the art of good taste

True story:
I was once was asked to explain one of my design projects, in front of my peers, my professor and a guest Architect.  A little later on my professor turned to me, after skimming it carefully – pointed at a specific part of the design that I know he didn’t like, offered a beaming smile and said, “Let’s try and save this for another project.”

There’s nothing more frightening than having your art rejected and ridiculed – but somehow in that moment, my professor was able to diffuse a very distressing and awkward moment for me. Defending my work in this context has definitely prepared me for future presentations and critiques – but it was how my professor conveyed his opinion (in that high-stress environment), that reaffirmed the value of tactfulness.

Exercising sensitivity is definitely an art, but I’ve recently become aware of its ephemeral nature. Are you able to show your ultimate displeasure or show your dismissal of an idea without being blatantly rude? I’ve rediscovered that for some people, tact isn’t necessarily an innate characteristic. Yet we’ve probably all danced on that fine line – that necessary dance between brutal honesty and delicacy.

We’ve been taught to use good Communications practices and to exercise better judgment, in order to build and maintain relationships with colleagues and employers – but unfortunately the “art of being tactful” is one practice that I feel cannot be formally taught in the classroom.

suggestions for the TTC

Our public transit system has many issues, but I’m still amazed to see the state of our subways, busses and streetcars. It’s getting to the point where I have mastered the art of “not touching anything” on any given TTC vehicle.

Besides the basic infrastructure and general layout of the subway system, I understand that the problem includes many variables, many external factors. I understand that it’s an ongoing problem that will probably never be fixed – but I digress.

But let’s start with the garbage! Why do we question why TTC ridership is low? People are fed up with this nonsense, and have decided to drive. The thing is, transfers, empty cartons and bottles, paper and coffee cups, can’t just magically throw themselves on the ground. People put them there.

I believe there are TTC ads that currently address this issue, but I don’t think they’re displayed rigorously enough. They need to be strategically placed, more consistent, and more direct for the simplest of minds.

Allow me to propose a more direct (albeit, a little simplified) one-off campaign for the TTC:

Goal: To motivate and encourage TTC riders to use the garbage bins allotted for recycling and litter.

Objective: To increase the use of the garbage & recycling bins, by TTC riders in the GTA, by 80 per cent over the next three months.

Key Message: If you use the garbage bins, it will keep the public transit system clean.

Target Audience: TTC riders, in the GTA; commuters from 905 area

Tactic: A series of print ads that appear inside the TTC stations, inside subway trains, street cars and busses, that illustrate the effects of garbage on the public transit system.

Idea 1: A simple black & red line graph, showing the directly proportional relationship of garbage to TTC fares

Idea 2: A cheeky but serious mathematical equation
(increased garbage = increased fares)

Idea 3: A drastic visual, showing what happens when you litter on TTC vehicles (what happens to you, and then what happens to society)

Idea 4: A visual, indicating what one person using the garbage bin can produce in the grand scheme of things (contributing to a larger movement)

I realize this won’t completely solve all of their problems, but it’s a start! I’ve suggested 4 ideas for ads, if you can offer up any other solutions, please feel free to share…

don’t worry, even spongebob has writer’s block

In an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants, Procrastination, Mrs. Puff (the boating teacher) has assigned an 800-word essay to the class, with the topic, “What not to do at a stoplight,” which is due the next day. Sponge is thrilled at the chance to display his writing skills, but then realizes that he has writer’s block!

He does everything to put it off – he cleans the pineapple until it’s spotless (his home), feeds Gary (his pet snail), and finally falls alseep with nothing but the word “the” written on the page. He wakes up minutes before the essay is due, after having an agonizing dream about having not written the essay, and quickly scribbles elements from his dream down on paper.

After rushing to school, satisfied with what he’s written, Sponge learns that Mrs. Puff has cancelled the assignment and will take the class on a field trip to a stoplight, instead.

What a fitting story, for the times!

promoting places (that don’t exist)

GAS Jeans publishes a youthful magazine called the maGASine that has a general “rethink” theme, which highlights everything from art and architecture, to clothes and travel. In one edition, an article called nation obscura highlighted a number of countries that were unknown – either unrecognized internationally, or cast off by its neighbouring countries, whatever the political case may be.

The countries include: Brunei Darussalam, São Tomé and Príncipe, Comoros, Djibouti, Timor-Leste, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, Nauru, Kyrgyzstan and Micronesia.

This leads me to one my favourite authors, Simon Reeve*, who created the 2005 documentary Places That Don’t Exist, which essientially highlights a number of countries, that again – are technically not there.

Some of the countries he visited are: Somaliland, Transniestria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Ajaria, South Ossetia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Somalia, Moldova, Taiwan, and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

It makes me question how countries can establish & promote themselves as a nation, despite not being an official nation, recognized by the rest of the world. According to Reeve, there are approximately 200 official countries in the world, but there are dozens of “breakaway states” which are deemed separate or independent. They have their own governments, implemented their own authories, their own passports, and even currency and stamps, but all which mean absolutely nothing to the rest of the world. (For example, their currency, passports and stamps are valid, but aren’t accepted in any other country other than their own.) It’s not just a matter of not being taken seriously, it’s much more contrived. And of course there is a downside, where they are taken advantage of by neighbourging countries, and are often made silent partners in other unsavoury activities.

So how does one (a potential collective) do PR for a nation? Similarly, who does the PR for Canada, and how is it contained? How do one of the above-mentioned nations establish themselves, control how they’re perceived internationally, when they’re stamped with such dismal uncertainty and basically exiled from the rest of the world?

*Simon Reeve produced the 2003 documentary called Meet The Stans, which took him to the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.


If you can find the movie Kolja, (pronounced Kolya), I would truly recommend watching it. It’s incredibly witty, yet dramatic. It’s a 1996 Czech film (with subtitles) that won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

František Louka is a grumpy, middle-aged bachelor and a struggling concert cellist who has found himself unemployed during the end of the Communist rule. To make a little extra money, his friend sets up a bogus marriage with a Russian woman (and her five-year-old son, Kolja). A series of events subsequently occur – as the woman flees to be with her boyfriend and the woman’s mother passes away, leaving Louka as the sole guardian of the little boy. Louka cannot speak Russian and Kolja cannot speak Czech, but this creates the powerful dynamic between them. Over time Louka’s personality softens, Kolja warms to his newfound “daddy”, and despite their minor understanding of each other, learn to communicate and form a wonderful bond. Their journey is sweet and emotional, and accurately illustrates the political turbulence of the era. The two are separated in the end, as the mother returns for Kolja; however, Louka’s mistress becomes pregnant with his child, and highlights the beginning of their new life.

It’s a gentle reminder of the power of communication, and our need for human affection – things I feel are often taken for granted.

techno-hippy nomads

An Architecture & Technology professor of mine once said, “We’ll be these techno-hippy nomads, with our asymmetrical backpacks and Gucci sunglasses, trying to rapidly assume a place in the world…” He went on to reference a myriad of technological concepts, but mainly commented on how we communicate with one another, and how it will start to morph in the future. It’s always about the future in Architecture.

And though it wasn’t that long ago, I can’t help but think about how long it has actually been in technological years. A world sans Facebook, sans Myspace, sans YouTube!? How ever did we survive? He had some interesting technological forecasts, and though a tad melodramatic and aggressive with his ideologies, had a common thread among them: the demand of personal interaction. Perhaps we were still in our formative grown-up years, or perhaps it was us as his captive audience that made everything that much more imperative and immediate. But now the older I’ve become, the more I’m convinced that he actually made sense!

Regarding the e-mail, how many can one actually send per day? How much time out of my day am I supposed to devote to respond to the e-mail? I believe our communicative methods are becoming more dynamic – maybe shifting towards a certain disconnection? There are just too many message possibilities now! There are Facebook functions on your phone, so you can Facebook while talking to the same person. And you can Facebook someone while you listen to music and surf the Internet all in tandem. Have we become these extremely glamorous techno-hippy nomads, without even realizing? Perhaps we’re trying to assume our place in the world bombarded with these messages, and slowly losing the ability to communicate in the most basic of ways. Perhaps it’s progressive, perhaps a little primitive?

dirk who?

You’ve probably heard me rant about him on various occasions, or have had to endure my endless promotion of his warm songs from Late Nite Reworks or Camino Real. His name is Dirk Swartenbroekx, a.k.a DJ Buscemi, from Belgium.

I’ve had the opportunity to interview him, as well as other successful producers from Europe and the U.S, who’ve all repeatedly expressed the desire to come to Canada to perform. These are artists who’ve done extremely well in their home countries, but like many others in their generation, have all found it difficult to cross over to Canada. Or when they are brought in to perform, they aren’t promoted at all – and people miss out!

So when I asked a few Toronto promoters why these popular artists aren’t brought in for more events, they’ve all drawn me the same dismal picture. The consensus is, “It’s just not worth it.” It would be a profitable venture, as there is general interest in their music, it’s simply that the incentive to heavily promote is lacking. I say surely, there’s room for a couple more! Or is there? How can successful artists gain publicity in a city where the market is a little undefined? If the answer is, “you just don’t,” then what is this saying about our music industry?

Visit Buscemi at: