Sunday, June 18, 2006

Billionaire Leaves $4 Tip

It’s been a long time since the Globe and Mail has managed to nauseate me to the degree it did yesterday morning. In the Toronto section, page one, was an article entitled A Billionaire’s Breakfast.

Let me check my calendar, are we still living in the Gilded Age? What kind of man-of-the-people horseshit are they trying to peddle when they publish an article like this:

For Kenneth Thomson, meals didn't need to come with a side of caviar. A home-style breakfast suited him just fine. His chef of choice? Whoever happened to be whipping up brunch at his local Golden Griddle.

Over the past year and a half, Mr. Thomson, who died on Monday at the age of 82, was a fixture at the modest breakfast joint on Laird Drive, not far from his Rosedale home. Every weekend, he would stroll into the restaurant with his wife, Marilyn, his son Peter and Peter's family and order a brunch buffet for $10.95

I especially like this portion:

Waiters at the franchised restaurant said Mr. Thomson rarely let them lift a finger, insisting on getting his own food at the smorgasbord. And he always greeted them when he walked in the door en route to his usual corner booth.

The entire point of a buffet is THAT YOU SELECT YOUR OWN GOD-DAMNED FOOD. Yes, I’m so angry that I’ve resorted to Caps Lock, which might well be a first for this blog.

And here is the kicker:

The tips were pretty good, too. Though renowned for his careful spending habits, Mr. Thomson was quite generous when it came to gratuity, often leaving in excess of 35 per cent.

He’s a mother-f***king billionaire. Thirty-five percent on a pre-tax meal of $10.95 is $3.83. I did some quick math – a billion dollars, at five percent interest, earns $50 million per year. That’s $136,986 per day. At this point, the math gets a bit rough, but assume that he earns about a buck fifty per second. Per second.

Last week, my girlfriend and I went to the Crooked Star, which is our favourite bar in the city. The CS has done the unthinkable – they treat customers with respect and the drinks are priced reasonably. We left a tip in excess of 40 percent on our last visit, and although it need not be said, I will say it anyway: we are not billionaires. Oh no.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sign Me Up Right This Instant!

(Needless to say, this is real.)

The Influencers Come Knocking!
Recruitment of Trend Savvy/Cool Hunting/Tastemaking Writers
June 10 2006



Are you the fountain of influence, the keeper of trend-savvy insight and the arbiter of cool things?

If so, then we're looking for you!

In fact, we're looking for a team of Canuck journalists/writers/coolhunters to become our eyes and ears to the leading edge of Canadian culture and marketplace.

The initiative is called The Influencers. It's so new, we are just now putting the finishing details on our website. It will be launching in July nationwide.

The Influencers is totally unique - part word of mouth grapevine, part trend-savvy media, part social media/marketing engine and part non-profit profile raiser.

We are looking for writers and journalists with a broad cross-section of interests and a intellectual curiosity about new and interesting things.

Initially, each one of our 18+ subject areas, needs to be updated monthly. Updates will include a review of breaking trends, a listing of interesting discoveries, profiles of cool or buzzworthy stuff and eyebrow-raising weblinks found across the Canadian universe and beyond. Content will be crafted from a number of sources - including your own personal experience, web/magazine research and our active database of local influencers.

Your opinions will be published online, consumed by a special community of passionate, well-connected and very informed readers.

The perfect contributor? You have the following traits:
• Ahead in adoption, you have na instictive feel for what's next
• Connected to a wide social network
• Travel a lot, attack life
• Informationally curious
• Vocal and aren't shy in sharing your opinion
• Exposed to a lot of interests
• Suasion over your social networks and readers
• Want to participate in a revolutionary type of media/marketing initiative
• perhaps most importantly, write passionately and expertly about subjects you're interested in.

Key FAQs
We can already anticipate some questions you might have, we'll try to be as transparent as we can here in answering them:

What is the basis for launching The Influencers?
The Influencers' core reason for being is to tap into interesting ideas, products and services and seed and spread them through word of mouth. We think it's a better, effective way to learn about stuff - readers and consumers enjoy it, marketers benefit from it and only remarkable, genuine products succeed with it.

Is there anything like The Influencers out there right now?
No, at least we don't think so. We're pretty unique - if you combined Daily Candy, Trendspotting, a well targeted grassroots magazine and a My Space community, you might get pretty close.

Who runs the Influencers?
The parent company is Agent Wildfire, we are a marketing and communications group operating out of Toronto. We have led or worked with some of Canada's most loved products and brands and we're Canada's experts and zealots on the persuasive power of word of mouth.

Is this a paying gig?
You betcha...but if your core reason for interest is to get rich, than I would suggest greener pastures elsewhere. We pay fairly, we'll ratchet it up over time and offer bigger enhanced roles for people that really dig into what we do. Six figure book deals may exist, just not here.

So if I'm not getting rich in the short term, why should I be interested?'ve got free reign to talk about stuff you are passionate and already know a lot about, writing to national group of engaged readers who are highly involved and passionate themselves. We hope you also identify with us as a company/publisher with a worthy cause, a genuinely interested soul and a unique idea with strong growth and exposure prospects.

Is this a full time gig?
No, although over time it may be just that for people that enjoy doing it. Most writers will be responsible for 3-6 articles per month, escalating in frequency over time.

How will you decide which writers to invite to the dance?
We're looking for writers with passion for their subject matter. We want a representative group nationally. We want writers who share a connection with our mission of getting interesting stuff on the hearts and lips of our readers. We want bad egos left at the door. Experience matters but enthusiasm counts for more.

I'd love to participate but do I have to disclose who I am - there may be some messy conflicts?
No - you can either operate as a ghostwriter or public figure - it's more important what you write than who you are. If you'll be writing incognito, just come up with a conversation inspiring pseudonym or interesting alias.

What subject areas do you need to cover off?
Take the survey below to discover the full list of 18 coverage areas

If you don't fit the profile or can't get involved given your current role, we would welcome you forwarding this message onto an interested colleague.

Thanks in advance...we look forward to talking with you.
Spread the word,

Sean Moffitt
Founder and Managing Director, The Influencers

Phone: 647-436-6802

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dark Horse Humour

Tabatha Southey, nominated four times in the Humour category of the National Magazine Awards, fails to win either silver or gold on Friday night. Granted, there were a total of ten articles up for consideration, but still, she accounted for 40 percent of the nominated articles.

That is simply not funny.

Meanwhile, congrats to the Spacing folks for winning Gold in the Editorial Package category.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Apparently, There is Only One Way to Tell a Story

Here are the first two paragraphs of Lianne George’s feature on club builder Peter Gatien in the May 29 issue of New York magazine:

Peter Gatien has installed himself at the head of an enormous table in a private dining room at a “restrolounge” called 8, and he’s surveying the room like the don of some clandestine party mafia.

Compact and gaunt, he’s dressed neatly in a slim-fitting navy-blue suit, a dotted red tie, and a pair of vaguely ominous blue-tinted glasses, which, like his now-discarded signature eye patch, serve to conceal the left eye he lost in a childhood hockey accident. When a vigilant waitress appears over his shoulder, he instructs her not to bother offering the duck hors d’oeuvre to his wife and consigliere, Alessandra (he calls her Alex), who’s seated at his right. “She won’t like it,” he mumbles, almost inaudibly. Alessandra, Gatien’s third wife, is his dispositional antithesis—an elegant, gregarious film producer fifteen years his junior, outfitted tonight in Paltrow-casual style, with jeans and a black blazer, her dark hair tied loosely back. After seven-plus years of legal skirmishes, financial drain, and public scrutiny, she is clearly impatient for her family to reclaim its prior life. “It was hard,” she says with a bright, incongruous smile. “I’m so glad it’s over.”

Now, here are the first two paragraphs of Olivia Stren’s profile of club builder Peter Gatien in the July issue of Toronto Life that just hit stands this week:

Peter Gatien and his wife, Alessandra, take the corner table. They’re having dinner at Eight, the Brant Street restaurant and nightclub—a plush, moody lounge that Gatien opened early this year. Their table allows for a panoramic view of couples trading soulful glances over balloon glasses or red, and a gregarious table of Bay Streeters chewing on sugar cane shrimp and chortling over office gossip. Through the blue-tinted sunglasses he’s never seen without, Gatien takes in the scene like a monarch surveying his newly conquered kingdom.

He wears a grey cotton sweater the shade of a midday shadow and has the kind of strong, rugged features you could imagine carved on a cliffside. Sitting disarmingly still, he emanates a movie star’s inscrutability. It is not a peaceful stillness, but one that suggests the focused and contained intensity of Brando playing a mob boss. Alessandra, at 37, is 17 years his junior. A former model turned film producer, she’s wearing jeans, a fresh white button-down, no make-up and a ponytail. She nurses a pomegranate margarita and talks with gushing enthusiasm about Toronto, her new home. “New York strives to be what Toronto is,” she says. “You don’t have to look over your shoulder here. It doesn’t have the same edge. Coming here was like finding the oil well or the hot spring. It’s untouched.”

There is no possibility of plagiarism here, because clearly both stories, coming out a week apart from one another, were in production at approximately the same time. (As a side note, Lianne George works for Maclean’s, meaning both stories were written by South Torontonians).

No, my point is that when you read a strong magazine feature, you think to yourself "There is no other way that story could have been told." Which is a lie. There are hundreds of ways to tell a story – some better than others, of course. But it’s the writer’s job to trick you into thinking their way of telling the story of Gatien was the best way. And I mean trick in a positive sense here.

Clearly both features are well-written (although I could not care less about Gatien as a human being). If I had to dig around for a complaint, it’s that both writers gave Gatien a big fat chunk of free advertising for Eight in their respective first paragraphs.

And it should be said that the features go in different directions after their respective intros.

I’m struggling to articulate my overarching unease here. I think my problem is that journalism -- either consciously or unconsciously -- instills certain frameworks of narrative, and that these frameworks become invisibly etched within the brain's circuitboard. The best example I can give is that I wrote a rough draft of a review of the Pixies show in Winnipeg (second night of their tour, April 2004) that I never completed nor published. I read the Saturday Globe’s review of the Pixies that week. The published review and my draft were uncanny -– we had hit upon at least a half-dozen convergences in either opinion or background information on the band.

The point is, it’s strange to think there are circuits in my brain that I’m only dimly aware of. And it’s even more strange to have these circuits made visible through something like the Gatien features here. It’s less a comment about coincidence, and more about the hidden structural limitations of magazine feature storytelling.