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 TAKELOOK 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 smörgås­bord 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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