Turns out The Economist likes Montreal. Their “intelligence unit” ranked us as the second best city in the entire world to live. Montreal beat out such luminaries as Stockholm, Brussels, New York City, Paris, London and Hong Kong. The only city we lost to is, well, Toronto.
This was part of a larger study done on “urban security in the digital age” and while Montreal didn’t rank at the top of any particular category, we did place second for overall best city to live in. They included six “indexes” they studied to come to the best city result: Safe Cities, Liveability Rankings, Cost of Living at the municipal level and Business Environment Rankings, Democracy Index and Global Food Security Index at the national level.
While including a good hockey team index or a best bagel and poutine index may have bumped us ahead of Toronto (sorry Toronto friends, you won this one and I love you, but I’ve got to get my digs in), this is still nice. I’ve never really bothered to read The Economist, but praise is always nice.
While we may complain about the state of our city, our politicians, our transit system and rightly so, it’s good to know that on some level, in the minds of some Intelligence Unit somewhere, we’re better off than Stockholm.
You can see the best city to live in ranking to the left and consult the full Economist study, but what I really want is your feedback:
Do you think Montreal deserves this honour? Does this really reflect all of our city’s residents? Is it really an honour to be praised by The Economist? Does this give you civic pride? Let us know…
A few years ago, I had a job performing live in-store infomercials (really, don’t ask) in places like Zellers. One night, I was packing up my booth after the store had closed for the night when I overheard a few of the employees talking. Their subject: just what they would do after the store closed for good.
The younger man, a security guard, already had another job lined up. The older woman, though, who was close to retirement age and from what I could glean had worked at that particular Zellers for over three decades, really didn’t know.
You see, when Target bought 133 Zellers locations from the Hudson Bay Company in 2012, heralding their plans to go full-force into the Canadian market, they bought the property, not the contracts of the people who worked there. This was the first time Target would be responsible for a mass layoff in Canada, the second happened two weeks ago.
We all heard the news: Target Canada is closing up shop and 17 500 people will be out of work very soon. Reaction was swift and varied. Some lamented the loss of a store that was convenient, somewhat affordable and that they had only just discovered. Others blasted Target management for barren shelves, comparing it to a slightly more expensive Zellers with less stuff. A third group was almost gleeful at the prospect of more authentic local businesses taking Target’s place, while still offering condolences for the loss of jobs.
Honestly, I think I took the high road, by making the all-too-obvious pun that no one else seemed to have realized. #punlife #ihadto
But, on reflection, there’s nothing funny about 17 500 people losing their jobs. It’s also not funny that the top managers whose horrible planning caused this fiasco are getting some rather nice severance packages while their former employees won’t be getting anything. It’s pretty much Corporate Failure Recovery 101.
It’s as good a reason as any to abandon the corporate megastore dependence our economy seems to have developed over the past few decades and think local and sustainable. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s going to be the case and I fear what may come next
Target stores are huge. The likelihood a mall will opt to convert them into smaller spaces for multiple businesses is extremely unlikely.
They’ll probably be looking for tenants able to occupy the same space as one unit. This means huge chains. It appears that Japanese giant Uniqlo will be coming to Canada, but I doubt they’d go for the former Target locations. This means, best-case scenario, Dollaramas too big for their own good, or worst-case scenario…WalMart!
That’s right, the scourge of the Mom and Pop store and the champions of fighting against fair wages south of the border were instrumental in assisting Target’s Canadian catastrophe. They lowered their prices, losing money in the process but also making it impossible for Target to compete. They also offered free delivery for online orders to Canadian customers. Rumour (completely unsubstantiated though completely believable rumour) has it they even bought up significant portions of potential Target inventory just to make life difficult for the competition.
You’d better believe WalMart has their eyes on the former Zellers locations they didn’t gobble up in 2012. Back then a handful of Zellers’ did turn into WalMarts instead of Targets, now I fear the rest will fall as well.
While Zellers may have been a depository of cheap sweatshop-made goods, from what I could tell, they at least treated their domestic employees well. Target was a step down and if Walmart comes in full-force, we will have really gone off the deep end.
Having WalMarts everywhere, though, may just be the solution to the problem of corporate megastores once and for all. Think about it: instead of some watered down Can-Con exploitation or a very confused conglomerate, we’ll have the beast itself in way more places than it was before. WalMart tends to focus on places a little out of the way where they can have huge parking lots and run small enterprises out of business. Some of the current Target locations are centrally located.
As someone once said to me, “George W. Bush was the best recruiting tool the protest movement had in the last 50 years.” Maybe an abundance of WalMarts in urban areas will be the perfect targets (yes, pun intended) for activists and people looking for something close by to boycott.
Looking at the big picture, I can only hope this will spell the end of our dependence on the chain store. On a more personal level, I can only hope that woman I overheard in 2012 found work or is now in happy retirement.
One of the biggest criticisms of internet activism is that it does nothing except make you feel good. You can share a status, sign a petition or change your Facebook profile pic and feel your job is done when it’s anything but. I Can Go Without hopes to change that with a new app that gives conscious consumers the chance to go without daily purchases like a cup of coffee or a cab ride and give that money to the efficient, sustainable charity of their choice immediately.
“The conscious consumer is the single largest potential force for good in the world,” said ICGW co-founder Paul Rowland in an interview at this month’s Jeudi d’Apollo. “They’ve already revolutionized the whole cosmetics industry to be more aware of what they’re doing. Everybody recycles now, that’s conscious consumerism.”
The team came up with the idea over breakfast. There was a famine happening at the time with a billion dollar shortfall in aid. Realizing that Facebook was close to getting its billionth member, they thought that one group of people could help the other.
“What if everybody today went without one coffee and just gave that money to this fund? Let’s say it’s a three dollar coffee,” Rowland recounted their thinking, “they would have three times the money they needed. It’s this social hive philanthropy of people getting together. That’s the ultimate dream.”
While the ultimate goal may take a while to reach, ICGW already works with charities like the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, Dans La Rue and Oxfam. They’re also in talks with businesses whose models they find ethical and sustainable, to have them match donations the organization receives from individuals.
“When you get involved in this stuff you realize there are a lot of ethical companies trying to do some good,” Rowland observed, explaining that “if you go without, they will go without, too.”
That doesn’t mean that ICGW would take money from just anyone. Access to water, health care, shelter, food and education are the five pillars of the organization and companies whose practices counter any of these pillars wouldn’t be a good match.
But what if, say, a company that makes plastic water bottles, which is not sustainable and works against one of their pillars, came to them with a million dollars? Knowing all the good that they could do with that money, Rowland admits that it wouldn’t be the easiest decision they would have to make, but their principles would definitely play a huge part in it.
“It’s a whole jigsaw puzzle,” he explained, “and all those pieces interact with each other and have an effect, so if we’re supporting water and trying to make sure that it is accessible to everyone, then advocating plastic bottles, it doesn’t make any sense.”
This could be one of the reasons why their focus remains squarely on small amounts from individuals. After all, it’s not like they’re asking people to give up their Ferraris (though Rowland admits they wouldn’t say no if someone did want to go without a sports car and donate to a cause).
“I love beer, I love wine,” Rowland says, “but I’m pretty sure that in one month I could drink one less beer or have one less glass of wine. It’s not really a big ask.”
You graduated a year (or two or five years) ago with high honours and the greatest hopes for your bourgeoning career in the arts.
Maybe you were going to be a brilliant poet, or painter, or sculptor, or DJ, or performance artist or writer – but whatever it was – you were going to be living a creative, independent lifestyle, making your voice and unique perspective on life, the universe and everything known to the community at large.
The fact that you had to take a shitty customer service or tele-surveying job is just what new artists have to do before the world sits up and takes note of your brilliance.
Am I ringing any bells?
You still make art and you’re still involved in the creative communities that mean so much to you – but it’s not exactly paying the bills.
Worse – you’re still working your shitty service job because at the end of the day, bills need to be paid and food put on your table.
You may get the occasional gig, and that vernissage you put on last year was just lovely, I promise – but it’s not enough. It’s not what you’d planned for yourself, and it’s not how you see the rest of your life shaping up.
What’s a creative type to do?
Why You’re Not Making a Living as an Artist
Before we get into how you can turn some of your art into cold, hard cash, let’s look at why so many artists fail to make it happen – and it’s not some kind of high-minded refusal to sell out. That’s just what you tell your parents.
It’s simply that most artists, writers, designers and musicians are great at what they do – really spectacular! But they know shit-all about business. Starting one, running one, growing one – no one went over any of that stuff in college because of the beautiful but false myth that talent will rise to the top and be recognized.
It won’t. Being amazing at what you do isn’t enough. Not nearly.
It doesn’t matter how epic your short stories are, how sublime your oil paintings, how incendiary your beats – if no one knows what you’re doing – no one cares.
Making art isn’t enough to make a living through art – you need to dive into business and get your hands dirty, meet the right people, find the right market and charge the right price.
It’s hard, mostly thankless work, the potential for failure is high, and screwing up will feel like a decisive kick in the groin.
In short – creating a business is very much like creating art.
You take a set of tools that are more or less common across the board, and manipulate them to reflect your vision.
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
What is a business, really?
Quite simply, you can have a business if you have something to sell, a person to sell it to and a way to collect payment.
That’s it. That’s all.
I’ve got a little exercise for you:
Get a blank sheet of paper, and draw a line down the center of it. On one side write: “Things I can do.” On the other side write: “Who cares?”
Fill in the “Things I can do” side with all of the skills, relating to your craft, that you poses. This can mean anything from the ability to draw a recognizable portrait, to play an instrument, to wedge clay, to speak eloquently, to dress with style, to mix colors, to keep a workplace clean to recognize obscure musical references. Go as far afield as you can and list every single thing that contributes to you being able to conceive of and produce art.
Fill in the “Who Cares” side with every type of person who might possible be able to use (and be willing to pay for) that skill. If you can’t think of anyone who might care about knowing someone who has a particular skill – cross out that skill.
Cross out the ones that make you sad to look at and think about.
Re-copy the rest into a fresh list. It might look like this:
Write eloquently – People who need about pages.
Edit and Proofread – Students and bloggers.
Play an instrument – College guys wanting to impress their girlfriends.
Do you see where this is going?
The trick here is to start thinking outside of your artistic box a little bit.
Do you sketch beautiful pictures? What a wonderful mother’s day gift someone could give!
Do you play music and like people? So many folks want to learn how!
Do you have a gift for witty prose? How many best men are aching to get out of writing a speech themselves?
You don’t have to be doing it the traditional way to be making money from your talent – you just need something that will act as a bridge while you’re getting out there.
Hammering all of this out is one thing, of course – getting someone to pay attention – and then pay you money, is another.
But it’s not really all that hard.
Craigslist and Kijiji are amazing starting places, a well-placed flyer can work wonders, and even a professional looking website can be knocked together without too much effort,
And dollars to donuts you’re already on Facebook and Twitter.
Stop pussy-footing around and TRY. The worst that will happen is you’ll be out a few hours and know that you’ve eliminated a possibility from your list.
Figure out what you can do. Figure out who might care. Make the offer.
This has been a very, very brief run-down of how to start an artistic side project – turning it into a real business is another kettle of fish.
But if I know anything, I know this: it’s possible. There are as many ways to bring joy and inspiration and insight to the world as there are artists and there is always someone who wants to know what you have to say – they just might not be aware of it yet.
If this interests you at all – if this is getting the motors in your head going a little bit – I’d like to point you at a few resources that I’m a real believer in:
Benji Rogers, founder and CEO of Pledge Music, kindly sat down with us to explain how he plans to revolutionize the way that artists and fans interact by allowing fans access to the creative process of music making. Pledge Music is not equivalent to a crowd-funding company. They bring something unique and valuable to artists and fans alike. Read about how they deliver their unique and tailored service:
Can you start by telling us about what you’re doing at Pledge Music, a brief rundown of how you help artists and what the benefit is to both sides.
I was an artist myself and I made five albums over about nine or ten years. I was obsessed by the fact that fans wanted to be a part of what I was doing as an artist and what my band was doing. It was very much a participatory thing. When I was going into a town, they’d be like, “don’t stay at a hotel, come stay with us, we’ll make you dinner.”
What we found was that if you offered fans a kind of online version of that experience, I always thought in my head, if fans could be a part of that wherever they are in the world, that would be kinda cool. I was lying in bed one night, and saw in my head, artists, fans, charities. So the concept was, rather than say, “buy my album, it’s coming out August seventh,” we say, “pledge here to be a part of the making of my album.”
And from day one you get access to a special part of the site that has on it rough mixes, live tracks, demos, video blogs. It tells a story of the album as it’s being made. And private video blogs. It’s not just posting on You Tube. It’s private for the pledgers. At the end of it, if you make more that what you needed, a part of the profits can go to a charity of your choice.
So the artist wins because they get the fans involvement early. The fans win because they get to see this process unfolding. The charity wins because someone shows up with a cheque. And within that, the producer, the engineer, the manager, everyone else gets something because it’s not reliant on selling it all after the fact.
We often get compared to crowd-funding companies, which are like, “please give us something, we will go make something and then we will deliver it to you at a different time.” To me that’s just another form of consumer commerce, if you will. But if you say to the fan, “we’re going to go into the studio today and as we do that, at the end of every day or every couple days, we’re going to share something with you.”
We’ve got an iPhone app that literally says, “hey, I’m in the studio. Come check it out, I’m going to beat my drummer over the head with a stick because he can’t keep time. We’ve had a great day, have a listen.” Then it auto-feeds the artist’s account on Facebook and Twitter. If I’m a fan, that same update can feed my Facebook and Twitter, so what you end up seeing is a thirty second clip and you can pledge to see the rest of it.
Really I think what it was, was I think there’s a place in music for just selling to consumers. But what the industry has never addressed is how to sell to fans. Fans are the ones that want to be a part of something larger than just the moment that they go into a shop and buy.
There’s still a place for retail. There’s still a place for labels. What we try to do is build a tool that means an artist and fan can have a direct connection and that the label can also use this tool to foster that same thing, because it’s coming from the artist in real time.
You can’t go back and have the experience. You’ve got to have it while it’s drawing out. It’s like a gig that unfolds in real time. If you don’t offer that, then the fans simply can’t be a part of it. All they can do is go to a shop and buy a CD or go to iTunes and download it.
We did a study with Nielsen (SoundScan) in the U.S. and what they found was that there’s between 0.5 to 2.6 billion dollars available to labels and artists if they open this method up. All fans want to do is connect. They want to be a part of it. You want to say, “I was there. I got the signed vinyl that says ‘I was there.’” That’s really how I view us.
It’s part crowd-funding because there is an element of reaching a hundred percent goal and doing that, but we never display how much money is being raised because I think it distracts from the point of it, which is not how much is being raised, but the music. So I don’t care if they’re raising $5000 or $500 000. I care about how good the bass is sounding, personally.
So that’s basically how it started and I built a tool as a musician that I would want to use. I launched the company on my own EP and it works really well.
Compared to crowd-funding programs, we tried to start it as a larger way of releasing music than just a show up and buy it, or fund it and then I’ll make it. It’s about the participation all the way through. So we just elongated the way in which you can do this. Rather than say, “we’ve got six weeks to sell, fund and make an album,” you’ve got six months.
I think this is a brilliant idea because what you end up doing is you get music fans for life.
That’s a great one. You’re right.
In today’s world with social media especially, everything’s happening so fast. People want things right away and if you’re not constantly in their face, there are other things that will come along.
And also think of it this way. If you post on social media, “hey, we’re in the studio, day one.” That’s a broadcast to everybody. What can I do about it? Nothing. I can stare it, I can comment on it, I can like it, but what have I done?
What if you could pledge on it at that moment? Then, all of a sudden, you know that the album will show up. You bought in. Then all you have to say is, “whatever we’re doing on a social level for everybody, we’ll create another layer in between,” and all you need is an iPhone to do it. We don’t have an Android app, sorry.
Really what I think it’s about is that the artists are creative people. They’ve never been given a tool that is this creative to release music. People who work at the record labels are creative people. They’ve never had this tool to use. So we provide not only the tool, but the team who will help get it done as well. That’s a big key to it.
How do you choose who you work with? Do you take anyone on?
We have A&R reps who go out and find artists to work with who are at the right cycle, who are making an album or have made an album. We have a sign-up process and artists can sign up on a platform and one of our team will work with them to help get their campaign ready to go.
We don’t say no, we say, “not now.” Unless it’s something racist or sexist, or offensive. We look at whether artists can do what they want to do in the time they want to do it, and if not, let’s not let them fail. Let’s work with them to get to where it makes sense.
Millions of crowd-funding campaigns launch all the time and die because no one takes the time to just say, “that won’t work. That’s just not possible.” I didn’t want to do that.
How does it benefit Pledge Music as a company?
We commission whatever comes into the platform and the artist owns the rights all the way out. We take fifteen percent and that includes the credit card processing fee. So it’s slightly more expensive that other straight crowd-funding companies, but what you get for that is us and we’re the guys that help make it happen.
It’s been a good year. We saw 176% increase in pledges! Our CFO said that to me. I think that’s good.
Wow! I’ve never run a business, but I’d hazard a guess that that’s extremely good. Geographically who do you take on?
Global. Anywhere where credit cards or PayPal can be used, we operate there.
So all languages? All genres?
All genres. We have a Spanish version of the site, a German version of the site and English. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how we’re going to grow and give Canada what they need to work, but then we have to do a French Canadian version of the site. If you know anyone! I’m a big ice hockey fan too.
What are hoping to achieve from this point forward?
I think there’s not going to be one album in the next twenty years that wouldn’t have a better experience for everybody involved if it had Pledge as part of it. So my goal is that all albums begin their life in this way. With me being a part of it. With me being able to be a part of it as a fan.
It’s not working the way it is. It’s not effective anymore. You can’t just say “go buy stuff in shops, go buy stuff on the internet.” That’s not working. So we have to reinvent the way in which music and art gets to be built.
People who have done crowd-funding campaigns have said they feel bad going back to the well. My thing is abolish any concept of the well.
Do you stop making albums because the last one was the best you’re ever going to get? No. You just make a better campaign, a better way of doing things. Our job is to help with that.
This article was originally published in April of 2012 but it seems fitting to take a look at it again!
Last week, my colleague Quiet Mike laid out the reasons why it’s a good thing the Canadian penny will soon be a thing of the past. On a strictly logical level, I agree with him.
It doesn’t make sense to spend 2 1/2 cents producing something that is only worth one. Also, bars, buses and other common elements of our commerce don’t take pennies already.
However, on a deeper level, I mourn the loss of the penny. Can you blame me? It’s been with me my whole life.
While I may date myself when I say that I (vaguely) remember a time before toonies (the first time I got one as change I thought it was a chocolate coin), I think it’s safe to say that we are all familiar with the penny. Things change, and sentimentality isn’t enough to defy logic & economics. But, by losing the penny we are also forever altering or outright losing aspects of our lives.
Finding pennies in the couch is the first to go. Remember rooting through your sofa and finding enough change to make the difference in a purchase of a pack of smokes or a carton of milk? That will no longer be possible in a few months.
Next, what will happen with the take a penny, leave a penny tray. The beauty of such an insignificant denomination of currency is in its utter insignificance. Will there be a take a nickel, leave a nickel jar? Maybe with inflation some day, but probably not anytime soon.
But the single most significant loss is not so much economic as it is cultural. Penny for your thoughts? What does that mean? Nothing. Your thoughts now mean nothing.
What about people named or nicknamed Penny. Their names, while remaining cool and romantic (never met anyone named Penny, but I’m sure I’d love her if I did) are also now obsolete references.
What about references in songs. One of my favourite songs from my late teenage years came from a forever unknown NDG band named Lint (a friend’s old high-school band) and had the indelibly powerful and mood setting lyric “Just like a penny on the tracks…” (I can’t remember the follow-up line, but the rhyme was “turn back”)
Whether or not you have a better example, the penny has an element of nostalgia and can take you back to a specific time and place. The penny has permeated our popular culture and, dare I say, our very souls.
Stephen Harper, the Royal Canadian Mint and even the proprietors of the take a penny trays can’t take that away. Correction, they can’t take that away from this generation or even the next generation, but a hundred years from now, we’re looking at pennies being the new bootleg alcohol, 8-track cassette or paperboy.
A Montreal bar owner made quite an impression this week when he announced the creation of a coalition of business owners to combat homelessness in the downtown.
In an article on the CBC about the coalition, Peter Sergakis, owner of Station des Sports and Sky Bar, among other bars, was made to appear as though he was waging “war on homeless people” and that he was only out for his own interests.
A frustrated Sergakis spoke to Forget the Box today, denying any war on homeless people.
“It’s not a war,” he said. “Those people [the homeless] need help and we have to provide for them. I am declaring war maybe on the government of Quebec. I haven’t heard a word from all of the [politicians] when I press the issue because they don’t get votes from them.
Asked to describe in detail what he hopes to do with his coalition, Sergakis says he will announce plans in a couple weeks after members have a chance to meet. One of the major functions of the group will be to raise funds to donate to various organizations that work with homeless people.
Herman Alves, an associate of Sergakis, said that they are looking into holding fundraisers one day a year at all six Station des Sports in Montreal area. All money made on these days will be put toward the coalition.
“I really believe that the homeless [steal food] because they are hungry—so lets give them food,” he said. “Lets feed them on a daily basis so they don’t have to steal or take things from the tourists.”
Word of Sergakis’s empathy for homeless people was a surprise to Dorothy Massimo, director of development and communications at Dans la Rue, an organization that supports homeless people in Montreal.
“Wow, that’s very, very, very different from what he said [in previous interviews],” Massimo said upon hearing about Sergakis’s plans.
“If we have this very influential business person who wants to work side by side with us to eliminate the problem […] it would be an amazing force. I welcome a call from him. I would love to sit at the table with him,” she said.
Sergakis said he would like to see Dans la Rue be open 24 hours a day, five days a week, to help with the homeless people he says are harassing customers on his terraces.
Though Massimo agrees that having Dans la Rue open 24 hours would be beneficial to the community, she says that it would take way more money than they currently receive as donations from individuals—their main source of revenue.
She also cautions against pushing the homeless away from downtown.
“If you push them farther away, then the situation is just going to get worse,” she said.
“It’ll work for the summer to get them away from the terraces, and the problem will look like it’s solved. If [Sergakis] is really looking for a long-term solution, I suggest he work with the community that is providing those services to the homeless.”
* Look for a full video interview with Sergakis and others this Tuesday on Forget The Box.
A job. So archaic. What is a job? Let us define. Forgive me. A few definitions courtesy of Definition.com:
Job: A paid position of regular employment A crime, especially a robbery ?!
Career: An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life Interested in pursuing a profession rather than devoting all her time to child care and housekeeping ?!
Passion: An intense desire or enthusiasm for something
Vocation: A strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation
Calling: A strong urge toward a particular way of life or career
Talent: Natural aptitude or skill
Thank you for reading. Oh, one more definition, this time courtesy of Wikipedia.org:
Industrialisationis the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial one for the purpose of manufacturing. Industrialisation also introduces a sociological attitude change towards our perception of nature.
Where am I going with this? No one, in my assertive opinion, wants a job. I am 35 years old, living in North America and in touch with my social media side. I know what’s happening, who’s doing what and who’s fed up with industrialization’s stubborn vestiges.
We are a generation ready for change. Forgive the cliché. It is true. What happened, the way it happened, why it happened, does not suit us.
Mass production of stuff, the hijacking of natural water sources to create water sold in disposable plastic bottles, pesticide-, hormone-, steroid-, vitamin-pumped produce and animals are not what our parents and grandparents rave about. They have consternation for the life and challenges facing us following decisions that were obeyed, and not halted. Obey authority in all its forms – governmental, religious, institutional, societal – is the eroding governing mentality.
Now, we know. This doesn’t work. However, it almost seems like people aren’t ready for the new, the unexamined. “Well if it’s not capitalism, and it’s not communism, then what is it?! Will we all die?” some chant.
No, we will re-invent together. A lot of ideas are brewing in many places. Just go to any startup festival, or to Notman House on Montreal’s Sherbrooke avenue. These entrepreneurs, many impressively 20 and 30-somethings, are corporate refugees and self-proclaimed proudly unemployable.
This is what I heard over and over at this summer’s gloriously sunny second annual International Startup Festival hosted on the Alexandra Pier at Montreal’s Old Port July 11-13, 2012.
“We are unemployable.” “I am unemployable.” “I started 5 startups. Three failed, but I ain’t stopping.”
This is not undiagnosed craziness. This is entrepreneurship. You start something because you feel like it and because an idea has taken root in your brain and, as entrepreneurs will often say, in your heart too.
An idea is not a harmful thing. Why not dream? Why not try? I started noticing a shift when my friends, one by one, were leaving corporate positions with the 9am to 5pm schedule, a tie and suit dress code, a cubicle seating, a fixed time to eat and a job description that is sometimes respected, sometimes not.
The corporate pick up line no longer works: “Looking for dynamic, innovative, team player with autonomous, driven attitude, ready to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines.”
Hmmm, let me jump off a bridge. With a bungee cord of course.
It’s an age where we’re admitting to ourselves and out loud that we do not want this. Don’t try to lure me, big company, with salary, dental and massage insurance and promises of a promotion if I’m good.
We understand that our education, our academic degrees, our world experience, work ethic and our passion and drive are to benefit us. I have a lot to contribute. And not to a company or to a boss who wants my productivity report every week, and not my ideas, my passion and my personal ethics to feed the collective good.
Entrepreneurship is a new breed. Don’t be afraid.
And if you are looking to hook up with the talented and the crazy like you, job boards and online searches, and ancient CV submitting, may not help.
How often do you hear: “I found my job through an acquaintance, my brother-in-law, my cousin, my friend’s roommate, my housekeeper, my boyfriend?”
All these people are contacts you’ve collected on social forums like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. If your entire rollerdex and their friends are at your fingertips, and you know how you can’t stray away from your social news feed, why not capitalize on what’s naturally of interest? People!
Whether you are an entrepreneur, a manager or a recruiter seeking that person who will thrive in your company or whether you know what you excel in and enjoy and are looking for interesting people to excel with, the convenience of using all your contacts to help you find what you’re seeking professionally is out there.
Gotta give props to a Montreal startup that is greatly facilitating professional connections. matchFWD leverages your social media contacts and adds personalized recommendations to bring you to where it’s at. This team of barely 20 and 30-somethings understands that it’s not about finding a job. It’s a fit that we seek.
It took me decades to finally admit to myself that the team is the crucial piece. Aren’t we all like this? You’re not working with a machine, unless you’re a drone operator.
I was happy to hear a university instructor say in class: “If I can give you any true advice: only accept a professional contract when you feel like you could invite this potential client or colleague to your home for dinner.”
I cannot agree more. Why can’t you enjoy the company of someone whom you’re considering working with over dinner? Can we shoot the shit and find intelligent things to say? Shouldn’t this be the ultimate sign of a good interview?
* photos Jeremy Barwick (flickr), icanewfriend.com
The occupy movement was fairly successful at bringing to light the massive influence that corporations have over our governments, the internet and our daily lives. If only they could see what was going on in San Diego, California. Cloaked in secrecy, negotiations are taking place between 600 industry advisers and non-elected trade representatives to engineer an international agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The negotiations were initiated by George W. Bush back in 2008 and after a brief pause under Barack Obama talks have continued since 2009. Nine countries are currently taking part; Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. Canada and Mexico received invites last month, but are not actually permitted to take part in negotiations (they are only permitted to join).
On the surface, the TPP seems like just another free trade agreement, but the majority of these countries already have free trade agreements in place, so what’s the point? Why the secrecy? The answer is simple; the policies of the TPP would never survive public scrutiny.
In fact, less than 10% of the chapters in this agreement actually deal with traditional free trade. It is essentially an international attack by the one percent on national sovereignty and personal freedom. Participating nations would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules, but that’s just the start.
Through the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, foreign firms would gain a vast array of rights, including:
• Rights to acquire land, natural resources and factories without government review
• Risks and costs of off-shoring to low wage countries eliminated
• Special guaranteed “minimum standard of treatment” for relocating firms
• Compensation for loss of “expected future profits” from health, labour, environmental laws
• Right to move capital without limits
• New rights cover vast definition of investment: intellectual property, permits, derivatives
• Ban performance requirements, domestic content rules. Absolute ban, not only when applied to investors from signatory countries
The agreement will empower corporations to sue governments, outside their domestic court systems, over any action the corporations believe undermines their expected future profits.
The corporate coup d’état goes further, it picks up where SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and Bill C-11 left off. Leaked documents reveal that TPP includes what Open Media refers to as an internet trap. It would in effect criminalize some everyday use of the internet, force service providers to collect and hand over your private data and give media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use, remove online content (including entire websites) and even terminate your access to the internet altogether.
It’s amazing that in the age of information, something this extreme can go unreported. The few reports you might have seen from the mainstream media would have you believe that it’s just another free trade agreement aimed at benefiting us all.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true, this deal is being deliberated by those who have it all, yet want more. Those who benefit most from the TPP will be those at the top and it will remain there. Since NAFTA and similar pacts were signed, five million people have lost their jobs and fifty thousand factories have closed in the United States alone, yet corporate profits are at record highs.
The Trans Pacific Partnership has no end date and no limit to the amount of countries that can join so long as they obey their draconian laws. If this deal is approved as is, our lives, our laws, even the way we are taxed will be vastly different in the near future.
Conservatives in North America identify Europe (Scandinavia in particular) with its high social safety net, health care systems and high tax rates as “welfare” states. A welfare state is a country where the government provides for the well-being of its citizens, the objective is to create greater economic equality and ensure a certain minimum standard of living.
On the other side of the pond, Conservative politicians in the United States are quick to criticize the countries that care for their poorest citizens and decry those who wish to see the US follow the same path. I wonder if they see the hypocrisy.
You see, the United States does have elements of these so called “welfare” states, such as welfare, social security and unemployment. Far right conservatives are trying to do away with these important programs, but at the same time they continue to subsidize corporations who don’t need it.
These same people, who supposedly believe in the free market as much as they believe in Jesus, prefer to give billions in tax subsidies to oil companies, weapons manufacturers and farmers, rather than giving it to those who actually need it. After all, these companies are “job creators”, the less they pay in taxes the more jobs they create right?
I saw an interview about a week ago featuring Honeywell CEO David Cote. During the interview he was asked what he thought the effective corporate tax rate should be; Cote to no one’s surprise said zero, he argued “jobs come from companies and if we wanted to create the most effective foreign direct investment pipeline you’ve ever seen, we would have the lowest rate possible.”
Well… as it turns out, between 2008-2010 Honeywell received $1.75 billion in federal tax subsidies making their effective tax rate -0.7%, better than Mr. Cote could have dreamed.
With that kind of tax rate Honeywell must have created lots of jobs, right? During that same time period their jobs gain was -996 and managed to use loopholes in the law to fire hundreds of union workers and replace them with cheaper labour.
With all these negative numbers, Honeywell must be struggling to stay afloat right? Actually they profited $4.9 billion over that time period and David Cote himself got paid $37 million last year for his efforts.
Honeywell’s example of corporate welfare can be compared on a lower level to a personal welfare recipient who sells drugs on the side. Conservatives desire to shut down the entire welfare program because of individuals who cheat the system. Why then do they continue to subsidize companies who are not only on their feet, but flying over everyone?
The answer is simple: lobbying. From 2008-2010, Honeywell spent $17 million to lobby politicians and received $1.75 billion in tax subsidies for their hard work. For every dollar they spent, they received a hundred back. Do you think if I gave Prime Minister Harper a $1000 donation I could get $100 000 back on my taxes?
The type of corporate welfare we have in North America is the product of corporate influence over politicians; money buys power and therefore benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor who have no money and consequently no say in the goings on in government.
It’s a reverse Robin Hood if you will. Whether it’s the tar sands in Alberta or the oil, corn and arms industries in the US among others, government subsidization of profitable corporations creates more wealth for the already wealthy and increases government debt. It does absolutely nothing for the common man.
What would you say if I told you that there was a place you could play boardgames, video & arcade games and pinball totally for free. And it has beer. And cheesecake.
It would be a little like dying and going to geek heaven, wouldn’t it?
It’s real, and it’s in Montreal.
For just a shade over a year, Cafe Foonzo has been home-away-from-home for the various breeds of gamers in Montreal. And we couldn’t be happier.
Foonzo is in the basement level of a mid-rise on Drummond Street, and when you get down the stairs and through the heavy fire-door, it’s as if you’d stepped into another world.
The walls are decorated with gorgeous pop-culture art and colourful, frolicking video game characters. A dessert case beckons from the bar. There are turtles (!!) splashing around in an aquarium. There is the cling and clash of pinball machines, the muted war of digital warfare and the impassioned groans and cheers from brave Settlers of Catan. Truly, this is a place of wonder.
To your left is a cafe and bar, several good-sized tables, a manga and comic book shelf, and a couple of turtles. Further on are real antique pinball machines and then the coup de grace is are several custom built gaming stations for shooting games and RPGs (Fighting games?). The other whole half of the cafe is filled with pairs of big, red Ikea couches around low, wide tables. The shelves underneath these tables are stuffed with almost every board game made, and on the wall between each set are flat screen televisions linked up to a network of thousands of video games.
Just a sampling of the games on offer include:
Settlers of Catan
Dungeons & D
All of those games, activities and machines, as I mentioned above, are FREE to use for clients.
Owners Phoun Siriphong and Alain Veillette are no slouches when it comes to the gamer/cafe business. They are well aware that by offering WiFi, the consoles, boards, books and extensive library of games for free they are:
Absolutely cementing client loyalty.
Encouraging an atmosphere of camaraderie.
Letting games be played the way they were meant to be played – with friends, food and drink.
The fact that they offer good quality, inexpensive food and Sapporo on tap seals the deal.
Foonzo Cafe plays host to a variety of tournaments attended by enthusiastic gamers from across north America. Guests all have the same thing to say: “We need one of these at home.” When I asked (hope a-glimmering in my eyes) if there were plans in the works for a second (third, fourth?) location anytime soon, Phoun gave an answer that I think assures this cafe’s success. He said that they would certainly love to have more locations, but first, it was important to really establish Foonzo, work out all the kinks and get used to business ownership. If more restaurateurs thought this way we’d have many more quality places to eat in this city.
I said it and I meant it: Disneyland has nothing on Cafe Foonzo!
Open seven days a week, 3pm to 1am.
1245 rue Drummond corner St. Catherine
Something smells in our democracies. We the people control our government, we all own our public land, but the resources found on that land get sold to whomever the government decides to offer contracts to (without our permission). The end result is that multi-national oil conglomerates rake in hundreds of billions of dollars while the average North American family winds up paying an average $4200 a year on gasoline.
Living in Canada as I do, I am amazed that as a country we have the third largest proven oil reserves in the world, but our government refuses to subsidize gas prices like in most oil rich nations. In fact, out of the top 15 oil rich countries on earth, no one pays more for gas than we do.
Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait among others all have large oil reserves. However unlike Canada, they refuse to look at their citizens as customers, after all, the resources should belong to the people. The cost of a litre of gas in Venezuela is $0.023 and $0.13 in Saudi Arabia.
Conservatives and Libertarians might have you believe that one reason we pay so much at the pump is government taxes. While we do pay our fair share (only a quarter compared to most of Europe), our taxes are relatively low. According to Petro Canada, we pay $0.30 to $0.35 a litre in various taxes. If we did away with these levies it would bring down the price to about $1.10, still higher than the biggest 15 oil countries.
In the United States, gasoline production has been at an all-time high while demand for the fuel is at a five year low, yet gas prices continue to increase. There is such an over-abundance of gasoline and other fuels in the U.S. that this year, gasoline has overtaken aircraft as the top manufactured American export.
Americans are starting to place blame for the increase in gas prices on President Barack Obama, a man who is all but powerless to do anything about it, short of giving into big oil. Obama has recently declared a stop to oil company subsidies, something that should have been done decades ago given their high profits.
He also turned down the KXL pipelinea couple months back after being forced to make a quick decision. Contrary to what Republicans are saying, if that decision was reversed and the pipeline was built, according to industry experts it would result in gas prices falling about a nickel… ten years from now.
Oil Company execs have stated publicly that Obama will pay politically for his actions and that might be exactly what we are seeing. Corporations and their psychopathic tendencies will always place profit before people. In this case it is more profitable for the oil companies to sell their gasoline overseas than it is to sell it domestically even if they are drowning in it. Obama and the American people are left to pay the price.
In a global free-market economy, gasoline is susceptible to the price of oil, speculation, natural disasters, wars and other various factors. As peek oil approaches and our governments continue to subject us to the unpredictability of the market; we the people will continue to go broke, while the fat cats running the oil industry will continue to grow even richer and dominate our lives further, capitalizing on our own natural resources.
Although I’d like to see our national resources actually nationalized, one only needs to look at Hydro Quebec as an example as to why. I’m not completely close minded on finding other solutions as long as they serve the public good. Investing heavily in green energy would be a hell of a good start. We should also have fixed gas prices; an energy rich nation should be passing the savings to its people, not passing the profits to foreign owned corporations.
Of course nothing will change as long as the people who own it, don’t demand it…
If you are a young mover ‘n shaker in Montreal there is one hot ticket event you should know about. Les Jeudi D’Apollo is a monthly event thrown by Eric Sicotte and l’Agence Apollo and it’s a networking event unlike any other in Montreal. The evening features local up and coming Montreal artists and entrepreneurs and gives them the opportunity to present their latest projects to a room full of other young affluent Montrealers. This Thursday’s event marks the 1 year anniversary of Les Jeudis D’Apollo.
The evening takes place at the offices of L’Agence Apollo (in old Montreal) which doubles as an event space as needed. The setting itself is absolutely stunning, as the open air loft is illuminated by about 25 chandeliers and the exposed wood and brick really bring character to the space. The food and drinks are kept flowing by local sponsors while people are given the oppourtunity to mingle between musical performances and presentations. There are tasting stations set up featuring delectable treats as well as make-up and styling stations to help you look your best!
Last month ForgetTheBox members Jason C. Mclean and myself were there with our newest partner in crime, Jordan Arsenault (editor 2Bmag.com) to present our latest project, ItCouldGetWorse.com. Our new website is a single serving site dedicated to fighting the Conservatives Crime Omnibus Bill. We managed to stir up some great awareness against the bill and are still fighting to stop it, but ItCouldGetWorse.com will soon be taking up other causes, and will be acting as the activist wing of the FTB network.
This anniversary edition of Les Jeudi Apollo is about bringing together many young artists, entrepreneurs and even activists so that we can talk about our projects, and meet other young doers. At this month’s event we will be treated to presentations by Marc Andrew, Zwerg, Eric Santerre, Dan Green and DJ Justin Adler AKA James Krown among many others. Below is the flyer for the event with too many names to list off here. Hope to see you there!
Only in America could there be a holiday weekend where the premise is to eat as much as you can only to be followed by a day where people buy as much as they canâ€¦ and they call it Thanksgiving.
That’s right, Thanksgiving Day weekend, a day of mass consumption preceded by a day of mass consumerism. Thanksgiving is America’s second favorite holiday after Christmas and it’s plain to see why; it’s celebrated by eating, shopping, going into debt and watching the gladiators bleed on the gridiron; nothing could be closer to living the modern day American dream.
Thanksgiving and football aside, my realâ€¦ beef is with the annual day of spending, better known as Black Friday. According to a report from ShopperTrak, American consumers spent $11.4 billion at retail stores this past Friday, it was the largest amount ever spent on the day that marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
My problem with Black Friday isn’t with people buying stuff per se; after all it’s what makes the economy move. My problem lies more with the mentality behind it. Black Friday for instance should be better known as Red Friday; individuals don’t go out into the madness and pay cash for the big screen TVs, dishwashers and computers, they use their credit cards, even worse they use the store credit cards (Sears card, Future Shop card, etc.).
By the time people pay off their purchases and the added interest with monthly installments, chances are they’d have spent more than the pre-sale cost of the item. One of the biggest problems we have today is the lack of patience, everybody has to have it now, that way of thinking is bleeding us dry and you can see it in people’s behavior at the mall.
I referenced football earlier by comparing the players to Roman Gladiators who back in the day would fight for their lives for the entertainment of others. These days, it doesn’t seem too extreme to associate gladiators to football players, nor does it seem too extreme to liken either of them to Black Friday Shoppers; the shopper being the gladiator and the gridiron/coliseum the “shopping maul”.
A woman in her thirties pepper spraying a crowd of twenty or so people just to get her hands on an Xbox, a small riot breaking out in a Wal-Mart over a $2.00 waffle maker, a few instances of police tasering shoplifters, one of which was a grandfather trying to protect his grandson from a mob of shoppers. It probably won’t be long until we see ordinary people shooting each other over a common teddy bear; where is Tickle Me Elmo when you need him?
There are a ton of crazy people out there much to my YouTube enjoyment, funny how they all shop at Wal-Mart. I’m not sure what goes through the minds of people who show a complete lack of concern for one’s fellow human beings in order to gain simple material possessions, whether it’s the horrible economy, getting that perfect Christmas gift or simply keeping up with the Joneses.
Black Friday leaves a black eye on the United States on an annual basis. Aggressive consumerism and mindless violence is the story year after year and they wonder why less fortunate countries continue to look down upon them. Perhaps it’s the two days at the end of November that are filled with gluttony and greed, better known as Thanksgiving.
Listening to the radio this week tuned me into a new “shopping holiday” being promoted this year. Conceived by American Express, Small Business Saturdays will be having its second go around on November 26th across the states. (That’s last year’s image above)
This is a fantastic idea!
I’m no huge fan of American Express, one of the down-and-dirtiest credit companies in terms of fees, customer support and terms of service, but I think they’re doing the right thing here.
Why don’t we see more of this?
There is so much focus, politically, in journalism, in the news media on big companies, huge, leviathan organizations operating on an international scale, that often the small, local businesses get overlooked, particularly these days. And that’s not right. Running a small, locally oriented business takes guts. It takes skill. It takes belief and money and time and more hard work than you can imagine.
And almost no one cares.
It’s amazing that big business is finally getting some of the criticism it deserves, but I worry that smaller business owners get caught up with the herd, or overlooked entirely. That’s the issue that Small Business Saturday (by function if not by intent) is trying to address.
So, on November 26th spend some time and some money with small, local, independent retailers. If you celebrate a winter holiday by exchanging gifts may I please offer you the following suggestions? The following are Montreal independent merchants who have, in the past, knocked my socks off with awesome:
Briimstone Chocolates: The woman who runs this store is a delight and the chocolate is amazing. She makes her own marshmallows. â€˜Nuff said.
Argo Bookshop: Small, selective, cozy, store cat. I love this bookshop for the catered, old-book feeling. The place really is small, so the owners have made sure that ever book is a friend.
Boutique Fly: The proprietor of this shop has excellent taste and is a master of sales. After three minutes of conversation, she’ll hand you a pile of garments to try that fit perfectly and make you look ten times cooler than you thought you could.
Friperie St-Laurent: Old Luggage, cool hats, cowboy boots, Bakelite and tons of vintage clothes make Friperie St-Laurent one of my go-to places when it’s time to go shopping. There are actually several killer Friperies on the same block, so it’s always worth a trip.
La Jolie Boutique: I think we all have a soft spot in our hearts for Toystores, and La Jolie Boutique is one of the best. The staff really curates the products they sell, and the service as always fantastic.
These are five of my favourites, but the list needs more. Which are your absolute favourite local retailers? Let us know in the comments. Please provide a link so that we can all visit them online!
PS. Please don’t use a credit card! Especially not Amex!
Megan Dougherty is a Montreal blogger and marketer trying to carve out the smallest bit of respect for new writers, freelancers, interns and the otherwise entry-level over at Hire-Me-Dammit.com. She likes fall vegetables, skirts that reach her knees and chubby felines.
News of the Screws, Screws of the World, you can call Rupert Murdoch’s former weekly tabloid newspaper whatever you like. News of the World was the biggest selling English language newspaper in the world up until it printed its final paper last week, amid a high profile phone hacking and corruption scandal. While the world seems shocked at the depths of the allegations, I for one am not surprised.
The 168 year old News of the World was bought by Mr. Murdoch and News International in 1969. At the time it was a regular weekly newspaper that covered actual news. Fifteen years later in 1984 it was altered into a tabloid newspaper to cover all the slimy stories on celebrities and the royal family. Knowing how dirty and sleazy the tabloids can be, should we be at all surprised at a scandal involving NotW and possibly Murdoch and News Corp (News International’s parent company)? In my opinion, those that report on sleazy goings-on might have a tendency to practice a little sleaze themselves.
The scandal was initially thought to be restricted to celebrities, politicians and members of the British Royal Family. Further revelations however exposed that victims of the phone hacking also included murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose voicemail messages were hacked and deleted, relatives of deceased British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and victims of the 7/7 London bombings.
With multitudes of arrests and resignations in the U.K. following the closure of the tabloid, word of the News International phone hacking scandal has since hit the ears of North Americans (and not through the mouths of Fox News). There is no evidence as of yet that any of Murdoch’s American newspaper outlets, including the New York Post and Wall Street Journal, have tried to employ the same methods as the disgraced News of the World.
The FBI on the other hand has launched an investigation into News Corp. after a report that employees or associates of the News Corporation may have tried to hack into the conversations and voice-mail of 9/11 victims. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, while meeting with his counterparts from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, has said that investigations are underway into Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
Rupert Murdoch has made billions after taking over his father’s Australian newspaper business in the 1950’s, and has done so principally by focusing on what people want to read and watch, rather than what people ought to read and watch. In other words, sex and celebrities equals more dollars than truth and important stories. I’d like to say he’s wrong in what he does, but from a business perspective he got it right and made a fortune doing so. It’s the fault of the masses for eating up his “infotainment” like so much fast food garbage.
Regardless of Murdoch’s political leanings he is first and foremost a businessman, he is there to make himself and his shareholders wealthy. Whether or not he does so by “any means necessary” remains to be seen. Most CEOs and business owners don’t tend to get involved directly in the day to day operations of their various business ventures, however Rupert Murdoch seems to be a little different in that respect as he seems to dictate which direction to spin the news. I’m not sure I can prejudge whether Rupert is directly involved in the phone hacking scandal, but I know it’ll take more than a newspaper closing to bring down his empire.
“You can’t build a strong corporation with a lot of committees and a board that has to be consulted every turn. You have to be able to make decisions on your own” – Rupert Murdoch
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