Gawker editor-in-chief John Cook has stirred up a lot of trouble for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford recently, alleging that a video exists of Ford inhaling from what appears to be a crack pipe. Like everyone else (except the Toronto Star), Huffington Post has not seen one frame of the video that Cook claims he got to watch after making a special trip to Toronto from New York, based on an email from a tipster.
Cook is adamant that what he saw is real and, in keeping with their penchant for sensationalized news reporting, Gawker has started a crowdfunded "Crackstarter" campaign to raise $200,000 to buy this video from the drug dealers he says currently own it. Though Gawker is forewarning people that they may not actually be able to acquire the video, if they do publish it all hell will break loose in Canada.
So this got us thinking, who is this John Cook, the man who sparked so much chaos in Toronto?
Well, he was a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Radar magazine, but he got more attention for co-authoring the 2009 oral history, Our Noise: The Story Of Merge Records along with Superchunk's Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan, who co-founded the label. The book details the whole existence of Merge, one of the most successful and influential American underground music labels ever, and how they ended up releasing significant, crossover indie rock records by Arcade Fire, Spoon, the Magnetic Fields, Lambchop, Neutral Milk Hotel and many more.
These days, Cook tells Huffington Post Canada that, with his role running Gawker, he doesn't spend much time writing about music.
"I can tell you that I have heard the new, forthcoming Superchunk record, due in August, called 'I Hate Music' and it's amazing," he says. "There's a timelessness to it. My reaction to it was, 'This could've been recorded in 1995 or 2005 or 2013.' It's a really solid, punk rock at its roots record and I hope people like it."
Last week, Ballance announced that she's suffering from a condition called hyperacusis, which causes sensitivity to certain sounds, hearing loss and ringing in the ears. As a result, she is not touring with Superchunk for the first time ever, leaving fans like Cook shocked.
"I was almost in tears," Cook says of hearing the news. "I'm extremely bummed. She said she's gonna show up at some shows when she thinks she can. It doesn't sound like it's affected her day-to-day hearing. It sounds like a chronic problem that's made worse by continued exposure to noise, and she's trying to limit it."
So, beyond meeting with drug dealers and embarrassing the city of Toronto about their embattled mayor, there's some empathy in Cook's indie rock nerd heart.
Speaking of music and noise and back to the supposed Ford tape, Cook says he didn't hear any songs playing for ambiance while Ford was allegedly filmed smoking crack cocaine. Cook is, however, willing to speculate about what kind of music the Mayor might listen to, were he ever to indulge in such a thing.
"He seems like a classic rock guy — like a 'Smoke On The Water' kinda guy," Cook says, before asking about some Canadian artists who might fit the bill. He puts forth Emerson, Lake and Palmer before realizing they're British.
"Rush seems a little bit sophisticated for him," he continues. "Maybe some Bryan Adams? Bachman Turner Overdrive — that's what I was thinking of. I made the very common E.L.P./B.T.O. mix-up. Happens all the time."
So if this purported video ever goes online, we now have some specific suggestions for users hoping to add some musical zazz to it.
"Or you could do a nice medley of Canadian classic rock," Cook offers helpfully.