Cast Away!

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UPDATE (Feb. 11): After some reflection and input from friends, I’ve changed my choice of Tina Fey to Tatiana Maslany for the role of Robyn Doolittle. As much as I love Fey, she is considerably older than Doolittle. And Maslany does kick ass on Orphan Black.

The film rights to Robyn Doolittle’s exposé of Rob Ford, Crazy Town, were snapped up recently, prompting a guessing game on social media as to who would be cast in the adaptation. As I read the book I’m starting to assemble my own dream cast for the soon-to-be CBC miniseries, Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, sponsored by Iceberg Vodka, Steak Queen and cocaine.

Rob Ford: This guy – Larry Joe Campbell

Doug Ford: If we can’t get Chris Farley to play RoFo, we can at least get his brother, Kevin, to play Dougie.

Mama Ford: Elaine Stritch

Kathy Ford: Kathy Kinney (Mimi) from The Drew Carey Show

Randy Ford: Gary Busey

Renata Ford: A non-speaking, nondescript background extra

Doug Ford, Sr.: Gordon Pinsent

Sandro Lisi: Jeremy Piven

Chief Bill Blair: John Lithgow

Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux: Nick Offerman

Robyn Doolittle: Tina Fey Tatiana Maslany

Daniel Dale: Daniel Brühl

Nick Kouvalis: John Oates from Hall and Oates

Mark Towhey: Toby Jones

Frances Nunziata: Elizabeth Peña

Denzil Minnan-Wong: David Wain

Norm Kelly: Dean Stockwell

Dennis Morris (Ford’s Hotmail lawyer): Ed Asner

Mohamed Farah: Barkhad Abdi

Fabio Basso: John Travolta

Dave Price: Danny McBride

George Mammolitti: Vincent D’Onofrio

Jerry Agyemang: Morris Chestnut

John Tory: Stephen Colbert

Conrad Black: Michael Gambon

Don Cherry: Don Rickles

And Sam Elliott as The Narrator

Who would you cast?


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Calling All “Casanovas”

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Hey guys.

How’s it going? Good, good. Listen, there’s something I want to discuss with you. Apparently, some of you were planning to amass at a downtown mall in Toronto for something called a “$5 EATON CENTER APPROACH MARATHON”. The event has since been cancelled due to outrage and common sense – yay for human rights! Because really, events like this demean us all.

The event apparently involved “beasting” which is defined as “approaching [women] continuously and consistently – targeting every approachable set in the vicinity” [italics mine]. It was organized by a Meetup.com group that calls itself Toronto Pick Up Artists (PUAs). (There’s a hyphen missing from there, but bad grammar is the least of their problems.) A bunch of men were going to congregate in the Toronto Eaton Centre and basically harass women who just want to do their Christmas shopping. The Toronto PUAs Meetup.com page has disappeared (sad, because it was so stupid-funny to read) but Toronto Life documented some of the foolishness (albeit in a too-lighthearted way, IMHO, like these guys were some clumsy Pepe le Pews.) Behold:

Since there are so many women in the Eaton Centre you can easily warm up and get yourself into state within 20 minutes. Eaton Centre is therefore a great first stop on your day game iternary. [sic] Do a few approaches there and you can move to other venues which may have less women but better logistics (girls who are stationary).

Okay, guys, listen. This is bullshit. You don’t have to do this. I know that dealing with the opposite sex can be daunting. It happens to women, too, but on top of that add a dollop of insecurity and fears that stem from shit we get fed from lady mags, religion, laws, the entertainment industry—PRETTY MUCH EVERYWHERE. Slut-shaming,  “legitimate rape“, normal-sized models who are “plus size”, rape culture (oh, it exists I WILL DEBATE YOU FOR HOURS ON THIS DON’T GET ME STARTED), can’t wear pants because thighs rubbing

So, I get it. The fear of rejection, of being ridiculed, of feeling not attractive enough – we’ve all been there. For some, self-esteem and confidence comes with age and life experience. For others, it remains a constant struggle. Overcoming insecurity and developing confidence definitely helps with interpersonal relationships. But you don’t get it by joining PUAs or following assholes like this.

(more…)


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Respect Yourself

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A recent Los Angeles Times business column looked at a new company called ReviewerCard that issues IDs to “prolific online reviewers” to presumably help them get better service from hotels and restaurants.

According to the snake-oil salesman “entrepreneur” behind this venture, people who “post lots of reviews on websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor don’t get enough respect from the businesses they write about.”

Um, what?

A legitimate reviewer does not ask for respect. They assume it will be given to them because they are a customer. And if it isn’t, that will be reflected in the review they write.

A legitimate reviewer will not demand good service – they will expect it. And if it is lacking, this too will be captured in their review.

And a legitimate reviewer will not announce their presence by waving a card and demand outstanding service or free upgrades. That’s not what reviewers do. It’s what assholes do.

I always thought that the point of a good review is to remain anonymous so you DON’T get preferential treatment. That way, you can write a review that accurately reflects the experience that every customer will get.

What the ReviewCard offers, in my opinion, is the opportunity for subtle blackmail. By waiving this card in a staff member’s face, you’re implicitly saying “Give me preferential service or I will write a nasty review.” That is not how this review thing works.

(more…)


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Three Days in Ottawa (or Things I Learned at the IABC 2012 Communicators Summit)

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Disclosure: I was invited to be part of the planning group for the IABC 2012 Canada Business Communicators Summit by Yasmin Ranade, its Chair and lead organizer. I had the pleasure of working with Yasmin in the Professional Development portfolio for the IABC Toronto chapter in 2010/11. We work well together and I was honoured to be asked to be part of her team. My role involved marketing and social media promotion.

The Summit took place over three days in November, in Ottawa, ON. I registered and attended as an regular conference attendee. Here are my observations.

It used to be that if you wanted to share your organization’s news, you put out a press release and made calls to a few journalists. Now, the arena has grown larger and your potential audiences have not only increased, they’ve changed the way they want to get information. Mobile technology, social media – the opportunities to communicate with your audience have exploded in ways undreamed of twenty years ago.

Working in the communications field requires continuous education if you want to be on top of your game. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a neophyte (I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum) there are always going to be things you don’t know, new tools and emerging trends you haven’t heard of.

This was, more or less, the theme of the IABC 2012 Canada Business Communicators Summit – Trends 2013. Held in Ottawa on November 1 to 3, 2012, the Summit focused on where communication is heading and what we should be prepared for on the horizon – mobile computing, changing demographics and new challenges to privacy, transparency and access.

I’ve been to several conferences in the past few years, and I would see the same names pop up on the speaker roster time and time again. The line-up for the Summit was unique and a great change from the usual. Canadian speakers, discussing Canadian content for Canadian communicators! Any challenges communicators have in Canada may be similar to those in the U.S. or Europe, but we’re playing in a different ballpark, with a different set of rules.  For example, having Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, talk to us about privacy laws made more of an impact than having a speaker come in from outside the country to speak on the same topic.

The keynote speakers were not only highly esteemed in their fields, their talks were tailored to the overall theme of the conference.

  • The Honourable Tony Clement on “Politicking in the Age of Social Media”: I follow Mr. Clement on Twitter, and even though I may not agree with his politics, I find his tweets interesting and funny (he makes jokes about zombies!). Having a politician speak about using Twitter as a very public platform was insightful, especially the way to blend the political and the personal (it’s challenging but possible).
  • Jennifer Stoddart on “Privacy and Communications in Changing Times”: A highly informative presentation on privacy laws in Canada, the challenges of following them in an online world and what we, as communicators, should keep front-of-mind when crafting strategies.
  • Dr. Michael Geist on “The Year the Internet Fought Back”: Great background on the Stop Online Privacy Act and how Internet users are mobilizing and speaking out against the encroachment on online privacy, free speech and access to information.
  • Darrell Bricker, CEO, Ipsos Global Public Affairs, on “The Big Shift – Understanding Communications in the New Canada”: A fun and informative way to look at the changing demographics of Canada. (Read some of my tweets for interesting tidbits from this and other moments from the conference.)

The sessions I attended were, for the most part, strong. These are the ones that stood out for me. (Keep in mind that I only attended a few of the many that were offered – go here for the full listing of sessions and speakers.)

  • Donna Papacosta, “Quick and Painless Ways to Add Multimedia to Your Communications”: The best session, by far, in terms of both content and context. Donna went through the latest in social media tools and provided examples of how they can be used. Highly informative, with many examples.
  • Anick Losier, “Communicating During Times of Crisis”: Ms. Losier is the Director of Media Relations for Canada Post. I loved her presentation for its forthrightness, transparency and case studies. She has a wonderful attitude and sense of humour, despite holding what must be one of the most challenging jobs in the field.
  • Peter Vaz (M2 Universal Digital) and Kunal Gupta (Polar Mobile), “The Impact of the Third Screen on Communications”: Interesting presentation on mobile communications from . With almost every person on the  planet carrying a smartphone, every organization will eventually have to include the “third screen” in their marketing and communication plans.
  • Panel, “Content in Context and the Content Marketing Revolution”: This session stood out for me, but not for the reasons I expected. There was too much content, and not enough context (i.e. case studies). And, disappointingly, the session felt like a not-so-subtle pitch for a social media company (which shall remain nameless), which is anathema to me – I came to learn, not to buy.

The Silver Leaf Awards recognize the outstanding achievements of IABC members in communications. The Awards Gala, typically held on an evening during the conference, felt like an inside joke that the rest of us weren’t privy to. What made it more uncomfortable was the technically illegal use of copyrighted material in the video which instead could’ve been used to highlight the winners of the Silver Leaf. As a communicator, I wanted to know: what was it about their entries that raised them above the others? I could do without the Mad Men parody.

A large and important part of attending a conference is the networking. I met many people and shared many thoughts and ideas.  The conference had great social activities, including a Haunted Walk – which is a fantastic way to see a city and get a taste of its history – and a Dine-Around, where you have dinner with other attendees and a local restaurant. (I opted for Vittoria Trattoria,where the food and atmosphere were wonderful.)

More observations on the conference from other attendees can be found here.

As for Ottawa, I wish I had more time to explore the city, but I did manage to take in a few sights. I don’t think I have enough information to write a comprehensive post. Instead, enjoy my photos.


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Happy Holidays (War is Over)

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My Facebook feed has been taken over by “War on Christmas” posts. Apparently, some people believe there is a movement afoot by unidentified forces to abolish Christmas. I don’t really understand what this “war” means exactly, but from what I can gather from these missives, Christmas is under attack and the only defense is to say “Merry Christmas” three times while tapping your boots together. I think. It’s really not that clear.)

My cold medication is making me envision what a war on Christmas would actually entail:

1. Someone wishes you “Happy Holidays”.

2. Get irrationally upset at the audacity of that retail clerk who failed to assume you’re a Christian.

3. Go online to find a photo of Santa or Jesus (or Santa with Jesus!). Use your Photoshop skills to affix a rallying cry of “It’s not Happy Holidays it’s Merry Christmas! Share if you agree!” over the photo. Tip: Use large fonts and numerous explanation marks to really show the world how angry you are. OR find another person’s post and share it.

4. Put on your flak helmet and celebrate the birth of baby Santa in your home/bunker. Come out in time for the inevitable “War on Easter”.

This “war on Christmas” nonsense confuses me because JUST TAKE A LOOK AROUND YOU. Christmas is freaking EVERYWHERE! If there is indeed a war, the other side is losing. Big time.

I can’t walk into a store without being assaulted with Christmas carols blasting over the PA system. And it’s the same songs over and over. (How about adding “Back Door Santa” to the mix?) There’s even a radio station that has gone full-on Christmas. (I feel so sorry for those deejays.) And every artist you can think of has put out a Christmas album, even Bob Dylan. Bob! Effing! Dylan! put out a Christmas album. (I think it’s a Christmas album. I can’t understand a word that comes out of that man’s mouth, but the CD cover says it’s a Christmas album, so I’ll leave it at that.)

And there are Christmas trees everywhere. EVERYWHERE. There’s one in my condo lobby. There’s one at my office. There’s one outside of City Hall. I’m pretty sure one has somehow made its way up my arse (which would maybe explain my prickly mood). And lights! Pretty, blinking lights, strung up everywhere, sucking up electricity.

I miss my favourite TV shows. They all go on hiatus and are replaced with Christmas specials. After repeated viewings (and a few glasses of wine) they all kind of blend into one another – a snowman comes alive and is visited by three ghosts who arrive on a sleigh led by a red-nosed reindeer, pah-rum-pah-pah-pah.

And then there’s this: NO ONE IS PREVENTING YOU FROM CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS.

You can chop down a tree, drag its corpse into your home and festoon it with garish trinkets and silver tassels. You can plop a nativity scene on your front lawn with a big old baby Jesus smack dab in the middle of it. You can also go to mass and celebrate the birth of your Christ, singing hallelujah at the top of your lungs.

You can choose from hundreds of cards that say “Merry Christmas” to send to all your friends and family. (And here’s another friendly tip: Get some cards that are blank inside and write “Merry Christmas” many times, in different typefaces, colours…even glitter! Or, better yet, buy a card where you can record your voice, so when the recipient of said card opens it up you can scare them into a heart attack with a loud and proud “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”)

“Happy Holidays” has become de rigueur this time of year. Because of the great cultural mosaic that is Toronto, there are many Canadians who do not tick the box next to Christian on their census sheets. That’s how it is. You cannot bemoan that fact while you order Ethiopian food and buy chicken tikka masala at your grocery store. You do not get to take advantage of the multicultural smorgasbord that is Toronto without respecting the fact that some cultures do not celebrate the birth of baby Jesus.

“Happy Holidays” is not a bad thing to say. It is all-inclusive, welcoming of all cultures and traditions. “Happy Holidays” can mean “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Hannukah” or “Happy Kwanza”. It can also mean “Happy New Year”, “Happy Boxing Day” or “Happy Winter Solstice”.  (For atheists, it could mean “Happy Nationally Mandated Days Off!”) It’s very Canadian.

So why does it matter so much to some people? I could offer a lengthy discourse on possible xenophobia and nationalism, but I lack the energy or mental capacity to do so right now. Instead, I’ll just go and stare at all the pretty lights.

Happy Holidays!


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