Dwayne Gretzky Do The '90s — And We're Giving Away Tickets!

This Friday night, Toronto’s greatest super-group cover-band named in honour of a hockey player (sorry Bobby Roar) will be taking the stage at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Hot off a successful residency at the Horseshoe — where they played sets full of Beatles tunes, love songs, and the entirely of The Band’s Last Waltz among other things — this time around, they’ll be playing hits from the 1990s. Big Shiny Dwayne. You can find the details on Facebook.

As you might expect, something this awesome will soon be sold out, but fear not: thanks to our friends at the Young Lions Music Club, The Little Red Umbrella has a pair of tickets to give away. For a chance to win them, just follow us on Twitter @LittleRedU and tweet us with your favourite song from the first volume of Big Shiny Tunes. We’ll pick the winner at random from all the entries we get by 5pm tomorrow (Wednesday, April 16) noon on Thursday, April 17 and — should you be the lucky follower — we’ll get at you with the deets.

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Stephen Harper's War On Free & Fair Elections

"The jackasses at Elections Canada are out of control." Stephen Harper wrote that sentence back in 2001. This was in the days before he was the leader of the Reform Party. He was fundraising for the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative lobby group. At the time, he was pissed off that Elections Canada was enforcing a law banning the publication of election results before all the polls closed. But his anger at Elections Canada extends far beyond that. One Conservative who worked with him at the time claims that Harper's hatred for election officials is a "never-ending" "blood feud".

Of course, in truth, Elections Canada is one of the most respected electoral bodies in the entire world. They're the people who ensure that Canadian elections are free and fair. In fact, they're so good at it that they get asked to send observers to other countries — places like Iraq, Haiti and Afghanistan — to make sure their elections are free and fair, too. But to Stephen Harper — a Prime Minster vindictive enough to compile an "enemy list" and brand those who disagree with him on environmental policy as "radicals" and "terrorists" — Elections Canada officials are simply out to get him.

So maybe it's not all that surprising that the Conservatives have been breaking election laws ever since the beginning of Harper's rule. In the election that brought him to power, they illegally transferred money to and from local campaigns so they could get around spending limits. Candidates who refused to break the law say they were punished by the party.

More recently, a polling firm hired by the Conservatives made phone calls to voters in a Québec riding held by a Liberal MP, Irwin Cotler. According to the Toronto Star, "The company’s callers suggested to constituents — falsely — that Cotler either had or was about to quit as the Liberal MP for Mount Royal" and asked if they would vote for Harper in the "upcoming election." But Cotler was not resigning; there was no upcoming by-election. However, there's no law against misleading voters about make-believe elections (unless there's concrete evidence a political party was directly responsible), so Elections Canada couldn't do anything about it. Even the conservative National Post ran editorials accusing the Conservative Party of "arrogance and hyper-partisanship."

But the Conservatives haven't shown much regret. When Nick Kouvalis, a partner in the polling firm responsible for the phone calls (he's also the guy who ran Rob Ford's campaign and has now signed on with John Tory) was asked about it, he wasn't exactly apologetic. "We're in the business of getting Conservatives elected and ending Liberal careers," he boasted. "We're good at it."

Nick Kouvalis
In fact, Kouvalis has co-founded a training school for Conservative campaign managers. They bring together people like Harper's ex-Chief of Staff, Conservative pollsters and Sun Media executives to teach those same very techniques. In 2010, a professor from the University of Victoria (a member of the Order of Canada) attended a session. He was appalled by what he saw. In one Q&A (which he stressed Kouvalis wasn't there for), Conservatives openly discussed ways to make sure Liberal and NDP supporters didn't get out to vote. That included pretending to be from one of those parties while making rude phone calls. "Instructors made it clear that robo-calling and voter suppression were an acceptable and normal part of winning political campaigns," he said. ""[T]he mood of the meeting was that this is war and that anything goes".

In the last federal election, Conservatives seem to have used those techniques more often than ever before. Thousands of voters received misleading phone calls on election day. Automated messages targeting non-Conservative voters told them the location of their poll had changed. The robocalls were reported in the vast majority of the ridings in Canada (247 of 308). In one riding alone, hundreds of people showed up at the wrong location. In some ridings where the calls occurred, the Conservatives only won by a few hundred votes. The calls have been traced back to a strictly-controlled Conservative Party database and the company whose system was used to make the calls, RackNine, held an exclusive contract with the Conservatives.

And it wasn't just robocalls and fake polling locations. Calls from live operators were also made. People working at one call centre say they were told to present misinformation about polling locations and to falsely identify themselves as Elections Canada employees. Another message was recorded, pretending to be from the Liberal Party, to be sent in the middle of the night in order annoy voters. It wasn't used, but others were: voters say they received late night phone calls claiming to be from the Liberal Party, along with rude phone calls, phone calls made to Jewish voters on the sabbath and phone calls made using racist accents. 

Even Preston Manning, founder of the Reform Party, called the voter suppression tactics "deplorable".

When Elections Canada began to investigate the fraud, the Conservatives dragged their feet. Party workers were told not to speak publicly about the issue. Witnesses refused to be interviewed. The head of Elections Canada said he wasn't getting the help he needed from the government. (So far, only one campaign worker has been charged — and he claims he's being used as a scapegoat by powerful members of the Conservative party.) When private citizens took the matter to court, the Conservatives tried everything they could to kill the case. According to the federal judge who heard it, Conservative MPs "engaged in trench warfare in an effort to prevent this case from coming to a hearing on the merits... the stance taken by the respondent MPs from the outset was to block these proceedings by any means...'" The judge found that fraud had occurred, that the Conservative database was the most likely source, and that the fraud was serious enough that he would have to overturn the election results if there were concrete proof of the party's involvement.

Then, the Conservative MPs sued the citizens for more than $350,000 dollars.

The House of Commons
In response to the scandal, the House of Commons voted unanimously (238-0) in favour of a motion asking Prime Minister Harper to give Elections Canada more power to investigate the fraud. MPs asked the Prime Minister to move quickly — they wanted him to introduce a bill ensuring the next Canadian election would truly be free and fair, without the widespread fraud of the 2011 election.

That was two years ago. The Conservatives have now finally introduced a bill to change the election laws in Canada. But instead of giving Elections Canada more power to investigate fraud, it gives Elections Canada less power to investigate fraud. They've given the bill the Orwellian name of the "Fair Elections Act."

By all accounts, there are a few things to like about the bill. It creates a registry for robocalls. It will now be against the law to impersonate an elections official. But it creates more problems than it solves. Critics have raised deeply disturbing questions about what the new laws will mean when voters next go to the polls in 2015 — questions that suggest the Harper government is trying to rig future federal elections in favour of the Conservative Party.

No less of an authority than Sheila Fraser, the former Auditor General who uncovered the sponsorship scandal, calls the bill "an attack on our democracy".

Here are just 12 of the most serious concerns:

1. The "Fair Elections Act" makes it harder to vote:

Voters will no longer be able to have other people vouch for them as a form of ID. About 120,000 people used vouching as a method of identification when they voted in the last election. According to the head of Elections Canada, the "Fair Elections Act" means that many of those people "will be denied the right to vote" in the next election "even though they are citizens, qualified and perfectly legitimate." The change may very well be unconstitutional. Critics suggest the move targets Canadians who are less likely to vote Conservative: for instance, "people without fixed addresses, such as students, the poor and aboriginals".

The Conservatives claim they're trying to crack down on fraud by individual voters, but the report they keep citing doesn't present any evidence of fraud by any individual voters. The author of the report told the Canadian Press, "I never said there was voter fraud. Nor did the Supreme Court, who looked at this extremely carefully... The argument doesn't have any logical, factual grounding..." According to the CBC, he says "the government's efforts to prevent voter fraud are aimed at a non-existent problem." During a debate in the House of Commons, one Conservative MP claimed that he had personally witnessed voter fraud. Later, he admitted that wasn't the truth.

In fact, the report the Conservatives keep citing actually recommends making it easier to vote, not harder. It suggests that in addition to vouching, voters should also be allowed to use the voter cards sent to them by Elections Canada as a form of ID, which was introduced as a pilot project during the last election. Instead, the "Fair Elections Act" will kill that program entirely.

A good thing
2. The "Fair Elections Act" makes it illegal for Elections Canada to encourage voting:

The Elections Act currently gives the Elections Officer the ability to promote Canadian democracy by encouraging people to vote, especially "persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights." The Conservatives are getting rid of that provision. It will now be illegal for Elections Canada to encourage voting, despite the fact that in recent elections voter turnout has reached historic lows.

The Conservatives claim that's why they're making it illegal: because it's not helping. But studies show that non-partisan get-out-the-vote campaigns like the ones by Elections Canada do help to increase voter turnout. Without them, turnout might be even lower.

Once again, critics suggest the new law is meant to keep people who don't vote for the Conservatives away from the polls. As the National Post reports, "Elections Canada's own data shows that youth... are likely to be on the losing end if it is forced to cancel programs promoting civic engagement."

According to the Elections Officer, Canada will be breaking new ground in the muzzling of its own election officials. "I’m not aware of any electoral bodies around the world who cannot talk about democracy," he told the CBC.

3. The "Fair Elections Act" makes it illegal for Elections Canada to tell Canadians when election fraud has occurred or an investigation is underway:

The same part of the bill that makes it illegal for Elections Canada to encourage people to vote also restricts what the officials can tell the public: they will only be allowed to share basic information, like where to vote. Critics point out that it will now be illegal for Elections Canada to blow the whistle and publicly warn Canadians when they believe elections fraud — like the Conservative robocalls scandal — has occurred.

One former Elections Canada lawyer believes that Harper's law may, in fact, keep investigators from ever being able to tell Canadians what they've discovered during the robocalls investigation.

Meanwhile, when there is an investigation into election fraud underway, Elections Canada won't be able to tell anyone without the consent of the people they're investigating. If a political party is being accused of election fraud and they don't want to the public to know about it, Canadian election officials won't be able to tell them.

4. But they would  have to tell the person they're investigating:

While Elections Canada won't be able to alert Canadians when an investigation is under way, the "Fair Elections Act" will force them to alert the person they suspect of committing fraud. So, anyone who commits election fraud on behalf of a political party will be warned when an investigation begins, potentially giving them the chance to cover their tracks and hide the evidence.

5. Election officials will need the government's permission to investigate the government:

Under the proposed law, if election officials suspect the government has committed election fraud, they will have to get the government's permission to investigate. In the past, Elections Canada has been able to hire the RCMP or retired police officers as "consultants" to conduct investigations. Now, they will need the approval of a cabinet minister — the president of the Treasury Board — to hire those investigators. 

6. The Commissioner of Elections will answer to the party in power instead of to parliament:

In the past, the Commissioner of Elections — the person responsible for investigating and prosecuting  elections fraud — has been part of Elections Canada. They're appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, who answers to Parliament. And so, fraud investigations are ultimately overseen by all of the MPs elected by all Canadians.

The "Fair Elections Act" will change that. The Commissioner will now be appointed by a civil servant and will be accountable to one of the government's own cabinet ministers (the Attorney General). So they won't answer to the entire Canadian Parliament, but instead to the party in power. 

7. It will take longer to punish politicians who break the rules:

If, after all of this, a Member of Parliament is actually found to have violated election laws, the "Fair Elections Act" will allow them to delay the time of their punishment. In the past, they've run the risk of being declared ineligible to sit in the House relatively quickly; now, MPs will be able to stay in Parliament while they appeal the ruling. That can take years. According to Canada.com, "critics say some MPs could break the rules getting elected and then drag out lawsuits to hold their seats."

8. The "Fair Elections Act" won't fix the robocalls problem:

As the Ottawa Citizen points out, the Conservatives' new law would do nothing to fix the problem the act was supposed to fix: "nothing in the Bill would hold a political party to account for the unauthorized use of its database by those who have access to it." Andrew Coyne agrees in the National Post: "Frustrated by the slow progress of the investigation into the robocalls scandal the chief electoral officer had asked for greater powers... The act gives him none of these, responding instead by hemming in the powers of investigators on all sides..."

9. The "Fair Elections Act" will increase campaign spending and the maximum donation limit:

In recent elections, there have been strict limits on the amount of money political parties can spend on their campaigns — including the money they spend on fundraising, which is a big part of the current expense. The "Fair Elections Act" would raise the limit by 5%. And it would exempt fundraising from the total: parties will be able to contact anyone who has given them money in the past (at least $20 in the last five years) without having to count it. That way, they will be able to spend millions of extra dollars on their campaigns. As it stands now, that would give the Conservatives an advantage since they raise more money than the other parties.

Not only that: according to the Times Colonist, it's unclear how Elections Canada would even be able to enforce the new rule. Political parties aren't forced to disclose the names of people who give them less than $200 — so there's no way of knowing who falls under the $20-over-five-years rule and who doesn't. In fact, the Chief Electoral Officer "has repeatedly asked for that power but the new bill does not offer it."

The "Fair Elections Act" will also allow wealthy donors to contribute more money to political campaigns. The limit on private donations will go up by 25% — from $1200 to $1500. And it will also allow donors to donate more often. This, too, seems designed to give the Conservatives an advantage: they currently receive more donations in the maximum amount than the other parties do. 

10. But it won't oversee the parties' elections spending:

Local candidates in federal elections are forced to file public reports about the money they spend. But according to Canada.com, the money spent by the national political parties — which is a much bigger budget — isn't subject to much public scrutiny at all. In fact, the head of Elections Canada points out that federal parties still won't be required to submit any invoices or receipts in order to prove their claims are accurate.

11. It will be harder for new candidates and independent candidates to seek office:

As the CBC points out, the changes to the spending cap would also hurt independent candidates — as well as any candidates with a new political party. While preexisting parties will have preexisting donors to contact, new parties won't. "Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand warned that such an exemption could raise questions about ensuring a 'fair, level playing field' for all electoral contenders... A new party coming in, new candidates coming in would not likely have any contributors from the past, so immediately, they face a gap..."

Independent candidates would also face another disadvantage: while political parties can spend money at any time, independents will only be able to spend money once an election has been called and the candidate has been officially registered.

Pool supervisor, very different thing
12. Political parties will get to appoint poll supervisors:

In the past, poll supervisors in all ridings have been appointed by Elections Canada. The "Fair Elections Act" would make it so that the party who won the riding in the last election will get to pick the poll supervisor for the next one.

"It's completely inappropriate in a democracy," says the expert who wrote the report the Conservatives keep citing (he's the former chief electoral officer of British Colombia). In fact, his report recommends that political parties have less input into the staff at polling stations, not more. He says that most errors at polling stations are already made for partisans reasons and the "Fair Elections Act" could make it worse. In his words, it could "tilt the balance" of the election.

So, at very least, the "Fair Elections Act" clearly raises some serious questions that need to be thoroughly discussed and debated. In fact, in the past, when Canadian governments have changed election rules, they have traditionally consulted very closely with the public, the other parties and the experts at Elections Canada. It makes sense that everyone should agree that Canadian elections are truly free and fair.

But this time, the Conservatives haven't consulted with anyone. According to the CBC, the Chief Electoral Officer has complained that "he wasn't consulted before the bill was drafted, and asked why there was no consultation with Canadians before the bill was tabled." Instead of giving Canadians time to explore the new rules, the Conservatives have been ramming the bill through Parliament as quickly as possible. They cut off debate in the House of Commons. Then, they tried to cut off the debate in Committee, too — ending the meeting right in the middle of an answer to a question by the NDP. And they scheduled votes in the House of Commons for exactly the same time the Chief Electoral Officer was scheduled to give his presentation to a House of Commons committee (though he was eventually given his time to speak).

Even Stephen Harper thinks Stephen Harper's methods are undemocratic. Back in 1996, when the Liberals were in power, he argued that "using time allocation for electoral law, doing it quickly and without the consent of the other political parties is the kind of dangerous application of electoral practices that we are more likely to find in third-world countries."

In the face of overwhelming public opposition, the Conservatives have said they might be open to the possibility of changing some of the most controversial aspects of the bill. But instead of acting upon that suggestion, they've doubled-down, making personal attacks on the head of Elections Canada, claiming he wants more power — the very thing parliament unanimously agreed he should be given.

This all certainly makes it seems as if the Harper government is using its power to rig the next election in its own favour — and to settle old scores with Elections Canada. As John Ivison writes in the National Post, "The Harper government has no concept of magnanimity — the Prime Minister and his entourage are apparently unable to forgive an insult or injury; seemingly incapable of acting without vindictiveness." Andrew Coyne echoes him in his own column: "it fits with the broader Conservative theme, heavily reinforced to its own supporters, that Elections Canada is just another of the seemingly limitless list of agencies, institutions and organizations that are out to get them." Even Harper's own former Communications Director calls the bill an act of "vengeance".

As a result, according to a recent Angus-Reid poll, nearly two thirds of Canadians believe the Conservatives are using the "Fair Elections Act" to settle scores with Elections Canada. The percentage is even higher among those who are familiar with the bill.

So when Canadians go to the polls in 2015, it may very well be that everyone except the Conservative Party agrees: Canadian elections are no longer truly free and fair.


Read about Stephen Harper's War on Science here

 Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

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Meet The Band: Dark Mean

"That's always hard," Sandy Johnston admits when we ask how his band, Dark Mean, describe their music. "We have so many influences (from so many genres) that it never feels right to compare ourselves to one band or another. I tend to use words like indie, folk, ambient, post-rock and if I absolutely must give a reference I'll go with something like Bright Eyes meets Sigur Ros meets Death Cab for Cutie meets Fleetwood Mac meets The National meets Buck 65 meets Bon Iver meets Wilco."

The Hamilton trio have been "effectively hibernating" since their self-titled debut earned loads of praise back in 2011. Now, they're back with their sophomore effort: an EP called Samuel The Phoenix, which puts their big, wide indie-folk sound on full display again. Produced by Michael Keire (who has also worked with the likes of Wildlife and fellow Hamiltonians The Dirty Nil), the four songs are the kind of music you can imagine on the soundtrack to a wide-eyed coming-of-age film. So maybe it's not a coincidence that Dark Mean can count Perks of Being A Wallflower author/director Stephen Chbosky among their fans.

The band isn't planning a tour in support of the album, but we caught up with Johnston to ask him a few questions in the wake of the release. You can stream the full record below, watch three of their videos, and find links to more of the band's stuff.


Members: Mark Dean, Billy Holmes, and Sandy Johnston

Hometown: Hamilton


1. If you could play one venue you've never played before, what would it be?

Massey Hall

2. Say, for some strange reason, all the music in the world is going to be destroyed, but you can save all the songs from one decade. Which decade's records would you save?

Love this question. I could probably contemplate my answer for a really long time but for now I'll go with the '70s. I can survive on Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, The Band, Beatles, Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and early Bruce Springsteen records from that decade forever.

3. Who, in your opinion, has/had the best facial hair of any band ever?

Pretty hard to argue with ZZ Top.

4. What was the first record you ever bought? When was the last time you listened to it?

I couldn't afford records when I started listening to music so had to rely on hand-me-downs and presents. The first record I ever owned was Vanilla Ice — To the Extreme. The last time I listened to it was the day I got my next record, AC/DC Live.

5. If you were going to be a roadie for one band, who would it be?

Past or present? Past = The Band. Present = Bruce Springsteen.




Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

Meet The Band is a regular feature where we introduce you to bands we like.

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In Defence of the How I Met Your Mother Finale by Christina Ivanowich & Matt Ivanowich

*SPOILER ALERT!* The final episodes of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother aired this week, and the reaction of many fans and critics has been... dramatic. Some Twitter users claimed their lives were over, the last nine years of their lives were a waste, and that the show’s writers had betrayed them. Apparently, by having Ted end up with Robin, many feel that the final episode wasn’t true to the story or the characters. To these people I say: What show were you watching? I seem to be in the minority, but I believe that the finale of HIMYM was moving, romantic, honest and really great.

If you were a fan of the show, then you already know the set-up: it opens in 2030 with Ted telling his children that he is going to tell them the amazing love story of how he met their mother. Only, the first episode, and the proceeding 8 years, is instead about how Ted meets and falls in love with Robin. Robin is presented as the focus of Ted’s affections, and their relationship frames the entire show. It’s no accident that Ted’s Amazing Love Story™ begins on the day that he meets Robin. Ted had other loves in his life before Robin (e.g., Karen), and Ted had been living his life in New York for a while already, but that’s not where he begins his story. For Ted, the story begins (and ultimately ends) with Robin.

In the final moments of Season 8, we finally saw the titular Mother. Played by Cristin Milioti, Tracy is cute and sweet and funny, she likes coins and Renaissance Faires and plays the bass, and is all around the perfect culmination of all the things Ted wants in a woman. I honestly didn’t expect the show to be able to introduce the character so late in the story and still make me care about her, but they really did. (Indeed, the mother’s likability is a testament to the (sporadically) great writing and great characters that Bays and Thomas bring to the show, and their inherent ability to make us truly love and care about their characters.) And when we see through flash-forwards that she gets sick and eventually dies in 2024, it’s very tough to watch, knowing that Ted will lose her.

But, that’s not the story that the show has been telling. It’s not about how Ted put aside his love for Robin and stayed with Tracy forever. All the title promises the audience is that he will meet their mother, not that things are perfect or even that they stay together, just that they meet. In the episode “How Your Mother Met Me” (ep. 916), we see Tracy’s backstory and learn that she had a man in her life that she loved who died when she was 21, which left her believing that she’d had her great love and there was no one else for her. It’s another 8 years before she meets Ted, and they fall in love. There is a touching speech in the last few minutes where Ted describes his commitment to loving Tracy completely forever, and it is clear that he did, and still does. So when she dies, Ted spends the next 6 years raising their children, and over time, comes to realize that he has feelings for Robin again. And so he tells his now teenage children the story of how he met their mother, which is actually the story of how he loved and lost Robin, in a veiled attempt to gage how they would react to him asking her out. This is the real story the show has been telling us for years – that while he loved Tracy, Ted also loves Robin.

I think the negative reaction to the finale can be traced directly to Ted and Robin Fatigue: we’re all just kind of sick of hearing about it! Over the last few years, Ted has gone from charming romantic to desperate loser, as he professes his love for Robin again and again, and she repeatedly turns him down. But Ted’s love for Robin (and her on-again/off-again love for Ted) is undeniably a constant in the show. It comes up in every single one of his major relationships, it’s been addressed in every season of the show (increasingly so in the last two seasons). Robin is inescapably the center of Ted’s story. Everything—including their collective failed relationships—revolves around the Ted-Robin dynamic. In that sense, the finale truly validates Ted and Robin’s on/off love affair. In fact, had the show ended “under the yellow umbrella”, it would have invalidated much of what had transpired over the last several seasons. The last scene perfectly complements the rest of the series because knowing that Ted will eventually be with Robin again makes his desperate pining for her seem much less sad.

If I have a complaint about the finale it is here, because the last episode simply doesn’t give the audience enough of a reason to believe that when 52 year old Ted shows up at Robin’s window with a blue French horn, that things will be any different than the last 6 times he told her he loves her. Their problem is often one of timing. But she smiled, and the audience (and Ted) have hope.

Admitted, the finale is not without its issues. One of the biggest problems is that it bites off more than it can chew, attempting to cover 15 years in only 44 minutes. There is definitely an argument to be made that the last episode should have been the ninth season, rather than spending 24 episodes on the story of Robin and Barney’s wedding, and then literally five minutes on their inevitable divorce. But, once again, that’s not the story the series has been telling. Neither is it the story of Lily and Marshall, or even Barney and his surprise baby (one of the sweetest moments of the episode), who are all sort of shuffled to the background for the ending. There’s always more story to tell, but the show can’t go on forever.

I think an interesting element of the finale is the loss of the always-present narrator. Up to this point in the story, the voice of future Ted has always been provided by Bob Saget, and his narration has been rife with alterations and forgotten specifics, and peppered with references to how Ted won’t include certain details in order to edit the story for his audience, his children. But in the finale, there is no narrator, no artifice, nothing to intervene in telling it just as it happened. The story gets more “real” because, for the first time, we see what actually happened, without Future Ted as a filter.

The most important point—and the point that critics of the finale seem to be completely oblivious to—is this: How I Met Your Mother is not about how Ted meets the mother. It never was. In over two hundred episodes, the mother appears only a handful of times. Moreover, her unseen presence throughout the show (as narrated by Ted) is nearly always only tangentially-related (at best!) to whatever is happening in Ted’s life. Rather than being the climax to which the show was building, the mother is rather what Hitchcock called a MacGuffin: “a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot.” (Wikipedia)

Many fans were clearly expecting a schmaltzy sitcom ending, like Friends, where everyone is happy and together and laughing and you can go away from it thinking their lives are perfect. But despite being one of the few remaining shows on TV to deeply embrace the traditional sitcom format (multi-camera, open sets, laugh track, etc.); HIMYM was always better than its peers. Its eccentric and idiosyncratic humor was always tempered with genuine emotional realism. The show never shied away from acknowledging that life isn’t always easy or fun, and sometimes you drift apart from your friends. That people die, and it’s sad and painful, but you remember them and move on. And, yes, that you can love two people in your life without being unfaithful to them or their memory. It’s perhaps the least sitcom-y sitcom ending I’ve ever seen, and for that, it’s something special.



Christina Ivanowich watches television (and occasionally writes about it) from London, Ontario. You can follow her on Twitter: @civanowich. 

Matt Ivanowich is a PhD Candidate in philosophy at the University of Western Ontario.

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The Best Rob Ford Interview Ever

Rob Ford, as we all know, has been known to smoke some crack cocaine. But that's faaaar from the only problem with his time in office. Even if he were stone cold sober, he would still be a terrible TERRIBLE mayor. He is a man pretty much completely untethered from reality. He makes wildly false claims about even the most basic aspects of his job. He invents make-believe statistics. He spreads misinformation at a breathtaking pace. In one 16-minute speech, Torontoist counted more than 50 "lies, half-truths, and instances of disingenuous spin." That's an average of more than 3 every minute. 

And yet the people he allows to interview him have pretty much entirely let him off the hook. While they get caught up on the drug use, they miss the other issues, allowing Ford to repeat his false claims about his policies and "achievements". And it's not just the Jimmy Kimmel types. Even Peter Mansbridge, one of the most respected broadcasters in Canada, totally dropped the ball. Many Torontonians have been anxiously looking forward to the day when Ford would have to answer questions from someone who knew the relevant information and wouldn't let the Mayor off the hook with lazy lies and misleading "facts". And finally — finally! — it happened this morning on CBC Radio. Metro Morning's Matt Galloway had the Mayor in his studio for a 15 minute interview. And while Ford still manages to sneak through a few false facts, it is, hands down, the best interview of Ford we've seen since he took office.

You can watch it on the CBC's website here.


Image via the CBC.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

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The Toronto Historical Jukebox: "Mr. Heartache" by Pat Hervey

Pat Hervey was still just a teenager in the early 1960s, but she was about to become one of the biggest pop stars in Canada. She'd been born and raised in Toronto, where she sang at high school dances until she finally caught the attention of Al Boliska, the popular morning DJ on 1050 CHUM. Hervey was only 5'3" but she had a powerful voice — it earned plenty of favourable comparisons to the American superstar Brenda Lee. Before long, she was a regular on the CBC, making repeated appearances on six of the TV network's music shows.

Her Canadian success, in turn, helped to attract the attention of one of the most famous guitarists of all-time: Chet Atkins. He was now a record executive at RCA Victor, responsible for signing some of the biggest country music stars in the world, including Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Waylan Jennings. He signed Hervey, too; even produced a bunch of her singles himself, along with her full-length debut.

Hervey recorded a wide variety of songs over the course of her career, everything from bubble-gum pop to fiery soul to melancholy country ballads. But one of her biggest hits was the very first single she ever released: "Mr. Heartache". It soared up the CHUM Charts during the summer of 1962.

MP3: "Mr. Heartache" by Pat Hervey

You can buy Pat Hervey's Girl Next Door here.

You can listen to more songs from the Toronto Historical Jukebox here.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and the Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

All songs are posted to promote the artist and the history of Toronto. If you're the copyright-holder and would like the song removed, please contact us here and we'll be happy to do so.  

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Meet The Band: Geyser

"A real good time," is how Geyser's Neil Bednis describes his band's music. "Think of all your favorite punk bands of the '70s and '80s (the Stooges, the Replacements, the Birthday Party) slammed together with your favorite bands of the '90s (Sonic Youth, Pavement)." And all of those influences are most certainly on display in the four tracks that make up the Sudbury's trio's self-titled EP. Recorded "one Saturday night in August in an old diner," the record is full of distortion and fuzz. It drops on April 1 — and you can already stream it below. They're playing in Toronto just a couple days after that: Thursday, April 3 at the Izakaya Sushi House (near College & Spadina) with Soft Hell and  Coast Redwood.


Members: Neil Bednis; J.R. Beaudry; Dylan Lynds

Hometown: Sudbury


1. If you could open for one current band that you haven't played with before, who would it be?

Constantines. Do the Replacements count since they are playing again? If so, the Replacements but if they don't count Constantines.

2. If you could play one venue you've never played before, what would it be?

Radio City w/ all the seats taken out.

3. Say, for some strange reason, all the music in the world is going to be destroyed, but you can save all the songs from one decade. Which decade's records do you save?


4. What was the first record you ever bought? When was the last time you listened to it?

I bought Metric's "Live It Out" when I was a 15 year old girl. I haven't listened to it since I was 15 and I traded it for store credit at a record store.

5. Your all-time, all-star supergroup?

Paul Westerberg - Vocals
Guy Picciotto - Tambo/vocals
Dave Nardi - Bass
Wreckless Eric - Guitar
Bob Mould - Guitar
Mac McNeilly - Drums



Meet The Band is a regular feature in which we introduce you to bands we like.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

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The Walking Dead Goes Steinbeck by Alex Snider

*Spoilers* The future of humanity looks pretty grim after this week's episode. Seems it's really hard to keep kids alive during the zombie apocalypse, especially girl-children. Rough stuff. I'm still unsettled.

In a way this episode felt like a rehashing of Sophia's death in season two; an attempt by the writers to right the wrongs. The never-ending search for Sophia had diminishing returns, to the point where when she finally staggered out of that barn, the emotional wallop was more like a light slap. The group was devastated and Carol was the perfect picture of maternal grief but the audience had already been put through seven (!!) aimless, tedious episodes during which the phrase "we have to find Sophia" became the surest way to anaesthetize viewers. Did I know she was going to wind up zombie-fied? I had hoped not because I'm a big softie, but as someone who has read a lot of Flannery O'Connor, I always expect the absolute worst to happen.

That being said, I didn't expect both Lizzie and Mika to die this episode. I did read a recap before I watched though (I had heard rumblings of one of their deaths and my heart can't take brutality against children unless I've got warning) but prior to that recap, I thought we'd be with at least one of those kids for a while. Before I saw the episode I was pretty skeptical that it was the right decision so early in the murderous-Lizzie game but now I'm really glad that it was dealt with quickly. Maybe I'd grown too accustomed to TWD dragging out story-lines but I'm happy to be shaken out of that particular Stockholm Syndrome state. It did seem unlikely that a show that's already dispatched every other tween girl would take out another two, especially when they're under Carol's care. (Surely Carol had been through enough! Apparently not because what's worse than killing one daughter? Killing two surrogate daughters and having to stab one in the brain and shoot the other in the head. It's like Carol is in a darker sequel to Groundhog Day.)

My doubts were unfounded as it turns out, this episode was a beautiful tragedy wrapped in a bottle episode. There was no way to avoid Lizzie killing Mika, no way to avoid Lizzie's death – as Carol said Lizzie "can't be around other people". If this had always been a well-written show I'd think that this was an ode to Greek or Shakespearean tragedy: a fatal flaw brings down a family despite the glimmer of hope and initial happiness. I guess that makes Lizzie Antigone and Mika Polynices sort of? It's a working theory.
Of Mice and Zombies (I'm here all night, folks, tip your waitress!)
So there are things we can't change and Lizzie's sickness is one of them. I'm eternally grateful that the show didn't go the Bad Seed route and turn her into a child of the corn. She was, in the end, a little girl with problems (dead bunnies and attempted-infanticides aside). She was sweet, she was caring, she was empathetic; not evil or psychotic or a budding sociopath. Mika's strategies for helping Lizzie calm down definitely suggested that those problems had been there for a while and Lizzie insisting that the walkers spoke to her implied something more than zombie apocalypse PTSD.

But what a sad thing to watch. I started the episode not caring really about either of the girls but by the end (rather by their ends) I liked them both – especially Mika who's optimism I found infinitely more convincing than Beth's (I'm trying to like Beth, I am! Especially because my dear friend who has in my experience never been wrong about anything ever likes her. But ugh, Beth!). I loved her comment on the smoke and missing science class. Also love how she's cute as a button but has one of those older-lady faces like the "60 Year Old Girl" meme.
Liked Adventures of Tom Sawyer but prefers Reader's Digest
Other thoughts:

There was a lot of recurring imagery this episode, all calling back to the second season and the search for Sophia. Of course there's the bucolic farm, the repeated references to flowers (don't forget the significance of the Cherokee roses), the deer (last time we saw a deer was when Carl was shot). At one point, when chasing after Lizzie, Mika runs past an old barn with the doors wide open (no zombie Sophia lurching out this time). It all further cements the parallels between Sophia and the sisters and shows how much Carol has grown.

Wow, there are a lot of dead girls on TV, huh? On TWD alone there's been five, all white, all blonde: Sophia, Zombie Penny, Megan and now Lizzie and Mika. And possibly Beth. Somebody dye Judith's hair asap.

What even is my life now?
The Greek tragedy aspect is up for interpretation but the homage to Of Mice and Men is obvious. I went back and reread the end of Steinbeck's novella and sure enough it's nearly identical. You've got the stern but kind care-giver, the means-no-harm-but-harms-none-the-less sidekick and you've got the picturesque setting for a mercy killing. "Lizzie, look at the flowers" is TWD version of Lenny asking George to describe their dream again. And here I thought Shane's wardrobe choice post-murdering Otis would be the most Of Mice and Men thing on TWD.

Somewhat Raskolnikov-y <- another shoehorned literary reference. I'm a delight at parties
I am really glad that Carol confessed to Tyrese about Karen and David. That was an immensely powerful scene made all the more poignant considering the events prior. Pleased that Tyrese forgave her (even if he swore not to forget) so we can avoid more fighting on the show. It also kind of takes the wind out of the sails for the inevitable Carol-Tyrese-Rick reunion. Any chance to side-step squabbling and waffling is one the writers should take. But Carol and Tyrese! Am I the only one who's shipping those two hard now?

Melissa McBride is the damn star of this show. Portrayed by far and away the best actor on the show, Carol's arc has been my favourite of all the characters'. We got a chance this episode to really revel in how much Carol has changed, from the meek mother and abused wife, she has become one of the most capable and tough characters – willing to make the hard call but has yet to lose any compassion. If anything Carol is more compassionate now. Her difficult actions have amplified her humanity.

I tried to count how many bullets were fired and lost track at 27 during the charred-walker onslaught. YOU GUYS THERE WERE ONLY SEVEN WALKERS. Maggie, Sasha and Bob with their six bullets would be so pissed.

For all its faults, TWD is always so beautiful. The cinematography is fantastic and nearly rivals  that of Breaking Bad. Every shot of the forest and farm this episode filled me with yearning to be there. The direction this week was also great. Loved loved loved the scenes through the window. First the cold open with the music, kettle and slow pan over to Lizzie playing tag with a walker. Then Tyrese watching Lizzie lose her shit at Carol for killing her playmate and again Tyrese watching as Carol shot Lizzie. And the final shot of Carol and Tyrese walking away from the farm. I already mentioned Flannery O'Connor above but this episode really nailed the Southern Gothic – the awful combination of beauty and of the grotesque with the gorgeous atmosphere laced with death.

One day I'm going to start a Tumblr consisting entirely of TV characters digging graves.

There are only two episodes left which bums me out. Nervous about losing any of the characters – at this point I like them all (except the new crews). I do stand by my assertion that Rick's gotta go, though.

Read the previous episode recap here.


Alex Snider watches a lot of TV. Follow her on Twitter where she'll be super active for a week then be quiet for months – she's a social media cicada.

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Ten Questions for Rob Ford (More Important Than The Crack One)

More than ten months have passed since the news of Rob Ford's crack video first broke. And while most of the world is focused on the Mayor's drug use, his drunken stupors and his bizarre viral videos, the police investigation continues. New court documents released this week are a reminder that while Ford finally did admit the crack video is real, he's still refusing to answer many of the most important questions related to the scandal. (He's even willing to violently plow through reporters in order to avoid having to answer them.) Substance abuse problems are just the tip of the Rob Ford iceberg. News reports and police documents have tied the Mayor's scandal to alleged kidnapping, home invasion, drug dealing, beatings, death threats, a killing, blackmail and extortion.

Here are ten of the most disturbing questions Toronto is still looking for answers to (many of them raised, of course, by allegations that have yet to be been proven in court):

1. Did you order Sandro Lisi to commit extortion?

So, you know, Sandro Lisi? Your former driver? The guy with a violent criminal past? The one who was recently convicted of making death threats? The one you hang out with in high school parking lots and stage elaborate package-drops with? Well, he's currently not only charged with drug trafficking and possession, but also with extortion. Police allege that in the first few days after the Star and Gawker reported the existence of the crack video, Lisi used "threats or violence or menaces" to get the video back. And according to the phone records, he started calling the guys with the video right after a phone call from you, Mr. Mayor, at the exact same time the crack story was breaking.

Police documents also allege that the man trying to sell the video was kidnapped two weeks later by members of the Dixon City Bloods: "They talked to Siad about 'the video.' Siad was crying, saying he destroyed the video and his family is in trouble. Abdi told Siad that if he saw him in Dixon he would kill him."

Did you order Sandro Lisi to commit extortion? Were you aware of, or involved with, the kidnapping and the death threat?

2. Did you order the attack at 15 Windsor?

Five days after the crack story was first published, someone broke into 15 Windsor, the alleged crack house where the video is thought to have been shot. The Toronto Star reported that "Fabio [Basso, the owner of the house], his girlfriend, and Fabio's mother were assaulted by an unknown attacker brandishing an expandable baton who broke into their home." They also say that Sandro Lisi had been seen there earlier that day. And the day before. According to a Star source, he confronted Basso on the front porch: "'Where are the guys who made the video, Fab,' Lisi said, according to a witness who was present. 'You know where they are.'"

Did you order that attack? Were you involved in the planning of it? Do you know anything about it?

3. Did you order a jailhouse beating?

You are currently being sued by your sister's ex-common-in-law partner, Scott MacIntyre. He says that back in 2012 you ordered one of your former football players to attack him while he was in jail. According to the Toronto Sun, the lawsuit alleges that the attack "left him with a fractured left leg, facial cuts and dental damage. Four or more of his teeth were sheared at the gum line". MacIntyre claims that you ordered the attack in retaliation for his threats to go public with your drug use and criminal connections.

He also claims that he wasn't transported to the hospital until 36 hours after the attack. And that he didn't receive dental care until almost two months later.

Did you order the jailhouse beating of Scott MacIntyre? Did you use connections inside the jail to pull it off — and to keep him from receiving timely treatment for his injuries?

4. Who did you threaten to kill?

In one of your many videos, Mr. Mayor, you are seen threatening to kill someone. "I'll fucking kill that guy," you shout. "I'm telling you, it's first-degree murder... No holds barred, brother. He dies or I die, brother... I'll rip his fucking throat out. I'll poke his eyes out... I'll make sure that motherfucker's dead..."

After the video came out, you admitted that it was "embarrassing" and that you were "extremely, extremely inebriated". But you refused to answer the most important questions.

Like, for instance, who were you threatening to kill?

5. What do you know about the killing of Anthony Smith?

You famously took a photo with alleged gang members outside 15 Windsor. Two of those men — Anthony Smith and Muhammad Khattak — were later shot outside a nightclub on King Street. Smith was killed in the shooting.

Police documents suggest they have found no link between the crack video and the shooting, but there have been many questions raised about the suspicious timing of Smith's death. And you've failed to answer them fully. Back on May 30, the Edmonton Sun wrote, "There is now widespread belief Smith was killed for his phone, which may have contained the video." The CBC reported that "some friends" of Smith believed "he might have had the video stored on his cellphone." And your (now former) chief of staff, Mark Towhey, later revealed that he heard a similar rumour in the days immediately following the first Gawker and Toronto Star reports about the video: "There were a lot of phone calls coming into the office from people... One of our staff received some information from someone he trusted that we didn't know... that [the video] might have been the motive for a murder."

What do you know about the killing of Anthony Smith? How did you meet him? How well did you know him? Did you believe that he knew about — or even had a copy of — the crack video?

6. How did you get your cellphone back?

Last April — a few weeks after Smith was killed and a few weeks before the crack story broke — your cellphone went missing. The National Post reports that you told your staff you lost it while you were cleaning up a park, that you must have left it on the hood of your car and driven off. But police wire taps tell a very different story. They suggest you were doing drugs at 15 Windsor that night. And that your phone was taken by alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods.

Sandro Lisi seems to have tracked it down. According to phone records released in the ITO (court documents submitted by police) last November, he called your cellphone 19 times over the course of 45 minutes in the wee hours of the morning. Later that day, he called Liban Siyad — one of the alleged gang members — and accused him of stealing it. According to the wire taps, he said you were "freaking out" and that you would "put heat on" the Dixon Road apartment complex if they didn't return the phone.

The wire taps suggest that Siyad and his friend ("The Juice Man") agreed to return the phone. They also said they had a photo of you smoking a pipe and had you "in a lot of fucked up situations." According to those wire taps, Lisi agreed to give them a quantity of marijuana in exchange for your phone.

Police also say that Siyad is one of the men who may have been targeted by Lisi's extortion over the crack video a few weeks later.

Did you order Lisi to get your cellphone back? Did you instruct him to exchange drugs for it? Were you willing to use your position as the Mayor of Toronto to "put heat on" a neighbourhood in order to keep your drug use and criminal connections a secret? And, while we're at it, were you ever blackmailed over the cellphone? Or the photo they mentioned? Or the crack video?

7. Have you used your power as Mayor in an attempt to obtain confidential information?

The police say that back in August, you realized someone was following you. They think you and your friends spotted their surveillance vehicle while you were hanging out in your old high school parking lot. Five days later, they say a member of your staff phoned the police to tell them you thought you were being followed. They gave the cops a license plate number that was just one number different from the plate of their surveillance vehicle. The police say they offered to speak with you directly, but you never followed up.

Instead, they say that your new chief of staff, Earl Provost, gave them a call; that he asked them for the registration information of the vehicle. That's confidential information — and the police told him so. According to the ITO, Provost said you were angry with him for not being able to "give him what he wants."

The police claim those actions "clearly indicate that Mayor FORD is utilizing his position and the powers of the Office of the Mayor, to obtain information not available to regular citizens... I believe that Mayor FORD was trying to get the registration information for the vehicle that he and LISI observed on August 18th, 2013."

Is that true, Mr. Mayor? Were you trying to abuse the powers of your office?

8. Have you been paying the bills at 15 Windsor? Or helping the owners get special treatment from the City?

In the ITO, police describe a notebook. They believe it belonged to you or one of your staffers, and say that it contained entries relating to the alleged crack house at 15 Windsor along with the water department and outstanding bills. The police document suggests, "One possible explanation for these entries could be that the Mayor is dealing with house maintenance and bill payment at 15 Windsor Rd."

According to a report by the Toronto Star, a city official told them that in January 2013, a member of your staff "called the city's water department on behalf of resident Fabio Basso regarding a sewage issue at 15 Windsor Rd."

Were you paying bills for a crack house? Did you use your power as the Mayor of Toronto to get them special, expedited treatment for their sewage issues?

9. Did you order a hacker to illegally delete the crack video?

According to a VICE source, at the same time the police say Sandro Lisi was busy with his extortion, one of your current staffers (who was working for your brother, Councillor Doug Ford, at the time, and who has recently stepped aside for cancer treatment) tried to hired a hacker to delete the video off a website. The source claims the hacker was able to access the account, but couldn't delete it.

Do you know anything about that? Did you or your brother order someone to illegally hack into someone's account and delete the video?

10. What was in those mysterious packages?

In the ITO released last November, police surveillance shows you going to elaborate lengths to hide the fact that you were picking up packages from Sandro Lisi. In the ITO released this week, they say that your communications with him are "indicative to that of drug trafficking". The Globe and Mail has also detailed reports of your family's history with drug-dealing, which claim your friend and former staffer David Price and your brother Doug Ford sold large quantities of hash together during the 1980s.

So what was in those packages? Drugs? Nothing else? And if so, do you simply purchase drugs from Lisi? Or is there more to your relationship?


Photo by the West Annex News (cropped, via the Wikimedia Commons)

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

This post also appears on The Toronto Dreams Project Historical Ephemera Blog

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Technostalgia: Selfies — The Spanx Behind the Spanx by Jen Reid

A friend of mine recently declared that "all women over the age of 30 should be wearing Spanx." I spluttered something like, "I believe in exercise!" and, checking my ass out in the nearest mirror, waddled away determined to expose Spanx as another outmoded tool of oppression, like corsets or girdles. Like corsets or girdles, they are a prop for the body, giving shape to a perfected self moulded by technology. They both retrieve the skin you used to have and augment the skin you're now stuck with, smoothing you over and holding your guts in place. A perfect Technostalgia topic! But just as I was about to stuff myself into a pair of Spanx to test the hypothesis, another friend blurted out:

"Selfies! Surveillance! Extended android minds grope for a familiar referent that might afford a sense of time and space!"

Ever the opportunist, I dropped the Spanx as if in a fit of ecdysis and let it lie there as so much exuviae. He had cracked it. Selfies! Of course! You know, the Spanx behind the Spanx! That is, if you think of selfies as an exoskeleton the teneral self naturally covers itself with in order to maintain a sense of personhood in the digital environment. They are the props of reality, if you will. How else to keep oneself separate from the abyss?

Think of Salvador Dalí's Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon, or any number of his paintings that include wooden crutches and sticks holding up sagging skin and body parts in unlikely, subjective landscapes beyond space and time. Dalí suggests there are consequences when we insert the persona into an endless visual field, and strip it of its perspectival moorings. The threat of alienation from one’s own embodied life as we succumb to the blue glow mandates the construction of scaffolding, of a personal architecture. Yes, your growing urge to self-contextualize, to archive your face and curate your own image, frame by frame, is a prop for your own reality... lest you ooze away in the dream. Your face has become a totem of remembrance.

Perhaps the selfie is about TURNING INTO A FACE. Deleuze and Guattari [PDF], those grand mystical euro-poets of the 1980s, declared the face "a horror". At the time, mechanization was giving way to high technology, and it prompted them to suggest that during this stage of human civilization, the face was taking over the body entirely, expanding into the world as the ultimate exploratory organ. This consuming "facialization" shared some attributes with 19th century concepts of "erotomania". According to their paradigm, the face effectively turns into an "inhuman" unit groping the world itself. "Face, my love," they write, "you have finally become a probe-head" (A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalization and Schizophrenia, 1987).

At the end of 2013 the word "selfie", perhaps coined by a drunk Australian in 2002, reached obsolescence and entered the kingdom of the Oxford Dictionaries (but not THE dictionary) on a high note as "word of the year". An informal statistical survey reveals an explosion of articles on the topic from 2009 onwards, with 2014 being the year the academics really got on board dissecting the phenomenon. The selfie could be considered an extension of the replication/cloning craze represented in the visual advertising of the naughts, fortified by the personal branding craze of the (post) social media world. Emergent theories on the "dos and don'ts" of Selfie-ism are on the rise in all quarters, and the race to nail down definitive infographics is on. From Wired to Time, we’re going ape for selfies.

The selfie was once the domain of lonely travellers, artists, and the megalomaniac leaders of various ancient empires, now it's everybody's gig. The first portrait coins date to about 400 BC. These personal images were tools of power. Today the selfie is part of the currency of daily life, and arguably, behaves in much the same way, adding to and subtracting from an individual’s value in predominantly digital forums. Like the heads of ancient coins, selfies more often than not resemble a cubist's dream of distorted facial components mixed with grotesque exaggerations of expression.

Picasso once said that "art is the lie that tells the truth", meaning that the intrigue of metamorphosis is the oddest prop for reality going, but somehow, it works. A painter, let's call him Rembrandt or Van Gogh or Picasso or Malevich, creates numerous self-portraits over the course of his career in various styles, exploring the self through various lenses and filters of technique, and what does he discover? Public viewings. Masks. Personas. And they are himself.

Today we are prompted by interaction with high technology to explore ourselves in ways that in the past would have been considered absurd, at least for the likes of us. Nevertheless, this interaction is characterized by creative involvement in our own identity. Artists. Players upon a stage. "All the world's a stage." Spying on ourselves as audience members, as patrons in an art gallery. Total broadcast. The selfie may be one way of "expressing in a tangible manner, of making us perceive physically the paradoxical, the form of the unformed, the face of a world without a face" (Friederich Dürrenmatt).

Maybe we’re more or less just tooling around in a funhouse, keeping tabs on Narcissus' lover.

Is it because we can, or because we have to? Or both?

Anonymous 19th century daguerreotype


Jen Reid is an academic and writer living globally. Read all of her posts here.

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