A Networking Odyssey and That’s Final

The Marketing Seminar Series I participated in for class MARK 4029 has been genuinely interesting. It’s rare that a succession of presenters is lined up for your benefit in such an accessible manner. The fact that about a third to a half of the speakers were young and early-career did not detract from the overall benefit. While seasoned industry veterans can serve up the big picture, the younger interlocuters added a key element of relatability and plausibility. The sheer range of work and life experience represented was worthwhile.

Something I’ve come by honestly is my status as one of the top questioners in the entire program. I’ve always been a curious persona and I certainly didn’t take this opportunity to change that about myself. While one could argue that my copious questioning crowded out others, in many cases it seemed that my peers did not have questions ready to go. My questions were also more of the “tradecraft” variety rather than inquiries for the purpose of career advice. So, while fundamentally I think I posed good questions, they could have been somewhat more geared to the actual exercise. Truth be told, I do have the tendency to use networking interactions as outlets for my curiosity rather than career advancement, but I’m slowly getting over that as I have no choice.

Two speakers that stick in my mind are Lia Grimbeg and Ahmet Kul. Both exemplify what I would call “extreme competence”. Both have thrived in the more “technical” career paths marketing offers. Being exposed to such people is itself inspirational.

One regret I have is missing the seminar on “influencer marketing”. It’s a fascinating du-jour discussion but I justified my absence from that class as I was attending the Collision technology conference. Collision was obviously a great venue for networking, and I did converse with a handful of people at the event like the RBC technologist who explained his firms micro-tracking capabilities and the man who fleshed out the new Bell Demand Side Platform. The latter was a notable moment personally as just a few months earlier I wouldn’t have been able to understand what he was talking about, but in a serendipitous moment, networking and knowledge came together.

I’ve followed up with a handful of people I interacted at Collision and plan to take full advantage of the annual event, it’s in Toronto after all. Really, Collision is a must for networking. George Brown College did promote the event but ideally more could be done to integrate it with relevant programs at the college. That’s a lot to ask but I can only reiterate that it’s an incredible event.

Closer to “home” I’ve successfully networked amongst my peers and taken advantage of the wider George Brown College web of connection. As soon as my eyes opened to what was possible on LinkedIn, especially as a LinkedIn “creator”, I did not hesitate to “connect” with students and alumni of the Digital Media Marketing program. Initial exchanges of pleasantries gave way to in-depth conversation in a few cases and early career advice was kindly dislodged in my direction. I also added many of the seminar guests on LinkedIn and was sure to include a note of thanks for their participation.

In addition to the directly relevant and obvious connections alluded to above I also used LinkedIn to connect with people I respect in other fields who may be relevant to future career moves and paths. On LinkedIn I joined a handful of digital marketing groups and associations. These were less helpful as the element of “real world” connection was tangential to non-existent.

On campus I’ve attended a handful of peer events intended to encourage cross-pollination in the Center for Business ecosystem. While these events yielded a few of the kind of experiences described above, the sparseness and rustiness of Covid-era campus life certainly left me wanting more. I plan to stay in touch with my George Brown peers indefinitely, it’s tempting to say “forever”. While advancing in the field of digital marketing will be a positive outcome of this continued contact, a wider community of support is an even greater prospect.

As far as advice to impart, I would suggest that anyone trying to network must force themselves out of their “comfort zone” post-haste. There is a baseline of social confidence and self-assurance necessary to network effectively. The good news is that a college program affords the opportunity to network in a comfortable “low stakes” environment. Basically, if you can’t do it here you can’t do it anywhere. Finally, the most important thing I learned through the series of seminars and my wider attempts at networking is that everything is social. If you have social confidence and marry it to practical knowledge and skills the sky is the limit. A concluding thanks is due to all the speakers and Prof. Wendy Greenwood for running a very tight ship.

Retail From Scratch in 2022

These are photos of a newly renovated storefront on Yonge St. in Toronto. I found it interesting to see an array of retail/tech features on display just before the outlet opens.

A list of some notable stuff:

  • Four self-serve payment kiosks in a very small location.
  • A street service window. Street service was very rare in downtown Toronto pre-pandemic but is getting more common.
  • Two standard Point of Sale setups (one of which is oriented to the street service window). If you add up all the “points of sale” that’s six in a small location.
  • Three security cameras covering the entrance area, including one on the exterior just aside from (and pointing at) the street service window.
  • A very cramped back area almost completely cut off by a counter. This implies a process whereby customers will place an order and be handed their products.

Based on a Google search this is an “Asian grocery store”. Job ads for the company desire Mandarin speakers.

Companies providing the features: Cisco, QuikServ (street service window) and globalpayments.

Italian Futurism: art, design, national rivalry and diagonal lines

La Rivolta (“The Revolt”) by Luigi Russolo
  • After Italy unified in 1861 it looked back to ancient Rome.
  • Subsequently, Italian architects fashioned Art Nouveau into a local strand.
  • Everything was subject to design: curtains, cabinets, staircases and door handles. Function persisted intact with new trimmings. With Marinetti, nothing was to remain intact.
  • Marinetti proclaimed a new Italian order, remaking an “agrarian backwater” into a nexus of cultural innovation.
  • Clothing, theatre, music, poetry and the built environment. Futurists took the city as the crucible of modernity, celebrated “throbbing boulevards”.
  • Boccioni offered a manifesto on futurist architecture.
  • Boccioni’s art: even a bottle sitting on a table is interpenetrated by various angles, intercepted by geometries. Still and static objects as bound up with their environment.
  • Futurist ideal: a chair with tacks on it that would make you stand back up. Futurism had an ambivalent relationship with objects because they are static and Futurism was about motion and movement.
  • Boccioni used Futurist watchwords like dynamism, said Italian art and architecture had to liberate itself from past glories and European trends.
  • Futurism came with increased functionalism and utilitarianism (anticipating “form follows function”).
  • Sant’Elia’s new cities drawings (Cita Nuova) included soaring trains and power stations, a ceaseless mobility that would defy the inertia associated with architecture. An Italy and a world stripped of history and constantly rebuilt.
  • Sant’Elia was killed during WW1 but his drawings transformed the architectural imagination. A 1930’s fascist architectural journal was published in his name.
  • Virgilio Marchi’s delirious “Fantastic City” looked like Disney and was first conceived as set designs for theatre.
  • Wenzel Hablik: new age mysticism, transcendence and passage to a new plane. Futurism, for all its emphasis on technology, has “flighty metaphysical tendencies” as well.
  • The notion of interpenetration was hardly amenable to architecture construction.
  • “Art into life” was the modernist Avant-garde drive, aesthetics not as a mirror of history but its engine.
  • Giacomo Balla painting: Abstract Speed + Sound.
  • Balla/Depero proposed transforming everything and demonstrated their ideas with models. They wrote “The Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe”, a manifesto.
  • The spiral staircase at the Guggenheim should be seen in light of Italian futurist precedents.
  • The futurist insistence on motion, mobility and activism.
  • Coat racks, bookshelves, end tables, bottles (work for the Campari company). Furniture and clothing in futurist terms, fashion designs. Even dress habits could contribute to this new sensibility of living.
  • The Futurist movement was frequently misogynist but many women contributed. When modernist male artists set about applying aesthetics to actual design it was women doing the work.
  • “Balla’s field of futurist flowers”: futurist flora and animals, rendering the organic world as something synthetic.
  • Balla named his daughter “Propeller”.
  • Italy didn’t produce an art-design school to rival the Bauhaus or Russia.
  • Mussolini said “fascism is a glass house”, implying complete transparency. Abstract murals, architecture of rationalist simplicity and chrome tubular chairs all feature in the Casa del Fascio.
  • Balla designed a FuturFascist sweater that can be seen in comparison to Alexander Rodchenko’s design for workers clothes, clothes as ideology.
  • Balla/Depero worked in the fascist cause into the 1930’s.
  • Balla’s “house of art” in Rome served through the 20’s/30’s as a nexus of experimentation, walls painted in Futurist style. It’s not just the canvas you’re painting but everything around it, the world itself is transformed.
  • Aeropainters painted from the perspective of flight. There were many Futurist and fascist motifs of flight.
  • The Futurists had a diagonal drive, used diagonal lines. The diagonal means something is in the process of moving. Horizontal and vertical are about stasis and solidity, the diagonal is in every example of Futurist design/architecture/painting. Example: a mirror unit made for Italy Balbo was tilted but still functionally vertical.
  • Marinetti hated symmetry because symmetry is about stasis and order.
  • The 1925 Paris Art Decoratif exhibition (ARTDECO). The pavilion incorporated seemingly futurist trees. Balla wrote back home and said “we won, Futurism has taken over Paris”.
  • In the 1920’s there was sympathy and rivalry between France and Italy. They fought on the same side in WW1 and considered themselves Latin brothers.
  • The Futurist trees are another example of synthetic nature.
  • Futurism had a problematic relationship with fascism. Most elements, designers, architects actively supported (or at least in no way dissented) from the regime.

Q&A

  • Italy and Russia were both seen as “backward” nations in the early 20th century.
  • Milan was the only industrial city in Italy at the time.
  • Progressive Avant-garde artists of the 20th century were working in synch with industrial production and turning away from the artist as individual genius.
  • Within Italian fascism, fascism was considered a revolution. Italian fascism was tolerant of modernist Avant-garde culture.
  • Under Mussolini a certain pluralism of culture was tolerated as long as it pledged allegiance to the regime. There were traditionalists who labeled the modernists degenerate.
  • The “Square Colosseum” building was a modernist version of the Colosseum.
  • A logic of pluralism and competition: have Futurism compete as one cultural current under fascism and it will contribute.
  • Fascism included superficially contradictory cultural phenomena under its umbrella. After fascism, people could claim they were being anti-fascist due to this ambiguity.

Daniel Yergin on Energy Markets

Get your fill.
  • The price of gasoline is determined by the price of crude oil. The world oil market is fine tuned and all prices are registering the “fear factor”.
  • People are “self-sanctioning” and rejecting Russian oil. USA natural gas now competes with Russian natural gas.
  • “The Big Three”: #1 is the USA by far (it’s self-sufficient), #2 is Russia and #3 is Saudi Arabia.
  • Even before the current crisis oil prices were rising because of low supply.
  • In 2003 it was thought thought that the USA would start importing more natural gas but then fracking started.
  • LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) is a very expensive process, it costs 10 billion to build a facility.
  • Putin shouted at Yergin at an oil conference Q&A because he didn’t want the USA to do fracking/shale and compete with Russian LNG.
  • Putin regards the energy business as his business and has a level of mastery over it (knowledge, savvy).
  • BUT he miscalculated in thinking that there was limited supply and that Europe would bend in the context of Ukraine.
  • The German view (Merkel’s view) is/was peace through trade.
  • LNG is a process where gas is frozen into liquid, then transported and finally unfrozen and put into the importing country pipelines.
  • LNG/shale has been a huge strategic boon for the USA. The USA is going to be the biggest exporter of LNG.
  • The oil market is a truly global market and has been for many decades. Natural gas was a much more regional market (Europe had a Dutch gas field for ex.).
  • But there’s been LNG innovation and increasingly it is a global market.
  • The shale revolution made Iran sanctions work as Iran didn’t understand that there wasn’t unlimited demand for their oil.
  • Until the early 1990’s China was an exporter of oil and then they became an importer (now import 75% of oil). They have developed energy companies that are world players. China’s status as an importer is the basis of the Xi-Putin alliance.
  • The intimate Xi-Putin relationship has its basis in overturning the world energy balance. Putin has said “the future is in Asia” and he calls Europe and USA decadent countries in decline. Do the Chinese step back from Putin’s behaviour?
  • The Russians have dethroned the Saudis as the #1 oil supplier to China.
  • That said, China is signing long term contracts for USA LNG.
  • The Chinese and USA economies are integrated (prescription meds etc.). China is the “workshop of the world”.
  • That said, the language and feeling of the China-USA relationship have changed.
  • There was once the notion of peeling Russia away from China but it’s over.
  • “So often history is writing about people’s miscalculations”. Putin miscalculated with regards to European determination/resolve.
  • Putin has “taken steps to impoverish Russia”.
  • Oil and gas had been as high as 46% of Putin’s budget and he will not have those earnings. Russia’s infrastructure is built into Europe so India/China are not as easy to sell to in any event.
  • Russia’s days as an energy super power are over and Putin “signed the death warrant”.
  • Canada is the largest supplier to the USA.
  • The Ukrainian military gets diesel fuel from Russian oil (or at least it’s critical).
  • It takes 7 years to get a permit for an on shore wind turbine (according to one wind turbine executive).
  • Solar costs have dropped dramatically but China is the manufacturer. China also controls the supply chain for electronic vehicles. Electronic vehicles use lots of plastic (a petroleum product). Electric vehicles use a lot of copper.
  • It’s hard to open a new mine in the USA.
  • The view of energy politics and policy should be of a “war footing”.
  • Batteries and energy storage are key for renewables.
  • The USA could be exporting more natural gas to China, displacing coal.

Wolf Tivy on democracy, “governance futurism”, Palladium, religion and transhumanism

Elite aesthetics.
  • A mechanical engineer by training.
  • Lawyers vs. engineers (there are too many lawyers in power vs. engineers).
  • The project is to influence the most important people on a 20-50 year timescale and contribute to the consciousness of the Western elite by taking the most sophisticated view possible.
  • Democracy doesn’t matter, the question is elite competence. Democracy is an elite ideology, it’s an incentive for elites to govern well. Do the elite believe they need to govern well?
  • The goal is a collective political community that does great things. What is the inspiration and energy amongst the elite that will lead toward those things?
  • The real question of functional democracy: can the elite agree about who should be in charge and get feedback from the population? In China they get “big data” feedback from the population.
  • Democracy is a big public ritual that reaffirms the elite ideology. The ritual of democracy is distracting. We have incredible inefficiency that isn’t necessarily caused by democracy but encrusted upon it.
  • The 60’s revolution was somewhat justified in trying to “stop the machine” but that’s all it did and now we’re “frozen”.
  • Palladium aims at elites but those outside of the current paradigm vs. those at the top of the current setup (those taking a chance on creating something new vs. those invested in the status quo).
  • “Noblesse oblige”, “skin in the game” (concepts introduced by interviewer) come down to elite ideology, even in a democracy the elite can stagnate for decades and face no accountability.
  • We have an entrenched regime of the upper middle class. “When you become powerful you can use that power to entrench yourself.”
  • People’s opinions are shaped and organized by the system in order to sustain the system. Elections and organizing are happening ways the system knows how to digest.
  • Elites are accountable to God because if elites stagnate they won’t be prepared for exogenous threats (subjects can become warlords, you can be conquered from outside etc.).
  • Do the elites of a system have a vision to do something? Do they have the discipline to do the work? If yes, they will be fine. The question for elites is “what do you care about”.
  • But if the focus is “I want to retire on my yacht” or “go to Epstein’s island” that’s doomed.
  • In democracy subjects become liabilities rather than assets (“we have to brainwash them”) vs. people to be lead in pursuit of something great.
  • Interviewer question: “Is there anyone in charge right now?. No, to the extent there is a regime, it’s failing.
  • Dissident scenes (like the “conservative world”) complain about being oppressed but if you actually try to do anything you will win by default because the regime is in its death throes.
  • The regime/system is actually good in that it’s holding back chaos and giving us “time to work”. The job is not to oppose the system but to create a coherent elite in order to inherit and steward the system/civilization.
  • The WASP elite failed and nothing really replaced them. There are conspiracies and interest groups but no one is in charge. No one is able to “act above the institutions” and direct them.
  • It’s a spiritual question: one faction of current elite have a spiritual commitment to the pleasure of the self (it’s not “material” but still transcendent in its own way).
  • Liberal-individualism in it’s original conception was a serious/interesting ideal (heroic individualism like Mills and Emerson), but it became “we are going to retreat into the pleasures of the self”.
  • Rather than answering questions with exploratory individualism liberalism turned to stopping thought. Popper says “destroy anything that could actually create change” (his admittedly negative reading of Popper).
  • Better to put individualism on equal footing with other ideologies like “theism”.
  • Utilitarianism is an evil ideology.
  • The key question: “what is the vision that I have for the cosmic order and my place in it?” Once you’re thinking about that you’ve evaded the “thought stopper”. “Which visions are we compelled by?”.
  • It doesn’t have to be religious in the sense that most people mean but it is religious in the original mean of the word: “binding”. “Are you bound by some system of principles and transcendent values?”
  • The secular modern scientific worldview is a religious one.
  • The “thought stopper” could be seen as a defence against what science actually implies because if you take science and technology to their full potential you get a religious vision.
  • The work has not been done to update Christianity in light of science nor to drive science forward to deal with theology and value.
  • Anti-transhumanist in the current day but “ultimately we end up there” if you take the scientific/modern worldview seriously (but OPPOSED to the “self-worshipping” and “fake” transhumanism of the current day).
  • “Is mankind the perfect being?”. No, we can create a being that will surpass us. It’s the principle which animates being that is important rather than humans as is.
  • “God is manifesting into the world the kind of beings he wants to have a relationship with”
  • “I am a religious ideologue”
  • “Governance futurism” and “luxury political theory”
  • Governance futurism is concerned with “elite and regime formation”. The aim is to lay a definitive foothold in a subject with each issue of Palladium.
  • “Luxury political theory” is the aesthetic element (an issue of Palladium can look beautiful just sitting on your coffee table).
  • We are not in the game of subversion, rather construction (maybe circumvention). Subversion is a “standoffish” and “avant garde” approach.
  • Recommends Thoreau in the vein of “quit your job” as Thoreau questioned a life based on acquisition and thought humans should be worthy of material progress.

Donald Miller’s “How to Become a Communication Ninja”

These are notes summarizing the presentation “How to Become a Communication Ninja” by Donald Miller. The most important points are bolded.

Good copy?
  • Make your communication “crystal clear” and customers will listen.
  • Most companies waste an enormous amount of marketing collateral on things like drive-by billboards.
  • You open an e-mail and think “this doesn’t make me want to buy anything”.
  • A brand can make the most beautiful website but thats not why people buy things.
  • People buy things because they heard or read words that make them want to buy things, the designer has no idea about sales copy.
  • Don’t leave retail presence to designers.
  • People only buy products after they read the words that make them want to buy (example: scrolling down to amazon reviews).
  • People do not buy the best products, they buy the ones that are communicated the clearest and that they understand the fastest.
  • We are in a race to get people to understand why they need our product
  • The customer needs to know about your product and why they need it.
  • The first thing the human brain is trying to do is to “thrive and survive”, “keep you alive”.
  • Maslow: once food is taken care of you start thinking about relationships.
  • People are looking for “teams” that will support them emotionally, spiritually, socially.
  • Why do you go get someone coffee? So that “when barbarians come over the hill” you’ll be in it together.
  • If what you’re communicating isn’t directly connected to making your customers survive and thrive they are not going to pay attention.
  • People are “scanning the environment for data” hoping to gain security and other fundamental needs.
  • The second thing the brain is trying to do is “conserve calories” as just thinking is very tiring.
  • When the brain has to process a ton of data it shuts off at the point where there is no bearing on survival.
  • If you say “it’s complicated” you are preemptively warning that what you are going to say is a waste of energy.
  • It sounds silly but this is the way humans work: “barbarians” are coming.
  • We want to communicate about things that help our customers survive and thrive. People buy the products and services they can understand the fastest.
  • Every time you share a piece of information about your product or service you should imagine handing your audience an eight pound bowling ball.
  • If you hand someone a “fourth” bowling ball after poor communication your audience will drop all the bowling balls.
  • You are competing with “bacon wrapped dates” (example of a networking/business event).
  • “If you confuse, you lose”
  • “The curse of knowledge”: people make buying decisions at a very simple level of knowledge, past a certain point they are “cursed” with knowledge.
  • There are two keys: are you addressing the need of the audience to “survive and thrive” and is the message clear and simple (ie. “have you avoided the curse of knowledge?“).

Beauty in Hollywood by Karen Durbin

Julianne Moore by Gilles Bensimon
  • “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.”
  • “a beauty that easily looked cruel”
  • The original meaning of glamour: magic, a spell.
  • Films are escapism.
  • Womens struggle in Hollywood is about “sex and sexual definition”.
  • USA cultural puritanism meant Hollywood divided women into good girls and bad girls.
  • Both men and women share anxiety about a “bad” woman’s “dark and dangerous thrills”.
  • Lulu: “the dark thrill-to dream of being dangerous and desirable”
  • Mary Pickford was the ultimate “good girl”.
  • The 1934 Hays Code repressed/censored film and made it conservative. It asserted sex as a greater threat to public morals than violence.
  • Camille Paglia correctly identified the pre-Code cinema era as “the twentieth-century’s first sexual revolution”.
  • “the irreverent liberationist spirit of the 1930s”
  • Hitchcock “championed the openly sexual woman”.
  • Blaxploitation prefigured the attitude and content of rap music.
  • Hollywood responded to feminism with male buddy films and won’t give female directors second chances.
  • Through the 2000’s women in Hollywood (actresses and directors) were still greatly shortchanged but had more niche opportunities.
  • An incomplete list of films mentioned: Becoming Jane, Pandora’s Box (Lulu), The Blue Angel, Madame Satan, Thou Shalt Not (documentary about pre-Code cinema), Queen Christina, Mildred Pierce, Notorious

Urban Geography by Micheal Pacione – Chapter 1 Notes

An urban vista.
  • The distribution of population, the organization of production, the structure of social reproduction and the allocation of power.
  • Urban geography seeks to explain the distribution of places and the socio-spatial similarities within them.
  • 19thC capitalism was “competitive capitalism”, Fordism (mass production, assembly lines, mass consumption) was “mutually beneficial”, now it’s globalized advanced/disorganized capitalism (a shift to services, esp. financial and niche markets) and each phase has changed the urban environment.
  • “the new international division of labour in which production is separated geographically from research and development and higher-level management operations”
  • The command economy created the “socialist city” of urban industrial development and large estates of public housing whereas there are capitalist tendencies to “suburbanisation and social differentiation”.
  • In the global-local nexus, global forces are held to be more powerful but cities modify and embed globalization in local context.
  • Globalization has highly uneven impacts and the unevenness is apparent at all levels (booming vs. declining regions, social polarization in one city etc.).
  • “In labour market terms globalisation is of relevance only for a small minority of workers with the skills necessary to compete in international labour markets”.
  • “Changes in the relative importance of geographic spaces/scales are reflected in changes in the distribution of power among social groups”.
  • The “hollowing out of the state thesis” contends that the nation-state has been disempowered relative to the local and supranational.

Completely dead space in the city

Fenced in.

This photo of a storefront in downtown Toronto shows completely dead space. The chainlink fencing was recently installed making it newly dead space. I’m sure there’s an urban planning term for this type of situation.

Since the coincidence of Covid-19 and a huge run up in local housing costs, Toronto’s city centre has entered a whole new era of “houselessness” and street life. Basically, Toronto now has an “underclass” in the style of a USA city. This fact is obscured somewhat by a policy of hoteling the houseless.

It’s safe to assume that this fencing is a response to the new social situation. This “Subway” location happens to be across the street from one of the hotels functioning as temporary housing for a bunch of people on the wrong end of things.

Presumably the property owner is entitled to fence in his or her property even if it’s effectively been part of the sidewalk over the long term and even if there are no entrances (or anything else) to enclose.

This particular example of dead space really draws the eye as it’s well lit, in a high trafficked area and features a window into a busy retail location. It’s like a glowing cube.