Friday, August 29, 2003

Blog Break

I'll return Tuesday with thoughts on gum for single people and an amazing videogame zine I recently discovered, plus a bunch of other cool stuff.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

It’s All About the Bigge

I wrote a bunch of articles about branding for Adbusters about a billion years ago (i.e. sometime between 96-98) and in December of last year, Wired Daily quoted from one of them ("Apple: It's All About the Brand" by Leander Kahney). I must admit to being rather excited at the time. In fact, I still am. The link to the article is here, and the relevant bit in question is below:

Ryan Bigge, writing in Adbusters, said: "Our dreams and desires for a better world are no longer articulated by JFKs nor generated through personal epiphanies -- they are now the intellectual currency of Pepsi and Diesel. We used to have movements for change -- now we have products. Brands may befriend us, console us and inspire us, but the relationship comes at the highest price imaginable -- the loss of self."

I mention the name drop because a) I have ego, which is a necessary trait in a writer and b) magazine writing is often frustrating – you write something, it’s published, and it disappears. Quite often you get no feedback. Occasionally a letter to the editor, but more often silence. (I suppose newspaper hacks face down this problem even more so, given their work has the life span of a mayfly versus the senior citizen longevity of magazines.)

Writers read other writers (although they don’t always admit it), but among the general magazine-reading public, byline recognition is scarce. The overall ethos is that nobody really cares all that much if you get published. Except your mom.

So when someone refers back to something you wrote, especially something you wrote a long time ago, it helps erase the feeling that at least some of your work isn’t a temporary ink stain.

Further to this, (warning, massive Bigge Ego blast upcoming) last September I was asked for reprint permission for an article I wrote about business jargon for Reader’s Choice, fourth Canadian Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall. And then, more recently, in March of this year, I was asked for permission to reprint a Saturday Night article in a textbook called Looking Out, Looking In, 2nd Canadian Edition, Nelson publishers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Can't We Get You on Mastermind, Sybil? Next Contestant Sybil Fawlty From Torquay, Specialist Subject the Bleeding Obvious

Last week (or something like it) I was flipping through the Toronto alt-weaklies [sic] and found myself reading the ad for Capturing the Friedmans. I want to see the film, and I could not help but notice the 11 four-star reviews displayed in the advertisement – a good sign. Better still, the constellations were from respected newspapers and magazines, not "Bunni Beckley of the North Dakota Farm Tribune." However, the biggest review excerpt they chose to highlight, the one they put in the centre of the advertisement was this:

If you are at a cocktail party and you're chatting with two people who’ve seen ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ and you haven't -- consider yourself conversationally dead in the water.

That bit of nonsense talk is from Mary F. Pols, of the Contra Costa Times (located in Mount Diablo, California). I found her review online, and sure enough, she did in fact say something that inane. Here is the unabridged version:

If you're at a cocktail party this summer and you're chatting with two other people who have just discovered they've both seen "Capturing the Friedmans" and you haven't, consider yourself conversationally dead in the water. They'll be arguing and gesticulating and you'll be the third wheel. The only reasonable solution is to see this forceful, absorbing and painful documentary for yourself.

I am not upset, exactly, at the poor logic displayed in her introductory paragraph. I am more confused as to why the folks promoting Capturing the Friedmans (which appears to be an intelligent, thought-provoking film) would chose to bother with this dumb-ass bit of tattered typewriter ribbon offal. They quote the New York Times ("One of the most compelling American films I’ve seen in ages.") and David Denby of the New Yorker gets almost as much space as Pols for his blurb, but based on pure ad real-estate considerations, her quote gets top billing. I mean, I would like to point out that I’m not in the habit of reading the fine print on these things (unless the movie is bad, in which case it’s always a laff riot to see what fourth-bit hack decided to praise a craptacular product like Gigli). Why else would I have noticed the quote if it were not designed to catch my eye in the first place? Why, why, why?

Oh, and in case Mary F. Pols is reading this, and is not quite sure why I dislike her logic, observe the following:

  • If you're at a cocktail party with two other people who have both seen "The Hulk" and you haven't, consider yourself conversationally dead in the water.
  • If you're at a cocktail party with two other people who have both seen "American Wedding" and you haven't, consider yourself conversationally dead in the water.
  • If you're at a cocktail party with two other people who have both seen "INSERT FILM TITLES HERE FOR ALL ETERNITY" and you haven't, consider yourself conversationally dead in the water.

    The prosecution rests your honour.
  • Monday, August 25, 2003

    Word of the Day

    I did some research into the Toronto Police Department’s response to graffiti in the spring of this year. It turns out the cop shop has a Graffiti Eradication Program, replete with their own dedicated Officer (Heinz Kuck of 53 Division). Anyway, while poking around, I discovered the word Latrinalia:

    WHEREAS: the Toronto Police Service has recognized the Toronto urban landscape as uniquely containing seven distinct styles of graffiti, Hate and bias crime, Gang graffiti, Hip Hop graffiti, Latrinalia, Folk Epigraphy, Political activism and cult graffiti, and that each is earmarked for removal, and its perpetrators prosecuted.

    NOW, THEREFORE: I, Mayor Mel Lastman, on behalf of Toronto City Council and the 2.5 million people of our great City, do hereby proclaim May 2003 as "Graffiti Eradication Month" and encourage everyone to support the Toronto Police Service in this very worthwhile program in an effort to provide Toronto residents with a city that is recognized as the best and safest place to be.


    Punch that word into google and you’re sent on a short but amusing journey.

    And that’s it. No further commentary available from me today. It’s National find-your-own-searing-insight day. Good luck.

    Sunday, August 24, 2003

    Moloch! Whose Love Is Endless For Hot Teens!

    My friend Liz forwarded an email to me awhile ago, in response to my SPAM blogging, saying "You get free verse, I get magnetic poetry." The missive in question was from "Bree Harris" and featured the subject line "hotter." It was unlike the SPAM poesy I was getting, and I must admit, I felt left out.

    Good news, however. I am now apparently one of the cool kids, since I received this:

    Date: Wed, 6 Aug 2003 03:41:19 GMT
    From: "Linda Gasser"
    Subject: scorched
    X-Spam-Level: Spam-Level SSSS

    poverty exquisiteness exchequers accuracy humbled scallops brant polishes porcupine pools admixture bethlehem plumbago theaters matinee searing hospitality adagio even blushes mention tanners bolivia talismanic scribbler ampex mescaline pleases acreage tapper $RANDO MIZE anabel territories scantier tad posse hurling scrim polisher country sandpile microcodes tangential scoffing cot addressers tangled exemption maturate executors boulders bombs excommunicating pollen corroborate scholastics targeting sating auckland accordance blurting $RANDOM IZE posse exhaustion exploration crinkle courthouse bordered poured acidulous experiences ethology hurray bonnet activate illustrates memorial adjudications etc exclaims cringed alaska sarcasms

    http://srd.yahoo.com/drst/plucked/*http://www.med12z.com/sh/index.html

    actinolite expressively humblest tags bonnets potentiometers technologies hunches boniface scotland excommunicate exemption illustrates hunks scorning anglicanism hydroxide blythe crowder ploy mealtime postlude hymns husks hostile exponentiation brass beltsville ethology idyll $RANDOM IZE meteorology technicality crabmeat county hydrostatic crawling atlanta experienced taft idealization euphemisms illustratively counting covertly scripture advance tallest braces tectonic hurl adamson accreditation cow hypothalamus mightier portray hopscotch adores breakoff adulthood $RANDOMI ZE bolshevik poultry cozen measuring brazilian sauces cowslips taunter that plungers everlasting acculturates RANDOMIZE coweringly annette household microscopes brat playhouse breadfruit accolade


    As for the reason behind the waterfall of nonsense, well, according to Liz (or rather, a friend of hers), a type of Spam heuristic known as a Bayesian classifier is used to differentiate between Spam and Not Spam based both partly on the proportion of text to HTML, as suggested by this notice from SPAM assassin:

    * 3.0 -- BODY: HTML has images with 0-200 bytes of words

    and partly on the actual words themselves. Or, as Liz put it, "the spam I forwarded you was attempting really hard to look like Not-spam by having lots of words commonly found in Not-spam."

    I went looking for more about Bayesian and found this:

    Given training, a spam heuristics engine can take the most "spammy" and "hammy" words and apply probabilistic analysis. Furthermore, once given a basis for the analysis, the engine can continue to learn iteratively by applying both it's non-Bayesian and Bayesian ruleset together to create evolving "intelligence."

    So there you have it. Also, while I was snooping around, I found some wonderful, wry commentary at the heuristics portion of SPAM assassin that I urge you to investigate. Favorites include:

    How dear can you be if you don't know my name?          DEAR_FRIEND

    Gives a lame excuse about why you were sent this spam          EXCUSE_1

    A dodgy mortgage testimonial          HELPED_FINANCE

    Apparently, you'll be amazed          BE_AMAZED

    Risk free. Suuurreeee....          RISK_FREE

    Talks about Oprah with an exclamation!          BANG_OPRAH


    And so, with all that info mind, I give you:

    Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 23:44:33 GMT
    From: "Eloisa Allen"
    Subject: borne

    exploding exigent scrawl appleby creeper expositions terrors crabmeat bowlines membrane hydroxide mellowed exaltation accepts expedient scheduler becker tailgate scoffs plebiscite medieval potentiality alden booky breakaway criminals braes alcestis houses tetanus $RANDO MIZE plotters plots boston acquiesce plop hustling terraced experimenter evicted menhaden bombarding bread terminate crescent portraiture annette polygynous methionine administrations craving maximally memoirs poorest maturing bothering belgium tetrahedra advisees antoine boastful $RANDOM IZE branches terminates telephony scrambling popularizes screamed exclaims adsorb tamarind experimenters tam adumbrates brandywine cowslips scraper poisoning executional coward atlantic bolometer testaments

    http://srd.yahoo.com/drst/cram/*http://www.great12ssa.com/sh/

    hypothesis creditable polite humaneness bates acknowledge tempter bottleneck tasting countersink their bravo housetop tapering maximal hundredfold medley adhered adages tempering imbibe potable excerpted explorations medicinal explicit cradled activations postcondition teaming $RANDOM IZE potentates acrobatics adopted bottlers megaton taffy immaterial adriatic adjusting sawtooth crock exposing idiots croak cretin talked metamathematical acknowledging identifiers excerpt ansi acknowledged boomtown bones meriting matting scarface bodybuilders tautly cower $RANDOMI ZE saps sears mellowness scans scribe accomplisher teachable admittance explore bonnets arthur tektite RANDOMIZE botching imitates barnes cotillion mentions hugely crate scale

    Friday, August 22, 2003

    They Have the Internet on Computers Now

    In the July 2, 2003 edition of the National Post, columnist Anne Kingston wrote about metrosexuals. Her column irritated me because Mark Simpson, the British journalist who coined the term back in 1994, wrote the definitive article about the phenomenon last year (July 22, 2002) for Salon.com. To Kingston’s credit, she did make mention of Simpson’s etymological role, but I remain irked because she never explained why she was discussing something so recherch√©.

    Kingston isn’t the only one guilty in the moldy zeitgeist sweepstakes, however. Sandra Gotleib weighed in on the topic a week or so before Kingston in the same paper. And now it appears that I am part of the problem, since I was a guest on the Mark Elliot show on CFRB last night, where I discussed this "trend" alongside Christopher Hutsul of the Toronto Star.

    However, I take much smug satisfaction from the fact that I wrote about this fad last August for fab. FYI: the tone of my article is snarky and nasty – the intent was to mock gay men as they mock us (straight men). It caused all manner of ruckus in the homo community, prompting untold letters (including an offer of sodomy) but nary a whiff of interest from the straight press. Part of the problem was that the article wasn’t so much a trend piece as a defiant bit of posturing, unlike the recent spate of "gosh, guys buy expensive shoes and shampoo too" piffle.

    Simpson’s Salon.com article was plenty relevant when it was published, so I wonder why it is that only now we are reading article after article about them. My guess is that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has provided a timely hook to peg the metrosexual story upon.

    I find it interesting trying to figure out why certain ideas and trends take no time at all to burst and fade (witness the trucker hat meltdown, which I will blog about soon) while others take forever to "cross over" – in much the same way as a hit single will move from the R&B charts to Pop. (Insert meme theory or tipping point observation here.) Despite the interconnectivity of our media age, the metrosexual is only now getting his due. (See also: Vinay Menon, Toronto Star, August 14, 2003 or Maureen Dowd, New York Times, July 12, 2003 or Daphne Gordon, Toronto Star, June 28, 2003).

    My best theory on the metrosexual jet lag, and one with which I have much personal experience, is that there a tendency among journalists to be lazy like a dog in a hammock. So once one columnist writes about something, so does another, and then another, until you’ve got dozens of cultural commentators chasing each other’s farts.

    Thursday, August 21, 2003

    Thank You Onion

    The following headline from yesterday’s Onion accurately attacks our inability to gauge the severity of a crisis and the tendency of self-obsessed urbanites to jabber without pause for oxygen about the slightest crick in their baby-powder pampered lives:

    Blackout Survivors Tell Stories Of Harrowing Inconvenience

    Wednesday, August 20, 2003

    Transit Tabloids

    I love nasty. Here is Slate’s Jack Shafer eviserating a new Washington transit daily:

    If you find news radio too intellectually taxing or wish CNN would slow down its news ticker, the Washington Post Co. has just the thing for you—Express, a free weekday tabloid that debuted in the nation's capital this morning, distributed by hawkers at subway stops. Express compresses the news into 60-word "in brief" capsules, and when writing about something really important—say, Paris Hilton's reality TV show—splurges with 400 words. Express ladles the news out with an eyedropper into tiny text boxes and then flattens it with a steamroller.

    Shafer goes on to mention that the alt-weekly Washington City Paper handed out a parody of the Express (Expresso) on the day the Express debuted. How I would love to live in a city vibrant and confident enough to generate such a cheeky bit of retaliation:

    "For Those Who Will Not Read, We Salute You!" proclaims the Expresso cover story. Expresso asks the man on the street what he's not reading these days. "That Potter book," says Carl of Germantown. "I haven't read any of the Potter books lately. At all," says Jen of Arlington.

    Toronto tried the transit paper route a few years ago. At the time I scoffed at the idea, but according to the most recent NADbank numbers (March 28, 2003), the Metro Toronto is ranked fourth, with a weekly readership of 649,000. (The Post is dead last in the Toronto daily newspaper sweepstakes at 551,700).

    The future of news, it appears, is not to print any of it.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2003

    Fun With Amazon, Part Nine

    Long story, replete with non-disclosure clause, but I suggested my girlfriend watch the SNL sketch where Chris Farley is competing against Patrick Swayze to become a Chippendale’s dancer for a project she’s working on. I did a search to see if that bit of comedic genius was available for purchase or rent and quickly discovered the Best-Of Farley DVD at Amazon. Now, check out this snarky little rabbit punch some clever user managed to insert on the purchase page:

    Our Customers' Advice
    See what customers recommend in addition to, or instead of, the product on this page.

    * 1 person recommended
    Trepanation: History, Discovery, Theory in addition to Saturday Night Live: The Best of Chris Farley

    Love it, love it, love it. Farley fans are unlikely to get the joke, and those smart enough to chuckle appropriately will probably never, ever find their way to the page in question.

    My fluke is your gain. Enjoy.

    (The title of this posting refers to the fact that a number of pranksters & jammers have found methods of deploying minor acts of subversion using the Amazon interface, a few of which I detail in the following rambly article from a few years ago.)

    Monday, August 18, 2003

    Headline Not Working Due to Word Omission

    In a crisis such as the very recent blackout, it is important to act decisively and with dispatch. So I was glad to see my local TD Canada Trust, in Little Italy, had taped the following marker & paper poster to the door of their bank machine aquarium on Thursday:

    ATM is not working due to failure

    Had the employee wasted another second writing the word "power" we can only imagine the sort of terrible fate that might have befallen the bank branch. Plague of aphids? Pestilence? Looters?

    Anyway, good work TDCT – glad to see my money is in the hands of those who don’t waste time in an emergency situation. Too bad that sort of efficiency can’t be channeled into daily bank operations, so that my service fees wouldn’t resemble some sort of accountancy horror movie.
    Street Level Marketing Faceplants

    I’m walking along Bloor street on Saturday evening, and as I near the bank machine at Bathurst (er, for those who don’t live in Toronto, a major intersection in the student ghetto known as The Annex) I notice a cardboard box filled with what appears to be CDs. I peer into the box, upon which is written, "Free! Take One." Looking more closely, it’s a box full of DVDs labelled with "felt marker" that reads "DVD BOOTLEG." It then proclaims to have a "Sin Eating" scene from the movie The Order.

    Like a sucker I grab one, take it home, pop in the player, and sure enough, it turns out to be an example of guerilla marketing. For further details on the attempts to make the DVD clip appear to be a genuine "bootleg," read here.

    I’ll give 'em this much, they simply dumped a sack of DVDs into a box and dropped it on a busy intersection. Can’t get more street level than encouraging people to pick up something just shy of abandoned garbage. In honour of this new, anti-hype maneuver designed to create hype, I am coining the term "sidewalk level marketing." I eagerly await the race toward the bottom (i.e. gutter level promo followed by sewer level marketing trickery).

    Oh, and by the way, nothing short of nothing is going to save this film -- it looks terrible.

    Saturday, August 16, 2003

    Power To the People?

    Power went off Thursday at 4pm.
    Power came back on in my apartment Saturday at 9am.

    Thursday, August 14, 2003

    Leggo My Lego

    I have an essay about Lego in this insane-in-a-good-way art and graphic design anthology that recently was published called Design for Kids, produced by Victionary, a firm based in Hong Kong. The book is 2.5 inches thick, due in large part to the fact that it’s upholstered in half an inch of Nerf foam. That’s only the beginning. It also includes a CD-ROM and a toy gun inside the book, tucked into its own die-cut holster. According to their website:

    DFK inspires to reach the kid with in us and to tap into the fun, silly and imaginative kid’s world presently suppressed by social norms and financial obligations. DFK opens the door and provides the red carpet for you to release your "kid-self" and to give you a chance to enter your very own kid's world. This is a comfortable and relaxing way to distant yourself from all stresses of society.

    It was pure fluke I found my way into this crazy, foamy tome. Victor Cheung, the designer behind this project, emailed me about contributing back in July of last year, after reading some of my art and design articles online. Since the guy lives in Hong Kong I’m never going to meet him in person, and beyond his website, I know nothing about him. Yet I trusted him and sent off an essay in September last, and it actually got published. Surreal.

    Anyway, to conclude where I began, on the topic of Lego, it was only two days ago that I learned of The Brick Testament. Scary and amazing.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2003

    Coinstar Earns $1.93

    On Sunday I decided to rid myself of many, many pennies by using Coinstar. "Turn your change into cash," goes their slogan, as if somehow change and cash were two distinct entities. Empty sloganeering aside, what happens is you dump your change into their machine, it counts it for you and issues a voucher good at the grocery store the device is located within. In the process, Coinstar (Nasdaq: CSTR) takes a small cut for itself, of course.

    So, my petty cash breakdown (the receipt tells you how much of what you had) was as follows:

    2 dollar         0
    1 dollar         0
    25 cents         0
    10 cents         5
    5 cents         130
    1 cent         1270

    Grand total was $19.70, of which Coinstar took $1.93, leaving me with $17.77 – not so bad for a few minutes work. And at some point in your life, you have to ask yourself: what is my time worth? If your time is worth, say, less than $1.93 an hour, then by all means roll your own coins and pocket the profit. If not, then swallow your pride, admit you are no longer a member of the proletariat, and dump all them coins into the big metal mouth that is Coinstar and let the magic begin.

    The counting mechanism can only handle so many coins at once (the narrow slit where the coins enter the machine slows the rate of entry). At one point, it actually asked me to pause. Near the beginning, a little boy gave me a hand, because some coins tumbled through the big green sorting machine only to be spat out through the coin return slot. The five-year old kid even started laughing because so many pennies were being rejected. "I’m not doing so well, am I?" I said to the kid. He giggled even more.

    All told, however, only a few round bits of metal didn’t make the cut. Two filthy US pennies, one US nickel, and six Canuck copper doubloons were declared currency non-grata.

    Near the end of my loud adventure (imagine the sound of 1,400 coins being processed) a young woman who had paid for her groceries walked over and sneaked a peak at the on-screen tally. Who wouldn’t be curious, really? Everyone thinks about using Coinstar, but who among us is actually brave enough to try it?

    And yes, I know the fact that I emptied my piggy bank is endlessly fascinating and oh-so-worthy of blogging in and of itself, but in case some readers seek a little something more here – a morsel of insight, for example – don’t worry, it’s coming in the next paragraph.

    On July 16 of this year, a press release from the company announced that "its network of more than 10,000 machines in the U.S. recycled a total of 33.2 billion coins -- representing $1.7 billion -- back into the economy in 2002. The milestone represents a 13 percent increase in coins recycled and a 17 percent increase in the value of coins recycled by the company over the previous year; this out-paces the U.S. Mint's production of new coin for the second consecutive year. In 2002 14.4 billion new coins were produced by the U.S. Mint, a drop from 19.4 billion new coins in 2001."

    As if those numbers weren’t eye-popping enough:

    Despite the increases in coin recycling by Americans, Coinstar believes the amount of coin being recycled has not had a measurable impact in retrieving the $10.5 billion in coin that is estimated to be sitting idle in American homes. On average, that represents approximately $99 per U.S. household.

    I’m proud to have done my part to stimulate the economy – I bought some whole wheat pita with my profit – leaving me with $16.08. But I couldn’t help but stare at that 8 cents in change I received with a certain amount of menace and irritation.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2003

    Sad But True But Sad

    Three years ago, during my Onion infatuation (the online newspaper, not the cooking accessory) I wrote a satirical article about Coke and Pepsi Co. trying to get their products elected to public office. This morning, my roommate sent me a link to the New York Times:

    "Lester Speight, the actor who plays the brash, voluble character named Terry Tate in a series of popular television and online commercials for Reebok International, has filed to appear on the ballot of the Oct. 7 recall election. The filing of nomination documents, overseen by the Reebok agency, the Arnell Group in New York, was made under the name Lester Terry Tate Speight on a nonpartisan party line."

    Later in the article, we get this:

    "I hope Terry Tate gets elected," said David Altschul, president at Character, a consulting company in Portland, Ore., that specializes in creating and reviving brand and advertising characters. "He can hardly do worse than Gray Davis."

    The idea is not without risk, Mr. Altschul said, primarily if consumers perceive it to be mocking the political process. That pitfall is compounded by the fact the candidates in the recall are already struggling to be taken seriously amidst the wacky, circuslike elements of the race.

    Some people will think the Speight campaign is disrespectful, Mr. Altschul said, but that may be mitigated by the likelihood that "they are not part of the target audience" that Reebok seeks to reach in sponsoring the Tate campaign.


    At the risk of disturbing all those little fishies swimming around in the metaphorical oak barrel, the target audience for this campaign are the demographic known as idiots. Lucky for Tate that he’s running in California.

    Saturday, August 09, 2003

    Caught Napping

    Jesus Mother of Murphy. Holy Catfish. Sufferin’ Succotash. Adbusters raised US$43,000 and bought a full page ad in the July 3, 2003 edition of the New York Fucking Times.

    This blows my mind. Check out the photo on the above link. It looks like photoshop trickery, but it is real, baby. I went to the Toronto Reference Library on Thursday to confirm and yes, Adbusters did actually place an "unbrand America" advertisement in the newspaper of record (as it was known as until the Jayson Blair era, anyway). There it is, on page A9, flanked on the top left and right by the warning: ADVERTISEMENT. Man oh man. That is so cool.

    By way of partial explanation, I used to work at Adbusters (spring of 96 until summer 98), and we definitely did not have the ability to raise US$43,000 for a one-shot culture jam. Try $4,300 Canadian, maybe.

    But the financial angle only explains half of my decision to resort to sailor talk. The rest of my astonish-fucking-ment concerns the fact that I cannot believe I didn’t read about the big black dot at the time it happened. I admit I no longer subscribe to Adbusters (my free subscription was cancelled after I poked a bit of fun at the activist shack that Kalle Lasn built) although I do flip through it at the newsstands religiously. And I bought the May / June 2003 issue (well, a friend of mine Graeme bought it for me as a bribe, a long story that doesn’t bear repeating), mainly for the CD that came included within. But there was no hint of what was to come only a few short months later in said issue.

    As a quick tangent, it’s interesting how Adbusters won a number of design awards in the late 1990s during the Chris Dixon era (a very talented graphic designer and art director who went on to work at the New York Times Magazine and now runs Studio Plural with someone named Andrea Fella) for its clean, sharp, shock-through-juxtaposition style, and is now winning still more design awards for its filthy, chaotic, zine-like appearance. (Follow your visual bliss, Adbusters, since it’s clearly working, but please, no more John Ralston Saul quotes in the mag. I beg you.)

    Anyway, as I was saying, neither the Globe and Mail, nor the National Post, nor any number of other news sources I am exposed to on a daily basis via the Internet reported the New York Times coup. Or if they did, I missed it. In any case, belated congrats on the big black dot.

    On a related topic, I bought the new issue of res magazine, a film, music, art, design and culture glossy based in New York. The July/August issue is devoted to the topic of resistance, and includes bits about KAWS, Shawn Wolfe and Adbusters, among many others. It’s been a while since I dropped $8 on a magazine I’ve never heard of, but it was cash well spent.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2003

    Inventor’s Little Helper

    By now you’ve read 19 hilarious stories about Bow-Lingual, the device that translates dog barks into English. I direct your attention to episode 8F23 of the Simpsons, Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? Here, Herb, an entrepreneur and half-brother of Homer, introduces the Simpson clan to his new invention idea – a baby translator:

    It measures the pitch, the frequency, and the urgency of a baby's cry, and then tells whoever's around, in plain English, exactly what the baby's trying to say! Everything from "Change me" to "Turn off that damn Raffi record!"

    Herb gets $2,000 from Homer to build a prototype, and it actually works:

    Lisa: Maggie? Maggie? [covers her eyes]
    Maggie: [babbles]
    Translator: [monotone] Where did you go?
    Lisa: Peekaboo! [uncovers eyes]
    Maggie: [laughs]
    Translator: [monotone] Oh, there you are. Very amusing.

    If anyone reading this seeks a recommendation about idea theft from the Simpsons, might I suggest Gum N Nuts, a fictional (for now, anyway) product with the slogan "Together at Last":

    Lisa: It's awful being a kid. No one listens to you.
    Grampa Simpson: It's rotten being old. No one listens to you.
    Homer: I’m a white male, aged 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me! No matter how dumb my suggestions are. [opens kitchen cabinet, removes can of Gum N Nuts, tosses some into his maw]

    Tuesday, August 05, 2003

    Straight Man Ahead of the Curve

    For the record, I leapfrogged the reality TV Zeitgeist by at least six months when I participated in Gay Fear Factor last October. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy should start sending me royalty cheques (nee hush money) ASAP.

    Monday, August 04, 2003

    Finally, a Niche Magazine for Me

    According to Slate, a new publication called Tall magazine hit the stands two weeks ago. For the past few years, I have billed myself as the tallest freelance writer in Toronto (6-foot-5). Now, finally, I can read about tall culture, as envisioned and executed by editor Everard Strong, who stands a mighty 6-foot-9. There’s a column about dealing with back pain by Dr. Stein (a 7-foot-2 chiropractor) along with fashion tips, tall teen talk (?!?) and an interview with Conan O’Brien, who is the same height as me. (FYI: Women have to be over 5-foot-9 to be considered eligible to read Tall).

    As soon as I can get my hands on a print copy (or bother to download their 20 meg PDF sample issue) I’ll provide further commentary and analysis. In the meantime, I defer to the unfortunately-named Slate writer Brad Wieners:

    Strong wants Tall to frame an inspirational "culture of height." Which raises an obvious question: To what extent does being "tall" define a tall person? Do tall people have outstanding body-image issues? Is all tallness alike—or is there a height barrier at which "tall" passes from being descriptive adjective to an essentialist identity?

    Saturday, August 02, 2003

    Wheels Within Wheels

    Yesterday my blog was mention in Shinan Govani’s National Post gossip column.

    The full text, in case the link doesn’t work (or dies, as is often the case with the new CanWest era, Canada.com website engine) is provided here:

    3. Philosopher-professor-polemicist Mark Kingwell is a good kisser, deems freelance writer Ryan Bigge in his Net blog, www.biggeworld.com. The pucker verdict was drawn last week at Parkdale's Cadillac Lounge, at a party marking the launch of This magazine's summer issue. Kingwell was the man at a kissing booth, and Bigge forked over his $2 chiefly, he says, so he would have "something to blog about today." For the record, he adds, "the kiss lasted a few seconds (three, tops) and was accompanied by a one-armed hug/draw-the-person-closer manoeuvre."

    Thanks Shinan!