Stephen Marche

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Gawker Gotchas: the snarky site’s top six takedowns of Toronto journalists

Do not ask Rosie DiManno about her weekend. On Saturday, the Internet took aim at one of the Toronto Star columnist’s recent pieces, and the scathing and hilarious critiques included one from the takedown specialists at Gawker, who awarded her the prize for “Worst Lede of All Time.” At least DiManno can take comfort that she’s not the first of Toronto’s writerly class to run afoul of the site. Below, we rounded up Gawker’s most angry screeds and memorable jabs at Toronto media.

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The Argument: Why Frida Kahlo is the patron saint of Internet–enabled narcissism

The Argument: Frida Kahlo is the patron saint of Internet–enabled narcissism

(Image: The Broken Column courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario)

On September 17, 1925, Frida Kahlo, then an 18-year-old aspiring medical student, was riding a bus in Mexico City when it collided with a trolley. Her spine was shattered, forcing her to spend the next three months in a body cast, completely immobilized. For lack of anything else to do, she began to paint, using herself as her primary subject because (she would later say) it was the one she knew best. Her interest in medicine soon evaporated, and from a period of suffering was born an explosively cathartic art. Entirely self-taught, she combined folk art techniques with her knowledge of the masters of the Italian Renaissance to capture the raw emotion and turbulence of her life. And what a life—filled with the tumult of her on-again, off-again marriage to the philandering Diego Rivera, a series of miscarriages, a love affair with Leon Trotsky and the ongoing political struggles of Mexico. From that material, she created work that transcended her place and time.

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Cormarama packed The Garrison with musicians, journalists and friends to help save Derek McCormack’s life

Spirits were high at Cormarama at The Garrison on Tuesday night, with the New York Times arts editor Adam Sternbergh, Toronto Life’s editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford, Globe arts editor Gabe Gonda, musicians Joe Pernice, Matthew Barber, Doug Paisley and Jason Collett and writers Nathalie Atkinson, Jason McBride, Claudia Dey and Stephen Marche helping raise funds for author Derek McCormack. Over 300 people attended the event, and unlike most functions, which take some time to get into full swing, the bar was packed by 7:30 p.m. Despite the circumstances behind the event (McCormack is suffering from a rare form of cancer), friends and strangers sipped spirits merrily as they listened to readings from Sheila Heti, who crafted a great monologue mixing McCormack interview snippets with Lana Del Ray lyrics (McCormack is a fan of the collagen-lipped songstress), and Joey Comeau, who performed a rather macabre (but hilarious) oration that fictionalized the murders of Margaret Atwood and Anne Marie Macdonald. Those unable to attend the event can still buy art or make a donation at Art for Derek.

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Stephen Marche: an unflinching assessment of Jack Layton’s dubious legacy

The next NDP leader will be obligated to adopt Jack Layton’s Toronto-born brand of socialism—childlike, sentimental, and entirely ineffective

The Second Coming of LaytonJack Layton, posthumously, has more influence over Canadian left-wing politics than any living person. When Nycole Turmel, the NDP’s interim chief, announced the date for the party’s March leadership convention, she said, “We will not replace Jack Layton,” the implication being that Layton is irreplaceable. And yet, the main leadership candidates appear to be trying their hardest to prove they can replace the irreplaceable. Brian Topp, the quintessential backroom operator, recently gained prominence as a member of Layton’s inner circle and the author of How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot: The Inside Story Behind the Coalition. (Note to file: books with the word “almost” in the title are almost never worth reading.) Thomas Mulcair, the MP from Outremont, promotes himself as the creator of Layton’s strategy for taking Quebec, and therefore the most likely candidate to maintain that legacy-defining victory. Peggy Nash, MP for Parkdale–High Park, is the candidate most similar to Layton personally: an urbanist, supported by artists like Sarah Polley, and inspiring in a safe sort of way. (She wants to make Canada a global leader in innovation. Who doesn’t?)

No matter whom the NDP delegates select to replace Layton, his memory will shape the aims of the party for the foreseeable future. So the time has come to evaluate his legacy clearly, unflinchingly. The popular narrative—certainly the party’s narrative—of his time in federal politics casts the story as an unadulterated victory. And in one sense it was: when Layton took over, the NDP held 14 seats in the House of Commons. Within a year, he had nearly doubled the party’s share of the popular vote. Seven years of steady rises culminated with the NDP winning 103 seats in 2011. The expansion of the party under Layton was much larger than anyone could have imagined.

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My Digital Sabbath: how one writer learned to stop checking Facebook and love life offline

My Digital Sabbath

I can’t say specifically which fabulous new technology made me decide I needed a break from all fabulous new technologies. For years I had been blissfully work-playing and play-working in the miasma of plugged-in life, writing magazine columns while live-streaming baseball games and listening to music and IMing and playing online chess and checking my email every two minutes, and not worrying whether performing five or six tasks simultaneously might limit my ability to perform any of them adequately. Maybe it was the iPad, a device designed, as far as I can tell, to allow you to watch television while you’re watching television. A friend told me about trying to talk to her teenage son while he was on his iPhone. “Why are you always looking at that thing when I’m trying to talk to you?” she asked. He answered: “Where do you think I learned it from, Mom?”

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Stratford star Seana McKenna is trading in her corsets to play Richard III. Can audiences handle a female portrayal of true evil?

Tricky Dick

At this point in our cultural history, cross-dressing is subversive only to the most sheltered among us. Drag now is the kind of thing that Grade 9 kids from the suburbs find daring their first time alone downtown. Post–gay pride, post–Internet porn, post–Lady Gaga, it’s hard to imagine who would be shocked by men dressed as women or women dressed as men. This summer, however, there’s a possible exception courtesy of Seana McKenna, who is tackling the title role in Richard III at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It’s a performance that asks a very peculiar, unexpected question: are audiences willing to believe a woman portraying a master of political murder?

The original Shakespeare productions were, of course, rife with cross-dressing. In a sense, any modern performance of Shakespeare automatically involves gender reversal, because all the actors at the time the plays were composed were men and boys. Shakespeare himself fooled around with the gender identities of his characters, playing off the transvestite nature of his theatre. In early productions of Twelfth Night (which Stratford is also mounting this summer), a boy playing a woman pretends to be a man who falls in love with a man who thinks she (really he) is a boy. Follow? The gender reversals, and the reversals within those reversals, are part sex farce, part elaborate meta-theatre.

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Globe and Mail calls Rob Ford fat, hilarity ensues

Rob Ford poses with some members of his team (Image: Shaun Merritt)

It’s official: after a 10-month mayoral campaign, the papers are running out of political things to talk about, and the media itself is becoming the story. The Saturday Globe and Mail’s city section ran a piece titled “Rob Ford’s not popular despite being fat. He’s popular because of it.” The article argues that voters like politicians with some literal heft to them and that weight loss was pretty much the only thing David Miller accomplished in his seven years as mayor. The piece, written by Stephen Marche, has gone over like a lead balloon and has been pulled from the Globe’s Web site.

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