A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for October 2014

[PHOTO] Me, wearing a lobster claw, at Welcome to Colville, AGO

Me, wearing a lobster claw, at Welcome to Colville, AGO

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Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2014 at 8:00 pm

[PHOTO] Looking down McCaul Street, evening

Looking down McCaul Street, evening

Written by Randy McDonald

October 30, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , , ,

[LINK] “Genius or offensive figure? How Ghomeshi divides our minds”

Writer Dan Gardner has an excellent piece in The Globe and Mail talking about the “halo effect”. Starting from the ongoing and worsening Jian Ghomeshi scandal, he notes that humans seem predisposed to believe that successful and accomplished people are also morally good people, when in fact no such necessary connection exists.

How talented Jian Ghomeshi is tells us precisely nothing about what he did or did not do. He may be a supremely gifted broadcaster and a loathsome man who likes to hurt unconsenting women. Or he may be an overrated prima donna and the victim of an appalling smear campaign. But there is no reason to think his talent and his behaviour are correlated.

And yet many people treat them as if they are, and they judge accordingly – whether it is those lining up against Mr. Ghomeshi, who treat references to his talent as a tacit assertion of his innocence, or the many fans of Mr. Ghomeshi who immediately and emphatically sided with him after the story broke even though there was almost no information available aside from Mr. Ghomeshi’s own account.

We’ve seen this many times before. Woody Allen. Roman Polanski. In the abstract, it’s easy to separate the art and the artist, and, if need be, to praise one and condemn the other. But confronted by a painfully real case, our judgements tend to correlate. Chances are, how you feel about Woody Allen’s movies hints at how you feel about Woody Allen.

[. . .]

Early in the 20th century, a psychologist named Edward Thorndike discovered that when employers and military officers rated others across a range of dimensions – intelligence, industry, technical skill, reliability, leadership, and so on – their judgments tended to correlate, which suggested they weren’t considering each quality separately, as they were instructed to, and as they believed they were doing. Instead, there was “a marked tendency to think of the person in general as rather good or rather inferior and colour the judgements of the qualities by this general feeling.”

Mr. Thorndike called it the “halo effect,” because a person who was seen to be exceptionally good in some way – especially attractive, intelligent or creative – seemed to wear a halo. How honest is this exceptionally attractive person? How diligent? How hard-working? How much of a leader? In every case, very. He must be. Those are good qualities and this is a good man. Just look at his halo.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 29, 2014 at 10:34 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why candidates who were #topoli Twitter favs didn’t win”

Jessica Smith Cross’ article in today’s issue of Metro makes the point that prominence on social networking platforms does not automatically lead to political success. At very best, it’s a helpful stepping stone on route to said.

In the campaign for Etobicoke North Ward 2, Andray Domise won Twitter but lost the election—just don’t call it a cautionary tale.

“Cautionary tale, my black ass,” Domise wrote in response to that suggestion, in a blog post thanking his supporters.

Domise placed third in the ward, with only eight per cent of the votes. He is high on the list of the most influential Toronto politics Twitter users compiled by the data analysts at Vox Pop Labs (44th of more than 25,000 retweeted users of the hashtag), who scored users on the retweets they got from other accounts using the #topoli hashtag.

Domise’s official campaign account and his campaign manager were also high on the Twitterati list—as were a number of candidates who didn’t win in their wards. #topoli favourites—among them Alejandra Bravo, Idil Burale, Alex Mazer and Keegan Henry-Mathieu—were defeated by incumbents with relatively poor social media campaigns.

According to the Domise campaign, social media worked for him, despite the loss. It amplified Domise’s message and earned him mainstream media support and endorsements. Volunteers and donations flooded in from across the city. By the end of the campaign, he’d boosted his name recognition in the ward to 70 per cent from practically nothing.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 29, 2014 at 7:46 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Lake Ontario is a Sea”

Daniel Rotsztain has a nice photo essay wondering why we call Lake Ontario–and the other Great Lakes–“lakes” instead of as “seas”. The commenter who suggests “sea” is reserved for salt-water bodies might well have a point, but in other respects “sea” is more evocative of the true nature of these bodies of water.

A few weeks ago I biked over to The Guild park. Known for its collection of modern Toronto “ruins”, a bonus to visiting the park is its unobstructed view of Lake Ontario. Gazing from cliffs high above the water, far from the distractions of the Bluffs or the skyline, and without the Island and Leslie Spit interrupting the horizon, all that can be seen from the Guild’s vantage is sparkling and limitless blue.

[. . .]

When I was showing a friend from Sweden around Toronto last Winter, she looked over Lake Ontario and kept casually calling it “the sea”. In Swedish, sjö refers to both lakes and seas, so she wasn’t technically wrong. The roots of most Germanic languages make no distinction between lakes and seas, and it turns out, among today’s oceanographers, there is no accepted definition of sea.

The same goes for lakes. Though definitions vary, lake often refers to a small, inland body of water. And the way we use it, a lake suggests waters that are knowable, safe and domesticated — calm waters that you can dip your feet in at the cottage.

I know it’s just a matter of language, and may seem trivial. But the language we use says a lot about our relationship with the world, and Toronto could use some help reinvigorating its relationship with the vast body of water along its southern edge. Calling it a lake has made us forget about the water in our ideas of Toronto’s identity and geography. If we started calling it the Sea of Ontario, however, we would be acknowledging the water’s power and mystery, launching it into prominence in our civic mythology.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 29, 2014 at 2:14 am

[URBAN NOTE] “What went wrong for Olivia Chow?”

Yahoo News Canada’s Andy Radia has a nice roundup of reasons why mayoral candidate Olivia Chow finished so badly.

It wasn’t suppose to happen this way for Olivia Chow.

On Monday, Chow placed third in Toronto’s mayoral election finishing with just 23 per cent support.

That’s certainly not what Chow expected when she resigned as an NDP Member of Parliament back in March, and instantly became the front-runner in this race.

For much of the early spring, she was ahead in the opinion polls as the anti-Rob Ford candidate and the one who was supposed to appeal to the average, blue-collar worker.

There doesn’t seem to be a single reason – a consensus, if you will – on why Torontonians soured on Chow. There are, however, several theories.

Chow’s conversation skills, the left/right ideological split in Toronto, racism and sexism, and tactical errors in the campaign all are raised.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 28, 2014 at 10:28 pm

[LINK] “Cpl. Nathan Cirillo mourned at funeral in Hamilton”

CBC reports on the Hamilton funeral of corporal Nathan Cirillo, the young man murdered at the war memorial in Ottawa last week.

Tears flowed freely in downtown Hamilton on Tuesday as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was gunned down while standing guard at the National War Monument in Ottawa, was honoured with a regimental funeral in his hometown.

Cirillo’s funeral procession arrived at Christ’s Church Cathedral in just before noon as thousands of onlookers stood silently in the streets to pay their respects to the young soldier. Cirillo’s mother Kathy sobbed as she was helped to her seat by members of her son’s regiment, overcome with grief as his flag-draped casket was carried inside.

Cirillo’s young son, Marcus, followed behind his father’s casket, wearing the regiment’s cap.

[. . .]

The church was full of politicians, members of the military and friends and family of the 24-year-old. Outside, thousands of Hamiltonians stood almost motionless and quiet in the streets, watching the procession of an estimated 4,500 military members as well as police and emergency service members as it moved through downtown Hamilton.

‘He understood. He knew what he was protecting and what he was preserving.’—Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Not far away at FirstOntario Centre, several hundred attendees filled three sections of the arena as overflow seating to watch the service on large screens. Inside the arena, people sat, stood, recited prayers and followed the service in the same was as if they were inside the cathedral.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 28, 2014 at 9:23 pm