappy, but fits the theme of the best of Toronto, where to find the best everything, etc.

This City includes a profile of the new CEO of Invest Toronto life. Strangely, no mention is made of why he left his cabinet position, despite it being pretty common knowledge. I suppose the short article leading the magazine shouldn’t really be expected to have much research in it.

There’s then some of the star-fucking Toronto Life loves, a look at which celebrities live in Muskoka! Wow, Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna? Brett Lindros? Fascinating.

Party Watch is a section where they take pictures of people at ‘event’s in Toronto, and put up their picture. You’ve heard of maybe 10% of them, and don’t care about any of them. I find it hard to believe that anyone likes this section, but who knows.

Urban Decoder – this section is actually awesome. Readers ask two questions about how something works in Toronto (this issue – green rooftops and the environment, smoking near children). Toronto Life contacts someone at the city and finds the answer

The Temperature – an excuse for Toronto Life to tell you what’s cool and what’s not. Lots of magazines do this.

Other People’s money – feature by Siri Agrell about big time money managers in Toronto and how they’re handling the financial crisis. Well, one company in particular. Fine article, but you could probably have found this article in the New York Times about NY, in a London paper about London, etc.

We’re here. We’re Tamil. Get used to it, feature by Richard Poplak. This was a nice article with some insight into the Tamil protests on University and the Gardner. Solid article, that although it had a slant, gave access to each side.

Best of the City - basically a bunch of paragraphs describing the best bookstore, taco, kid stuff, etc in the city. This is something that Toronto Life can do that no one else can, although I have to admit that sometimes I wonder how useful these are – are most Torontonians going out to the Shops at Don Mills to see the McNally Robinson bookstore? Why not Nicholas Hoare, which is downtown? Lots of expensive stuff, but there’s also some reasonable ideas here too.

When Girls Want to Be Boys and Boys Want to Be Girls – feature by Wendy Dennis. Nice article about transgendered kids and the world’s leading expert, who happens to be at CAMH. The article’s respectful, but also acknowledges that a 7 year old boy who wants to be a girl is kind of a strange situation. Nice profile of some work going on locally.

Cito’s Last Chance – feature by Philip Marchand. Profile of Jays manager Cito Gaston. Sort of hints that he may have been kept out of managing until he retuned to the Jays, but doesn’t really mention that he turned down some opportunities. Also ends with the idea that no one would dispute that he didn’t give Shawn Green enough playing time the first time he (Cito) managed in Toronto, while in fact that is hugely disputed, and many people think that in retrospect, Cito did exactly the right thing. This is the kind of thing that worries me – here’s an article where I know more about the subject than the article writer, and he doesn’t seem to have the story straight. Well, what about the article where I know less than the writer? It’s kind of like reading Margaret Wente. Anytime she writes about anything you know about, you realize everything she’s saying is bullshit, so why would I read her crap on anything else?

City Survivor – a weird regular feature where a local celeb is profiled, along with the 10 things he/she can’t live without in Toronto. Sort of a cross between “They’re just like us”, “cool places to shop” and “starfuckery, now in Toronto Life!”

Great Spaces – a very skipable section where a local home/condo is profiled. The condo will be decorated immaculately, and the idea you’re supposed to take home is that this is something you could do with your place. Of course, what I take home is “it would be nice to have an interior decorator, a big budget, and a professional photographer to make my place look nice”. This month’s feature, oddly enough, is about a cottage in Haliburton

Real Estate – I wonder what percentage of Torontonians have cottages? Toronto Life seems to think it’s about 100%. Anyways, this article isn’t really about real estate, but on seniors moving to cottage country and taking over. (No mention of whether or not it’s good for these communities to have a bunch of non-locals show up and start changing things)

There’s also a regular feature called ‘the chase’ where someone buying a house is profiled. This is usually the most fucked-up part of the magazine. I mean, this could be useful, lots of people are looking for a first home, bigger home now that they have kids, etc, right? Well, here’s who they profiled this month:
Fazillah Pirani, a 29 year old investment banker who had a budget between $650,00 and $800,000, and wanted to purchase an investment property, but was only going to be in Toronto for a week before going back to the Bahamas, where she works.

Read that again. What the Fuck. Who the fuck is this supposed to be helpful for? There are what, 3 people in Toronto who might be in a similar situation? A 29 year old with 800k to put into an investment property? Toronto Life- telling you to go fuck yourself for years.

The Accidental Farmers – feature by Brent Preston. So Preston writes an article about how he and his wife gave up city living to open up an organic farm near Creemore (not sure how relevant to Toronto this is, but I can sort of see a connection). The gist of it – hey urbanites? Fuck you, we’re better than you because we live off the land, work 14 hour days, etc. However – hey, local farmers? Fuck you, we’re better than you, because we have shitty yields because we don’t use pesticides, live with a 100 mile diet, and don’t hate the earth. Did we mention that we sell our vegetables directly to Toronto’s Top Restaurants?
It would be fair to say that I did not like this article.

Restaurants – this section usually has one small, featured review, then a bunch of reviews of new restaurants, plus some re-printed reviews of popular places. Pretty valuable part of the magazine. There’s also some wine reviews. I don’t’ know much about wine, but this seems reasonable to me.

This Month – shows upcoming events in Toronto. Useful, but you’re probably better off getting this info from something with a more regular publishing schedule, like NOW or

Toronto Poll – they show pictures of 8 people and print results of a poll of 100 people. Not offensive or anything, but I find it hard to imagine people giving a fuck about this section. They’d be way better off giving the back page to someone who could write about Toronto – Richard Florida, Margaret Atwood, Joy Fielding, I don’t care, but someone, or a rotating cast.

This was longer than I thought it would be, but I think subsequent reviews will be shorter. Let me know what you think of this review and of Toronto Life. I also need to go backwards and review the July issues, because there was some absolutely insane bullshit in that issue.
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