Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Post Rogue

I will be recounting my lack of money in a post-grad blog:


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peace Out R World...

It seems fitting that on the night before my final exam at Rotman I took some to contemplate, ie procrastinate, and think over the past 20 months of my life, most of which were spent in, talking to people from, or bitch about the goings on at, 105 St. George Street, which is colloquially known as the Rotman School of Management. As I thought long and hard about it I realized that there had been some good times; some bad times; some teary times; some downright weird times; some new friend times; some times that made a national newspaper; and this one time at orientation camp...

As with most of my decisions in life I realized retrospectively that I didn't think hard enough about actually going to Rotman until I found myself knee deep in first year finance thinking: "where I come from cum day means something totally different then what this guy is talking about." I mean sure, I did the administrative tasks necessary: I applied, interviewed, quit my job, and basically sold my soul to the Bank of Nova Scotia. But truthfully, did I think long and hard about what it would mean to become a permanent and flummoxed fixture at Rotman? No. Not really. Rotman was sort of like this one time I woke up and decided I needed a new pair of pants. 2 hours later my whim found me standing outside of Club Monaco on Bloor Street with a pair of pants and also a bag full somewhat expensive clothes that I wasn't exactly sure I needed. Similarly, one very expensive whim later, I found myself on Bloor Street with a Rotman branded knapsack full of textbooks that I wasn't quite sure when I would use again and with my head crammed full of learnings. But hey, I had those 3 letters I wanted so... Such is life; I really should think about things before jumping headfirst into a data pool.

Those 3 letters of course provide no answers to life's greatest mystery's; in cheesy terms it provides a tool-box. In consulting terms it provides a framework. In banking terms it lowers your WACC in order to achieve positive project NPV; or something. An MBA provides nothing beyond a foundation. A foundation for what you may ask? Well that's the ironic beauty of a degree as broad as a business degree; it provides a foundation for anything really. The veritable world is your oyster. Spotted: a double edged sword of frightening. Much like Ontario, the MBA is yours to discover.

In some ways I wish I could look back at my Rotman application essay and see how I responded to the seminal question of: what do you want to do with a [Rotman] MBA? Sadly my computer crashed halfway through school (please, as if I back shit up) so I can't actually look at what I wrote. I remember vaguely how I answered, but what I also know is that if I was asked the same question today my answer would be completely dissimilar to what it was two years ago. Truthfully I'm not even sure I could even answer that question anymore; in many ways, I've become entirely less certain of myself in the twenty months since I started Rotman. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The precocious kid whom entered Rotman and who believed he know all of the answers to life's greatest mysteries found out he knew almost nothing beyond his comfort zone.

In reality my answer to that indomitable question of what I want to do with my life is about as truthy as asking my 4 year-old nephew, Ethan, what he wants to do when he grows up. With certainty I can picture him saying: "Uncle Jono I want to be Buzz Lightyear." Sure kid... and I want to be the King of Spain. Rotman is like the adult version of finding out that Santa Clause doesn't really exist. As a reality check it sucks at the time, but its seminal. And leaving your comfort zone is well... what life's all about. Uncertainty breads reinvention and it instills a sense of drive and purpose. This probably is the art of the MBA; beyond of course the rote learnings of Porter's five forces, an MBA is a kick in the pants.

And so, after twenty months at Rotman, which included one too many self reflection papers, a lot of group work and countless trips to that weirdly stocked general store where I would look in disappointment at my food options (really?), it is time to quote the legendary Edward R. Morrow: Good Night and Good Luck.

It has been a slice R-World.

And remember everyone - there are just as many's B's in MBA as there are A's.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Many Meanings of Flip Flopping...

The term Flip Flopping is something that probably won’t be included in the Ontario sex-ed curriculum once it is updated to teach 3rd grader’s about the big nasty world of the gay; regardless it is perhaps a term that every Ontarian should now know its definition of.

In the gay world flip-flopping is when two men (lets assume they are partners, and maybe, depending on where they live in North America lucky enough to be considered husband and husband) take turns penetrating each other. This is what we gays like to call a flip flop f*ck and this versatility is one of the many reasons, of which sharing bow-ties and face-cream are others, that being gay is awesome. Just think of the penetrative combinations the average gay couple’s sex life includes; who's on first is NOT a common question being asked in gay bedrooms across the nation, rather the question asked is: who's doing who first? Straights, most of the time, I feel bad for you as it must really suck to be constrained by single-partner penetrative sex [SPP] (unless of course you’re with a straight man who enjoys anal play, in which case all the more power to you) and I’m sorry to the lesbians reading this who may or may not have penetrate intercourse. Munch on.

In politics, however, a flip-flop means something completely different, obviously; and furthermore, get that visual image of Dalton McGuinty and George Smitherman flip flopping on the health tax credit out of your head. Ew. In politics flip flopping refers to political leaders who approve a policy before clawing back on said policy; this claw back is often due to demands from special interest groups. "Dalton really flip-flopped on Transit City," would be one example of a political flip flop. Occasional flip flopping on Sean Cody would define the gay meaning.

Now it appears as if Dalton McGuinty, current Premier of Ontario has flip flopped, politically, over something much less graphic then flip flop f*cking. Updating our sex-ed curriculum to teach Grade 1's proper body names for their private parts is suddenly too much for our government which found itself on the wrong side of special interest, mostly religious minority groups. I mean won't someone please think of the children?

Anyway I haven’t read all of the proposed and "scary" changes that Dalton McGuinty approved to provincially mandated sex-ed curriculum, before he rescinded them, but apparently they were going to teach 3rd graders that gay people exist. GASP. And then in grade six the province was going to talk about vaginal lubrication, anal sex and masturbation. Scary stuff that. When I was in grade nine my gym teacher introduced anal sex as a risky sex activity. When someone asked why two men would have sex with each other in the bum, he responded by saying: “well there’s no other hole you have to make do with what you have.” Touche.

People in Ontario should meet a Colorado third grader by the name of Ethan McNamee. In 2009 Ethan arranged a same-sex marriage rally as an independent class project. Ethan was concerned about the issue after hearing about anti-gay remarks on the playground. Then he learned about a same sex couple in his neighborhood that couldn't get married because uhm... they're gay and the American's don't allow such things as gay marriage. "Everybody is different in a good way," he said.

If a kid in Colorado can stump for same-sex marriage, certainly, the good people of Ontario can handle their kids learning about gay people. Jesus, its not like I'm asking the province to teach children about flip-flopping; after all McGuinty's already done a good job on that one.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sometimes I think a lot about Heather Reisman, CEO of Chapters/Indigo. Girl – what are you up to exactly? Are you making organic paper products for your Pistachio stationary chain? Are you and Jerry deep in a game of Risk? Do you use the Streit’s Matzoh Ball Mix at Passover or do you cook matzoh balls from scratch? If so, what’s your secret?

But beyond the mundane realities of Heather’s life, I also have more serious business minded questions for her. Like how does she pick her Heather’s Picks for Indigo? According to Indigo’s website Heather’s Picks are: “Guaranteed Picks, Chosen Personally by our CEO and chief booklover – we guarantee these great reads or you’ll receive a full refund or exchange.” I thought initially that Heather’s picks would be somewhat topical; even Gwyneth Paltrow has amended her GOOP lifestyle e-newsletter to include season offerings such as Steven Spielbergs favourite Matzoh Brei recipe. Oddly enough, however, Heather’s picks exist in a festive time warp, Brian Mulroney’s Memoirs is currently one of her “picks” even though it was published in 2007 and well… Brian Mulroney is about as relevant as Britney Spears these days.

That being said, there is still money to be made in seasonal literature, and now is the time when every Indigo is decked out with copies of that clichéd graduation gift: Dr Seuss’s Oh, The places you’ll go. It may not be chosen by Freulein Reisman, but its still a money maker.

People often give copies of Oh, The places you’ll go to recent graduates as a sort of pick me up as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. I suppose rhymes like: “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” are helpful in times of CRISIS, JOB SEARCH, and OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE moments. Heck Theodor Geisel even has rhymes for moments when you feel like crying: “Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you. And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.”

I understand why the book has a following, however, if I see one copy of Oh, The places you’ll go at my Donna Martin Graduate themed graduation party… I’m going to lose my shit. Its not that I don’t value its message, which is about as saccharinely sweet as a “Favourite Things” episode on Oprah, feeeeeeaaaaaaatttttttuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrinnnnngg JEEEEEENNNIFFEERRRR ANNNNIISSTTTTON (you know the voice that Oprah uses to introduce big name guests, read that line like that) because I do, but because… it just isn’t really the right message to graduating students.

Lines from Oh, The places you’ll go are like when you call your mother crying because your boyfriend broke up with you or because you don’t have a job and the only thing she can tell you is that everything is going to be ok. In those types of situations, hearing that “everything is going to be ok”, just isn’t very helpful. What you need your mother to do is introduce you to that cute boy down the street and or get you a job. We need action and well action… not words.

So what will I be getting my Rotman friends, besides a papier mache picture frame made out of my statistics notes? In keeping with the Children’s literature them, I’m partial to something from the Hardy Boy, Nancy Drew oeuvre. Why? Well the Hardy Boys mystery novels, which chronicle the lives of amateur teenage sleuths Frank and Joe Hardy, teach a couple of valuable lessons that Oh, The places you’ll go does not.

For Example:

First of all each of the original Hardy Boy books are self sustaining stories; when the Hardy Boys solve their mystery du jour, the story is over and there is no lingering bullshit. This is helpful for moments of your life that you wish would just end. The Hardy Boys teach us know that once you’ve solved the mystery of the Tower Treasure, you’re on to the next case, the mystery at the House on the Cliff. Lets say you hated doing your Masters of Lameness Administration (MLA) at the School of Lameness; well that shit ends in two years. Move on!

Secondly the Hardy Boys teach us that life is mysterious. Frank and Joe have solved over 100 different mysteries. They’re only 18. So don’t cry and don’t be lazy; go solve some mysteries.

Thirdly, don’t discount the value of friends. The Hardy Boys are surrounded by good friends, from Chet Morton and his Jalopy to harmonica playing star athlete Biff Morton, described as buff, blond and muscular (call me!). This also leads us to point 3b): although the Hardy Boys also have “girlfriends” these seems to be a platonic designation; if you notice neither Frank nor Joe are taking time away from their busy schedule of solving crimes to fuck-around with lady parts. Point noted Frank and Joe.

The reality is that the last thing MBA students, and other graduating students need is a pat on the back telling us that everything is going to be ok. We know that; we survived. What we need now is a little context – and for that context, I will be looking to the Hardy Boys whose tale of white, upper middle class, WASP suburbia is about as comforting as anything else out there.

And to make a long-story short - Heather, I’m looking for a job – if you want someone to vet your picks – call me!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Release Your LOADD!

My name is Jonathan Naymark and I suffer from a condition; a condition that only recently has been properly identified by the Ontario College of Physicians and Health Canada. Known as Late-Onset Attention Deficit Disorder (LOADD), LOADD is hard to diagnose yet effects thousands of Canadians.

Almost two years ago I began to notice that I could no longer finish a Harvard Business Case in one sitting. It would take me days, even months to simply read the A Case. When I was younger, I remember sitting at the park and reading case after case, my appetite for business cases was practically insatiable. My growing inability to focus coincided almost directly with my return to school. Once again a student I suddenly found it difficult to concentrate during my mandatory statistics class; was that regression random, or was someone bbm’ing me? Financial accounting? Account me out; there was status liking to do be done on Facebook instead.

Sound familiar? Clearly, I am not alone. In fact Late-Onset Attention Deficit Disorder (LOADD) impacts thousands of Canadians, and hundreds of new cases are self-diagnosed daily.

What exactly is LOADD? Well I’m glad you asked. While ADD is a condition that afflicts younger children, LOADD is a condition known to only inflict twenty-somethings who are in professional school programs. The greatest number of LOADD sufferers are in their final year of a post-bachelor degree.

There is no cure for LOADD. Doctors believe, however, that LOADD may be situational and that it IS possible to lose your LOADD at some point in the future.

If you are wondering if you too may suffer from LOADD, doctors have developed the following Top Ten List:

1. You cannot concentrate long enough to read a top ten list.
2. I cannot concentrate long enough to make a top ten list.
3. Monkeys!?
4. I love chocolate milk!
5. Am I hungry?
6. No I’m thirsty.
7. Exercise.
8. Your mind.
9. Homework.
10. Gossip Girl.

With the surge of LOADD Sufferers, there is now a national support group that all those inflicted with LOADD are welcome to join. The group is known as Late Onset Attention Deficit Disorder Sufferers (LOADDS) and they can be reached online via their website: www.releaseyourloadd.org.

“We like it when people bust into a LOADDS meeting,” declared LOADDS President Cyndi Macelrone; in fact sufferers are joining the group by the hundreds. “LOADDS are popping out of the woodwork," Cyndi declared. Cyndi, a 2009 graduate of the Schulich School of Management, was diagnosed with LOADD in early February of 2009. She founded LOADDS in March but became distracted by NCAA March Madness. It was only when she finished school that she was able to restart the group, “Our goal is for everyone who suffers from LOADD to dump their LOADD on us. I believe that through group therapy, LOADD can be erad... Hey! Do you hear that music playing? I think its the new Lady Gaga song."
In no way does this "note" aim to hurt anyone who has, or knows someone who has, been diagnosed with ADD, or ADHD. Those are two very real conditions and should not be made fun of.

Monday, March 8, 2010


The TTC Doesn’t Have a Customer Service Problem, It has an Operations Problem

At about 9:30 am on March 2 I stood in St Patrick subway station in a line with about six of my fellow Torontonians. I wanted to buy 5 tokens, which, as most frequent TTC users know you can’t do from a token vending machine assuming you’re lucky enough to find a working one, which is probably out of tokens and regardless it only accepts cash, but for some odd reason it won’t accept a five-dollar bill. I’d actually love to see how a tourist guidebook précis the TTC payment system, which has more nuances then a typical episode of Lost.

The morning was a standard TTC shuffle; the person in front of me wanted to buy a Metropass (which were sold out), while the person behind me just wanted drop her coins into the fare slot, but couldn’t quite maneuver herself around the metal barrier, and instead stood impatiently behind me tapping her foot. It was another typical Toronto morning of near civil unrest in the city’s underground.

The next day the TTC would announce members of their Customer Service Advisory Panel. The Panel, chaired by hotel manager Steve O’Brien, is the TTC’s attempt to respond to what has been an annus horibilis for the Commission in terms of customer service. Torontonians have developed a rather rapid disdain for its not so better way; our collective dislike for the TTC began in earnest last December with a fair hike, which was followed by immediate token hoarding, none of which mattered as the TTC suffered from a spate of noted and widespread service disruptions. All of this was punctuated by a well-publicized photograph of a napping TTC worker, which appears to have been the final straw in our collective will. Something had to be done to calm the masses, so the TTC decided to assemble a panel that will help figure out the Commission’s customer service strategy. Taking things to the max the TTC even ran a Twitter contest to fill a spot on the Panel. How web 2.0 of them; impressive considering the TTC still can’t tell you exactly when the next bus is coming.

I don’t have high hopes for the TTC’s customer service initiatives. Why? Well this may sound like crazy talk, but the TTC doesn’t actually have a customer service problem. The TTC has an operations problem.

The TTC isn’t the Gap; you don’t need a TTC driver to rifle through a pile of t-shirts to find you an extra-small t-shirt… Rather the TTC is a service provider, which bills itself “as the quick, convenient and safe way to get around Toronto.” Yet the TTC fails big time in its ability to actually fulfill this mission and customer service improvements won’t help. When it comes to moving Torontonians around, the TTC is stuck in the dark ages and this has little to do with whether employees smile as you board a streetcar or how many subway lines it does or doesn’t operate; as Rocco Rossi, Toronto Mayoral Candidate, said recently we have the best 1970’s transit system there is. Problem of course: it is 2010.

In a way, however, the TTC’s problems are connected to its fare collectors. They’re tied to the fact that the TTC actually employs fare collectors (who may or may not be smiling at you). Go to Hong Kong, London or Shanghai… and count how many times you interact with a transit employee. You can’t. Because you won’t. All of these transit systems use a smartcard as a form of payment. Even Boston, which runs North America’s oldest subway system, introduced the Charlie Card to its entire bus and subway fleet in 2006. Four years ago. Here in Toronto the TTC is still relying on gravity as its proof of payment system, which as TTC Chair Adam Giambrone is happy to tell you, is still the most reliable form of payment system there is. Can’t argue with Isaac Newton, right?

For Torontonians who haven’t used a smartcard system before, smartcards look like debit cards, and transit users simply go to a machine, and with their debit or credit cards (or even cash) purchase a smartcard which they can then load with currency, which is then swiped, or tapped as you get on or off a bus, subway or streetcar. Customer service problem solved.

The lack of a smartcard in Toronto is operationally archaic. What’s even more awkward about the TTC’s reluctance to go the smartcard route is that Canadians love debit cards, and are world leaders in the cashless movement. Canadians have the second highest number of debit transactions per inhabitant people worldwide. Of Canadians with ABM cards (which includes 90% of adult Canadians), 45% of transactions are done via debit , while cash accounts for only 22% of transactions. Yet the TTC has basically ignored any other form of payment beyond cash; of the TTC’s 69 subway and RT stations only the following have automatic Metropass Vending Machines: Bloor-Yonge, Eglinton, Queen, Scarborough Centre, Union, Islington and Finch. No Metropass Vending Machines accept credit cards either, even though credit cards account for 31% of transactions for those Canadians with ABM’s. How does this make any sense?

What makes the entire situation laughable is that unbeknownst to the majority of Torontonians the province has developed a provincial smartcard program called Presto. The Presto Card is waiting patiently like a pound puppy for mass adoption by the province’s transit operators. When the program launched in 1996 the province agreed to fund Presto's implementation, which is estimated to cost approximately $140 million, asking only that Ontario’s various regional transit systems pay for the cost of Presto machines themselves. The entire project was to be implemented across the Toronto region by 2010. Guess we’re still waiting on that one eh? Now full Presto implementation across GO Transit, and the nine Greater Toronto Area transportation agencies, excluding the TTC, is expected by 2011; however, only 12 TTC stations and no TTC bus lines will use Presto by the end of its scheduled 2011 roll-out.

So what’s the hold-up? Well… initially the TTC boycotted Presto arguing that the money that the province was going to use to pay for Presto would better be spent on new buses. A worthwhile endeavor indeed, although part of me thinks that the TTC shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Recently, there has been a minor mood shift at the TTC, which is now tentatively on board the Presto train to normalcy. However, there is still no firm date for when the TTC, which accounts for 85% of all transit trips taken across the GTA, will fully implement the card. TTC officials have been concerned at the cost of purchasing and installing Presto machines; understandably considering the size of the TTC compared to other regional transportation agencies. Regardless the fact that there is no firm schedule for the TTC’s full participation in the Presto program should be worrisome for consumers; without full implementation by the TTC the Presto card is doomed to failure.

Toronto’s civic unrest with our transit system has little to do specifically with customer service. The TTC has, however, failed a key customer service test; customer willingness to pay is strongly tied to ease of payment and the TTC just doesn’t make it easy for its users to pay.

The reality that Mr. Rossi pointed out is that it is now 2010 - who needs service when a smile when you’re simply swiping a smartcard?

To quote one famous Torontonian: NOOOOOOOOOObody.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What the Junk? Censorship in Corporate America

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but my favourite song in the entire world is California, by Phantom Planet. Why?

Well… the lead singer, Alex Greenwald, was featured heavily in the mid nineties Gap “Everybody” campaign. Remember: Everybody in Leather, Everybody in Vests, Everybody in Cords? If that campaign doesn’t turn a frown upside down, then clearly you have no more soul then Angel after he de-virginized Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and apparently I’m still living in 1998.

California was also the theme song to the OC, which was, at least in its first season, an excellent teenage drama.

While dithering around my apartment this afternoon looking for a distraction I ended up YouTubing my way over to Everybody in Vests, which reminded me of my love for California. A quick type into YouTube and soon enough I was quickly “cruising down the 101” reminiscing about Seth Cohen, his bromance with Chino’s favourite son Ryan Atwood and some of the best TV dialogue ever written; how can you forget: “Welcome to the OC bitch; this is how its done in Orange County.”

These days most music video’s on YouTube are hosted via Vevo. Vevo was launched by Sony Music Entertainment as a compiler of music video’s. Vevo is also an act of corporate cooperation; EMI, Universal as well as Google and YouTube have all signed on board the project. Vevo is an attempt by the record industry to counter pirated YouTube music video’s and allow record companies to profit from people viewing music videos online.

Vevo… however, is not your friend. My euphoric moment of OC memory lane-age was quickly destroyed, when Alex sang the second verse of the song: “Hustler grab your guns. Shadow weighs a tonne. Driving down the 101”. On Vevo the word guns is bleeped. Guns. Bleeped in a country that prides itself on the Second Amendment to its Constitution, which states, “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Apparently in America you can bear arms but you just can’t talk about it in song. Not even bothering to get into America’s fucked up gun culture, how does this make any sense?

I had my moment with Vevo on the same day that Apple began removing “suggestive” iphone applications from its App Store. Apple is concerned that the App Store was becoming cluttered with “racy content”. According to the company it was also fending off complaints from customers concerned with sexual applications. According to the NY Times some of the applications that have been removed include: “SlideHer, a puzzle that challenged users to reassemble a photograph of a scantily clad actress and Sexy Scratch Off, an app which depicted a woman whose dress could be whisked away at the swipe of a finger, revealing her undergarments.”

Oh My Gawd. Scantily clad women? Undergarments? Is this seriously what people consider racy? Here’s a little tip: if you have time to call Apple to complain about racy applications you probably need to get laid.

I find it shocking that a scantily clad woman application caused a corporate uproar. I’d like to know if anyone who complained to Apple has ever typed the word “tit” into Google; cause I can tell you, you don’t need to be a computer hacker to see things on the internet that are a lot more sexualized then a woman in her undergarments. I just typed “tit” into google images and saw a lot more then I was expecting. In fact I saw a lot more then I’d ever seen before. And less you think that only app’s which sexualized women were removed; gay-centric app “Hunk du Jour” (which does exactly what you think it does, it sends you a daily picture of a shirtless hunk in undergarments) was also removed from the App Store.

Jesus Christ Corporate America, this is what you’re concerning yourself with? Never mind the Iraqi War, the Country’s massive fiscal deficit, broken revenue models, racial inequality, marriage inequality, health care… you’re busy fucking white washing mildly suggestive content from entertainment properties. (But of course… if you slap a Rated M for Mature on games like Grand Theft Auto, which can be used on the Sony Playstation, then all is ok). Dummbasses.

And this is the greatest problem with America today, the lingering sense of Puritanism that its populace demands and that its corporate leaders are obliged to acquiesce to. Remember how the American public was so scandalized when Janet Jackson accidentally showed her nipple the Super Bowl? Its like corporate America has become afraid of its buying public. Even the Tiger Woods narrative is indicative of this fear; Tiger’s mistake wasn’t that he fucked a bunch of stripper’s, rather his mistake was convincing American’s that he was a perfect family man while he continued to fuck a bunch of stripper’s. But ask yourself this: did Tiger have to sell himself as a perfect family man to solidify his endorsements? What we the public told corporate American is that being a great golfer apparently isn’t good enough. We needed a husband and a father as well as a great golfer. Tiger just tried to give us what we wanted and we wanted wasn’t racy.

Because god-forbid Vevo lets a child somewhere in Illinois here the word gun in a music video and woah nelly – imagine if Apple let a 14 year-old boy download an application that featured a scantily clad women? Or even worse, what if a 14 year-old boy downloaded a Hunk du Jour application and liked it?

One of the reasons that America as we know it has been so successful is because of its corporate culture. Corporate America, and its iconic brands, have defined much of twentieth century mass culture. Corporations have also driven innovation. America is built on the ideology of the private corporation. But this corporate ethos should be about openness, not censorship.

The world already has one superpower that censors the web (hi China!); the world doesn’t need another super power where corporations practice censorship as well.

So grow up corporate America; show us your balls.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Google

I was out with some friends recently when we got onto gossiping about a mutual friend of ours, whom we were all apparently stalking on Facbeook (as if you’re judging us…). One of us, me, was concerned that her new boyfriend was but a year out of high school, while another was convinced that the boyfriend was still in university. Confused, worried and lost, we went straight to Google.

“The Google doesn’t lie.” I declared; and sure enough but five minutes later, the Google let us know, with some relief, that our friends new boyfriend was indeed a community college graduate. Praise be allah.

I’m convinced that people don’t pray to god anymore; people now pray to Google. In fact the search engine and its various appendages (GTalk, GoogleDocs, GChat, Gmail, G-adNauseum) have seemingly more to do with my day-to-day life then my mother, at least with the exception of financial support. For that I still need Sima, although as a blogger – I once made almost $8 from Google ad words. Google only mails checks in installments of hundred dollars so… I guess I’m still waiting for Google Ship to come in.

Anyway, so pervasive is Google that its latest advertisement actually aired during the Superbowl; perhaps the massest mass market marketing festival of our culture. The ad, entitled Parisian Love, is part of the Google Search Story campaign. In a nutshell: the commercial tells the story of someone, presumably male and American, who uses Google’s search engine to look for French exchange programs, Parisian coffee shops, how to impress a French woman, how to deal with long-distance relationships… blah blah blah… until the ad ends with a baby crying as our unknown hero searches for: “how to assemble a crib.” Orangina vomit mouth.

The conceit of Google’s current ad campaign is that Google is essential to your life. Google is now your best friend. But is it?

Thinking that the Google worked out well for our unknown American friend, who moved to Paris, found himself a spouse, taught himself the difference between truffles and Truffaut, I thought I’d try out my own luck with the Google, seeing as I don’t live in Paris (but would like to), I have considered finding myself a spouse (but haven’t been able to), and would also like to know the difference between truffles and Truffaut (so I can impress douchebags at bars). And as June 8th grows closer and closer, ie my convication from RotFunMan, I should probably find out what I’m going to do with myself post MBA.

Looking for love and answers I typed into Google: “Where should I work after my MBA?”

The first thing that Google came up provided no career advice, and in fact served to only make me feel worser about myself.

Someone in cyberspace asked: “Should I add MBA after my name?”

The response: “Unfortunately, there are only a handful of professions in which adding credentials after your name make sense. Having an MBA is certainly not one of them, and there are a host of other abbreviations that are downright pathetic.”

Thanks Google; for $70k I don’t even get to ad something fun to my signature? FML.

Then I tried: “What do I do with an MBA?”

The Google coughed up this: “What you can do with an MBA degree is really up to you and how far you want to go in your career. Graduates of an MBA program can choose to use their skills to help others in a nonprofit or to climb the corporate ladder and reach the upper echelons of management. Regardless of the career path you choose, your return on a MBA is based on how much you want to push yourself to reach your personal and professional goals.”

Realizing that my immediate personal goals should involve doing the dinner dishes I left in the sink, I sensed a feeling of inherent boredom. It was something only that could best be described as ennui, which, when typed into Goolge led me to its official definition: en·nui –noun; a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom: The endless lecture produced an unbearable ennui.

Maybe it was just me, but the Google, which had seemed so reliable only hours earlied, now seemed so unhelpful. Why Google did you forsake me, why?

All of this just goes to show you though, that Google, which is attempting to ingratiate itself into all aspects of my life can’t actually do everything.

So ya know what I did? I called my mother. And ya know what she told me to do? She told me to get off my lazy ass and do the dishes.

Le Sigh.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When in Beijing

I often find myself visiting gay bars when I’m in foreign cities. I guess I do it for the same reason I like to visit synagogues when abroad; while I may not frequent either establishments at home in Toronto, when traveling its nice to know how my peeps like to keep it real (and or kosher) in foreign cities. So just as I found myself getting body checked when visiting the historic Ohel Leah Synagogue in Hong Kong, so too did I find myself getting manhandled at Beijing’s primary gay club, Destination.

As a destination, Destination, is fairly typical for its ilk; think strobe lights, a large dance floor and dark cozy corners. I was dragged to Destination late one Friday night with a fellow Canadian, Chris, a PEI banker who had made Beijing his home. The club was full of what Chinese call tongzhi; in Mandarin tongzhi means comrade, but as of late, the word has been co-opted by China’s slowly emergent LGBT community as self-referential slang. It is both a pun, if you divide the Mandarin characters for tongzhi you get “same-will”, and a subversive joke on comrades obvious communist connotations.

Chris and I had met up at Destination after our plan to attend the first ever Mr. Gay China was foiled by a police raid. The event, affiliated with the international gay pageant movement, had been raided by the Beijing police and shut down due to an “alleged” permit infraction. After two years of living in Beijing Chris was hardly surprised at the evening’s turn of events, “That’s what they do here,” he shrugged his shoulders and downed another drink, “If they don’t like something, they’ll just shut you down.” Chris was weary about his time in Beijing and having made the decision to leave, he was hardly nostalgic, “the things that are unbearable about China and Beijing – like tonight – well you try and overlook when you’re living here; but once you’ve decided to go they really start to really grate on you.”

I expected that there would be outrage about Mr. Gay’s cancellation, but standing in Destination, hours after the police disbanded the event, there was nary of ripple of angst; Lady Gaga was on the loud speaker, there was end of week dancing to do. Plus ca change.

The crowd at Destination may not have cared about the failure to launch of Mr. Gay China, but I could only imagine the scene if anything similar were to happen back home. In Canada, after our Harper government decided to demote a minister for supporting Toronto’s pride parade, the angst amongst both the queer community was palpable. Even my father, a Conservative stalwart, admitted “what Harper did just wasn’t right”.

It is easy to travel through China and see what pundits call “Tier 1 China”, the country of glittering skyscrapers, massive construction sites and marvel at the fact that the Shanghai subway system has built seven new lines in the last ten years, while the TTC dithers over the cost of one. It is not as easy to read between the lines and remember that the country is still a communist relic. It is still the People’s Republic of China after all. But f you listen closely to corporate CEO’s as they talk about the country’s economic miracle you eerily begin to realize that such rampant economic success is not as benevolent as its pro-China hype.

One CEO I met in China admitted cheerfully, that China’s public health care system was partially subsidized by provincial citizenship; payments are only covered if you stay within your home province. From an economic standpoint this is a major no-no as it limits the free movement of population. It also means that China’s healthcare is not like Canada’s, which we pride on being “accessible, portable and comprehensive”. In China such limitations are admitted to rather readily;1.3 billion people seem to acquiesce to things that 33 million Canadians would, for all of our politeness, join a Facebook group and protest over. Oh wait, Facebook is banned in China.

My suspicion of China, or judgyness, isn’t of course a new sentiment. While the world generally has a collective miasma over China and her civil rights violations we do every-so-often collectively remember that all is not well at the end of the Silk Road. Most recently and infamously internet titan Google threatened to leave the world’s emergent super power fearing for government privacy laws.

And yet its hard to stay mad at plucky China, which seems caught between the country we all want it to be and the country it wants to be for itself. Chinese themselves are seemingly happy with the country’s progress and the recurring theme amongst Chinese is that this “Chinese way” is a different but also a successful way to develop economically.

When I asked a Chinese intellectual about the Christmas Day arrest of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobou, my question was patently dismissed.

“The west,” he said, “has a contract, a constitution with its population and that contract is hard to change. How many times gas the American constitution changed since it was written?” he asked me rhetorically. “We have no similar culture here in China. Our constitution with our people is constantly changing, it is under constant refinement and evolution.”

This “evolving contract” allows the government to shut down gay events, arrest dissidents, and execute British drug dealers, all of which occurred in China during my three-week visit. This evolving contract probably ensured that last year’s inaugural Shanghai Pride didn’t feature a public parade for fear of police intervention. But beyond this evolving nature of the politic I wonder if the reticence of China’s gay community to embrace such hallmarks of queer culture, pride and pageantry, is not only about a fear of police retaliation but perhaps a rejection of westernized values as well?

When the state of India decriminalized homosexuality last year, Canadian-Indian author Anand Mahadevan wrote in the Globe and Mail, that Indian gays must “look to their own past,” instead of following a western model, which he feared would “promote a McDonald’s-ization of queer culture.” “The Stonewall riots are not their past, pride marches are not their celebrations,” Mahadevan noted.

The same sentiment can be made about China. Obviously those who were at Destination were not ready to make the police’s reaction to Mr. Gay China their Stonewall. But what will be China’s Stonewall if anything at all? When it comes to queer rights, if China looks neither inward, as Mr. Mahadevan suggests is necessary to develop an indigenous queer culture, nor outward, at Western iconography of queer culture (which China seems to rebuff), then the fight for queer rights in China will stagnate.

This chicken-versus-egg problem of China is that the country is adept at both rejecting the external, in order to promote “the Chinese way”, but the lack of a Chinese political class prevents the country from championing an internal alternative. If this dichotomy continues then the praises that the so-called “Chinese way” receives for ensuring economic expansion will turn to criticisms when it comes to promoting political freedom.

What Toronto Needs is a Mayor Who Can Sext...

Today the municipally inclined world of Torontonian (ie the Centre of Canada) politics was abuzz with Adam Giambrone’s admission of an “inappropriate relationship” with a 19 year-old female. For Canadian (and municipal at that) politics, this Clinton-esque scandal is about as saucy at it gets. The Star’s scoop, written by Linda Diebel, read more like something you’d find on Dlisted and less like your typical Star exclusive report on “Poverty in the GTA!” or “Toronto’s Best Elementary Schools!” Quite frankly it was a fairly tawdry piece of reporting, considering that the 32 year-old mayoral candidate is not married and has no children with his live in girlfriend. Did he lie? Sure. Lapse in judgement? Check. But if we’re gonna fry Giambrone for anything, lets do it for his colossal fuck up as TTC chair and not for sticking his Broner in some 20 year-olds fare slot… BAM!

But anyway… I’m ranting. As with any admission of a politician’s infidelity, the usual debate about whether the press should report on personal lives ensues. For those of the Trudea era, the oft repeated mantra of “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation,” is a rallying cry while those of a different political bent argue that someone with such apparently loose morals and ethics may not be the best choice to lead Canada’s largest city.

Me? I’m not particular concerned about the fact that Giambrone was cheating on his partner; what DOES concern me is that someone who is running to be my mayor can’t write a proper sext. I mean I’m fairly indifferent to someone schtupping another adult on the couch in his crusty office in City Hall, but all I really want is a mayor who can sext. Sexting implies passion and shitty sexting does not exactly exude confidence.

For example, I once wrote a sext to a guy I was seeing. At the time he was doing a fair bit of travel and via sext I suggested some activities I was thinking we could do upon his return. His reply: “yes. That would be nice if we could do that.” I realized then that our relationship was headed to nowheresville fast; if you can’t write a mildly dirty sext, then how passionate can you be in life?

People often say that the eyes are a window to a person’s soul, but what if sexting is a also a window. Think of it this way, do you think George Smitherman would EVER sext his partner something as awful as: "I still think of you when I need ... um ... stimulation." Uhm… what exactly does that mean Adam? I’m willing to be that Smidge hasn’t written a sext that lame in his life. I’d even put money down on the fact that Rocco Rossi could muster up something a bit more sexual then: "I like you because you're smart and interesting. You're also good-looking naked." How exactly does one reply to a sext along those lines? “Thanks. Does that mean we’re still gonna fuck tonight on your couch?” I mean really that’s the notion of the sext. It should be direct, frank, a bit hot and maybe just a bit dirty. If you can’t communicate properly via sext, can you communicate effectively to your bureaucracy? Can you communicate efficiently and effectively to your citizenry?

Before we elect our next mayor, we the people of Toronto deserve to know what we’re getting into; in 2010 I believe the proof is in the sext.