When’s The News Not Fit To Print?

April 19, 2012

OK, so somebody’s going to have to bring me up to speed on this. With no journalistic background and even less of one in ethics, I’m a little unclear as to why Mayor Ford being filmed fast food shopping isn’t newsworthy? If a news organization thinks it’s important that they have reporters dutifully show up every Monday to record his weight, why isn’t it part of the story if he’s seen visiting the dead colonel?

Who decides what’s out of bounds or not news?

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have, for some time now, made little reference to the mayor’s weight. During the 2010 campaign we tried rationalizing the use of pithy turns of phrases like ‘fat fuck’ as referring to an attitude, a state of mind and not a physical attribute even though it was. Conceding the point that we were treading choppy waters with that, and knowing that we wouldn’t hurl such an epithet at anyone in person no matter how much we might dislike them, we ceased and desisted.

I’m not sure we even ever referenced Cut the Waste Waist, his crass political stunt concocted, I imagine, in an attempt to distract us from the mayor’s 2012 troubles. Ignore it and maybe it’ll go away, was our thinking.

But as the budget chief — himself quietly going about the business of shedding pounds — likes to say, you can’t suck and blow at the same time. If the Fords are looking to generate some goodwill by their weight loss campaign, burnish the mayor’s image as just another little guy struggling with a battle of the bulge, they can’t dictate the terms of coverage. In our drive to ignore this whole issue, we’ve regularly fought the urge to write a post labelling Cut The Waist Waste as the worst PR idea since the fictional boss, Mr. Carlson, of the fictional radio station, WKRP in Cincinnati, decided to give out free turkeys at Thanksgiving by throwing live ones out of a helicopter. “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

So much downside. Why risk it, we thought to ourselves.

And so the mayor endures further public scrutiny and embarrassment, any private misstep quite possibly caught on camera and broadcast for the world to see. His brother-councillor, Doug, the seeming architect of the gimmick, jumps to the mayor’s defence, decrying the very media intrusiveness he was looking for in the first place (“I couldn’t take a candy out of a candy dish at one of the buildings on Bay St. before somebody called the media by the time I got downstairs and said they saw me taking candy”), while making sure everyone knows he, at least, is on track to meet his weight loss target. “Anyways, at the end of the day I’m hitting my target. Fifty pounds. That’s it. Rob? It might be a little tougher.” How tough? “(He’ll do it even) if I’ve got to get a piece of duct tape and stick it across his mouth, put a little hole in there for a straw,” said Doug Ford.

How’s that for having the mayor’s back?

What was once an unbelievable turn of events, a political tidal wave, soon devalued into a farce and has now bottomed out into a sad fucking spectacle.

It’s no longer a question of whether or not Rob Ford is fit to be mayor of Toronto, the answer to that should be painfully obvious, but whether or not he even really wants to be mayor. There are perks to be sure. His view and words, regardless of merit, have to be taken seriously and not just simply laughed off as they were when he was a councillor. He gets to meet dignitaries like Don Cherry and sports teams.

But what happened to the days when you could just slip out for some chicken and nobody gave a shit? Or miss council meetings and most people were relieved rather than upset about it? And the Pride Parade! Why won’t everybody just stop asking me about the Pride Parade?!

Because you’re the mayor of Toronto, sir, and it’s 2012.

If things had broken the way he wanted, Rob Ford would now be a sports broadcaster, moving into that career after retiring from professional football. He’d be doing something he actually enjoys. Instead, he’s stuck being a mayor. Why? It’s impossible to tell. All we know is that nobody’s happy about it including, it would seem, Mayor Ford himself.

Maybe it all just seemed like a really good idea at the time, taking a run at the top job. If he won, he’d clean up the mess he was convinced City Hall had become and make a real difference. How hard would that be? What could possibly go wrong?

I think that’s why his trip to KFC during a very public weight loss challenge is in fact news. That he thought it wouldn’t be. That he thought there would be no implications, no consequences to those actions. So what? So I cheated on my diet a little. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is, the mayor and his brother made a big deal of trying to lose weight, tried to play politics with it, use it to their advantage. What could possibly go wrong? The fact that they didn’t think through what could possibly go wrong speaks volumes about their decision making process. There seems to be an inability to consider the implications of their actions. Of course, people would start watching what they ate. Of course, someone would snap a picture if they saw the mayor eating fast food, his brother eating candy.

To think otherwise, to be surprised that it happened and offended that somehow it’s ‘news’, well, is news itself. It means that the mayor of Toronto and his closest advisor, Councillor Doug, operate purely on a rash, reckless level. Hey! Here’s a good idea. Let’s run with it. There’s no sober second thought. No long term contemplation. No reflection. This just feels right. Let’s do it.

That’s news Toronto needs to know.

hungrily submitted by Cityslikr


Post Mortem and Analysis

October 28, 2010

On the theory that there is much to talk about re: results of Toronto’s October 25 municipal election, All Fired Up in the Big Smoke has assembled its crack team of observers to dissect what happened, why and what’s next. This week, well, we just said. They’ll discuss the outcome of Monday’s election.

Cityslikr (heretoforth, CS): Well, the verdict’s in. Rob Ford won and everyone who didn’t vote for him is to blame. Especially hipster urbanites who never took him seriously and spent the entire campaign mocking, ridiculing and denigrating him and those supporting him. We didn’t get the anger.

Acaphlegmic (heretoforth ACA): Truer words have never been spoken. Which is why I’ve decided to go live amongst them.

CS: What? Live amongst whom?

ACA: There you go, getting all elitist. Whom! Amongst people who say ‘who’ not ‘whom’.

US (heretoforth US): But are still OK with the word ‘amongst’.

CS: What do you mean you’re going to live amongst them?

ACA: We can’t understand a people or empathize with them until we’ve seen through their eyes, walked a mile in their shoes. So I am venturing forth to live amongst them. To observe them. To understand what motivates them. To truly get under their skin in order to grasp their hopes, their dreams.

CS: So you’re like what? Margaret Mead of the inner suburbs?

US: Try Dian Fossey.

ACA: See? That’s just what everyone’s talking about. Mocking. Ridiculing. Denigration.

CS: But I don’t get what you mean, ‘live amongst them’. You going to hang out at the Jack Astors at Sherway Gardens?

ACA: There it is again. The mocking and ridicule. They don’t just shop, you know.

US: Yeah. They have to take regular breaks to fill up their Hummers and SUVs.

ACA: Mock away, my friend, mock away but you better start getting used to the fact that you’re in the minority now and start acting accordingly.

CS: Technically that’s not true. Ford did only get 47% of the vote which is why [turns to look directly into pretend camera] you should support RaBIT, the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto. To start making every vote count.

ACA: Cling to that little pipe dream all you want, buddy. Me? I’m going to where the real action is. Larry’s garage.

[inserting very prominent … here to signify a monstrously large pause in the conversation. A really big one.]

CS: Who’s Larry?

ACA: Larry. You met him Monday night here, drinking. We got to talking afterwards. His son, Larry Jr., just got married, and he and the wife are moving into the trailer that’s parked in the driveway. So, Larry-pere offered me the garage. You should see this place! It’s not a garage. It’s like a 2nd home. All decked out. Like this 140” plasma screen TV. Ping pong table. Bar. You name it. A sound system like you would not believe! 4 speakers, maybe 8. I don’t know. Speakers all over the place. I have not listened to that much Foghat since… I don’t know… June of ’77, maybe.

CS: And you’re going to live there. In Larry’s garage.

ACA: You betcha! Live there and observe. Eat the food they eat. Play the games they play. Learn what it is that’s important to them. Rob Ford knows. I should too.

US: So you’re embracing your inner mullet?

CS: (to US) And you? No, wait. Let me guess. You’re moving to Calgary.

US: Well, hey. They took a bold step into the future. We fearfully clung onto… some misguided view of the past. Where we paid no taxes and there was no traffic congestion.

CS: Which brings up something that struck me about the election. There’s all this talk about the downtown-suburb divide, the angry car driving, backyard BBQing Ford supporters versus us effete bike riding, latte loving urbanistas. Yet right here, smack dab in the downtown core, we had three open council seats, none of which were filled with what you’d call new, forward thinking, vibrant Nenshites. Ward 19 went stolidly status quo, replacing old time moderate lefty Pantalone with old time moderate lefty Mike Layton, ignoring a much more interesting progressive candidate in Karen Sun. Ward 18 went hardcore centrist Ana Bailão. Ward 17 and Cesar Palacio—

US: Palacio didn’t retire, did he?

CS: Didn’t he? How could you tell? They had this dynamite challenger, Jonah Schein, but went with their tried and true non-entity incumbent relic.

ACA: What’s your point? I gotta cut out soon. There’s some sort of… sporting event everybody’s getting together to watch at Larry’s.

CS: My point is, maybe this city’s not nearly the outpost of progressive politics we downtown elites would like to think it is. We live in this little bubble, dreaming of bike lanes, complete streets and being just like Portland when, in fact, we’re nothing more than another small minded North American burg concerned only with paying as little as we can and getting as much as we want. Rob Ford as our mayor shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s not the anomaly. David Miller is. He was the outlier. Ford’s just a regression to the mean.

US: Nice. Regression to the mean. Works on a couple levels, too.

ACA: Blah, blah, blah. You guys just don’t get it! There’s nothing to analyze here. Nothing to deconstruct. People are just pissed off. End of story. Rob Ford gets it because he’s pissed off too. Guaranteed!

CS: No, we get the whole anger bit. What we don’t understand is how Rob Ford is going to help in any way to deal with it. What in his platform will help lessen the anger.

ACA: Wh-wh-wh-what are you talking about? Rob Ford isn’t going to lessen the anger. The last thing he wants to do is assuage the resentment.

US: You might want to curtail the use of words like ‘assuage’ with Larry’s crowd.

ACA: Right. The last thing Rob Ford wants to do is the dumb word for assuage the resentment. Without resentment, he’s just another self-interested politician wrapping his own narrow concerns into a populist package.

US: Exactly. And what are we doing in the face of that? Caving in and taking the blame. We got out-politicked, no question. That’s what we should be examining now not shouldering the blame for the perceived grievances of 47% of the population who refused to engage in an honest discussion about the real problems this city has to deal with. We spent very little time here, writing about Ford’s appearance or operatically sized personal failings. We kept asking, over and over again, how his policies on public transit and cutting spending were going to help address the city’s problems. The response? Wrapping themselves in a cloak of victimhood like pouty teenagers. Stop picking on me. You don’t understand. The guy’s not even sworn into office yet and he’s already backtracking on one big doozey of a campaign nose stretcher about replacing streetcars with buses, claiming he never said that, his opponents said he did. Then he gives a babblingly incoherent radio interview and calls it a smear campaign, so he can withdraw further into the safe cocoon of sympathetic press coverage at the Toronto Sun, National Post and AM talk radio. We’ve seen this movie before, guys. Remember. George W. Bush.

CS: Yep. I think we can now officially stop looking south at the Americans and smugly laughing at who they elect into office. Or their eating habits. Did you see where Canada broke the record for sales of KFC’s Double Down?

ACA: (standing) Are we done here? I really don’t want to miss the first quarter… or half of the… thing.

CS: Godspeed to Larry’s garage. Godspeed us all to a Larry’s garage somewhere.

ACA: I’ll be in touch. Under an alias. Send you my serial exposé of the Ford movement.

CS: Stay safe, Serpico.

(Rolling up his collar, Acaphlegmic skulks from the office.)

CS: So, the battle for hearts and minds has just begun.

US: Fuck that. I’m traveling to the Continent. Rent out my house and follow in the steps of Byron, Shelley, Keats. They want elite? (Pulls out his pipe) I’ll give them elite.

CS: No, don’t. You’ve already set off the smoke detector once.

US: I disconnected it.

CS: It stinks. Don’t.

(Urban Sophisticat puffs away at the pipe, trying to get it to stay lit. Eventually a smoke detector goes off in the distance.)

CS: This is going to be a long 4 years.

submitted by Cityslikr


Political Thoughts From The Love Shack

January 30, 2010

For those of you assigning my absence at this site to being lost in pursuit of pure and utter carnality, having last seen me being carted off a dance floor tucked under the arm of… how was it described.. ? “… one of the [statuesque] blondes just as Come Sail Away by Styx kicked into high gear”, allow me to set the record straight.

1) While it was Styx that played me out of the bar, the song was Lady not Come Sail Away.

2) The [statuesque] blonde in question is named Cerise and while she is on the tall side, statuesque may be somewhat hyperbolic. In bare feet, she is no more than 4 inches taller than I, and I am certainly not a tall man.

3) That most definitely was an impersonator of my person in this week’s comment sections. I have remained faithful to my vow of abstinence with KFC since the retainer incident. So I would hardly be gallivanting around the countryside with a bucket by my side. Also, I have no idea what a ‘speedball’ is.

4) Holed up as we have been in her quaint farmhouse all by its lonesome in the hinterlands of Dufferin County, our intercourse, as it were, has hardly been to the exclusion of anything outside of the primal kind. After all, we aren’t base animals, blind to all but our corporal desires.

In fact, over the past week, Cerise and I have discovered a mutual love of municipal governance and civic legislative structures. (I think this one may be a keeper!) Between mouthfuls of bonbons and tankards of merlot, we debated the merits of prescriptive versus permissive powers, the nature of the so-called ‘in between’ cities, the ridiculously inflated rock star persona of Richard Florida. And, of course, we both mooned over Saint Jane Jacobs.

More to the point, it was during a heated discussion about Thomas J. Courchene that I was struck by an idea that is pertinent to the discussion here over the last few days. In his June 2005 IRPP Working Paper entitled Citistates and the State of Cities: Political-Economy and Fiscal-Federalism Dimensions, Courchene suggests that, traditionally, municipal governments – deprived of actual fiscal and legislative powers by their respective provinces – have been little more than caretakers or purely administrative units. That is to say, doing the grunt work for their superiors.

Think the British Raj in India. Local government answerable ultimately to their political masters in a faraway place. Or to bring it closer to home, as Professor David Siegel has framed it, municipalities are merely vehicles for decentralized provincial service delivery. Provinces say “jump” and cities ask “how high”. From that vantage point, Rocco Rossi’s Empire Club speech should be seen as merely an extension of that mindset.

And who’s to say that the voters of Toronto don’t share Rossi’s point of view? If the newspapers and polls are to be believed, we no longer remain in thrall to Mayor Miller and his minions’ (again, borrowing from Courchene) ‘policy-intensive and participation/accountability-enhancing’ approach to governing this city. Perhaps, Rossi simply recognizes our latent desire to want someone else to tell us how to live our lives and therefore rid ourselves of the responsibility to accept the consequences of our own decisions. Maybe deep down in our heart of hearts, we Torontonians are simply of the administrative sort; reactive rather than proactive.

There’s no shame in that. Unfortunately, little excitement either. But hey, what are you going to do? Unburdened by responsibility, we have more leisure time to eat bonbons and drink merlot.

satiatedly submitted by Acaphlegmic