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eye - 08.18.05


  WANDERING EYE  

A huge bin of rubbish

RONCESVALLES -- It's an overcast Saturday afternoon and the garbage can outside Sak's Fine Foods is getting some attention. That's no surprise -- it's new, and it's seven feet tall. The whimsically named EcoMupi is part of a three-month pilot project. If plans move ahead, 1,500 of them will litter the streets of Toronto, each bearing two large, illuminated billboards. During the pilot phase, citizens are encouraged to comment on the bins at www.toronto.ca/garbage/bintest.htm.

Judging by the passersby at Roncesvalles and Howard Park, people are happy to comment. "At first, I wasn't sure what it was," says Dorothy Sawicki, checking out the functional part of the bin, which is tucked on the narrow edge. There are slots for paper, cans, batteries, cigarette butts and litter, but she's missing half the capacity, because the second set of deposit slots are on the other side, facing the road. Examining that side leads to a near collision with a cyclist.

"It's kinda cool," says Chris Sawicki. "Good thing it's all in one."

The other, more familiar all-in-one bins that have been on Toronto streets for a few years are owned by the same company, Eucan. EcoMupis would work on a similar premise: Eucan cleans and maintains bins, sells advertising and pays the city, while the city empties trash and recyclables. The new proposal would bring in about $10 million more in benefits (in free bins and fees) over 10 years than buying 1,000 advertising-free bins, but it still has the Toronto Public Space Committee up in arms. They think the lights that illuminate the ads waste energy, the height wrecks sightlines and the tiny labels confuse trash-bearing pedestrians. They're calling it the "Attack of the Monster Garbage Cans," and they're not alone.

Sizing up the box on the street, Tommy Morningstar agrees. "They take up a lot of room and they're ugly."

A woman named Maz Fusion is with him. "Lots of billboard, not a lot of garbage," she says. As they walk on, they speculate on what would make the bins even more noticeable. Disco lights? Music? They settle on the band Garbage.

Another woman walks up, balancing two half-full cans of Sprite. "Oh, this is where you put your garbage," she says, dropping both of her cans into the litter section.

"There are recyclables in there," says Teresa Cochrane a few minutes later, peering into the garbage. She motions to Eucan's normal bin, across the road. "With those you get three distinct areas," she says. "I would prefer the other ones."

A guy named Masaki, on the other hand, likes what he sees. "It's good, I think, because I'm a smoker," he says. "I can put my butts here."

Whatever the final verdict, the EcoMupis have one clear ally. Thanks to the lidless litter section, trash is exposed and rotting. The wasps have already taken up residence. ALLISON MARTELL


SOME KIND OF PUNDERFUL

THE ANNEX -- Sipping beer on the overcrowded Future Bakery patio in the sweltering afternoon heat, "online punographers, pun-dits and pun krockers" Pat Tanzola and Rhain Louis, both 27, worry that while they may nab a touch of notoriety, "the majority of punsters around the world still suffer abuse at the hands of the groaneral population."

The creators of www.pungents.com are Toronto natives, pals from high school who share the same birthday. While building their pun empire, Future Bakery, Hart House and, occasionally, Tanzola's basement have become their offices, where they convene roughly twice a week to work on their website and brainstorm jokes. Today, they begin by defining a pun.

"It's when two different words or phrases sound the same, but have different meanings," says Louis. "A lot of times when people say 'no pun intended,' it's actually a play on words." (The headline on this article, for example.)

"It's a pretty nerdy distinction," concedes Tanzola, "but we see puns as a special mix of cleverness and cheesiness. When people call puns 'the lowest form of humour,' we try not to get too offended."

"You've got to have lot of nerve to pull off a pun," agrees Louis.

Nerve is something both gents seem to have in spades. In December 2004, to the astonishment of friends and family alike, Louis dropped out of a $42,000 PhD scholarship program at U of T, when he realized "my love of puns greatly outstripped my love of science." Meanwhile, Tanzola was pursuing a Master's degree at Queen's University. The two met one day on this very patio and decided to chuck it all in order to start up a "bad pun magazine."

"We've both always been known for our bad puns," says Tanzola. "It seemed like a hilarious outlet for it." The zine idea quickly morphed into a website reality.

Pungents.com now boasts a Pun of the Day, Puns on Demand -- "the internet's only custom joke and slogan service" -- Punshine Girls and Boys (who, they claim, are "so renowned for their sexy wordplay, quick tongues and hot dictionary skills that the site is in danger of getting a triple-lex rating!") as well as their own fashion subsidiary, Pun Gents Apparel.

Louis, a.k.a. Angry Brown Man, and Tanzola, alias Cupcake Man, are both established bloggers, and have big plans for the future. "We have lots of schemes," says Tanzola. "This is the most ridiculous one, so we figured if we can make this work, anything is possible."

The gents intend to "chronicle their trials and tribulations in a har-hitting krockumentary, Malice in Punderland," publish a calendar with puns of the day and start up a pun contest in Canada (similar to the O. Henry Pun-off in Austin, Texas, in which Tanzola recently placed third), which they hope to call the "Ron Maclean All-Can-eh-dian Punoff, in honour of Hockey Night in Canada's most famous punster."

Currently, their online punography is undoubtedly the site's biggest draw. "Even good-looking people like puns," says Louis, pointing to the most recent Punshine girl, a former regional finalist for Miss World Canada.

"Yeah, we're two obvious examples of that," agrees Tanzola with a grin. "We've got sexy minds." NAOMI LIGHTMAN

 

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