“Or Be Eaten” on a Sunday morning

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This is what it looks like when three people wearing rat/goblin puppets rehearse book-in-hand at a hellaciously early hour on a Sunday. I took these earlier today; left to right, it’s Graeme Black Robinson, Scott T. Garland, & Amy Marie Wallace, the cast of Silent Protagonist’s Or Be Eaten. I’m directing the thing for the Fringe this summer – we’re in St. Vlad’s theatre, which is a thoroughly sucky & disappointing venue (though it has better air-conditioning than the Factory, which makes up for a lot).

Or Be Eaten‘s a sort of urban-fairy tale, told with puppets & half-masks. I’m also incorporating a lot of le Coq-ish physical work into the piece. Basically it’s about a homeless youth named Ash who goes on a Neil Gaiman-esque odyssey into the bowels of the Torontonian subway system, on a quest to find some Edenic west-side neighborhood where “rent is affordable even after utilities, getting a job is easy, even without a reference.”

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Graeme (Silent Protagonist’s AD) apparently has a production blog going, I’ll link to it when it’s live. Rehearsals for Or Be Eaten have a very different vibe than the rehearsals for my other show, The Hystericon (fewer tears, for one). It’s both refreshing & exciting to be able to work simultaneously on two pieces that differ so significantly in both tone & style. Amy’s got a bunch of gorgeous concept art that I might post, & Graeme’s puppets are consistently spectacular – more on that to come. In the meantime, enjoy the view.

And please please please please please please please read this.

 

 

I told you so w/r/t Barack Obama…

There are, believe it or not, instances in which I hate being right:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order

 

From the article:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

 

A Fragment

…though of course we ate it anyway. Why wouldn’t we? And we knew it was bad for us, make no mistake. Not, maybe, in the deeper, more quote-unquote informed way that we or at least I would come to know these things later, as an adult – I mean we didn’t know for instance that the word “brown” when describing food may as well be a place-holder for “carcinogenic,” probably didn’t even know what “carcinogenic” meant, probably indeed had only the vaguest understanding of what a tumour might be or even what death was – you know, capital-D Death, as in the end, finito, that’s all folks. But we did have at least have some notions of nutrition, albeit as provisional as you’d expect from eight- and twelve-year olds, such as for instance the relationship between carrots and good eyes, between a tall glass of milk and strong bones, or between the bitter green sludge of  our mother’s over-steamed spinach goulash and a putative musculature that never quite seemed to manifest. But in truth it was probably that they were bad for us that made them so appealing; one wonders if they’d have been half so enjoyable, so unctuously seductive, if they hadn’t boasted 242 nutrient-free calories a pop – I mean, however one might try imagine them perhaps julienned, perhaps crested on sprigs of arugula served au jus and splashed with mottles of balsamic reduction, the idea is, let’s face it, a sad karaoke of the bun-and-mustard dog. So we went to, father’s spatula – that stainless-steel Excalibur of caramelized pig fat and carbonic hamburger patties – scraping the AWOL Schneider’s Country Naturals from where they’d fallen on the deck and sliding them back onto our outstretched plates, snuggling each dog into its doughy bed sans hesitation, sans foresight, sans analysis of any kind, our gluttony punctuated only by the odd spritz of grease.

Dining sur le sol was emblematic of my father’s attitude towards not just food but in fact most consumer goods: toilet paper, kitchen appliances, TV sets, so on, and he had a penchant for redistribution after use, which in the case of the toilet paper meant frequent moppings of one’s tomato sauce-blotted lower lip with the same crumpled rag of tissue he’d carried in his pocket all day, the contents of which were unknown but hardly mysterious. The foothills of emptied and cleaned mason jars in my parents’ basement were small booby traps for the third-grader who attempted to spelunk his household’s depths without a flashlight. My mother’s evenings were often spent darning holes in dollar-store tube socks, my father chatting amiably on the telephone with neighbours and relatives…

— Say, a stereo set? Hell we’ve got an extra one, why don’t I drive it over tomorrow morning before work?

WASTE NOT WANT NOT, said the crocheted tapestry above the kitchen sink. The origin of this neurotic little phrase is difficult to trace, but never has yarn embroidery so haunted the memories of a man as this sign has mine. Most scholars trace it back to a 1772 letter written by John Wesley, the founder of English Methodism, chastising his brother Alexander for his (i.e., Alexander’s) mistrust of a fellow preacher, Peter Jaco. Of Jaco, Wesley writes:  “He will waste nothing; but he must want nothing.” So the original form of “Waste not, want not,” is commandment, not catechism, which is certainly how it felt in our house. An afternoon’s PB & J was always fully crusted, gristle from steaks and chicken wings were set in pots to be boiled for stock – and you damn well finished your plate; this whole “two piles” business that some of my friends’ parents did, in which the child is meant to pick one to pile of food to finish while the other is scraped into compost was simply not on in my household. Leftovers were kept to an absolute minimum, and where they were incurred, my mother would alchemically transform them into something else entirely.

In fact, the preparation and consumption of food in general lay for my family somewhere beyond nutrition and fuel, beyond even the standard dining-as-family-ritual, somewhere in the shadowy swamplands land of obsession. Days were constructed with mealtimes as rivets, and the activities that filled them – school, work, cleaning, reading, watching TV, etc. – simply existed to occupy the space between when you last ate and when you could conceivably eat again. No expense was spared; steaks were nearly always certified Canada Prime (with the occasional Triple-A, for guests requesting “well done”), chickens came big-breasted, and bacon cut a thick, meaty 0.46cm/slice. The hot summers of my childhood had the consistency of partially melted butter, they smelled of aforementioned wieners cooked over mesquite and the evenings ran sweet and sticky with melted ice-cream (HäagenDazs, by the way; my father would accept nothing less). Winters were done stove-stop and finished in the oven; tomatoes out of season? Not for my folks. Our rib-sticking spaghetti sauces were all imported San Marzano tomatoes and Californian garlic. This made the relatively hum-drum Schneider’s Country Naturals all the more special – so rarely did we indulge in campfire food that to waste them because of a simple spill was just not feasible.

I suppose it was for this reason that the oldest and perhaps deepest schism between my father and myself was largely due to the conjunction of a meal and a political choice; in fact in this sense you can see almost our whole relationship thrown upon the wall, a shadow-play, silent but for the piano score. I was a sixteen-year-old wanting either charm or tact, a statistically awkward 6′ 2″-tall, good grades, just a few months shy of emerging shiny-toothed from a six-year orthodontic chrysalis, and I’d just started dating a girl who was an inch taller even than I and possessed a far more splendid eggshell cheek, who was as they say une belle esprit and for whom I’d learned the half-hearted French you see bespotting the text here. I remember her sheaf of golden hair and the way her natural fibre underwear felt against my thigh; I remember the deep sense of having been engulfed entirely into some much larger animal, relinquishing sense-of-self entirely; my hand within her hand,  my tongue doing exploratory surgery within her oropharyngeal cavity. I was consumed, taken in, broken down and transformed.  A better hair cut. More sophisticated sneakers. A Ben Sherman shoulder bag in place of the backpack from Zellers. Then:

— We need to talk.

— Uh oh.

— No no not like that.

— No?

— No no.

— Then…what?

— I’ve decided…

–Yes?

— To become a vegetarian.

— Veg…?

— Vegetarian.

— Oh.

— I think you should become one too.

— Why?

— Because it would be something that’s so great to do, no wait sec so great to do together, think…

— But why?

— You know I was just…

— You don’t like meat?

— I guess I was just really hoping you’d do this for me.

Et voila. Sans hesitation, sans foresight, sans analysis of any kind. What can I say? I was young and in love; this was my matrix, my medium, it’s not that the bigger picture didn’t matter it’s just that I couldn’t even see it, I was blinded by the immediate, when you’re sixteen everything just feels so immediate. That said, vegetarianism was slow going for me at first; Wendy’s newfound fad to follow was not the dietary asceticism I enjoy now but a kind of watered-down locavorousness in which we’d only eat meat products “ethically produced” by local farms independent of corporate esurience (though, true, we never did manage to come up with a really consistent system of determining what constituted “ethically produced,” especially given that for every kilogram of animal protein produced, livestock have to be fed about 6kgs of plant protein, and 25 times more fossil fuels are required to produce a single calorie of beef versus a single calorie of corn, and given that about 925 million people in the world [or one in every seven] were even then starving to death; but these were realizations that would only come to me many years later).

We strutted through those early, heady days with a moral righteousness unleavened by wisdom or empathy for those whose ethical priorities diverged from ours. In the cloudless skies of hindsight I can see that a more sophisticated, more mature, more “ethical” young man than I would have sat his mother down at the kitchen table immediately upon making this kind of decision and respectfully explain to her in hushed, pastel tones that the meals which had been the glue and bonding agent of so many childhood memories were not being reproached, that they belonged to specific times and places and cherished pasts that would never be lost nor repudiated, and that the love and attention and thankless mothers’ work they represented were not just valued but prized, adored, honoured and admired, and that as mother and son moved down these new corridors of  degustatory difference both would always remember those bonds between them yet unbroken, yet cemented by unconditional love and respect beyond words, beyond food, beyond imagining.

This is not what I did…

Rehearsing “The Hystericon”

My stage manager Nadia took this photo today:

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She claims she was looking for inspiration for poster design &c., but in truth I think there’s a bit of the voyeur in her (she’s also a filmmaker, I think it comes with the territory). We’ve got an extremely rough & underdeveloped “blocking” to the piece (i.e., the actors know where they’re standing on stage), but now we move into a much more detailed kind of physical work. My stuff tends to be highly choreographed & stylized; I’m a bit of a Robert Wilsonian, I guess, a Meyerholdian, maybe. The trick will be to see whether an avant-garde aesthetic can be used tell what is essentiall a very human & honest & I hope capital T-True story. The Hystericon is a tricky beast.

But the actors – Renée Haché, Nicholas Porteous, Lesley Robertson, & Nicole Wilson – are all really taking to the work & the piece is already feeling “alive.” The key to success is to always surround yourself with people more talented than you are.

Also had the first read-through of Or Be Eaten…, the second (gulp) show I’m directing for the Fringe this year, produced by Silent Protagonist. It’s got a different vibe entirely; a puppet show, for one thing, urban fairy tale, a lot of fun. Graeme Black Robinson wrote the story & is also designing & building all the puppets – they already look gorgeous.

Moving into the new place at the end of the week. At some point I’ll manage to calm my pulse.

Stick in it the fridge, kiddos.

 

Speaking of Racism (update)

Apropos to my piece about the Toronto Star‘s latent racism, yesterday a Somali-Canadian man named Abdi Aidid, law student & member of a TDSB task force whose mandate is to reduce the drop-out rate for young Somali students in the city, wrote a letter to the paper about their reportage viz. the Rob Ford scandal:

“At every stop, they point out that the individuals involved are Somali. ‘Somali’ appears 11 times in the article, exactly as many times as the word ‘crack…I am deeply hurt by this.”

Star Public Editor Kathy English makes a half-hearted attempt to address this. You’ll judge for your self whether she does so adequately.

What “Star Trek Into Darkness” can teach us about US foreign policy (spoilers within)

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness is not a great film, but it’s a phenomenally fun one & worth the price of admission, easily. It’s scope is not quite as broad as 2009’s Star Trek, & since it’s the sophomore film in what is likely going to be at least a trilogy if not saga of pretty serious sci-fi action films, a lot of fanboys’ expectations are likely not going to be met; but if you, like me, saw it on a particularly cold & miserable & rainy weekday evening in a sparsely attended cinema, & if you approach the film with kind of open heart we should reserve for movies that just ain’t art, you’re going to have a good time. I mean, if you sat through the execrable Inglorious Basterds & liked it, there should be no excuse in this respect.

Star Trek Into Darkness takes place in an alternate universe that may or may not have been created by Nero, the Romulan miner & the previous movie’s central bad guy, when he went back in time through a wormhole & destroyed planet Vulcan. One of the major problems I had with the first Star Trek – fun though it was – was that I found the story overly complicated & full of all kinds of nifty albeit confusing sci-fi time-travel paradoxes that never got properly addressed. Thus, I’m not really going to try & précis the original movie; just trust me when I say that the events of Star Trek Into Darkness (STID) take place in a very different reality than any of the actual series & older films.

The plot of STID is one of the least interesting things about it, so I won’t dwell on storyline – basically, when stripped of a lot of peripheral action the essential plot involves a terrorist attack on one of Starfleet’s archive buildings, which subsequently gives the same terrorist (whom we’re told early on is some sort of spy named John Harrison) an opportunity to wipe out a bunch of Starfleet brass with a futuristic helicopter. Thereafter, Cpt. James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock (which is what, his last name? first name?), et. al.  are sent on what is described as a “manhunt” deep in enemy territory, the Klingon homeworld of Kronos.

One of the things that makes the original Star TrekStar Trek TNG, & to a lesser extent Star Trek: Voyager so compulsively watchable – & what tends to differentiate them from the often inferior movie spin-offs – is that they were in reality never about the fi-ness of sci-fi, never about fancy F/X or long, protracted martial arts scenes on the hulls of weird floating hover ships.  Star Trek has always been a show about ideas, about taking ordinary characters & placing them in situations in which they have to reconcile their preconceived earthling ethics with alien races whose ethical paradigms are shifted some degrees left or right. One of my favourites of these was a TNG episode in which the Klingon Worf, played by the indomitable Michael Dorn, suffers a back injury from a falling piece of equipment & is rendered paraplegic. The Klingon sensibility being entirely governed by an almost samurai sense of honour,  Worf demands that he be allowed to commit some kind of Klingon seppuku, & asks his superiors to help him to do this – except that Worf has a twelve year-old son, Alexander, whom he’s raising on his own. Do Worf’s obligations as a father take precedent over his sense of honour? & what if “honour” in this sense is really just a short hand for “religion,” which is what the episode clearly implies? You can see how this stuff can get interesting.

In STID, the ethical dilemmas take a place somewhere in the background among the F/X wizardry, but they’re interesting to touch on. Kirk’s told essentially to take an arsenal of fancy torpedoes, find John Harrison (whom I might as well tell you right now is actually Khan, of The Wrath of Khan – & if you’re taking issue with Benedict Cumberbatch playing an Indian, you have to admit that he’s at least as Indian as Ricardo Montalbán) & basically vaporize him. Spock, ever the voice of reason, takes issue with this, reminding Kirk that “There is no Starfleet regulation that condemns a man to die without a trial.” (N.B.: Since the shooting script for STID isn’t yet available online, I’m working from memory here, so the quotation may not be exact; I have, however, had it corroborated from other sources, & it’s pretty damn close.)

(A quick digression: this begs some question over what, exactly is Starfleet & its mandate? In STID, there seems to be some tension between  Starfleet qua explorers versus military; while the original series have always taken place during exploratory missions, Starfleet’s also always been the go-to organization for intergalactic warfare, & at the very least seems to be the only game in town w/r/t advanced weaponry. Maybe a good analogy might be – if the Federation is like the UN, Starfleet would be only one division among many thereof, comprised of multiple planets rather & not the geocentric organization it sometimes appears to be. I guess its purview would therefore be space as a whole – i.e., exploration, diplomacy, trade, peacekeeping, defence, &c.)

If you, like me, are a compulsive consumer of news media, some pretty obvious parallels can be drawn between the abovementioned ethical dilemma & a few of the more seedy operations US foreign policy has inflicted on the world lately. In particular I can think of two, which screenwriter Robert Orci has sort of ham-fistedly combined to create a kind of Ur-allegory, a political universal derived from two particulars.

The first obvious one is the targeted assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011, which the Obama administration only formally copped to a couple days ago. al-Awlaki was an American citizen, born in New Mexico, educated in the United States, who later became a radical propagandist for al-Qaeda & subsequently accused by US officials of being in some way operationally connected to terrorist activities. No evidence was ever adduced to support these claims, but this hasn’t stopped President Obama (who has made targeted assassination with drone strikes a centerpiece of his counter-terrorism strategy & personally signs off on every hit) from openly gloating about it on television. (According to a letter to Congress written by Attorney General Eric Holder, al-Awlaki was only one of four American citizens executed without trial or due process by drone strikes personally ordered by Obama; another was al-Awlaki’s sixteen year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki).

In STID, Khan is obviously meant to be an ersatz al-Awlaki, whose destruction, while not ordered to be carried out by drones, is nonetheless to be done at long-distance through remote photon torpedoes.  But while Khan is at least nominally a citizen of the Federation, the analogy with al-Awlaki ends there. Khan, we are led to believe, actually did commit major atrocities, which it’s not clear al-Awlaki ever did (it is not a crime in the United States, no matter what the media tell you, to say things). This makes Khan an almost Osama bin Laden figure, & indeed, the plan-of-action w/r/t his killing bears a great deal of similarity to the execution of bin Laden.

Consider, for example, the shameless breach of sovereignty represented by both governments – in real life, the invasion of Pakistani soil by American troops (to say nothing of the CIA’s fake vaccination program during the weeks before, which have since proved hugely damaging to the international vaccination movement) without permission, thereupon engaging in a firefight & killing unarmed suspects without so much as notifying the Pakistani government. In STID, Pakistan is Klingon space & Abbottabad is Kronos; & while bin Laden, like Khan, was overwhelmingly believed to be the perpetrator of atrocities, there was no actual hard evidence provided of this. Or if there were, why not capture bin Laden (or Khan, as Spock demands) & have him tried at the ICC (oh, wait…the Americans can’t do that because they don’t recognize the ICC…)? Hell, trying bin Laden anywhere would have been less damaging to American credibility than his summary execution.

What’s interesting about the way STID presents the case for Khan’s arrest & trial versus Starfleet Admiral Marcus’s gonzo assassination plan is how obvious the moral choice seems to be. Of course Khan should have a trial – there isn’t even an attempt at presenting the other side of the argument in this film (uncharacteristic for a real Star Trek conundrum, but let’s take what we can get). Spock knows it intuitively; so do Uhura & McCoy. Kirk’s storyline for much of the movie involves him in overcoming an intuitive, emotional desire for revenge in order to achieve a more rational & civilized & also deeper & more meaningful justice.

It seems unlikely that any movie-going audience member in America could possibly side with Marcus, but oddly the polling data shows that 75% of Americans approve of targeted assassination, & 24% even approve of assassinating American citizens. Its puzzling that moral truths clearly rendered in fiction don’t find immanentization in real life. What, exactly, is the blindness, & where does it come from?

One possible explanation is that it comes from Barack Obama himself. The erstwhile harbinger of “hope” & “change” has become arguably one of the most destructive & ruthless presidents in American history, from his almost erotic support for killing innocents with drones to the fact that he has prosecuted more journalists & leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all other American presidents combined, to his signing of the Monsanto Protection Act & thus entrenching corporate control over what we eat & how our food is produced (an aside: Monsanto also manufactured Agent Orange during the Vietnam war; this should tell you something), Obama has consistently demonstrated that he hates democracy & freedom & has little or no interest in even basic standards of justice & rationality. Yet even today his supporters in the mainstream media bleat their insipid hero-worship, immune to the forces of fact & argumentation. They use the sideshow bizarreness of Fox News & the risibility of the GOP as a distraction, the better to wrap themselves in feel-goodness about dear Barack.

In the Star Trek universe, the cult of personality (except, perhaps, as it applies to Kirk himself) seems to have gone the way of currency, poverty & disease (although this does raise certain questions w/r/t the governance structure of the Federation). Admiral Marcus, although clearly a colossal asshole, is nonetheless one guy with one guy’s opinion, & there is no PR machine backing him up – only an arsenal of photon torpedoes, & those, believe me, are far less dangerous.

As the ending of STID gropes for political relevance with a speech bearing all the finesse of a PSA, we are reminded by Cpt. Kirk that “There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves.” What this means is that the characters in Star Trek have done nothing more nor less than embraced the most elemental of ethical precepts – that we apply to ourselves far more rigid moral standards than we apply to others, that we take responsibility for what we – & those we elect, & for us in Canada, whom our governments openly support – do.

It might also be to ask the question, racing straight past the verily fair-haired All-Americanism of Kirk himself to the inscrutable foreigner: what would Mr. Spock do?

Speaking of racism…

I in no way would want to diminish or minimize any of the racist/homophobic remarks Rob Ford has made, but why is no one talking about the basically explicit racism of this photo:

This photo shows Toronto Mayor Rob Ford with two men, one whom might be, according to a source, fatal gunshot victim Anthony Smith. The photo was given to the Toronto Star by the same person who later showed <em>Star</em> reporters a video in which Ford appears to be smoking crack cocaine

This being the photograph the Toronto Star ran on its front page when it made its allegations of Rob-Ford-crack-smoking-video-ocity. The photo shows Rob Ford with two men, one of whom is believed to be Toronto shooting victim Anthony Smith. Traditionally, photographs in newsmedia are used to provide readers with visual reaffirmation of the photos’ accompanying stories; sometimes, as in the case of war photography, a photo can be a useful & powerful tool to evoke deeper & more human responses to crises & conflicts that otherwise might seem too far removed from the daily experiences of the reader. Other times, a photograph can be used to provide actual evidence of what the journalists are reporting, such as for instance when newsmedia published images taken from the surveillance video of Conrad Black removing files from his office.

Given this understanding of photography & its uses viz. journalism, an inquiring & intelligent reader might be inclined to scan the above photo’s accompanying article for clue as to its connection with the story. But —

“It’s not connected to the video.” – Robyn Doolittle, CBC interview, May 18.

Oh. So…but then — why’s it in the paper? Well, according to Doolittle (one of the reporters who broke this “story”) the photo was given to them as “evidence” that their source “had information that Rob Ford was hanging out with people…[pregnant pause]…who were getting shot.”

What the…?

What does “people who were getting shot” have to do in any way with Rob Ford smoking crack? I’m confused. Is there gunplay in this supposed video that isn’t being reported on? How is gun violence even remotely relevant to the story Doolittle’s reporting?

Doolittle goes on to explain that, “It’s more about…I don’t want to disparage the people in the video because obviously we have no idea what they were doing  [emphasis de mois], but…one person was killed in a shootout…and I think they were just trying to show some connection to Rob Ford with this world.”

Nothing in the above quotation makes any sense. To say nothing of the fact that she doesn’t even address the photograph in particular (which is what interviewer Brent Bambury asking her about), she admits that she knows absolutely nothing about the people in the video or who they were, but for some reason affirms that it’s important to recognize that:

  1. Anthony Smith was shot (even though he has nothing to do with the video)
  2. Anthony Smith may have associated with dangerous people (though there’s no evidence that they’re crack dealers)
  3. Rob Ford had his picture taken with two black men, one of whom may be Anthony Smith (though there isn’t any evidence of that either)
  4.  Rob Ford may have smoked crack (though, again, no evidence as yet)

I keep trying to reconcile these discrete bits of information & form some kind of coherent understanding of their relationship, but to be honest I just keep getting more & more confused & irritated. What do any of these speculations have to do with each other or the video? This is just shameless, irresponsible journalism which doesn’t even have enough respect for the readers’ intelligence to even pretend to try to make sense of the allegations & false allusions being made.

& to what does “that world” refer? The world of gun violence? But there’s no evidence of that. You even said there wasn’t any sound evidence. It certainly can’t refer to the world of crack dealing, because there’s no evidence that anyone in the photo is in any way connected to crack.

So what can she possibly mean? The only thing I can think of is, “that world” refers to “the world of black people, who are, as we all know, prone to drug dealing & gun violence.”

If anyone can give me a good argument demonstrating that the Star‘s publication of this picture wasn’t a blatanly racist attempt at tabloid-schlock journalism, I encourage him/her to do so.

You can listen to the complete interview I’ve cited here The stuff about the photo starts at 7:30.

 

Rob Ford Crack Scandal: Who gives a @#$%?

Part of the problem with, perhaps of, the way contemporary democracy functions is that because elections are mostly run by advertising agencies & PR firms (Obama’s 2008 campaign, for example, won two Grand Prix awards at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Awards), the focus of the media & therefore the public tends to be on personality rather than policy. This by now so obvious that I’m frankly embarrassed to reiterate it; it’s such a terrible cliché.

But given the recent “Rob Ford Crack Scandal” that bedights the Torontonian establishment media right now, I think it might be worth repeating. The bleeding of a politician’s personal foibles into the public sphere tends to cause a certain amount of confusion over what is actually important & relevant & worth reading about.

Here’s another cliché that might be worth remembering: the media are mostly owned by private corporations whose first obligation is to make money; TORSTAR, the corporation whose holdings include The Toronto Star, The Grid, & Metro (as well as the workpolis.com job listings site & the Harlequin romance imprimatur) is not an exception to this. So when the Star publishes a story claiming to have caught Toronto’s mayor smoking a crack pipe (begging certain questions w/r/t what, exactly, constitutes a crack pipe versus any other kind of pipe), I don’t think I can be blamed for reserving a certain amount of skepticism. Particularly since this story seems to be strangely unfettered by things like evidence; look, I encourage you, for actual facts (names, places, &c.) in the coverage of the story, & report back to me.

But okay, let’s suppose it were true. All of it, at its very worst: Rob Ford, sitting on an armchair, smoking crack & calling Justin Trudeau a fag. The question is: so who cares? Does the fact that Rob Ford smokes crack & uses homophobic language in anyway alter or affect the policies of which he’s a sponsor? What actual difference does this information make to the way you & I go about our lives in the city of Toronto?

If you think that drug use & prejudicial attitudes are rare qualities in politicians, I have to disabuse you of this notion. Winston Churchill was more-or-less a raving alcoholic & rumored cocaine & methamphetamine addict, who was known for saying some less-than-ecumenical things about minority groups. He was known, for instance, to affirm that “Aryan stock is bound to triumph,” & “I hate Indians. They are beastly people with a beastly religion.” (Of course, those who are aware of the origins of the Aryan race will find this an ironic apposition).

John F. Kennedy, a famous philanderer, was also a hard-core prescription drug-addict. Our own Sir John A. Macdonald? Alcoholic. Mackenzie King was known to regularly converse with his dead mother & receive political advice from “Pat,” his dog. As far as personal problems go, everybody’s favorite Liberal, Bill Clinton, has raped at least two women, for which he gets absolutely no flack whatsoever, & against which Ford’s alleged recreational drug use seems to wane apace.

But for us every day Torontonians, the real question we should be asking is: are we surprised? Is there anyone who didn’t think Ford was a latent homophobe, given his boycotting of the Pride parade? Is there someone who thinks that a clean & sober Rob Ford would be refusing to let Enbridge build pipelines through the city, would fund public transit, would ride a bicycle to work every day?

If Rob Ford smokes crack (again, there’s no evidence of this of any kind & no effort has yet been made to provide any), this is not what makes his policies moronic. His policies are moronic because he’s a moron. And there ain’t no rehab for that.