Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Bad Clothes Cheap!

Recently I had a chance to speak with Pamela Klaffke, author of Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping, for a business article I was working on. We eventually strayed off topic, discussing Cargo and H&M, the new disposable fashion clothier. We stumbled into the H&M versus Zara comparison debate and, Klaffke noted that Zara clothes represent good value for the money while H&M is much less good. "More like Le Chateau?" I asked. She agreed.

Having my expectations thus downgraded, I was better prepared to enter H&M a couple of Saturdays ago. And forget Le Chateau my friend, those cheap bastards are closer to Old Navy in the style and quality department. They had passable stuff – even a few pretty good things for men, mostly pants, but there was an equal amount of grossness. The women’s section was better, but the very good mixed with the very bad quite freely. Tonnes of accessories at pennies a pound – I got a great metal bracelet (for men, thanks very much, or at the very least, metrosexuals) for under $10 and my girlfriend found a great purse for $8 or something ridiculous like that. So if these accessories last 95 minutes before disintegrating, that’s OK. But as for some of the clothing, well, ecch.

The day we were there, H&M was, of course, packed. Which proves, once again, how little I know about shopping.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Give Me One Good Reason

The flat earth society known as Reason, the magazine for libertarians, now has someone offering to eat at McDonald’s for 30 days in order to disprove the claims of Supersize Me!, the Morgan Spurlock documentary. Despite the bizarro universe of thought they inhabit (the minimum wage should be outlawed, only the free market can deliver us onward to heaven, etc), on Wednesday of last week, I purchased a subscription. I rarely agree with anything they print, but deconstructing their arguments will keep my mind more agile. And no matter how misguided, strange or, well, wrong, their thoughts might be, they eagerly firehose you with ideas every month, whereas most other magazines are allergic to them.

Furthermore, I’m quite taken with the concept for the June issue of Reason, which I hope to receive a copy of, as it features a customized cover. According to an April 5, 2004 article by David Carr in the NYT:

When the 40,000 subscribers to Reason, the monthly libertarian magazine, receive a copy of the June issue, they will see on the cover a satellite photo of a neighborhood - their own neighborhood. And their house will be graphically circled.

On one level, the project, sort of the ultimate in customized publishing, is unsurprising: of course a magazine knows where its subscribers live. But it is still a remarkable demonstration of the growing number of ways databases can be harnessed. Apart from the cover image, several advertisements are customized to reflect the recipient's particulars.

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason, said the magazine, with an editorial mission of "Free Minds, Free Markets,'' used the stunt to illustrate the cover article about the power and importance of databases.

"Our story is man bites dog," Mr. Gillespie said. "Everybody, including our magazine, has been harping on the erosion of privacy and the fears of a database nation. It is a totally legit fear. But they make our lives unbelievably easier as well, in terms of commercial transactions, credit, you name it."

Sunday, April 18, 2004


From No Way Out by Doug Saunders in the Saturday, Apr. 17, 2004 Globe:

On April 21, 1961, John F. Kennedy stood before his public to discuss why his efforts to bring democracy to the newly totalitarian Cuba, through the badly botched Bay of Pigs invasion, had become futile. "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred feathers and defeat is an orphan," he lamented. "Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility, because I am the responsible officer of the government." Cuba would not be invaded again.

Might I amend the motion to read "fathers" instead?
ClearPlay: Preventing a Rush of Blood to the Head

Forget the v-chip, forget VCR head cleaner, here’s a DVD sanitizer:

Q. How do I ClearPlay a movie?
A. ClearPlay works with the regular DVDs that you already rent or purchase from your local stores. When you put a movie in a ClearPlay enabled DVD player, you can enjoy the show -- without needing to worry about the occasional R or PG-13 content. It's as if you had super-fast fingers and were able to punch remote control buttons fast and accurately enough to skip and mute certain content, but still maintain the movie's continuity and entertainment value!

Monday, April 12, 2004


Next update will hopefully occur this Thursday or Friday (April 15 or 16).

Friday, April 02, 2004

Foot Shooting and Other Meaningless Observations

I have learned how to make money at freelancing, finally. The secret is to work all the f—king time. This insight, by the way, is in lieu of the usual apologies for not blogging very often.

OK, so, first off, the cover of the March 2004 issue of Report on Business (here I am, commenting on last month’s issue, how lame) is blank white save for some tiny text that reads:

[the most important issue of the century … so far]

see page 45

Remind you of anything? How about the March/April 2003 cover of Shift, that featured a blank brown background with the 48-point proclamation:

IN ’03. PAGE 29

Quick. Five points and a chance to go to the bonus round if you can name the topic of that Shift article. Keep in mind that it was:

IN ’03. PAGE 29

For those of you who do remember, other than the author of the article (Chris Turner), congratulations. You could win fabulous prizes. The rest of us losers can instead contemplate the asinine decision on the part of those magazine editors to didactically inform readers that vital information is contained within. A better strategy is to commission and edit a brilliant article and let the readers decide its merit. When I see something as stupid as:

IN ’03. PAGE 29

hackles are immediately raised. My first instinct is to do everything in my power to find fault with said article. "You think you’re so important, eh," I think to myself. "We’ll just see about that."

That said, watch that Shift article get a NMAF nomination, forcing me to eat my entry.

* * *

Russell Smith discusses an anonymous dig at his upcoming novel that was printed in the Sunday Star. If Russell were smarter, he would not draw attention to one small paragraph announcing his new book in the Toronto Star. But Russell is not smart, and we know this because he does things like mention that he visits a shrink in his columns. Also, most infamously, he cried foul on Shinan Govani a few years ago and ended up on the cover of Frank for his misguided efforts. What was he thinking? I’ll assume he wasn’t. He keeps asking for it, that guy. He engages in passionate round-table discussions about aftershave and hair gel and then wonders why we love to hate him. I will now cite part of a letter to the editor written by George Case of Burnaby a few years ago:

Like Leah McLaren, Heather Mallick, Alexandra Gill, Geoff Pevere, Hal Niedzviecki and all the other professional spectators (sorry, "cultural commentators," er "media theorists," I mean "cutting-edge trendwatchers") taking up column space and airtime in Canada, Mr. Smith is part of an appallingly insular clique of reality-challenged hipness nerds who focus so closely on the fading squeaks of other people’s noise they can’t see that hardly anyone else is listening with them.

I’m willing to bet that Case wrote "farts" instead of noise, but was edited for taste. Mark Kingwell has managed to age his media persona and punditry gracefully. I’m to understand Russell and Mark are friends, and are roughly the same age. Perhaps Russell could ask Mark for a few tips on growing up with dignity.

Speaking of which, also in yesterday’s Virtual Culture column, Smith makes a mention of "mash music." What? Plug "mash music" into Google and you get nothing at all that refers to "mash ups," which is a more meaningful (i.e. correct) description of the concept. Also, mash-ups first emerged, like, two years ago, dude. Expect a Russell Smith column about the Grey Album in another six months. I know butter knives that are more cutting edge.

(P.S. Here is the amazing thing. Somehow, through some media channel or another, Russell will probably end up reading this very sentence, and he will be unable to laugh it off, like a normal human being would. Russell earns quite a bit of money to write a weekly column in the Globe and Mail. Perhaps he should spend some of his salary and invest in a thicker skin.)