There isn’t enough humour or horror for Velvet Buzzsaw to be seriously considered either.Read More
The Doug Ford PC government started out with priorities that were unsurprisingly identical to those of it’s newly-minted leader, and it has continued to act on those unabated despite public polls revealing a steep drop in approval ratings earlier this week.
A Mainstreet Research poll revealed a net favourability rating of negative 21.5 per cent for Ford. It also revealed that, despite the disapproval, the majority of voters would still vote for the premier.
The Ontario PC government, led by slick businessman Ford, started out of the gate by cutting Toronto city council as its leader had promised. This was actioned as a priority item as it was fueled by the new premier’s rage at those who had once scorned him while he was employed as a Toronto councillor. The irony of that is that many of the survivors of the municipal culling were those who Ford had specifically named as targets, socialist pinkos that are so far left that they can’t tell wrong from right.
(Interestingly, while many left-leaning councillors had to battle each other Hunger Games-style to see who would survive, one casualty of this short-sighted plan was Giorgio Mammoliti, a councillor who had actively opposed those same Ford foes. While he and former Mayor Rob Ford had frequently clashed, he largely toed the Ford line and frequently agreed with brother Doug.)
Further, this plan was touted as being able to save $25 million from Toronto’s budget, over a 4-year span. That breaks down to $6.25 million a year, less the money each of the 25 remaining councillors would have to spend on supporting staff now that their wards had close to doubled in size. For context, in last year’s sudden spike in gun violence, Ford promised to hand out more than $25 million dollars to tackle the gun problem, albeit through unspecific means.
Now the Ford government has quietly charged ahead with its “cut costs above all else” strategy, with the frontlines being shifted to those of Ontario’s education system.
The first blow would seem to be the Liberal government’s loan-to-grant conversion scheme that allowed many to take out OSAP loans that did not have to be repaid at all. However, that would be ignoring the fact that in November of 2018 Ford decided to scrap established plans to develop post-secondary French language programs and even a new Francophone institution. So those who had looked to the chance to embrace both higher education and bilingualism were really the first cohort of students (or potential students) to feel the sting of rejection by the PC government.
Now, however, anyone who relies on OSAP or was planning on taking advantage of the free tuition program can count themselves among those left behind by Ford and the PC plans. This includes those who had signed up based on the promise of a more affordable plan and are now potentially two years into a three- or four-year program, who now have to budget around large loans they weren’t expecting to need. Those loans will also now need to be paid off on the day the student leaves the program, quite likely also at higher rates.
It is worth pointing out that the plan was declared unsustainable by Ford. This is true. In an effort to try and please everyone and draw attention away from her many political mis-steps, former premier Kathleen Wynne (also former Ontario Education Minister) decided that anyone who qualified for OSAP should qualify for the loan-grant conversions. The problem is that students could qualify for OSAP so long as their households had a combined income of less than $120,000. Like many proud new Tesla owners, high-income families managed to save money they had readily available to spend so that a sinking government could make promises that were doomed to be cut short. Today students of Ontario are left with a student loan system that pleases very few and discourages most from even embarking on post-secondary studies. (Wynne is presumably still sorry, not sorry.)
The central theme here is optics, and a matter of politics over principles. This battle of party versus party and all versus nothing needs to stop. A government does not and cannot please everyone, but that doesn’t mean that it has to cut its nose off to spite its face. (Lord pray Ford’s crosshairs never fall on his own beak.)
Kathleen Wynne leapfrogged the NDP to go even further left in an attempt to sway discouraged voters into scratching her name on their ballots, despite their apprehensions. It did not work, and Doug Ford was handed a super-majority and the right to do whatever he wants for the next four years. And now, Ford wants to show PC veterans and traditional party supporters that he knows the script and will stop at nothing to cut corners and make those books shine.
Next on the chopping block is full-day education for children aged 5 and under. While Ford has been forced to dial back his rhetoric on the matter, he has also maintained that his priorities lie with the deficit and that class size caps are likely going to go. The premier always seems at his strongest when his foes are incapable of fighting back.
And all of this in just the first weeks of 2019. Plans to privatize healthcare were also leaked, but the premier stated that the province’s healthcare system is the “backbone of the province” while also admitting that the government drafts proposals on all sorts of things, including two-tier healthcare.
Ontarians deserve better than this. No citizen deserves to be caught in the middle of a tug of war between political poles, and yet in a world of Brexit and border walls, it seems we have grown all too used to it. We no longer vote for who we approve of (assuming we approve of anyone anymore) but vote against those who we perceive as standing against us.
Thankfully Buck A Beer is back to help us forget what is really at stake here.
Here's another one from the school files. It's a bit of an old piece and it is about a trip that happened years ago. Still a fun time though...
It was 2013 and I was starting to feel stagnant. Something needed to change. My twenties were ending soon and I felt like I hadn’t gotten out to have an adventure in too long. The monotony of city life without reliable access to a getaway cottage or campground a couple times when it’s warm enough was getting to me. Sometimes I was lucky enough to get away in a year, but I guess it had been a while. It felt like forever since I’d gone to Chicago or New York.
So maybe it was America that was calling. Or at least the idea of that great Kerouac-inspired frontier image, a big sprawl of road with fun and excitement and then more, more road. So when my friend Tony told me he was interested in checking out a music festival called Bonnaroo, I looked it up.
There were well-known bands and a few genuine rock stars. Tom Petty was the big headliner, well him and Paul McCartney. Tony and I went to college and studied journalism with the guy who did Sir Paul’s pyrotechnics, so it seemed like an interesting trip. We’d catch up, listen to some live music, and drink some beers together again in a new environment. Plus it was in Tennessee. I’d always wanted to go there… well not really. But I had wanted to see more of the continent and check out some new states. The map said that the drive would take me quickly through Michigan, into Ohio for a good long while, down through Kentucky and finally into our destination state of Tennessee. (I was genuinely interested in seeing the green rolling hills of Kentucky after watching Justified, a show based on an Elmore Leonard creation.)
The tickets weren’t so expensive, even when translated into the relatively poor Canadian dollar. It was a little pricier than I was used to at four or five hundred (as I’ve never had a lot of money to throw around) but I thought it was worth it at about a hundred dollars a day. Plus it was a camp site, so that was lodgings too. That meant we only had to worry about the cost of food and gas. Well, and alcohol and cigarettes. But priorities first. Oh, and places to stay there and back. Plans started to form.
I mapped it out on Google, finding out how many kilometres it would be (adding about 200 for detours and crap), what the current price of gas was (factoring in currency conversion costs), and what the estimated mileage (or kilometrage) of the likely rental car would be. Then I doubled it for our there-and-back-trip and got within probably about $40 of what we ended up spending. Probably because of overthinking finances like that I was the only one of us who had the credit to actually rent the car. I drew up some more numbers and got our final budget estimates.
Tony thought that was neat, and asked if he could drive the car. He couldn’t get on the rental without a credit card, so no, I said. Otherwise the credit card insurance doesn’t work and I’m out a car that costs 10 times as much as this trip if you crash, I said. I had my G2 for about two years, maybe a little more, and Tony drove to and from work for like 12 years. Life’s not fair sometimes I guess—I know insurance companies aren’t. “Nope,” I said, “I’m driving.”
The car was a beauty though. It was that year’s model Chevy Impala and had less than 2,000 on the odometer. I took a picture of that number, because we’d double that before we took it back. It had that new car smell and everything, and space for four passengers (or two with a bunch of luggage and camp crap). I looked under the hood and it looked like the workings of the USS Enterprise. I knew nothing about cars, but it would definitely get us there.
So midway through that flattened-out eternity of roadwork they call Ohio I got into my first altercation with a state trooper. I’d been driving about 8 hours by now and it had been night for a while, but I was hyped up with traveller’s euphoria. Unfortunately what I had not done was read the damned manual on how to change the speedometer from kilometres to miles when crossing the border. On account of that it was a little hard to make out what exactly I was doing in the metric to imperial conversion on the fly.
This country fought to get away from the Empire, I thought to myself. Why the fuck are they still using Imperial measurement?
The kid in the cool uniform walked up to the driver’s-side window, his car’s lights still strobing intimidatingly in the background. A flashlight, a Maglite with brand-new batteries no doubt, blinded me briefly.
“License and registration, please,” replied the humourless voice, slightly higher than expected. We’d gotten into accent territory too, apparently.
I explained that I was from Toronto, showed the rental papers and my license, and he explained to me that the state of Ohio had a hand-in-hand working relationship with the province of Ontario and I would be held accountable if I didn’t pay up even if I never returned to Ohio and my license would be suspended if I did not comply with the terms of the citation.
“Great, loud and clear. What was I doing?” I asked. He told me I was doing 68.
“This isn’t a 70 zone?” He told me it was 65.
“Sorry, my dial’s not showing miles, should I just drive a little slower?” He told me to drive 65. Great, it’s an upper and a lower limit. I thought.
Nerves rattled, I managed to make it about an hour more before we found a place to pull over and rest up. They had free wi-fi and American television, which was a treat in how it’s strangely different from Canadian television. I guess it’s the same way with the billboards along the highway. Suddenly they’re advertising guns and fireworks and booze, so everything’s mostly the same but just a little different, in a way you can just feel.
It was good to take off the mantle of responsibility, if only for a few hours. I think I’d picked up the car around noon and it was now well after 1 a.m. (Tony had been late to arrive, so we only really got out of town around 4.) We’d made no stops other than to slow down and check through the border, and so this was the most driving I’d ever done.
We strolled across the street to the gas station to get some walking in and pick up some beer and we were glowing from that fresh vacation perspective. The beer was something like 6 for $8 or 12 for $10 or some crazy ratio like that, so of course we got the 12-pack. We didn’t drink them all, but we stayed up and went over our inventory of stuff and the lineup of acts we wanted to catch and watched highlights of the Stanley Cup playoffs while we were still in a state that knew what hockey was. We felt simultaneously like we were waiting for the holidays to start and that we were far from home, and felt an in-betweenness that was more of a relief than anything else.
The next day we got up and looked for a place to have breakfast. We wound up at a Cracker Barrel, which is junk food to Americans, but once again the little differences were what made it for me. For one thing, biscuits and gravy really should have taken off here a long time ago. For another, a breakfast place with a built-in gift shop that sold rocking chairs just brings a smile to my face.
We finally made it through to the bottom of Ohio, after going through several long stretches of construction. You realize how important it is to know the dimensions of your vehicle when your lane suddenly shoots left to divert between two concrete barriers that stretch on for miles and have a surprising number of curves to them. Navigating between those while trying to maintain 55 MPH with an eager trucker in an 18-wheeler behind you can be jarring.
At the bottom of Ohio on the Kentucky border is Cincinnati. It’s where a few rivers meet and the rolling, forested hills start to form to the south. There’s bridges everywhere and even with my focus on the road the city looked gorgeous. I wish we’d stopped, be we had tracks to make. Past the last bridge I saw a water tower on the other side that proudly proclaimed “Florence, Y’all!” We were in the South.
Driving through Kentucky was a breeze. Not only were the roads wider and in better shape, but the scenery was breathtaking. The air felt fresh and lively, and the landscape seemed untamed. You looked out at it and it was hard to imagine anyone ever thinking that they could rush in there and set something up and get it connected to everything else. But somehow they had, as there were little towns with people who’d smile and greet us and ask us where we were headed whenever we stopped to stretch our legs and have a smoke.
One of the stops we made was in Louisville. Growing up playing baseball and always relying on a Louisville Slugger instead of one of those aluminium things, and going to college idolizing Hunter S. Thompson, I felt a connection with this place. Again, we didn’t stay long. We got gas and found out where the Walmart was so we could get the last of the things we needed for the trip.
“It’s not here, it’s nearby though,” the attendant said. “E-town.”
I asked him to repeat that. “E-town,” he said.
I eventually figured out that E-town was Elizabethtown and it was on the way. Walking back to the car, Tony had struck up a conversation with a couple of girls in the car next to ours. They wore bright colours and big smiles and their car was loaded with camping gear. It turned out they were going to Bonnaroo too, and they were from Toronto. They seemed pretty cool, but we didn’t get their numbers and we didn’t see them again. We had not yet liberated ourselves of the hangups that keep city-goers from talking to one another at length without knowing each other first. That would come later. Plus we had a goal in mind, and city folk love goals.
After a couple of wrong turns we managed to find the massive Walmart. We found hats to try and protect ourselves from the Tennessee sun and realized that you can buy beer at Walmart in America. And why not? You can buy it at gas stations. Our shopping diversion ended up taking more time than we thought it would, and our tempers were starting to flare a bit. Fatigue and road-weariness were setting in, as well as the doubts that come with being in a foreign place with nothing but a vague destination and a map from Google. Maybe it was the massive superstore with the sprawling parking lot with the unfamiliar rental car somewhere nearby, or maybe it was the lack of food kicking in. We found the car, found some cheeseburgers, and made our final push towards our destination.
We crossed into Tennessee and decided to head straight for the farmland that the festival was held on. We’d had aspirations of seeing Nashville, but we were too close to our destination. American highways seem to pull you along at a surprisingly quick clip, but maybe it’s the same in Canada. One day I’ll make that Canadian road trip, but it seems that America is a lot less linear in terms of where to go and how to get there. From Canada, nobody ever wants to go straight north, and if you go straight south you wind up in the States.
Soon we spotted lines of cars, sections of highway just backed up with cars festooned with stickers and loaded with camping junk and alcohol and who-knows-what-else. In the sky there were helicopters, and on the ground police from different levels of government everywhere were directing traffic and letting us know who was in charge. I considered how much different their accents would be down here. Like Ohio State Trooper but with more “Florence, Y’all.”
We got in the lineup of cars off the highway with the sun beginning to sag under the weight of the early June evening, and by the time we actually got to the gates it was full dark. Along the way we’d passed a number of farmhouses with locals smiling and waving. Apparently some of them rented out rooms to visitors who didn’t want to rough it and didn’t mind the B and B experience.
I was about to learn what we were in for with this five-day festival. I’d never driven in the US, never been south of New York, never gotten a speeding ticket, and hadn’t been camping in years. But I’d checked a bunch of things off my list and gained some confidence along the way. And the fun was just about to start.
The next few days would be a mad rush of making friends, discovering new music, running from one end of the farm to the other to catch that one act everyone was talking about, chatting around outside the food truck circle, checking out the arts and crafts plaza, hiding from that high Tennessee sun, laughing our asses off at nothing in particular, and generally appreciating truly and wholeheartedly what it was like to check your baggage at the gate and just live for the sheer moment and take it all in through a filter that made everything appear warm and sparkly and accepting.
I’d soak it up, and I would return to Toronto with a fresh perspective. And a yearning to return to Roo, and to relive that sanity saving sonic pilgrimage.
On June 7, Ontarians gathered to cast their ballots and elect the next government of Ontario. Among them was Doug Ford, just a couple of months into his tenure as leader of the province’s Progressive Conservatives.
Ford was grinning broadly, making his way to his own polling station with his family. A reporter asked a simple question.
"So Doug, today's the big day. Do you know who you're voting for?"
Ford laughed in his charming and easy-going manner. Never one to be taken by surprise, he answered quickly and confidently.
"Absolutely, the choice couldn't be clearer. Ontario has been waiting for a long time for a government that it can trust, one with a proven leader, one that will take it in the right direction into the future." He paused, his face suddenly taking on a meaningful clarity. "That's why I'm voting NDP."
There were gasps from his supporters who had joined him on his march to bring in a new government and sweep aside 15 years of Liberal mismanagement. His family stared at him, aghast. One of the blonde ones fainted. Someone asked him if he had lost his mind.
"Maybe! After all, a few months ago I thought Torontonians would want me as their mayor," he responded breezily.
"But the truth is that there will be other elections. There will always be a new opportunity to elect a new government if the next one fails us. Even if this doesn't go my way, I know that the electorate will hold the next government accountable regardless of whether it's a minority or majority, and everything will be just fine in the end.”
He paused in uncharacteristic contemplation.
"Plus it gives me the time I need to learn what provincial politics is all about, maybe come up with an election platform. Time offers endless possibilities."
Sadly Doug Ford did not get his way this time. Less than an hour into the tallying of the votes it was clear that his party would get a majority. This was largely on the efforts of the Liberals, whose reign could easily be summed up by the smug indifference displayed by Wynne in her poorly advised #SorryNotSorry campaign.
After a decade and a half of doing whatever they wanted—consequences be damned—the Liberals opened the doors for another government to do the same. It seems that voting has become an act of electoral retribution rather than a means of changing things for the better.
In the long run, this may turn out to be a good thing for the province, a warning similar to the one to the south where rage overturned reason (and the political climate is admittedly different). In the short term, at least the beer will be cheaper, which is one way of softening the blow to a province whose apathy is unfortunately understandable. Cheers!
It's Blue Monday, and it seems like a good day to inject some optimism into the mix and try to push back against the winter malaise. Here, for no good reason other than to put a different perspective on things, is a short collection of things to be thankful for.Read More
I joined an expressive writing class and thought I'd post some of my scribbles down here for curious readers who might happen by. This one is a reflection on a reading we had contrasting joy and happiness. Here are my thoughts...Read More
Just like Dracula’s castle, the Castlevania series has been known to disappear for many years and return in a different form. And just this week Netflix released Castlevania, representing the franchise’s first foray into video.Read More
Hi everyone, and welcome to my digital book report! To begin, I have to admit that that I was a little apprehensive about doing this project. I used to be an avid reader, and always put together great written book reports. So what’s changed?
Wanting to investigate that question is what led me to choose the book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. The book is written by Nicholas Carr, a tech writer who has been critical of the technological advancements and proclamations coming out of Silicon Valley for the past 15 years or so. His articles have been widely read and debated, and as proof that he is not just a mere cynic or naysayer, this particular book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize back in 2011.
The fact is, more people are reading thanks to computers and, in particular, the Internet, but books account for a much smaller portion of the reading these days. However this is more than a contemporary study of a current technology. Carr takes us through the evolution of human thought patterns and how they have been influenced in the past by technological developments. The most important of these is, unsurprisingly, the advent of writing and the written language.
This expanded the scope of human thought and imagination, and eventually evolved into cartography and mapping. As Carr says, we went from drawing and describing only things we could see to more abstract things and places that were beyond our immediate vision. This led to other developments that allowed us to chart courses across oceans we had never crossed. Somewhere along the way we gained the ability to make precise and portable time pieces and opened humanity up to the wonderful world of scheduling.
The next invention that changed human thought patterns was, again unsurprisingly, the printing press. What is notable about this invention is that the significance is not in a change of how much or even what people read, but how they read. With the spreading of the written word, reading transformed from an oral, often group exercise, to a silent and solitary one. This caused the mind to focus inwards, to shut out external stimuli. The words on the page now occupied all of our minds, while we shut off our senses and went against our mammalian survival instincts to become truly literate beings.
Skipping ahead some, Carr says that what the Internet has done to our brains, more so than unconnected computers alone, is to reverse that process. Now we are less concentrated. Now our brains are reprogramming themselves to take in more sensory inputs again. We are reading more, but comprehending and storing less. The distractions pile up and prevent us from efficiently digesting the information that we gather from our new, ever-present, ever-more-demanding media.
Carr focuses particularly on hyperlinks and how hypertext was once touted as a way of increasing comprehension and information digestion. Instead, they have been proven to have an opposite effect. He illustrates this by using a thimble to symbolize short term or working memory, and a bathtub to symbolize the capacity for long term memory. To move knowledge from the faucet of a book to the bathtub is a simple (yet time-consuming) process. To move it from dozens of sources would be even more time consuming, and result in a great deal of spilled water.
The Shallows has some great asides too that build on the central thesis, bits where Carr compares his mind to the AI of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and how he is self-aware that his thought patterns are changing and sacrifices are being made without his consent. These are contrasted with other pieces where Carr talks about ever-rising IQ scores, but how these scores have stemmed from increases in certain intellectual areas and drops in others.
All in all the book reads less as the condemnation of technology that I expected, and more as a matter-of-fact study on how this new and unstoppable media will shape our brains and thought patterns for generations to come. Hopefully, in the epilogue, he states that technology will never be able to replace human creativity.
This book is full of great insights, and is expertly written to appeal to both experts and lay persons alike. Carr effortlessly picks up heavy topics like neuroplasticity and easily segues to discussions on McLuhan’s theories of media versus messages. There’s something for everyone in here, from computer historians to anthropologists to digital media theorists.
Not only that, but the book is thoroughly populated with endnotes and contains a comprehensive index for those who want to quickly look up a particular topic or browse for some further reading. Of course, given that it is now 2017, some readers may be wishing for some more hyperlinks and fewer pages.
Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Donald Trump? I’m pretty sure that that is the question that Trump was asked immediately before deciding to run for President of the United States of America.Read More
The argument that an officer of the law should be allowed to grant a mentally unstable individual a premature death by shooting, simply because that individual wanders into the street with a knife, is unsound.Read More