July 2, 2014
June 10, 2014
May 28, 2014
There is, so to say, good news and bad news for democratic European Unionists. The good news is that, for the first time, voter turnout actually increased from the previous election to the European Parliament. Just over 43 percent of the eligible bothered to vote, up 1/10th of 1 percent. The bad news is that so many of these voters selected parties devoted to the destruction of as much of the European Union as possible.
We are laughing, up here in the High Doganate. Or rather, no, we are not laughing, it is all a pose. Still, there is a glint of recognition, gleeful in its own way. The voters, especially in England and France — the pioneer “Nation States” from the later Middle Ages — appear to have been motivated by something akin to the feist that came over the municipal electorate in the Greater Parkdale Area, the last time we voted. That was when we chose the notorious drunkard and drug addict, Rob Ford, to be our mayor. As polls since have repeatedly confirmed, we knew what we were doing. We had a task for him. It was to destroy as much of the vast municipal bureaucracy as possible. Our instruction was: “Keep smashing everything you see until they take you away.” Finesse would not be required, and the licker and crack might be an advantage.
One may love “the people,” without being especially impressed by them. They are stupid, but as the stopped clock, there are moments when they are stupidly correct. These are very brief moments, but let us enjoy them while we can.
David Warren, “Hapless Voters”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-05-26.
May 13, 2014
CBC News reports that Nash the Slash has died:
He started the independent record label Cut-Throat Records, which he used to release his own music. Among his albums was Decomposing, which he claimed could be listened to at any speed, and Bedside Companion, which he said was the first record out of Toronto to use a drum machine.
His biggest hit was Dead Man’s Curve, a cover of a Jan and Dean song.
More recently, he played at Toronto’s Pride Festival and toured up until 2012. In 1997 Cut-Throat released a CD compilation of Nash the Slash’s first two recordings entitled Blind Windows. In 1999 he released Thrash. In April 2001, Nash released his score to the silent film classic Nosferatu.
Plewman retired in 2012, bemoaning file-sharing online and encouraging artists to be more independent. “It’s time to roll up the bandages,” he wrote.
In the last few years, Plewman also became a vocal supporter of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
He will be remembered for his experimental ethos as well as his unusual stage presence.
“I refused to be slick and artificial,” Plewman wrote of his own career.
There has not been word on how the musician died.
H/T to Victor for the link.
Update: Kathy Shaidle has more.
April 21, 2014
No, I don’t really get it either:
UPDATE: Customers will experience longer than normal wait times between Sheppard and Don Mills due to graffiti on exterior of 1 train. #TTC
— Official TTC Tweets (@TTCnotices) April 21, 2014
April 14, 2014
The weather forecast for today and tonight contains a little bit of everything:
— 680News Toronto (@680News) April 14, 2014
Update: The rest of the story:
With spring now well over three weeks old, the snow tires are off, the yard work has begun, and the boots and parkas are already at the back of the closet
However, winter weather is expected to make a comeback on Tuesday, as much of the province will see a major swing in temperatures and a mixed bag of precipitation.
Temperatures are expected to plummet from a high of 21 C on Monday to a low of -7 C on Tuesday night, with the potential for freezing rain and snow.
Ahead of winter’s reappearance, it will be a warm day for parts of southern Ontario on Monday as temperatures may reach the mid-twenties mark.
Environment Canada has once again issued a “special weather statement”, which they seem to do every other day recently. It’s not a storm warning or even a storm watch, but just a “hey, there’ll be some weather!” kind of thing. A communication tailored to the fact that weather is now treated like celebrity news in a lot of media markets.
March 13, 2014
In the Toronto Star, Bob Hepburn looks at how about-to-be-declared mayoralty candidate Olivia Chow will handle the renewal of the accusations that she and Jack Layton were living in subsidized co-op housing (despite earning very high salaries) in the late 1980s:
Chow fully expects to be under constant attack from Ford Nation fanatics and the more vocal supporters of candidates John Tory, Karen Stintz and David Soknacki as a “tax-and-spend” downtown New Democrat who is supposedly out of touch with middle-class and suburban voters.
But the nastiest attacks will centre on a 1990 story about how Chow and her late husband Jack Layton were living cheaply in a subsidized downtown Toronto co-op housing building designed for low- and moderate-income families.
Chow and Layton’s combined income at the time was about $120,000. The rent on their three-bedroom apartment was just $800 a month.
Because the story is now 24 years old, many of today’s voters have never heard of it. Others, though, have a long memory, are still furious about what they call “a scandal” and won’t let it die.
“You mean the Queen of Public Housing, sponging off of the taxpayer,” one reader emailed me last week after I wrote a column about how Chow was all set to enter the race. “I would call that theft,” he added.
“What annoys me about her is how righteous she can be,” a female reader wrote yesterday after Chow had resigned her federal seat, referring to Chow’s background fighting on behalf of the poor while at the same time having lived in housing predominately meant for lower-income families.
In June, 1990, the Toronto Star published a story inside the paper, not on its front page, about how Layton, then a city councillor, and Chow, who was then a public school trustee, lived in a three-bedroom apartment at the federally subsidized Hazelburn Co-operative at Jarvis and Shuter Sts.
At the time, Layton earned $61,900 a year as a councillor plus $5,000 as a University of Toronto lecturer. Chow earned $47,000 a year as a trustee. One-third of their salaries was tax-free.
Their annual income was double what was considered as a “moderate” family income in Toronto. Provincial co-op housing officials said they knew of no other couple in Ontario living in a co-op unit whose income was as high as Chow and Layton’s.
It may have been a “manufactured” scandal, but it certainly tainted Layton’s image in local politics and it’s no surprise to find that Chow’s opponents are eager to bring the issue back to the public debate. Colby Cosh is probably right here:
Note: answer to the Chow-Layton subsidized-housing “smear” is literally “They were doing poors a favour by creating a mix of income levels."
— Colby Cosh (@colbycosh) March 13, 2014
Hell, it’s probably an accurate answer. I wouldn’t want to be the poor bastard trying to sell it.
— Colby Cosh (@colbycosh) March 13, 2014
December 23, 2013
Earlier this year, I had occasion to run a Google search for “Mr Gameway’s Ark” (it’s still almost unknown: the Googles, they do nothing). However, I did find a very early post on the old site that I thought deserved to be pulled out of the dusty archives, because it explains why I can — to this day — barely stand to listen to “Little Drummer Boy”:
James Lileks has a concern about Christmas music:
This isn’t to say all the classics are great, no matter who sings them. I can do without “The Little Drummer Boy,” for example.
It’s the “Bolero” of Christmas songs. It just goes on, and on, and on. Bara-pa-pa-pum, already. Plus, I understand it’s a sweet little story — all the kid had was a drum to play for the newborn infant — but for anyone who remembers what it was like when they had a baby, some kid showing up unannounced to stand around and beat on the skins would not exactly complete your mood. Happily, the song has not spawned a sequel like “The Somewhat Larger Cymbal Adolescent.”
This reminds me about my aversion to this particular song. It was so bad that I could not hear even three notes before starting to wince and/or growl.
Back in the early 1980′s, I was working in Toronto’s largest toy and game store, Mr Gameway’s Ark. It was a very odd store, and the owners were (to be polite) highly idiosyncratic types. They had a razor-thin profit margin, so any expenses that could be avoided, reduced, or eliminated were so treated. One thing that they didn’t want to pay for was Muzak (or the local equivalent), so one of the owners brought in his home stereo and another one put together a tape of Christmas music.
Note that singular. “Tape”.
Christmas season started somewhat later in those distant days, so that it was really only in December that we had to decorate the store and cope with the sudden influx of Christmas merchandise. Well, also, they couldn’t pay for the Christmas merchandise until sales started to pick up, so that kinda accounted for the delay in stocking-up the shelves as well …
So, Christmas season was officially open, and we decorated the store with the left-over krep from the owners’ various homes. It was, at best, kinda sad. But — we had Christmas music! And the tape was pretty eclectic: some typical 50′s stuff (White Christmas and the like), some medieval stuff, some Victorian stuff and that damned Drummer Boy song.
We were working ten- to twelve-hour shifts over the holidays (extra staff? you want Extra Staff, Mr. Cratchitt???), and the music played on. And on. And freaking on. Eternally. There was no way to escape it.
To top it all off, we were the exclusive distributor for a brand new game that suddenly was in high demand: Trivial Pursuit. We could not even get the truck unloaded safely without a cordon of employees to keep the random passers-by from snatching boxes of the damned game. When we tried to unpack the boxes on the sales floor, we had customers snatching them out of our hands and running (running!) to the cashier. Stress? It was like combat, except we couldn’t shoot back at the buggers.
Oh, and those were also the days that Ontario had a Sunday closing law, so we were violating all sorts of labour laws on top of the Sunday closing laws, so the Police were regular visitors. Given that some of our staff spent their spare time hiding from the Police, it just added immeasurably to the tension levels on the shop floor.
And all of this to the background soundtrack of Christmas music. One tape of Christmas music. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
It’s been over 20 years, and I still feel the hackles rise on the back of my neck with this song … but I’m over the worst of it now: I can actually listen to it without feeling that all-consuming desire to rip out the sound system and dance on the speakers. After two decades.
December 18, 2013
“For a while, I thought it was just Mayor Ford, but what I‘ve realized is Canadians are much, much weirder than any of us had any idea they were”
Uh-oh. I think this Kimmel guy is finally on to us…
It had been a while since the late night talk show hosts zeroed in on Rob Ford, but at least one of them poked fun at the Toronto mayor and city council Tuesday night.
On ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host played a video clip of Ford and other councillors dancing during their council meeting earlier in the day.
“What the hell is going on?” asked Kimmel. “Are they all on crack?”
Ford and several councillors danced to a performance by a local jazz trio in a rare moment of fun in what has been a highly charged venue of late.
“One minute they’re yelling at each other and the next they’re dancing all around the room,” joked Kimmel, who added that the “Mayor Ford experience” has been very educational.
“For a while, I thought it was just Mayor Ford, but what I’ve realized is Canadians are much, much weirder than any of us had any idea they were,” joked Kimmel.
December 16, 2013
Elizabeth and I got married in Toronto on this date in 1983. It was a bit of a race to get to the courthouse on time — my so-called best man decided that he had to go back to Mississauga “for a shower” that morning, and was quite late getting back into Toronto. Trying to get a cab to hurry in downtown Toronto traffic was a waste of effort, so I very nearly missed my own wedding. Elizabeth was not pleased with me holding up the show (even though I could rightfully claim it wasn’t my fault). The rest of the day is rather a blur to me now.
We had the reception that evening at a lovely house in the Playter Estates (during which my father tried to pick a fight with Elizabeth’s uncle), and then set off for our very brief honeymoon in Niagara-on-the-Lake the next day. We could only afford two nights at the Prince of Wales hotel, and because we got married on Saturday, we were in NOTL for Sunday and Monday nights. Back in 1983, Ontario still had fairly restrictive Sunday closing laws, so there was very little to do — almost everything was closed. (And that was probably for the best, as we had almost no money to spend anyway…)
One of the few businesses we found open in the area was the original Chateau des Charmes estate winery (not the huge, imposing facility of today: a small industrial-looking building a few kilometres away), where the only person on duty was Mme Andrée Bosc who gave us an exhaustive tasting experience and showed us around the winery. Neither of us were experienced wine drinkers, so this was wonderful for both of us. I’d love to say that we started our wine cellar that day, but that would only be partially true: we bought about a dozen bottles of various Chateau des Charmes wines, but we couldn’t afford to restock after those had been opened. We visited the winery every year on our anniversary for about a decade, until we got out of the habit of going back to NOTL (which was around the time our son was born).
After our brief honeymoon, we both had to go back to our jobs. Very shortly after that, my employer (the almost-unknown-to-Google Mr Gameway’s Ark) went bankrupt, which was financially bad timing for us, having just spent most of our tiny cash hoard on our honeymoon.
November 23, 2013
Kathy Shaidle responds to a David Warren post on the demise of one of the last used book stores that used to cluster along Queen Street West in Toronto:
I owe much of what passes for my education to one particular second hand bookstore in Hamilton.
My mother would try not to roll her eyes when I returned from yet another all-afternoon excursion with two or three white plastic shopping bags full of dusty, smelly paperbacks.
The closing of yet another independent Toronto bookstore never fails to prompt meditations such as David’s, although they are rarely as well written.
However, the sad fact is that most of these indie booksellers were well-meaning book lovers but terrible businessmen, with (as David notes in his piece) crusty, eccentric personalities who not-so-secretly didn’t like seeing their precious babies being carted off in your unworthy mitts.
At least 20 years ago now, one iconic bookstore just north of Yonge and Bloor shut its doors, at the start of the Chapters/Indigo invasion.
I think it was Kevin Connolly, but anyway, some such young whippersnapper dared to counter the generalized wailing and gnashing of the city’s self-appointed elites.
He pointed out the truth: that the staff had been petulant; the inventory uneven and pedestrian; the music that classical stuff which urban planners prescribe to keep hoodlums from crossing the threshold.
I used to be a regular customer of several of the used book stores on Queen West, but as they began to move further west — driven by “gentrification” and rising rents (the same thing, really), I stopped trying to find the latest location they’d fled to. There are still a few used book stores I visit, but they’re in places like Port Perry or Port Hope, not downtown Toronto. They may not have the variety that the old shops used to have, but they usually lack the attitude too many old shop owners displayed toward their customers.
And failure gives me a rash, and is possibly contagious. I simply can’t bear to patronize shops of any sort that are so “authentic” and “organic” that the joint is falling apart or they keep having to move because they can’t afford the rent.
For all their snobbish sentimentality about Hemingway’s “clean, well lighted place,” too many indie bookshops are neither.
But Chapters is. So, in its way, is the internet — which is also the new second-hand-bookshop.
I’m as brokenhearted as anyone, sometimes more so, when one of my old haunts goes out of business.
But if any industry deserves to die, it’s traditional book publishing, which has been running on fumes of glamor and nostalgia for a few generations at least.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
November 22, 2013
Leslie Loftis has more on one of the odder aspects of the recent Munk Debate:
Last week I was in Toronto. I arrived just after the Toronto City Council stripped Mayor Rob Ford of his authority. In the non-stop news coverage, the local news was a little giddy that US big media was covering the story. They even excerpted part of CNN’s coverage.
The reporter’s excitement at the big US coverage reminded me of my friend’s hockey story, and that bothered me. This wasn’t about rivalry, but about us noticing them. Doesn’t the Northern US cover Canada? Down in Texas, I’m not shocked that we don’t cover Canada. We cover Mexico. (I don’t buy the internationally ignorant American conventional wisdom. We are quite big. I can hop in a car and drive west for 15+ hours and still be in Texas. The American Resident covered this point well a while back.) Regardless, it isn’t remotely cool, for CNN or Canada, that this story was getting play outside of Toronto.
But at the debate, America’s treatment of Canada came up again, courtesy of Maureen Dowd.
She spent most of her time recycling Dick Cheney and Ted Cruz insults from her columns. If the Rob Ford scandal had not been all over the news, she wouldn’t have made any Canadian reference.
Not only did Dowd not bother to find examples relevant to Canadians, but also her repeated slam against Ted Cruz, a man she clearly loathes, was to call him Canadian. I know she simply hoped to sabotage any future presidential run for the Senator from Texas, but she obviously didn’t consider how it might come off to a Canadian audience when she used their nationality as a slur.
In fact, the participants seemed completely unaware they were speaking to a Canadian audience. They kept using the royal “we” for Americans, as if they were debating in Toledo, Ohio not Toronto, Canada.
This is probably the fastest way to annoy Canadians. It is why they wear a maple leaf on their person when they go abroad. It isn’t that they disapprove or hate Americans but that they are not Americans. They have their own identity. It’s probably annoying if excusable when, say, Germans mistake them for Americans. But when Americans, who should be aware of our differences, do it, when we completely subsume their identity in our own, it is insulting and disrespectful.
November 21, 2013
Leslie Loftis attended the recent Munk Debate at Roy Thompson Hall and had a few observations:
The organizers had no intention of keeping on the actual topic. The End of Men resolution was just a flashy disguise for a chat about the rise of women. That is probably why no one objected when Rosin changed the premise in the middle of the discussion. It wasn’t really a question of whether men were obsolete — of course they weren’t, Rosin conceded about midway in the discussion. By default, the question became “Are they in decline because the rules favor women?” an obvious and hardly debatable notion. In fact, a post-debate critique I heard both in the lobby and saw on Twitter, the panelists agreed about too much. [...]
Prior to the event, I met a lovely older lady in the lobby. A Toronto resident and Munk Debates member, her favorite debate was the one with Kissinger on China. Impressed I’d flown so far (I came in from Texas), she told me these were usually great debates. I told her not to get her hopes up for this one, that Paglia was the only one on stage with any intellectual credibility. This would not be a clash of gifted minds that she had seen in the past. Two hours later, she waited for me as we left the auditorium and asked with wide eyes, “How do they expect me to buy that women are rising when they can’t even stay on topic? What was that?”
She was particularly taken with what Camille Paglia had to say:
Paglia was more diplomatic than I expected. I had thought that the exacting and scathing Paglia of the recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education — Scholars in Bondage — would show up and relentlessly pound Rosin on her lack of knowledge or evidence.
Rosin’s book is full of anecdotal evidence. Like Betty Friedan who wrote The Feminine Mystique based on a questionnaire of a few hundred Smith College graduates, Rosin’s The End of Men is based off interviews and a smattering of uncritically examined data.
Aside, however, from an early statement that “the only men who gain voice in your book are those willing to confess their victim status” (Rosin freely admits she didn’t include the non-victim men because she didn’t think there were enough of them) and a later comment that to believe in the end of men is naive, Paglia didn’t go on the attack. Instead, she was almost pleading with the audience to understand.
She has the advantage of age and the perspective that comes with it. The omens are bad, Paglia observed. No one is listening to men. We are using them, mocking them. And Rosin and others might say that men have no choice to submit to the new women’s order — but they have choices. Whether men retreat into themselves or decide to overthrow the women’s order, it ends badly for women. And the hollowed out shell of modern feminist thought will provide no defense. We change all the rules that we can to favor women, but some rules won’t yield, no matter our wishes.
November 20, 2013
In the Telegraph, Jake Wallis Simons tries to explain to a British audience how Rob Ford has managed to stay alive in Toronto politics all this time:
… from a British perspective, the oddest aspect of the story is Toronto’s seemingly indomitable affection for its mayor. It is only now, after months of scandal, that public confidence in him is finally starting to dip, and not particularly sharply.
The reason for this reveals the sharp divisions within Canadian society. And while it would be simplistic to offer a like-for-like comparison between different countries, it seems certain that there are lessons here for Ukip.
First some background. Toronto is a divided city. In 1998, six separate municipalities were merged as a “cost-saving measure” by the Government of Ontario. This led to a huge increase in levels of municipal staff, while ambiguity surrounded the question of whether money had actually been saved.
People felt that they had been deprived of their local identities. Even today, in many districts, such as Scarborough and North York, the old names are still defiantly used. The issue is given an added bitterness by the fact that in a referendum on the question in 1997, more than 75 per cent of voters opposed the amalgamation; it was forced through anyway.
Ironically, the unification only entrenched the distinctions between people living in different parts of the city, particularly between those with a 416 (inner city) area code and those with a 905 (the outer suburbs).
Among the metropolitan 416-ers, there is a visceral hatred of Mr Ford. In the more conservative 905 suburbs, however, where people are pro-car, pro-booze and pro-sport, voters feel unfairly removed from the levers of power. Here the mayor commands widespread affection.
Canadian divisions may not map precisely onto Britain, but the rise of Ukip has demonstrated that we too live in a split society. From the perspective of Ukip followers, their needs and views are simply not represented by the overly polished political elite known as Lib-Lab-Con.
Of course, Nigel Farage’s cigarettes and pints are nothing compared to Mr Ford’s crack pipe and drunken stupors. In Toronto, where tensions and divisions are even more marked, the suburbs have an even greater appetite for the “ordinary guy”.
November 18, 2013
I no longer live in Toronto, so the question of who occupies the Mayor’s seat on council isn’t of direct concern to me, but I do find the worldwide attention to Rob Ford’s antics to be amusing … the great and the good of downtown Toronto always wanted to be internationally known, but not like this. Richard Anderson wonders how the Rob Ford problem can be solved:
There are other conservatives on City Council, quite a few actually. The impression that Toronto is run by crazy Leftists is an exaggeration. Most of the former suburbs, such as North York and Etobicoke, send fairly right-leaning pols to Council. The Lefty nutters are mostly concentrated in the downtown area. There is something about high urban density that allows such beings to exists. In free open spaces they would likely die from lack of WiFi.
The more polished conservatives are too polite to say what needs to be said, too afraid of offending some crucial though obscure voting block. Their personalities are too cautious, too constrained to genuinely connect with the voters. Their language too careful to say anything clear. They censor themselves until nothing remains except a moderate with a slight rightward limp.
With Rob Ford there is only Rob Ford. This vulgar beast of a man who is what he is. There is no artifice. His frequent lies have a childlike obviousness that defies satire and even compels pity. An awkward Falstaff stumbling through the life of a city that, well within living memory, was called Toronto the Good. Yet there he is. A very sick, very brave man who tried hard to do his best. A tormented man who served his city well until he destroyed himself. The MSM often criticizes those on the Right for their alleged callousness toward the flawed and weak, yet they have shown no mercy to this man. Had his politics been different they would have hailed him as a hero.
What comes after? Someone smoother, more polished in their deceits, yet ultimately a timorous non-entity or a craven power luster. Rob Ford must go. Yet there is no one better to replace him.
The Toronto Star and the usual selection of community activists have been gunning for Ford since the start of the last election, but it’s taken Ford’s own errors of judgement and amazing lack of self-control to give them their best opportunities to attack. Each time he appeared to be finished, and each time he somehow managed to come back. I don’t know if he’ll be able to come back from his latest set of self-inflicted wounds, but if there’s any way to survive, Ford might do it. His opponents must feel they’re fighting a modern hydra-headed monster…
Update: Rick Mercer doesn’t like Rob Ford at all, but he recognizes why Ford got to be Mayor in the first place.
Update, the second: Camille Paglia was asked about the Rob Ford situation:
Once you have become the centre of a conflict in a complex governmental enterprise you have the obligation to resign. Why are all the energies of one of the world’s great cities being absorbed in the psychodrama of an adolescent personality? I think an honourable man would resign. It’s like a reality show. I think it’s terrible for the city of Toronto and Canada. I’ve heard some anti-Canadian things [in the States], some mocking things about Canada. I don’t think people are saying, ‘oh what a wonderful rollicking place! What a fun place!’ There’s a sense of ‘how is this happening in a major city’? It seems like chaos, like a reductive lowering. It’s very debasing.