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Is Toronto being taken over by hucksters, fauxhemians, and the "knowledge economy"?
January 10, 2008 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Toronto: Justice Denied. Mark Kingwell writes about Toronto. The article is a great read even if you've never stepped foot in the city.
posted by chunking express (34 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I always thought it was "set foot."
posted by ibmcginty at 5:33 PM on January 10, 2008


Anyone who thinks it's "stepped foot" has another thing coming.
posted by ibmcginty at 5:34 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


When people say 'another thing coming' my head asplodes.
posted by unSane at 5:45 PM on January 10, 2008


You've got another thing coming vs. You've another thing coming. Technically, I think it might be redundant to say "You have got another thing coming." Judas Priest notwithstanding.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 5:49 PM on January 10, 2008


Toronto? That's where I'm a viking!
posted by mr_roboto at 5:49 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The article is a great read even if you've never stepped foot in the city.

Yep, just about any pretentious twat can enjoy it.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:50 PM on January 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Some of the comments on the article are worth a look at if you are of the same mood at Krrrison.
What's that, Mark Kingwell? I can't quite hear you from the top of your ivory tower.
I think the following sums up what Kingwell is trying to get at:
Modern distributive models of justice rightly place emphasis on the fate of the least well off; in a non-distributive idea of justice, we can update and expand this idea: a city, like a people, shall be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. These may not necessarily be the poorest: consider the systematic disadvantage, in an idea economy, of truncated education, learning disability, and low access to the technologies of success. Torontonians talk about the value of otherness, celebrating cultural diversity in word, but they do not walk that walk. The smug inwardness of our de facto stealth neighbourhoods, the vertical gated communities of condo developments, the lifetime preoccupation with the averted gaze — all this shows city not confident enough to engage with itself. The gravity of downtown is reduced, as so often, to the cash nexus of shopping, democracy soured into a form of narcissistic pathology and sense of entitlement for a few, invisibility for the many. Race and class, poverty and hatred cannot find a point of intervention when the discursive space of the city is limited to surfaces.
posted by chunking express at 5:56 PM on January 10, 2008


isn't it another think coming? - but i don't think we can have one because mark kingwell used them all up

i must be dumb because i didn't understand the point - more importantly, i bet all those people he ran into on the city beat wouldn't understand it or even recognize it as being relevant to their world except, of course, the part where the rents go up
posted by pyramid termite at 5:56 PM on January 10, 2008


Toronto is actually the foot-stepping capital of North America. A unique tradition dating back to colonial days, Upper Canadian foot-steppers combine the arts of dance and walking to create a kind of jaunty amble. Held every winter, the Toronto Foot-Stepping Festival (TFSF) takes place in the city's downtown core, and draws visitors from blocks around. Bring your clogs!
posted by bicyclefish at 5:57 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


pt - I think you just completely blew my mind.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:03 PM on January 10, 2008


Toronto Foot-Stepping in London
posted by anthill at 6:12 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mark Kingwell is the sort of academic I wish I was, which is to say he's a superb self-promoter who writes about all sorts of things are interesting to him and that have nothing, really, to do with his academic specialisation, which nobody, especially Kingwell himself, finds interesting, at all.

I'd like to dismiss him as a pedantic famous-for-being-famous windbag, but I would fucking kill to be him. And I'm not joking. I had a story about me and some of my obsessions in a local mag a few weeks ago and I got to talk to a reporter about my pet peeves and urban observations, and damn, was that gratifying. Kingwell does this sort of thing every day.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 6:27 PM on January 10, 2008


Baby_Balrog, don't you mean "I thing you just completely blew my mind?"
posted by salvia at 6:59 PM on January 10, 2008


Inside the chaotic newsroom, not yet colonized by cubicles but instead a press of second-hand desks, we shared the boxy computer terminals, because there weren’t enough of them. We took rewrite by cradling the rotary phone’s heavy-spined handset on the shoulder. We would loiter outside in the parking lot, or on the ramp itself, to smoke or swap gossip.

AND WE LIKED IT!

Now get off my lawn!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:07 PM on January 10, 2008


Ugh, Mark Kingwell.
Is "pundit" what it's called? His whole gig is being on TV or writing in papers and just talking about what he thinks about stuff. Quite a painful read; I got to page 3.

Also, my friend's sister went on a date with him once in the '90's and apparently it was really not fun.
But maybe that's because the bobos were taking over the Annex at the time.
posted by chococat at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2008


To contemplate Toronto is to contemplate Canada's prickly navel.
posted by furtive at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2008


OMG he said the names of places I have been to. I feel a little famous right now.

PS - anyone who uses the term "bobo" in earnest is a prat.
posted by SassHat at 7:56 PM on January 10, 2008


With house prices rising steadily, and condos blooming right left and centre, ever wonder why Toronto has a budget problem? Here's the answer..

Toronto's property tax rate is reduced as property value goes up. Miller claims that this is due to some Harris era provincial legislation, but.. Ottawa's property tax revenue went up 22% from 2001 (at $778 million) to 2006 (at $954 million). St. Catharine's property tax revenue went up 31% from 2001 (at $49 million) to 2006, (at $64 million) while Toronto's property tax revenue has only gone up 8.5% from 2001 (at $2.83 billion ) to 2006 (at $3.07 billion).
posted by Chuckles at 8:01 PM on January 10, 2008


He's actually not on TV as much as he used to be. I'm reading his Empire State Building book right now. It's good overall, but so far there's been a lot of effort spent trying to convince the reader he's read more than Barthes. I wouldn't have thought otherwise, but then I was in his class when he was writing it so a lot of the stuff sounds familiar.
posted by maledictory at 8:14 PM on January 10, 2008


Toronto's property tax rate is reduced as property value goes up.

I think you're reading the chart wrong... over time the property tax rate has gone down almost 20% in the past 6 years. The chart doesn't show a decreasing rate by value, but it does give that impression by using some sort of median property value, which has increased in that same time frame.
posted by clevershark at 8:15 PM on January 10, 2008


The mill rate has gone down, from 0.70% in 2001 to 0.57% in 2006. The total revenue from property taxes has gone up because that rate is applied to a vastly increased property value. It translates though, into total taxation revenue that is growing at about 1/3 the rate of other cities in the province.

I'm not sure what you mean by decreasing rate by value..

Anyway, it is pretty hard to see Miller as a left wing mayor with that going on. Sure, it would be nice to see more funding from higher levels of government, but the truth is we are starving ourselves.
posted by Chuckles at 8:26 PM on January 10, 2008


Whenever an article about Toronto gets published, there is inevitably a flurry of Toronto-bashing from letter writers across Canada. There's a lot of truth to the image of Toronto The Smug (though it's probably more of a case of Toronto The Insecure Braggart), but there is a kernel of truth to Kingwell's line:

"The smug inwardness of our de facto stealth neighbourhoods, the vertical gated communities of condo developments, the lifetime preoccupation with the averted gaze — all this shows city not confident enough to engage with itself."


I have lived in Toronto since 1993, and I like it well enough, but I still can't define it in a way one could define Winnipeg or Calgary: cities which have clearer and more easily-summed-up identities. Toronto grew and developed way too quickly, and never defined a self outside of the snooty Bay Street caricature that the rest of Canada likes to joke about. In fact, modern-day Toronto is so nebulous and balkanised that it is more like a collection of towns and enclaves with the merest of affiliations, which might be why so many writers have written essays trying to analyse it. Vancouver and Halifax and Quebec City and Montreal and Hamilton and Ottawa, they don't require that sort of neurotic analysis.
posted by spoobnooble at 8:29 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


anthill: that was awesome. Just sayin'. I want to move to London just to go to classes with those people, even if it means leaving the Annex Foot-Stepper's League (population: me) in the lurch.
posted by bicyclefish at 8:31 PM on January 10, 2008


Chuckles -- I see, I think I misread your original comment.
posted by clevershark at 8:35 PM on January 10, 2008


That was a really painful read. I read about a page and half hoping I'd figure out what he was getting at...but no dice. Maybe I'll give it another go in the morning using chunking's Coles Notes.
posted by reformedjerk at 8:38 PM on January 10, 2008


I read it. I read it all the way through. It took concentration, and I have been off caffeine — espressos, dark chocolate, cola — for four days so my mind is unusually clear.

The first page was scintillating. The second page began talking about bobos (a turn-off) and got into a space that reminded me of the Zippies Issue of WIRED in '94, not so good but still cresting on the early great energy.

Page three was positively depressing. I began to worry over where this was heading. But page one, it was so good! I charge onward, peculiarly interested by the idea of cool needing a counterpart to have value. What lies ahead?

This paragraph, and it is good:
"Contrary to the standard Machiavellian objection, justice of this sort is not antithetical to civic glory. Though a city in pursuit of glory may neglect justice, the opposite does not hold: a truly just city is always a glorious one, because it allows greatness even as it looks to the conditions of strangeness posed by the other. It does not oppose development, including grandiose development, for the sake of some cramped sense of its own modesty; but it does demand, over and over, that all development be, at some level, in the service of everyone. Such a city starts with you, on the street, lifting your gaze and looking, for once, into the face of that person passing. This urban gaze is not male, or female; it is not casual or demeaning; it is not totalizing; it is liberating. It’s the gaze that recognizes, in the other, a fellow citizen, which is to say one who has vulnerabilities, desires, and ideas, just as you do."

And this part stayed with me. "[a truly just city] does demand, over and over, that all development be, at some level, in the service of everyone."

Walking the proverbial beat, as on the highly prized page one, in a city such as Toronto may be something different that what it became and not necessarily but possibly better. In this sense for lack of a better word may Toronto, like MeFi as now can be seen, be worthy of us all.
posted by humannaire at 9:02 PM on January 10, 2008


I moved from Toronto to a small(ish) town about five years ago, and Kingwell's remarks on exchanging looks with the people you pass on the street really ring true for me. Something as simple as nodding at people you intersect can have a remarkably bonding effect on a community. It's one of the biggest reasons I'm happier out of the big city.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:48 PM on January 10, 2008


Mark Kingwell is almost singlehandedly responsible for me hating the 1990s.
Geoff Pevere, too.

Travels back in time, punches previous decade, hard.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:12 PM on January 10, 2008


Ah, he's just mad that people from Scarborough now have a Toronto address. Plus, he's old and doesn't want the place to change.
posted by scruss at 4:48 AM on January 11, 2008


I moved from Toronto to a small(ish) town about five years ago, and Kingwell's remarks on exchanging looks with the people you pass on the street really ring true for me. Something as simple as nodding at people you intersect can have a remarkably bonding effect on a community. It's one of the biggest reasons I'm happier out of the big city.

Don't ever move to England.

I remember discovering the friendly greeting of strangers after moving to Guelph from Mississauga and being a bit disturbed at first. Who are these people? Then I liked it. In Toronto people are too busy to greet or acknowledge you but there is still some eye contact. Here in Birmingham there is active deliberate avoidance of even admitting that another person exists and it is, after 2 years, starting to feel like a death from a thousand paper cuts. Even people's dogs ignore you. That and nobody ever ever smiles.

It is amazing to me how much this matters to me since I am a surly grumpy old bastard.

I miss Toronto something fierce lately.
posted by srboisvert at 7:06 AM on January 11, 2008


Ummm, am I stupid for not understanding this article?

Can somebody please draw me a flowchart?
posted by randomination at 8:08 AM on January 11, 2008


Mark Kingwell is almost singlehandedly responsible for me hating the 1990s. Geoff Pevere, too.

What, no love hate for Douglas Coupland?
posted by you just lost the game at 10:31 AM on January 11, 2008


Some additional research material, if you can find it somewhere (I don't think the DVD is out yet), on Toronto and its place in Canada.
posted by mzanatta at 11:51 AM on January 11, 2008


mzanatta, the DVD has been out for months. Good movie, if essentially just a single gag extended too long
posted by scruss at 8:16 PM on January 13, 2008


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