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I am experiencing Deep Feels.

When I moved to Toronto 15 years ago, it was like a weight lifted off me. I’m from London, Ontario, and I went to one of those high schools they set teen movies in, all football and sexual coercion and mean girls. I felt like the weirdest person in the world, largely because I liked reading and classical new music and didn’t want to drive absolutely everywhere I went or give myself skin cancer in a tanning bed.

So I came to Toronto, and I didn’t feel weird anymore. I felt positively normal. Everywhere you went there was someone at least 3 times weirder than me. You think nose rings are weird, London? Why, that guy on the streetcar has a hole in his ear you could fit a towel rod through. You think my unfortunate tramp stamp tattoo is an abomination unto the Lord? Well, I know someone who has two full sleeves and is trying to find someone who’ll fork her tongue for her.

Anyway. It’s been 15 years and I’m starting to feel weird again. (more…)

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* Cross-posted from On Memory And Desire*

One of my favourite advice websites, Captain Awkward, has a commenting rule: no remote diagnoses. No matter how much the letter writer’s annoying aunt reminds you of your mother, you can’t diagnose someone with Borderline Personality Disorder based on the description of a biased third party.

This is good advice, but rarely followed (even on Captain Awkward). Unless you’re living under a rock – and if you are, I might come join you for a weekend just to get away – you will have by now heard of Toronto’s mayor trouble. For the journalists of Toronto, Rob Ford and his antics have been the gift that keeps giving, as the man continues to reach new highs or new lows or just new levels of weirdness. It’s easy to treat the story as entertainment, and it’s difficult for those of us who are not fans of the mayor to react with anything other than schadenfreude. Or, to repeat a phrase coined all the way back in 2008, Schadenford (Noun: Perverse pleasure derived from observing the foibles of Toronto mayor Rob Ford).

But I am going to attempt to follow the good Captain’s advice and keep my itchy fingers off the DSM. I mean, it is pretty obvious that Rob Ford has psychological problems ranging from addictions to rage issues to some reeeaaally dysfunctional family dynamics – I hope if I am ever caught smoking crack my mother doesn’t take the opportunity to appear on national TV and call me fat! – but let’s leave the specifics up to the trained professionals when he finally makes contact with them. Plus that article’s been done already.

More interesting is the psychological profile not of the man himself but of the city which elected him. A brief history for the outsiders: (more…)

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The Jarvis bike lane is gone. Well, most of it…some brave people (including Ben for a little while) sat down in it and blocked the eraser truck yesterday, and today the truck actually broke down during the protest, so a few stretches remain…but most of it is gone, and soon it will all be gone.

I’m not going to go through the numbers on this, because this should be obvious – this was a dumb move. Bike lanes are win-win, not only for cyclists but for drivers. Safer cycling=more cyclists=less traffic. Honestly. I’m not even going there with the whole “we just built this damn thing and now you’re spending a few mil to remove it to shave maybe 2 minutes off of Karen Stintz’s commute? What?” thing.

But this was never a logical decision. It was an emotional one.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned Nixonland before. If you haven’t read it I recommend the audiobook – sign up for a free trial at Audible and get it as your free book. It’s a million hours long, so it’ll feel worth it – as the meatspace book is a weighty 1400-page doorstop that will cramp your style when you’re reading it on the subway/at the beach/in the dentist’s waiting room. Anyway, to make a very long story short, Nixonland covers not only the life and very interesting times of Richard Nixon, but explores his political genius: viz, taking the sense of outrage and oppression that arose from the women’s and civil rights movements and making it available to your ordinary middle-class schlub.

That is what Rob Ford has done for the drivers of Toronto: tapped into their (I’m sorry, but wholly unearned) feeling of oppression. It’s not hard to do – driving may be the ordinary, assumed form of transport, it might be subsidized by every level of government, and bad drivers may take lives with impunity, but it is still boring, expensive, frustrating, and dangerous. I can totally see how, taking car culture for granted, your average middle-class schlub would be livid at the implication that he should drive less, or she should pay more for the upkeep of the roads, or they should pay more attention to cyclists and pedestrians and take more responsibility for the safety of our roads.

So when a Richard Nixon or a Rob Ford comes along and says “These elitist downtown hipsters are taking away your right to a marginally faster commute!” it sounds good, it feels right. Never mind that it is actually wrong. Never mind that it is fiscally irresponsible and undemocratic and will without a doubt cause a few deaths. It allows the poor oppressed driver to strike a vicarious blow to that irritating cyclist who, undeservedly and with willful arrogance, takes up space on the road by having the nerve to want to get from point A to point B under his own power.

And this is why I kind of fear for our time. Never, ever, ever forget, we are monkeys who have convinced ourselves that we are gods. We like to think of ourselves as creatures of pure reason when we are ruled by the basest manifestations of our id, spitefully taking from others not because we need to but because it makes us feel good. Interesting times, yo.

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I don’t have a lot of energy to write today, since I’ve taken on not only the proportions but apparently the personality of a manatee, but I just had to say – you know those people who get really angry on the internet and post very long frequently all-caps rants on blog posts?

I saw someone do that last night. In REAL LIFE.

It was at another Association for Science and Reason event (the home of the famous Mennonite Conspiracy Theorist. Though he wasn’t there) featuring Franke James, an artist who got royally screwed by Stephen Harper et al for a) being a climate change activist and b) talking shit about the tar sands. Franke gave what I can call a charming and, considering the subject matter, very positive talk, which I really enjoyed and was challenged by. The rest of the audience seemed to like it too.

The Q&A, however, was rapidly taken over by a scrawny guy called Wayne who started ranting about Hugo Chavez and how crappy solar panels are.

And didn’t stop.

I mean, if the person you’re hypothetically talking to you has to ask you three times “Do you have a question?” and then you continue to talk over her as she attempts to respond to you, dude. I know you’re angry, but step back.

And if you interrupt someone ELSE’S question by accusing the speaker of not caring about starving people (because we can ALL EAT OIL, GUYS), and THEN don’t stop talking until the organizers pre-emptively end the event, you really, really need to step back.

Anyway. I found it – well, I found it awkward and annoying at the time, but in retrospect very interesting. It was so, so clearly a transposition of internet behaviour into real life. Not that people didn’t yell at each other before we had Manboobz, but the repetition of talking points (Hugo Chavez! What is it with conservatives and Hugo Chavez?), the generally aggressive tone, the hyperbole, and the refusal to listen to THE PERSON ANSWERING YOU was so internetty. It’s like – do your dreams have camera angles? Mine do, probably due to the fact that I’ve been watching TV since I was born or so. An art form has literally changed the way we dream.

Now technology has literally changed the way we’re rude to each other.

What a time to be alive.

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– I didn’t expect to take 6 months off podcasting!
– Couldn’t talk about it and didn’t want to talk about anything else, then inertia took over
– There should be a law against child of former president becoming president – it’s unpleasantly monarchical
– Our own slow catastrophe in Toronto: Rob Ford
– He appears to be slowly turning Toronto into someplace where you drive everywhere and then go home and watch TV and you have to pay for everything and poor people are totally fucked
– Someday I’ll look back at this time and think “It would have been a different world”…

Link.

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So the trucker who hit Jenna Morrison didn’t see her, and will face no charges.

I’m not a cop and I don’t have all the details, but fuck. Was this man visually-impaired? Was a bright light suddenly flashed in his eyes? Was he possessed by the Black Oil Alien from the X-Files and it was swimming in his eyes at the moment of impact?

I very much doubt it. In fact, I think I can tell you why he didn’t see her: he wasn’t looking.

But Kristin, I hear you say, your privileged hipster ass can’t even drive a car!* How would you know what drivers experience?

Well, I don’t exactly. But I can make an educated guess, based on…

The Time I Got Hit By A Car

This is a funny story, actually.

Let me set the scene: It was March 2004. I had just graduated from music school and was looking for some kind of job other than working part-time at Starbucks or playing the piano at ballet schools. One of the jobs I heard about was a half-time job with the Ontario Arts Council. It seemed perfect for me (though whether I would have been perfect for it was highly unlikely – at any rate *SPOILER ALERT* I didn’t get the job), so I put together the bullshittiest resume you can imagine and went to drop it off.

March is an iffy time of year in Ontario. Sometimes it is mild and spring-like. Sometimes it is dreary and rainy. More often it is basically still winter. 2004 was one of those long winters, so I was wearing my lighter overcoat and hat, both of which were fuschia.

I wish I had a picture of myself in that outfit, because it was AWESOME. I was a tiny pink dynamo with a fake fur collar.

Anyway, I was wearing this bright pink coat and bright pink hat as I walked to the OAC office to drop off my doomed application. It was in the Bay/Bloor area (still is as far as I know), a part of the city not known for its colourful streetscape. In fact, I’d say every single building between Queens Park Circle and Yonge is one shade of grey or another (except for the Prada store, which is beige).

So picture the scene: Grey buildings. Grey road. Grey sidewalks. Dirty snow drifts on the sidewalks.

Me in my bright pink hat and coat walking along the street.

So as I was crossing a side street (I can’t remember which one), a woman in an SUV was attempting to make a right turn onto Bloor. She was studying traffic very intently, probably looking for a gap. I was already halfway across the road.

“Surely she’ll stop,” I thought. “I have the right of way after all.”

But no. She continued to inch forward into the turn, still looking at oncoming traffic…

…until she made contact with my right hip.

I yelled and banged on the hood of the car. She reacted, fortunately, with shock and apology. I shook my head and moved on.

But think about it: It was broad daylight. I was wearing bright colours – in fact, I couldn’t have been more in contrast with my environment. I was obeying the rules of the road and watching where I was going.

And this driver still didn’t see me. Because she wasn’t looking.

Because she didn’t have to.

And it turned out fine, because it was very low-speed and the driver didn’t accidentally hit the accelerator or decide to run me down in a fit of pique. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a problem.

The solution is not to be more visible, because even if you’re visible they won’t see you. The only thing I could have done to be more visible would be to wear bear bells, which are hardly standard issue for urban pedestrians.

The solution is for drivers to watch where the fuck they’re going. And no, it is not too much to ask.

*I did learn how to drive a car, BTW. I just never passed the test. I’m planning on finally getting my licence next year so I can take trips out of the city by myself.

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So after the mammoth joke of a public consultation we had last week, the Powers That Be have spoken.

They didn’t raise TTC fares or cut daycare, but this is what they did do (via Now Magazine):

– No more free garbage tags. This actually makes sense – it’s not like they cost a lot or anything, and hardly anyone seems to use them. I didn’t use mine last year and can’t find the ones we got this year even though we could totally use them now. (Tags are only for extra bags that don’t fit in your city-provided garbage can.)
– Turning over the running of city zoos and farms (we have farms?), excluding Riverdale Farm, to private companies. Um, why? What’s the rationale here? Will the companies be paying for the concession, or are we talking groups of amateur enthusiasts here?
– Something about not trying as hard as we were to plant trees. Apparently Toronto had a goal to “improve our tree canopy”, increasing the tree cover in the city by 30-40% over the next 50 years. Now there’s no deadline, just like there’s no deadline on building bike lanes. Because fuck trees!
– Maybe cooling it with the planters on major streets. Because fuck flowers!
– In a Scrooge-esque note, turning The Christmas Bureau into a private charity, then cutting off city funds. Jesus, what’s next, taking crutches and wheelchairs away from poor people?
– Yep! No more Hardship Fund. Because a $60/year car tax is too much for drivers to afford, but a $2000 wheelchair is entirely within the means of someone struggling to get by on disability because they have MS. WTF, Toronto? What kind of assholes are we?
– Selling off the Toronto Centre for the Arts, the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts (the Sony Centre), and the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. This seems really short-sighted to me, because these theatres cost an arm and a leg to rent and are booked year-round, so they must be turning a profit. You keep them, you get the revenue indefinitely. You sell them, you get the cash once and then it’s gone. (If the theatres ARE unprofitable, that’s probably fixable by raising the rental rates. It’s not like non-profit community groups are using them anyway.)
– Selling the Toronto Zoo. WHY? WHY ARE YOU SELLING THE ZOO? THIS IS EVEN MORE STUPID. Aside from the fact that, as I pointed out above, turning a long-term source of income into a one-time windfall is short-sighted, I don’t like the idea of a private company having control of, say, tigers. I don’t like the idea of Rob Ford having control of tigers either, but at least there are checks and balances in place to keep him from bringing one to council meetings and threatening Adam Vaughan with mauling. If the zoo is privatized ANYTHING could happen. It just takes one eccentric billionaire CEO and an unfortunate incident with the orangutans to lead to a Rise of the Planet of the Apes situation, people.
– Transferring the operation Black Creek urban farm to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Again, I didn’t know we had farms. No opinion on this one.
– No more police officers at construction site. This I am totally in favour of. We do not need to pay cops $65/hour to guard holes in the ground. This was a sheer waste of money and I’m glad they cut this.
– Turning Heritage Toronto into a private charity. I don’t really know anything about Heritage Toronto, but they seem to be all about promoting and preserving Toronto’s, um, heritage. Don’t really have an opinion on this one either.

So overall, a couple of good ideas, a couple of meh/probably dumb ideas, some REALLY dumb ideas, and some egregious assholiness.

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