Completely dead space in the city

Fenced in.

This photo of a storefront in downtown Toronto shows completely dead space. The chainlink fencing was recently installed making it newly dead space. I’m sure there’s an urban planning term for this type of situation.

Since the coincidence of Covid-19 and a huge run up in local housing costs, Toronto’s city centre has entered a whole new era of “houselessness” and street life. Basically, Toronto now has an “underclass” in the style of a USA city. This fact is obscured somewhat by a policy of hoteling the houseless.

It’s safe to assume that this fencing is a response to the new social situation. This “Subway” location happens to be across the street from one of the hotels functioning as temporary housing for a bunch of people on the wrong end of things.

Presumably the property owner is entitled to fence in his or her property even if it’s effectively been part of the sidewalk over the long term and even if there are no entrances (or anything else) to enclose.

This particular example of dead space really draws the eye as it’s well lit, in a high trafficked area and features a window into a busy retail location. It’s like a glowing cube.

Toronto’s Miamification

Toronto is most often compared to New York though it has at least as much in common with less glamorous Great Lakes cities like Chicago. Toronto is also compared to London, Los Angeles (SoCal as a parallel for the GTA) and still other places (“Vienna surrounded by Pheonix” etc.).

But what about Toronto’s Miamification?

Toronto’s waterfront-condo skyline looks more like Miami’s than New York’s. The increasingly extreme contrast between Toronto’s ever taller, gleaming and prosperous waterfront strip and the stagnant and exploited areas of the inner suburbs is like Miami Beach vs. “the real Miami”.

Like Miami, Toronto is endlessly diverse but the diversity has certain polarities. Some groups are much more likely to be found in the city center and it’s high-status sites of social mixing. Toronto is only getting more diverse over time. This is handy in obscuring the steep verticality of its mosaic.

A preoccupation with elite mélange* as opposed to New York-style particularism or Canadian museum-multiculturalism is more like Miami. The old Toronto ethnic clichés are fading fast, what place do they have in the era of “Instagram face”?

Like in Miami, a balcony view including the waterfront is a status symbol and the resulting Instagram upload often includes a status-seeking someone in the foreground. In New York the skyline speaks for itself because it actually looks incredible, the ultimate Instagram-status.

Toronto’s development of a USA-style (now Canadian enough right?) underclass could equally be evidence of “Manhattanification” but the unaccounted for shock of this development has surely bypassed anything previously entertained.

Downtown Toronto’s strange, spotty, half-attempted purple-blue neon aesthetic (which, in fairness, makes sense as something to layer on top of Toronto’s varied greys for lack of any other good ideas) is Miami Vice.

Every summer the Toronto waterfront does its best Miami imitation. Queens Quay and Marine Parade Dr. stand in as Ocean Drive pantomimes. Toronto is home to a newly elevated boating trend at the level of youngish-culture (like almost everything else I’m talking about this is mocked in Toronto-memes: “If she posts this *picture of the front end of a small yacht* focus on yourself”).

The new conspicuous consumption that’s evident in Toronto is experienced alongside the new ambiance of crime. We’re a global headquarters for high level criminality, you can encounter “mob nights” fairly easily just walking around, we host global drug kingpins and untold money is laundered into Toronto.

A lot of this overall “vibe shift” has its material basis in the changed Toronto economy, including the run up in house prices and the low-key mania that has accompanied it. Some of the most incredible impacts of this and other related changes are psychological. And Miami just makes for a better fantasy than Toronto, doesn’t it?

*One prominent Toronto man remarking on local change referred to the “Toronto blend”.

John Duffy studies #3: Canadian Disagreements (technology, urban/rural and demographics)

  • Trudeau is trying to be the first “post-Laurentian Liberal”.
  • Laurentian elite: “The whispers in the common rooms at Queens, the easy murmurings at the Rideau Club, the things that happen in a cafeteria at the Place du Portage civil service benevolent society meeting” that way of doing business is gone.
  • Trudeau is out of that world/group.
  • That electoral coalition is out of his mind map. He is more attuned to young people and new Canadian communities.
  • We’re not even going back to the Martin coalition.
  • Trudeau: next, post, onward, forward.
  • A post-Laurentian world need not be a Conservative one.
  • Harper govt. operates with 21% of all men women and children, Harper governments never feel like a majority (they govern like they have to exert force and pressure in order to pass their agenda).
  • “The middle class hasn’t got a raise in 25/30 years”.
  • There’s great potential in the new supply chains for Canada’s traditional manufacturing communities to get back in the game (with support from governments).
  • The future could look like Japan where young people are working their hearts out to provide for the old. It’s not which Canada you want, it’s which Japan you want.
  • The question of energy and resources has become big since the 1970’s. We’re going to see more and more issues and political forms pertaining to energy.
  • This as opposed to the typical 20th century political divide over the role of govt. in the economy (socialism vs. capitalism).
  • “Technopolitics”: a clash between urban and rural. “Green” appeals to urban voters from progressive parties. Offerings to rural voters from conservatives put the environment on the back seat (Keystone, Gateway, drilling etc.). The vastness of the disagreement between urban and rural implies “the eclipse of the rural value system built around self-reliance”. It’s an argument about modernity.
  • A scientific/evidence basis for policy is a loose term that the Liberals are running with but it represents something much deeper. The regulation of biotech, the politics of science and technology, the vast explosion of tech etc. are an enormous challenge to our society relative to our tiny attention span.
  • Cites Shimon Peres: science/tech are fundamentally ungoverned and more important than politics. The young people are all about science/tech and you should become a scientist or entrepreneur if you really want to make a difference.
  • Politics is catching up one buzzword at a time.
  • On tech questions there tends to be a pro-producer and a pro-consumer viewpoint (GMO labeled on packaging for ex.). When it comes to technology a rural evangelical voter won’t necessarily take the pro-business, pro-producer argument.
  • It’s way more important how technology is governed vs. 2% more or less on whatever tax.
  • Andrew Coyne: It’s about technology understood as an existential question vs. lots of actually technological innovation (which isn’t happening).

John Duffy studies #2: Why You Can’t Build Anything in Canada Anymore

  • You can’t build big infrastructure like pipelines in Canada anymore.
  • It’s hard to get clear outcomes out of our federal-provincial system.
  • Canadians are allergic to politics, they don’t want decision makers to make decisions because they don’t trust them and they don’t believe in them.
  • We’re transitioning out of a Westminster-style cabinet government.
  • There’s centripetal force at the governance level like in the 1970’s.
  • Example: health data portability, data can’t travel easily across the country because there’s a complex set of rules and control is in the hands of regulators that aren’t accountable to the elected government, they’re accountable like a “watchdog” to parliament (more like ombudsman and auditors general) meaning voters have no control over them and politicians don’t want to take them on because these regulators are seen as above politics.
  • Something has gone wrong when watchdogs are regulating “markets that have value” like the movement of health data and the reason is we don’t like politicians.
  • The cry is “gotta take the politics out”, this is case in transit politics in southern Ontario for ex.
  • If you take this logic far enough it starts to look like Singapore or China (ie. rule by people that are technically skilled and unaccountable).
  • It has become harder for the democratic will of the people to be translated into government action.
  • Thinks feds are doing more to get commercializable R&D for Canadian companies, you can feel a greater emphasis on digital/data sovereignty (disagrees with Balsillie).
  • Trudeau has reduced poverty. Should get more credit.
  • The problem: huge challenges like “galloping requirements”, climate change catastrophe, the rise of AI and simultaneously we are hamstringing our governments.
  • Watchdogs, suspicion of politicians, alienation from political life are all creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where voters feel that the big issues that are shaping our world are out of control and by witholding their participation they are ensuring these changes will be out of control to the point “people won’t be able to shape their own lives, it’s an unfolding tragedy”.
  • Canada is not like Portugal or the Netherlands because needs are consistent in those countries.
  • Canada is a funny country to try and be progressive in because you have progressive urbanites sitting on top of an economy that doesn’t look very progressive (until you look at the extent of technology used in resource sectors).
  • Politicians arent trusted enough to broker anymore, brokerage politics used to be a Canadian ideal/trait.
  • Despite the Republicans overwhelming power in 2019 (state houses, congress, presidency, judges) they couldn’t really govern (for ex. they failed to undo Obamacare).
  • There’s a problem in terms of creating democratic consensus for moving things forward as global dynamics are pulling societies apart. Deligitimizing politicans is a part of the prob and we have to relegitimize them.


  • MHF: it’s “almost impossible to build anything”, politicians have been unwilling to lead, the less politicians lead the less trust they get. Example: Christy Clark’s pipeline conditions (she had no right, its unconstitutional), similar situation with Legault and Energy East.
  • There is no longer consistency from government to government.
  • SS: politics have become transactional and small.
  • SS: there’s been skills based change, more rewards for cognitive skills.
  • Balsillie: Trudeau govt. has not done innovation, its done cheap labour foreign owned tech branch plants.

John Duffy studies #1: Justin Trudeau and Canadian federal elections

Post-war elections in Canada and the UK

  • What’s the criteria for a significant election? Great fight, a big national policy question and evolution in the structure of how politics works
  • What is the 2021 44th election about? Trudeau compared it to the 1945 election.
  • King presented Canada with the foundations of a social welfare state pre-WW2 and then post-war asked “are we really going to do this stuff now?” This followed on from the social impacts of the Great Depression.
  • King’s Liberal govt. was returned and they implemented the social agenda (King and Louis St. Laurent).
  • In Britain Winston Churchill lost at the polls to Clement Atlee because voters didn’t believe Churchill would deliver social programs despite his claiming otherwise.
  • Britons had come to believe they were fighting for these social supports.

Election 44

  • Trudeau is claiming the policy subject of this election is social programs like childcare within a wider package responding to inequality.
  • The Conservative platform platform asserts that they don’t want to have institutions deliver childcare but rather give families cash and let them shop.
  • It is a significant election.
  • The Liberals are framing a “stay the course” ballot question and have been good at cementing this perception.
  • Liberals went from 3rd to 1st saying “Canada’s changed and the Conservatives have not changed with it.” (ie. Canada is socially liberal, progressive, values equity, action on climate change etc.) In response Canadians said “yeah that’s my Canada”.
  • Liberals have been running “choose your Canada” campaigns in recent years implying the modern Conservative party is alien to Canada (it’s more American).
  • In this election the Liberals are going to add vaccination as something “Canadians do” the (Liberals will do this fairly aggressively).
  • The Conservatives want to frame the election as an economic choice ie. the Liberals are incompetent and profligate and don’t really care for the sources of prosperity.
  • The NDP will be asking “Is Trudeau actually sincere, can you trust him?”

Federal elections in Canada

  • Geography is so key to Canada: historically the most typical governing coalition (by region) is Quebec and the Prairies with bits and pieces of elsewhere (extra context: Quebec and the Prairies vote more cohesively).
  • This coalition is defeated when it doesn’t vote cohesively and an alternative is put together with a more solid B.C., Ontario and Maritime vote.
  • The emergence of the Bloc since 1992 has taken Quebec mostly out the equation.
  • The second thing is urban growth. Canada used to be rural but now has very large cities and that’s where people are (“very large urban blobs”).
  • Urban places have voting patterns that are more like each other than traditional divides like language and region (downtown Calgary is more like downtown MTL than rural Alberta).
  • The battleground now is the suburbs (esp. far/new suburbs like Abbotsford, Milton and east of MTL).
  • Strong indicator: are Liberals winning urban seats in unfavourable regions? Calgary, Edmonton.
  • For Liberals it’s no longer a matter of regional pieces but playing the politics of urban denisty, “bringing together a national majority of urban and suburban dwellers”.
  • For the Conservatives in this election the effort is to hold back the Liberals in Ontario and B.C.
  • In 2006 Harper beat Martin on childcare. But Trudeau can say “did anything actually come of Harper’s childcare?” In this case Trudeau has deals with the provinces.
  • The vaccine wedge is very effective for Trudeau as Conservative insiders themselves say.


  • Vaccination and Covid-19 stupidity played into Trump’s defeat.
  • Canadian elections are decided on what happens domestically but you can get caught flat footed.
  • A big risk is appearing to be tone deaf, anyone can say “you’re being inappropriate”.
  • Debates can still be critical even given the social media equalizer.
  • Trudeau gave a bravura performance in the Munk debate. He won over the immediate and television audience (put Mulcair in the background and made Harper try a father knows best routine).
  • Horwath mailed in second 2018 debate performance and the NDP upward trajectory went flat (interviewer: Ford was able to say Horwath and Wynne are the same).
  • Strategists think about turnout more and more as the years go by because as the boomers retire and elder members die the notable propensity of older voters to vote Conservative gets leavened.
  • In 2015 boomers got balanced out as youth and First Nations actually turned out and voted in big numbers.
  • In this country everyone makes it easy to vote unlike the USA (voting is above politics, a matter of technocratic and bureaucratic management).
  • This election may well go down at policy-pivotal.
  • Climate change is an all-encompassing challenge and issue.

Ariel Levy on current day “sexiness” in Female Chauvinist Pigs

Quoted from pg. 29-31.

“If the rise of raunch seems counterintuitive because we hear so much about being in a conservative moment, it actually makes perfect sense when we think about it. Raunch culture is not essentially progressive, it is essentially commercial. By going to strip clubs and flashing on spring break and ogling our Olympians in Playboy, it’s not as though we are embracing something liberal-this isn’t Free Love. Raunch culture isn’t about opening our minds to the possibilities and mysteries of sexuality. It’s about endlessly reiterating one particular-and particularly commercial-shorthand for sexiness.

There is a disconnect between sexiness or hotness and sex itself. As Paris Hilton, the breathing embodiment of our current, prurient, collective fixations-blondeness, hotness, richness, anti-intellectualism-told Rolling Stone reporter Vanessa Grigoriadis, ‘my boyfriends always tell me I’m not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual.’ Any fourteen-year-old who has downloaded her sex tapes can tell you that Hilton looks excited when she is posing for the camera, bored when she is engaged in actual sex. (In one tape, Hilton took a cell phone call during intercourse.) She is the perfect sexual celebrity for this moment, because our interest is in the appearance of sexiness, not the existence of sexual pleasure. (Before Paris Hilton we had Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson to drool over: two shiny, waxy blondes who used to tell us over and over again that sex was something they sang about, not something they actually engaged in.)

Sex appeal has become a synecdoche for all appeal: People refer to a new restaurant or job as ‘sexy’ when they mean hip or powerful. A U.S. Army general was quoted in the The New Yorker regarding an air raid on the Taliban as saying ‘it was sexy stuff,’ for instance; the New York Times ran a piece on the energy industry subheadlined ‘After Enron, Deregulation is Looking Less Sexy.’ For something to be noteworthy is must be ‘sexy.’ Sexiness is no longer just about being aroused or alluring, it’s about being worthwhile.

Passion isn’t the point. The glossy, overheated thumping of sexuality in our culture is less about connection than consumption. Hotness has become our cultural currency, and a lot people spend a lot of time and a lot of regular, green currency trying to acquire it. Hotness is not the same thing as beauty, which has been valued throughout history. Hot can mean popular. Hot can mean talked about. But when it pertains to women, hot means two things in particular: fuckable and salable. The literal job criteria for our role models, the stars of the sex industry.”

Conservative Party of Canada MPs as “delegates”

Quoted from Tragedy in the Commons pg. 87-88.

Many of the MPs we interviewed described their roles in ways that corresponded to two classic but competing definitions of a political representative’s role: “trustees” and “delegates.” According to political theory, trustees are representatives who follow their own sense of the best action to pursue. A trustee believes she was elected by the public to use her own judgement to make a decision. Meanwhile, delegates are understood to be representatives who follow the expressed preferences of their constituents, regardless of their own personal opinion. On occasions when an MP’s judgement on a legislative matter differs from voter preference, assuming they can appropriately identify their constituents’ view, the trustee will vote according to her own judgment, while the delegate will allow voter preference to have the ultimate say.

Among parliamentarians from the Liberals, New Democrats or the Bloc Quebecois, no clear preference for the role of trustee or delegate emerged. Each of those parties had MPs in both groups, and in fact, many MPs straddled the categories.

Describing a classic trustee’s conception of the job, NDP Bill Blaikie said: “My job as an MP was to do the thinking and the listening at the committee hearings and the meetings-albeit out of certain perspective that I was up front about when I ran-and then to make judgments,” Blaikie said. “The people who voted for me don’t have the time to do all that. That is what I am paid to do. . . . [My constituents] will hold me accountable at elections and in between with their input with letters of criticism or support.” And Paddy Torsney, a former Liberal MP for Burlington, said, “I think my job was to provide leadership. Not just reflect the discussion, but also to lead the discussion. And I think that is where people get caught up in ‘No, my job is to do exactly what those people say.’ . . . No, you’re actually sending me there to think and bring more information back, too.”

The majority of Conservative MPs, in contrast, approached their roles as delegates. Loyola Hearn describes the job in terms very similar to the word’s definition. “[Voters] select you to be their representative in Ottawa, to speak for them, to vote on legislation and, in some cases, to develop legislation that they feel is wanted. Basically, to work [for their interests] and to deliver for them whatever benefits might flow,” Hearn said. “All of [the constituents] can’t be up there, so you’re the messenger. That’s the job you have. . . . You are the representative for the people in Ottawa, not Ottawa’s representative to the people.”

media: superficial introductory questions

What are media? Should that have read “what are mediums”? Is media a matter of “processing and conveying” information? What is the utility of studying media? Is to better equip oneself to “read and view intelligently?” Marshall McLuhan wouldn’t see these as the important questions, I’m fairly certain. But was he concerned with media impact on conciousness, social life or “service environments”? Or was McLuhan’s claim that mediums create their own environments? Cultural critics are concerned with media impact on culture. For this reason they tended to disdain the mass media, at least at one time. But what is culture? Is culture everything? Or is culture the aesthetic-intellectual element of human expression? What is the distinction between information and art? Is there one?

Macron, the gilets jaunes, roundabouts, and French politics (Charles Devellennes)

  • Macron represents a new era of French politics, for one thing the streets are reacting differently.
  • Hollande tried for normalcy but that era has passed.
  • “Macronades” are little sayings that Macron has become famous for (ex. telling an unemployed man “you only need to cross the street to find a job”).
  • Macron is very stubborn but the gilets jaunes forced his hand.
  • The gilets jaunes were the only political force to successfully get Macron to increase social welfare spending.
  • The center right and center left parties have completely collapsed. Macron has taken more upscale voters from both.
  • Macron is really despised by a lot of people. One reason is repressive police violence. He also pushes through reforms without consultation.
  • He is perceived as a right-wing president.
  • No political party has captured the gilets jaunes movement, they have intentionally evaded this in any event.
  • There was a gilets jaunes party in the 2019 european elections but it completely flopped.
  • In the first round of presidential voting younger voters went for Mélenchon, the middle aged favoured Le Pen and Macron won the old.
  • Macron’s base has changed, the wealthy and retired have flocked to him over time. He passed a tax break for the richest.
  • Le Pen has support in rural and peri-urban areas, places outside of big metros where you need a car to get to work (the gilets jaunes protest was sparked by a carbon tax policy).
  • There is a diagonal of these communities that crosses France (low pop. density).
  • Le Pen is first for working class voters. That said, the working class tends to abstain from voting.
  • Many working class non-voters are those who have distanced from the left but haven’t been taken in by Le Pen.
  • The France of roundabouts, edges of cities, big box supermarkets etc. is the key locus of gilet jaunes type French. They tend to live in still further outlying areas and are small property owners.
  • French villages have lost needed amenities like little shops so locals have to go to big box stores via the roundabouts.
  • Macron has framed French politics as “it’s me or the fascists”.
  • A Macron reform made the “state of exception” permanent in French law so his self-assertion as the candidate of democracy is disingenuous.
  • Le Pen’s platform was surprisingly boring.
  • There’s been a far-right candidate in 3/5 of last French presidential elections (final vote).
  • Macron claimed to be “at the same time” left and right.
  • Since 2002 the left end of the French political spectrum has coalesced around anti-fascism (against the National Front, now the National Rally).

Bonus: Quentin Letts on suburban roundabouts in the UK

Mini roundabouts are suburban, bossy little objects. They are imposed on us from on high, ostensibly for our own good (but just as possibly because they create work for consultants). Their introduction involves great cost and prolonged upheaval at the end of which you are left with a small lump, little bigger than an upturned saucer, on the Queen’s highway.

Be not deceived. Mini roundabouts are a menace. They are an aesthetic blot. They kill the spirit of the road. And they cause car sickness, as the pongy interior of many a family hatchback will confirm.

They were invented by a 1960s’ Ministry of Transport boffin, Frank Blackmore. It may seem harsh to include Mr Blackmore in this sort of book. He was only doing his job. He was maybe even ‘acting under orders’, as the saying goes. But life is a merciless business.

Blackmore created a monster, as anyone who has visited Swindon’s ‘Magic Roundabout junction roundabouts all stuck together – will agree. The mini roundabout – a moonscape of mini has run amok. Mini roundabouts have replaced ancient crossroads, once site of the gibbet and the wind-gnarled oak, more recently a place of sporting judgement. At crossroads you had to time your leap, gun your engine, make tyres squeal. We could not all be Nigel Mansell but we could at least get the adrenaline pumping by darting out in front of an oncoming juggernaut. Why should only Mr Toad have some fun at the wheel?

At a crossroads, moreover, you have a sense of one road being senior to another. Should the busy A road not have priority over the piddling country lane? Not at a mini roundabout it doesn’t. Heavy traffic has to screech to a halt for even Mini roundabouts are the very opposite of democratic. They are the many bending to the few.

A Shopping Mall’s Live Drive-Thru Zoom Play (media and marketing case study)

This shopping mall staged an interactive drive-thru play on Zoom, the perfect pandemic era promotional event. It’s a cool media and marketing vignette.

Drive-Thru Murder Mystery on Zoom

“Since the health department allowed drive-ins, OTC created a Zoom ‘Dinner and a Murder’ event. Taking the basic drive-in concept up a notch, its duo of Janet Jerde (director) and Paige Jeschke (marketing manager) collaborated with The Murder Mystery Company of Michigan to develop a script and hired a dozen actors from across the country to perform the whodunit live online, with the intrigue coming to center viewers on-site on a 41-foot screen erected in the parking lot. That’s just part of the hair-raising story.

Guests who had pre-purchased their tickets could roll up to the center and park in front of the screen, order food and drinks from tenants restaurants, and then ease back into their seats, watch the action unfold, and try to solve the murder like investigators on a stakeout. According to OTC’s team, it communicated with the actors via Zoom while those present really got into the event’s theme and actively participated when prompted by honking their horns, flashing their car lights, using their blinkers, and texting the team who they thought had murdered the ‘movie’ victim, millionaire Sal Fie (get it?). The supporting tech gave the guests the impression that they were interacting with the actors directly, even though the OTC team was the intermediary-the performers could actually call out specific cars, incorporate team names that were texted in, and ‘see’ drivers react when they thought one of the suspects wasn’t telling the truth. “