Books

Recent Tweets

In early May 2011 I found myself drinking heavily and late into the evening at Hart House at that year’s Toronto the Good party. The party was distinguished from other parties of the type largely by scale, not composition—after all, plenty of shindigs in this town mix politicians, architects, planners, civic-minded reporters, and assorted other local loudmouths.

Speaking with City Councillor Adam Vaughan that evening, just days after Michael Ignatieff had led the Liberal Party into a smoking crater, I made conversation by repeating what seemed the common wisdom of the time: the Liberals were doomed, doomed I said, and it wasn’t clear how the party could get out of the electoral cul-de-sac it had found itself in.

But the councillor, in what was either extraordinary prescience or extraordinary planning, said to me: “The Liberals have been in bad spots before. The people who stuck with the party the last time around had names like Trudeau. And Vaughan.”

Alistair MacLeod has died at the age of 77. In the National PostMark Medley remembers the author. Here’s MacLeodreading from No Great Mischief. And, if you haven’t read it yet, last year we published “Remembrance,” MacLeod’s first new short story in more than a decade.

In publishing, diversity is not enough.

“Never open a book from the wind’s point of view.” Visiting Elmore Leonard’s Detroit.

13. It feels somehow improper to eat Easter-branded candy corn, but the wrongness of candy corn is innate and fundamental.

12. “Simnel cake is a light fruit cake with two layers of almond paste or marzipan, one in the middle and one on top, that is toasted and eaten during the Easter period in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and some other countries.” It’s that time of year again, thought the thin-lipped British pervert. I get to eat double the marzipan!

11. The existence of chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs must be delayed compensation on the part of that kid who always wanted to make s’mores at camp.

Beyond a certain level of empyrean Beyoncé-scaled fame, pop stars are often obliged to field dumb questions from some media institution or another—especially in a music market like this one, where the #2 American album last week sold a record-low 30,000 copies, or 0.0001% of the U.S. population. So it was that Kelis had the opportunity to politely shade a New York Times Magazine reporter with responses like, “I’ve been doing music since 1998, so obviously longevity is not an issue for me,” or, “I don’t know what Paul Newman’s situation is, but I make sauce” (she started producing a whole line).

When LeBron James and Chris Bosh came to the Miami Heat in 2010, the expectation was clear. They would win championships, plural—not one, not two, not three, not four, but some other, embarrassingly high number they would surely regret ever mentioning in their premature victory parade.

The assumption was that James—and, to a lesser extent, power forward Bosh—would provide value to the team not just through their own productivity, but through the effect they would have on those around them. A good player, after all, makes his teammates better—the rare sportswriter cliché often backed up by the numbers. In the NBA, where superstars are rare, the surest way to improve an organization tends not to be patiently gathering valuable, mid-tier employees; it’s luring a star to your city and letting him transform the organization from the inside.

The belief in the transformative power of stars goes well beyond the NBA; it’s reflected in the outrageous salaries for CEOs and the scramble for talent in Silicon Valley. “Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good,” Mark Zuckerberg told The New York Times in 2011. “They are 100 times better.”

In which The Beer Store, a “foreign-owned corporate monopoly,” tries to brand convenience store clerks as the type of sleazy middle-aged men you do not want your kids to be around. Um, gross?

The New York...

A press release arrived in my inbox yesterday, heralding the opening of a new pair of rental towers in Toronto. For the neighbourhood in question, the development is the first new dedicated rental project in 40 years. For the large majority of neighbourhoods in Toronto, the next rental tower will be the first one in 40 years, if not longer—a result of a massive political turn away from encouraging rental construction in the postwar decades.

But anyone hoping the return of rental construction will bring about a return of affordability on its own has a while to wait yet. First of all, the subsidies and policies that existed in the 1970s to keep prices low either don’t exist anymore or are on their way out. (We should all be paying more attention to the expiry of co-op housing funds from Ottawa.) Secondly, the world has changed, and the wealthy aren’t fleeing our cities the way they once did. The hottest real estate markets are in city cores, and the rentals that are being built—like the towers I got that release for—aren’t aiming for the middle of the market.

Which leads a number of perfectly reasonable people to conclude that the problem is that cities are building too much luxury housing and not enough affordable units, like reporters for the New York Times in their look at the worsening affordability for renters in the US, and the gap between renters and owners. (Spoiler: it’s a pretty bleak picture.)

Have you heard? Jenny McCarthy says she’s not against vaccinations after all. This, of course, comes as a relief, because otherwise a reasonable person could conclude she’s spent years peddling nonsense at a real human cost, as children die from easily preventable infections that medical science gave us the tools to beat decades ago.

Oh, wait—McCarthy actually does have a long record of peddling nonsense, and there has been a terrible human cost, it’s just that she’s now just being deeply dishonest about her easily verifiable record. If McCarthy hasn’t ever literally said, “Mothers, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t get your kids vaccinated,” she’s done everything but, telling parents the choice is between measles and autism. Sure, the science may not even remotely support that assertion, but who cares?

The forces of reaction—of which McCarthy is a prominent but mercifully dim example—don’t simply come out and oppose something these days. If it were just McCarthy, we might still have a public health problem, but it would be a manageable one. Unfortunately, it’s not just her.

Who was tougher on corporate America as president, George W. Bush or Barack Obama? The answer may surprise you! Unless you watched this Matt Taibbi interview, in which case you would know it was (at least in his opinion) George W. Bush. Then you might be less surprised.

Shoe truthers.

Claire Battershill is a Canadian-born author now living in London, England. In 2008, she won the CBC Literary Award for Short Fiction for her story “Circus,” which is also the title of her recently published collection of short stories;...

To hear movie stars speak of one another is usually boring—until they inadvertently let something interesting slip. So a while ago, when Bollywood’s Ranveer Singh suggested co-star Anushka Sharma had the industry’s best body—and it was because she worked for it—it caught my attention.

In part, it’s because he had something resembling a point. To be clear, I have definitely never watched this bikini scenefeaturing Sharma more than once and then felt wretched for being the world’s worst feminist ally. I’m just saying that, if you are going to lay down an arbitrary, misogynistic standard of beauty, Sharma happens to live up to the current one.

Why, though, was the effort expended to realize the ideal so important? Singh’s comments, after all, seem to praise the process as much the “result”—that the noble triumvirate of being fit is to “eat right, sleep right, and train hard.” Recently, an answer came in the form of a study about stomach surgeries as a treatment for obesity. Scientists have found that, rather than simply reducing the size of the stomach, getting laproscopic surgery actually changes the composition of both gut bacteria and bile, and it is actually that which is responsible for sustained weight loss and fighting diabetes.

Not to downplay the hole that the loss of hockey is leaving in the ranks of CBC employees, nor the significant programming gap it will have to fill when Rogers fully takes over Hockey Night in Canada in a few years, but the biggest lack that no pucks will leave on our national broadcaster is probably in its ethos. For better or worse, hockey is one of the few national myths that almost everyone—or at least enough people to drown out any complaints—can agree on. If it is a significant role of any national broadcaster to help in some way define its country, the CBC’s task gets infinitely harder when it can’t just turn its entire Saturday night and most of the spring to the Maple Leafs, Sidney Crosby, and the Stanley Cup.

It’s definitely not made any easier by the fact that, even with hockey, its English-language television programming—which is, again, for better or worse, effectively what a lot of people think of when they think of the CBC, or certainly at least complain about it—is in something of a doldrums.

A new Jason Molina tribute album is streaming at NPR, and it is a lovely thing.

“An earlier version of this story said that the methane emissions associated with livestock come from their farts. In fact, most of those methane emissions come from belches.”

In the summer of 2013, one of the wunderkind companies of the 2008 green energy euphoria went belly-up. Better Place, formerly Project Better Place, was an effort by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi to revolutionize the concept of electric cars by, essentially, taking the part of the consumer experience everyone hates about the mobile phone provider (selling people a barely subsidized piece of consumer electronics for the dubious privilege of being locked into a multi-year contract) and combining it with the second-largest purchase most households make.

To his credit, Agassi was legitimately trying to think about the problem of accelerating the adoption of electric cars in a new way. To his discredit, that seems to be about the only nice thing anyone has left to say about him. Fast Company has a pretty clinical post-mortem of Better Place, and it’s kind of a buffet of vignettes of what happens when a firehose of money gets pointed at people who don’t have the skills to know what to do with it, or even the skill to recognize what they don’t know. (The point where Agassi divorces his wife and starts bringing his new girlfriend to meetings is a particular nice touch.)

New John Jeremiah Sullivan alert, y’all: in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, “on the trail of the phantom women who changed American music and then vanished without a trace.”

If Jesus were alive today and hanging out in upscale neighbourhoods, people would probably call the cops on him.

“This really isn’t a book to celebrate, is it?” At the National PostMark Medley talks to Miriam Toews about her new bookAll My Puny Sorrows, and the painful place from which it came.

The Expendables 3 will conclude that trilogy where aging male action stars creak their way towards enormous guns this August, and last week both a trailer and 16 character posters appeared online. Amongst the latter, next to Sylvester Stallone’s usual team of unusually heroic mercenaries, there was an improbable Kelsey Grammer, hands jammed in his fishing vest like his nearest Florida casino had just booked Steely Dan. But only Hazlitt exclusively received a leaked Expendables 3 screenplay, and we’re excerpting it below.

David Quarmby probably didn’t realize he was stepping on a political landmine. Quarmby is the architect of London’s transit planner and operator, Transit for London, and he thought it sounded reasonable to suggest earlier this week that Toronto’s bus, streetcar, and subway operator should be folded into a regional operator. The problem is, this is very much a live issue in Toronto, with all sorts of people proposing that various individuals or bodies be given authority over transit planning instead of the people currently doing it.

Now, Quarmby’s not a crazy person: plenty of cities have transit services that cross city lines, and naturally enough have to be planned to take into account the needs of different parts of the metro area. But Toronto’s recent (and not-so-recent) history makes this a fraught question.

John Joseph of the Cro-Mags has some juicing tips for you (among them, “diets are for jerkoffs”). 

Stephen Colbert will be taking over from Letterman on the Late Show, but if you haven’t seen him on Strangers With Candyconsider that your homework for this weekend.

Also he sings a lot, so you have that to look forward to.

“We don’t fall in love with live basketball, at least not at first, because of beautiful down screens or crisp defensive rotations or true shooting percentages. It’s the atmosphere that does it, the feeling of being gathered into something bigger and stronger than oneself. It’s something I almost can’t even see anymore, except through her.” Steve McPherson takes his daughter to her first NBA game.

In the early 2000s, Dan Pallotta was the head of a humming 300-employee business working out a 47,000-square-foot office in Los Angeles. The company produced charity events—“AIDS Rides” and “Breast Cancer 3-Days” that Pallotta invented and marketed, raising $305...

 
For more than 30 years the Shortwave radio spectrum has been used by the worlds intelligence agencies to transmit secret messages. These messages are transmitted by hundreds of Numbers Stations.” And now you can hear them
 

Pages