We know why Rob Ford lies. What’s everyone else’s excuse?

For a variety of reasons, we can expect Rob Ford to deny, lie, and obfuscate. Whether it’s guilt, or addiction, or stubbornness,  the pattern is clear: Deny. Eventually apologize. Attempt to move on. Repeat.

But the Mayor, as many have pointed out, is just one man, with one vote at city council. While his flaws, both political and personal, have been well documented, he’s rarely lacked political support. Some city councillors have abandoned his bullying, ignorant leadership, but he’s maintained support from plenty of politicians who have spent so much time looking the other way it’s a wonder they can still move their necks.

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Spooky Songs for Ghouls & Ghosts: A Hallowe’en Playlist

It’s almost Hallowe’en. Truthfully, I listen to weird and spooky music for most of the year, but only occasionally does this become socially acceptable.

  • Yes, there are two Nick Cave songs. Normally, I would consider this to be cheating, but he has an entire album about murder, so I think it’s fair game.
  • Many of these, particularly in the back half, are quite long. This Dust Makes That Mud goes on for about 30 minutes, and is menacingly hypnotic at a certain point. Turn it up properly loud, then be scared when it stops.
  • Too long for the list was Boris’ Absolutego, which is an hour of brooding, terrifying drone. Etna is a nice substitute, I think.
  • Monster Mash was the first dance song at my wedding. I am terribly sentimental.

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Regular People Doing Regular Things on Bikes

Do you wear regular clothes?

Yes, I know: That’s a meaningless question. You’d expect a person’s wardrobe to vary based on their job, their leisure activities, and their personal style. 

But this sort of question seems to be a thing among certain cycling circles these days. There is, understandably, and attempt to normalize urban cycling, to depict it as a regular thing people do to get to work or buy groceries, instead of a fringe activity indulged in by crazed bicycle couriers and die-hard athletes in branded lycra. And I get it: There are a lot of stereotypes about cyclists, and combatting them is an important part of building safe infrastructure and letting cars & bikes get along on the streets.

But increasingly, this argument seems to take an elitist, judgemental tone; in seeking to make cycling mainstream, it attempts to mainstream all cyclists.

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Breaking Bad’s finale is neat, clean, and tidy. And that’s bad.

Remember Heisenberg?

Before the name was borrowed by everyone’s favourite meth-dealing alter-ego, it belonged to Werner Heisenberg, a German Nobel-prize-winning physicist. My knowledge of science stopped expanding in grade 12, so I can’t possibly explain his contributions to science, but he’s largely known for the uncertainty principle. Loosely speaking, it says that when you try to measure something, you affect that thing, possibly in ways you can’t expect.

Breaking Bad has been largely defined by its attention to unforeseen, or unforeseeable, consequences. It’s most obvious in season two, where the death of an addict results in an airplane crash, but it shows up repeatedly: Walt tries to gas the drug dealers who plan to kill him, but ends up with a prisoner in Jesse’s basement. Skyler only wants to frighten Ted Beneke, but puts him in the hospital instead. Walt and his gang can execute a flawless train robbery, but it all goes to hell when a kid on a dirtbike shows up. Most of the major conflicts of the series arise from Walt thinking he can work with – even control – men like Tuco, Gus, and Uncle Jack, only to see things spiral out of control.

If there were a moral to Breaking Bad, it would surely  be something about hubris; references to Ozymandias were not coincidental. But to reduce the series and its protagonist to a moral lesson is simplistic, and beside the point. Instead, let’s say that Breaking Bad had a principle, and that principle was uncertainty; that real life, real human beings, are messy and unpredictable, and that the more you try to exert control, the faster you lose it. And that in its final episode, it threw aside the principle it had worked so hard to define in an attempt to tie everything up.

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Walter White and the No-Good, Very Bad Nazis

Beware: Spoilers for everything up until the final episode of Breaking Bad.

Todd VanDerWerff wrote a great piece at Grantland comparing the trajectories of Dexter and Breaking Bad. The main point is that Dexter has always avoided making its protagonist the bad guy. Yes, he’s a serial killer, but a) he only kills bad people, and b) he’s a lovable, cuddly guy when he’s not murdering people.

VanDerWerff cites the end of season 2 as the defining moment: After pitting Dexter against the suspicious and driven Sgt. Doakes, the show had two choices: Dexter would be exposed as a murderer and caught, or Doakes – who was essentially a decent guy, despite being a tremendous asshole – had to die. Doakes died, but not at the hands of Dexter, handily absolving the protagonist of breaking his code and killing someone who wasn’t a horrible murderer and/or rapist.

For the first two seasons, Dexter had a real sense of danger: This was a man who needed to kill, who enjoyed killing, even if he tried to abide by a code. While the series has had a few high points since then, the tone has been markedly different: Dexter is the good guy. The audience will always be on Dexter’s side.

This is in stark contrast to Breaking Bad, where Walter White has done some truly fucking terrible things. There’s always an element of justification for his crimes – protecting his family, or simple self-preservation – but they’ve consistently been diluted by greed, entitlement, and anger. No one could fault Walt for killing Crazy 8, who certainly would have killed him if the tables were turned. But what about Jane? Or Mike?

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TIFF picks: Discovery

The Discovery programme is a place for taking chances at the festival. With its spotlight on new directors, you never quite know what to expect. Granted, that can go for anything you see, whether at the festival or elsewhere. With a few exceptions, there are few stars or big names in attendance. There are, however, some damn good films, and some filmmakers who may be a big deal in a few short years.

The best thing I can say about Discovery is if something looks good, go for it. Continue reading →

A Brief TIFF Survival Guide

I’ve been attending the Toronto International Film Festival, to some extent, for the past ten years. I started buying just a couple tickets at a time, then moved up to 10-ticket packages, and have spent the last few years seeing around 40 a week at the festival.  If you love movies, there’s absolutely nothing better than this: Watch movies from around the world, see movie stars and directors and writers, spend an entire week getting no sleep or proper nutrition.

The Festival can seem glitzy and intimidating from the outside, but isn’t nearly so terrifying from the inside. Here are a few pointers I’ve learned over the years:

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