To call Toronto City Hall a circus is, at this point, a negligent understatement. It’s some twisted Beckettian carnival—a three-ring grotesquery where the clowns just kind of listlessly give you the finger for days on end and when you finally stumble out of the tent, dazed and blinking into the light, you find the acrobats have slashed your tires and, yup, neglected to fund new transit infrastructure.
Anyhow, one of the minor sideshows to this big-top madness has been the skirmish between Gawker, the US website that broke the story, and the Toronto Star. To recap, last Thursday evening Gawker published a post under the headline “Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Smokes Crack” with a description of a video, seen by editor John Cook while in the backseat of a self-described drug dealer’s car, that seems to show exactly that. The post prompted the Star to publish its own description of the video, which two reporters had seen weeks earlier.
The Star slapped an “exclusive” tag on the story, despite going to print hours after Gawker, earning itself some deserved ridicule on Twitter. The paper was also mocked for its timidity, for “sitting on the story” while a ballsy American website snatched the scoop out from underneath them. “After this two-day festival of prissiness, I sorta see how one loudmouthed crackhead managed to bully his way into control of the city,” Gawker’s Deputy Editor Tom Scocca tweeted.
I watched the first season of Rectify this week, which just wrapped up its six-episode run on the Sundance Channel (and is available on Netflix, for anyone already strapped into their couches for Sunday’s Arrested Development deluge). Created by Ray McKinnon—best known for walking the mean streets of Deadwood with a tumor sucking on his brain—it’s a show about Daniel Holden, a man fresh out of prison after 19 years on death row for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend.
Holden was only 18 when he went away, and his release, based on new DNA testing, stirs up decades of ugliness in his humid Georgia hometown. Some people want to see him locked back up; even his supporters struggle for ways to deal with him. He’s a solemn and broken man, a husk who talks about his stretch behind bars as one spent focused on the “time between the seconds.” That sort of lyrical lucidity peppers the show’s dialogue, but it’s inevitably checked by long spells of silence, by stone-faced stares and wet and empty eyes, by the confused movements of a man who figures he should be dead and isn’t quite sure if he’s actually alive. He doesn’t act as if the universe owes him a debt for time unjustly served, though nor does he seem as if he thinks he deserves to walk among the unsullied living. There’s no way to easily attach meaning to his behaviour, either, because the show purposely refuses to divulge whether he’s guilty or innocent.
Can we all agree that there’s probably no good decision that comes from having any opinion about Mike Duffy? The now-Senator, once-newsperson has managed to blacken the reputation of the Upper House of the Canadian parliament, something that happens more or less once a decade. Duffy and a handful of other senators have found themselves under fire for abusing housing allowances, and costing the Canadian taxpayer a pretty penny. The NDP, who have always thought the Senate should be abolished, unveiled their rolluptheredcarpet.ca campaign, and Maclean’s magazine is calling for abolition. Just one problem: the constitution makes this difficult to impossible.
At best, the Senate could be neutered with seven provinces amounting to half or more of the country’s population. At worst, abolition would almost certainly require the unanimous assent of the provinces. Since either option would also require the Canadian Parliament to chime in, it would require the Senate to essentially vote to either have itself gelded or euthanized.
Z-Ro (a.k.a. Joseph Wayne McVey) is a Southern rapper known for songs about feeling lonely, depressed, betrayed or addicted to drank. Rob Ford is, at this precise moment of writing, still improbably the mayor of Toronto. Not the most intuitive pairing, one might think—unless you know that pretty much every popular musician of note secretly belongs to the Illuminati. (Remember when Biggie predicted 9/11?) For mysterious but undoubtedly sinister reasons, Z-Ro’s role in the conspiracy has forgone pyramids and alien reptiles to focus on Toronto municipal politics. Listening to his 2008 album Crack this week, I realized that it contained an intricately veiled prophecy of the Ford mayoralty. Only now can the clues be decoded.
On Wednesday, Doug Ford described his brother as “the people’s mayor,” more “accessible” than ever before, apparently referring to his habit of fielding phone calls from any stranger who makes one. But there are numbers the younger Ford clearly needs to stop dialing, as Z-Ro made clear five eerie years ago: “It’s a shame having a cell phone, but don’t want it to ring / Cause I don’t wanna deal with bullshit people and the bullshit they might bring / That’s why I send them to voicemail heaven (I don’t wanna talk) / Cause bullshit run a marathon, I rather keep it real and walk.”
If you’ve ever wanted to see a “real New York City ‘GHETTO’”—you know, the kind from Spike Lee movies and all your favourite rap albums—consider booking your trip with a registered tour group.
In an article on Sunday, the New York Post reported that a company called Real Bronx Tours was offering visitors the chance to experience the colourful flavours of an impoverished New York outer borough. According to the Post, on one recent tour a guide brought tourists to St. Mary’s Park, where she warned them about pickpockets and rhapsodized about the violence of the seventies. She mocked the Grand Concourse, modeled on a Parisian boulevard, playfully asking a couple from Paris, “Do you feel like we’re on the Champs-Elysées?” She pointed out a group waiting for people waiting for food at a church pantry: “As she spoke, a line of two dozen poor people—including one man visibly agitated by the onlookers—waited for handouts from the church pantry.”
Yesterday a pigeon shat on me. I hope its whole pigeon family dies—but not of H7N9, because then I’d die, too. While the World Health Organization claims the latest bird flu is under control, a new coronavirus has infected 43 and killed 21, and a mysterious illness recently infected seven in Alabama, causing two deaths (though the whole thing may just be a coincidence). Should you be concerned? Probably not just yet. But I am. I get concerned if a guy coughs at the back of the streetcar. Before I started typing this sentence, I sanitized my hands.
In Time’s higher education supplement, Annabel Symington recently wrote about politicians who shock their respective nations by getting caught plagiarizing their PhD theses. Earlier this year, Germany’s education and research minister resigned after her thesis, “Person and Conscience: Studies on the Conditions, Need and Requirements of Today’s Consciences,” was discovered to be choc-a-block with uncited passages of other people’s work. Pakistan’s President Zardari may have invented the university he went to.
According to a new study, these fakers may just be happier than the rest of us honest folk. The journal Motivation and Emotion recently published work by Amanda C. Gingerich from Indiana’s Butler University and Chad S. Dodson from the University of Virginia, suggesting that happy people plagiarize and sad people don’t.
Ladies and gentlemen, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma: a Republican who staunchly opposed any federal aid for New York and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is calling for federal aid in the wake of the tornado that hit central Oklahoma, and the town of Moore, on Monday. You’ll be shocked to learn that Inhofe thinks the two situations are completely different.
Inhofe is also well-known for being one of the US Senate’s loudest opponents of any measures to combat climate change, something he calls “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” No, really, he’s got a book and everything.
Meanwhile in the real world, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s instruments on Mauna Loa announced earlier this month that the world had stumbed across a notable tripwire: for the first time in human history, the Earth’s atmosphere contained more than 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide.
As news of the allegations against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford rolls and roils its way across the globe, a contingent of skeptics have cast doubt upon the story of his alleged crack smoking by claiming the video purporting to show it could have been doctored or faked. Most prominently, Ford’s Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday cited the well-known faked “eagle picking up a baby” video as an example of how, these days, you just never know if something is real.
Whether or not the allegations are true is something I can’t know. Whether a video of Ford behaving as has been described can be faked, however, is something I do have an answer for: it absolutely, positively cannot be.
I tried to not clean this up on purpose, because this is how it naturally is. Russell has his own bookshelf upstairs. Some of these are ours, a lot of them are books by friends, which is fantastic, because so many of them are signed. They used to be alphabetically organized, and then Hugo happened. So his books are slowly moving up and up, and spreading like mold. It’s gonna be kid’s books everywhere.
Though cyberwar and cybercrime may seem like a recent development, it's been a major concern for governments around the world since the early '70s. What started with annoying chain e-mails that touted get-rich-quick schemes and better sex has evolved into international breaches of security and impressive feats of cyber-stealing. To mark today's publication of Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace, and our interview with its author Ronald Deibert, we assembled this history of cyber-shenanigans.
It’s been a banner week for human civilization. A topless painting of Bea Arthur sold for $1.9 million, Denmark won the Eurovision contest with a song about crying, and, to top it all off, the mayor of Toronto made a really cool short film that’s getting tons of buzz. But all that stuff is nothing compared to the week’s two hottest stories. First up, Venezuela ran out of toilet paper. So, if you were thinking of taking the family on one of those all-inclusive Venezuelan bathroom tours, don’t. The second top story was soccer superstar David Beckham’s shocking announcement that he was ending his life—his life as a professional athlete, that is! Now, let’s contrast and compare these two stories and see which one is better through the magic of a Culture War™.
The news that broke last Thursday night is not Rob Ford’s first run-in with allegations of illegal drugs or substance abuse. Nor is it his second. Or his third. For Toronto’s mayor, these stories have followed him since he became a councillor, been given increased prominence since he ran for mayor, and now threaten to swallow any remaining relevance his political career might have had. As Alexandra Kimball wrote in this space last week, part of the issue is the drug he’s alleged to have done. And while there’s no way for this not to be a political story, the rocks that I founder on are personal ones: how to trust the claims of innocence from a man with his history.
It’s important not to stigmatize. Drug users don’t lie because they’re bad people; the lies come because that’s what addiction forces you to do. It tells you that you’ve got your life together as it falls apart. It tells you that your family and friends don’t understand the stress you’re under. It tells you that taking a break at work to sneak a drink (or worse) isn’t just acceptable, it’s going to help you power through the day. The cliché of addiction—“you have to hit bottom”—is another way of saying you have to stop lying to yourself and others.
Which brings us to Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto.
What are we talking about, when we talk about Rob Ford? Class, I think, is always there, as is irony. At their core, the most spectacular Ford stories hinge on a deep mixing: the privileges of white, masculine power with the signifiers of poverty and powerlessness. The big-necked guy in an SUV, straight-talking, hard-drinking—and meanwhile, he’s crushing the union. Arguably, Ford started this himself, running for office on a regular-guy schtick that endeared him to working-class voters in (but mostly around) the GTA. His platform traded in the tropes of honesty and hard work, longstanding blue-collar values that, through another lens, we could understand as stereotypes.
But while Ford expressed certain “positive” blue collar values, anti-Ford media and other critics tarred him with negative stereotypes of working-classness, and thus the irony of Ford took hold. The public image of Ford is pure white trash, in its specific male incarnation. Obesity, bigotry, recklessness, and illiteracy have long been slurs against blue-collar men; Ford checks every box, and those for more recent tropes—DUIs, football, McDonald’s—too. He even fucks up according to white trash script, in an excessive, bodily way: overeating, behaving (what’s been described by witnesses as) shitface-drunk in public, allegedly grabbing a woman’s ass at a fancy party. That Ford rarely apologizes, or even seems aware that he’s offended, makes these scandals seem less like fuck-ups than a certain style of governing: expressions of Ford’s particular power. This is why, occasionally, Ford coverage admits pangs of sympathy, even admiration. White trash is nothing if not audacious.
The United States has been scared for a long time. Not timid, but terrified. There are books to be written on American fear—Gore Vidal wrote a few of them—but to keep it brief: From the antebellum South to McCarthy to Obama, the States has done foolish, stupid, and unforgivable things out of sheer apoplectic terror of race rebellion, communists, socialists and terrorists. So much so, in fact, that their century of aggression begins to look like overcompensation, like Sgt. Benson in Partners or Arnie in Christine.
At least as far back as Vandenburg and Truman, people have realized that fear can be power’s best friend. It became most obvious, at least to me, under Bush.
The other day I got an e-mail from some old school friends inviting my wife and me, as well as some others from that era, over for a little dinner party. This is the invitation and the e-mails that followed.
On Tuesday morning, the New York Times published an essay by Angelina Jolie, where she bluntly described her decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. Jolie tested positive for a rare gene, BRAC1, which greatly increases the likelihood that the person with the gene will develop breast and/or ovarian cancer. In addition to making the decision to have the painful surgeries, Jolie also described her choice to publicly discuss her health. Shortly after her piece was published, there was a frenzy of media response pieces, many of which were directed at the distinctly angry public reaction to Jolie’s essay (measured imperfectly through comments, blog posts, and tweets). At Salon, Maria Konnikova made the excellent point that while Jolie was bringing a different kind of awareness to breast cancer prevention, under the current healthcare system in the states her actions and choices are not only widely unavailable to American women, but in fact the broader awareness of genetic testing for BRAC1 may harm some women in material ways. Here in Canada, each province has different levels of coverage (though all provinces cover testing for the BRAC1 and 2 genes, depending on a patient’s medical history), but more options are available to the average Canadian woman when considering her own health.
50. Going to meetings
49. World-class cities
48. Getting down to business
47. Ribs that just fall off the bone
46. Shootin’ hoops
45. That one sauce, what do you call it, starts with an “s”
Loneliness can kill you, and loneliness is on the rise. This week, The New Republic published a report on the dangers of isolation, connecting social stresses with genetic changes in the brain and citing a survey that found that one in three Americans over 45 claimed to be chronically lonely, up from one in 10 just a decade earlier. A New York Times article on the same subject, published the same day, mentioned a strong link between loneliness and dementia. In a May 2012 Atlantic feature, Stephen Marche notes that loneliness is not a function of your relationship status but the quality of your confidants. He also notes that fewer people report having confidants these days: in 2004, 25 percent of Americans said they had no one to talk to, up from just 10 percent in 1985.
I know everyone thinks their dog is the greatest, but you’re all wrong because ours was. When I was growing up we had a yellow Labrador named Sir Lancelot, but he went by Lance because he wasn’t all up in your face about his knighthood. He was a sweet boy, and if you took him swimming in the river you could hold on to his shoulders and he would tow you. When he had to be put down at the age of 15, the vet who came to our house to give him the injection cried.
We think about our dogs a lot, but is it mutual? A new study in the journal Animal Cognition asks whether dogs can see things from our perspective. Apparently, they don’t focus so much on what we’re seeing as on what we’re hearing.