Monday, January 17, 2011


I realized over the weekend that the majority of my life consists of two things:

1) Googling Things via the Interweb;


2) Having Coffee with Men in Random Starbucks;
- this includes both my personal and private life;

And yes my favourite days are spent in Starbucks, googling people and meeting random men.

Because I had some spare time today I made a pie-chart, which categorizes how I begin most of my sentences.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How Detail Oriented Are You?

In my current career, which oscillates between consultant, rogue man about town, international man of mystery, retiree and business analyst depending on whom I’m talking to, I tend to read a lot of job descriptions. Mostly this is because my beloved sister, Bold Sharon, is convinced that the best way to get a job in this town is from or Workopolis. Every time we have a discussion about my sort of unemployment (which isn’t really full-time unemployment) – I like to think of it more as an interregnum between taking over the world and not taking the world – Bold (because she cares) is always on my case to concentrate less on networking and more on actual job postings, “Its great that you met with the CEO of a company, but does he have a job to give you?” Such is older sister love.

But back to job descriptions and back to the Seinfeld-esque, have you ever noticed joke that I’m about to make: have you ever noticed that almost all job descriptions contain the words: detail oriented (or the variant: strong attention to detail)? I don’t mean this as some sort of ode to late nineties observational humour; I’m being serious, every f’ing job description literally has that phrase listed as a final bullet point under the section “required skills”.

The problem – what if you’re not detail oriented? Does everyone simply lie as they write their hundredth cover letter, “as a detail oriented person I look forward to spreading my detail oriented-ness all over your place of employment. I also look forward to discussing just how detail oriented I am at your earliest convenience.” [Sidebar: You know who’d I’d like to spread my detail orientedness on by the way – Ryan Gosling.]

This is not to say that I am not detail oriented (dear prospective employees who are reading this blog I am so detail oriented you won’t know what to do with yourself) because I am. Well… I’m not. Sometimes I am very detail oriented – I can probably tell you when your hair colour changed, or as I type this sitting across from a random person at a coffee shop I can tell based on his ring that he’s Jewish (magen david ring), snowboards (small Burton sticker on his clipboard) and from his datebook, I suspect he may be cheating on his girlfriend (if I told you how I figured that out – I’d have to kill you). Does that make me detail oriented or am I just perceptive, a la Sherlock Holmes?

Detail orientedness has become some weird demand of our society; odd because I’m pretty sure NO ONE is actually that detail oriented, with the exception of those Type A people who freak the $hit out of me. If you’ve ever worked for a boss who is Blackberry/iPhone obsessed you’ve probably noticed that detail is often lacking in the smart-phone age. I had one beloved boss whom would write quick task oriented emails from the subway. What they lacked in detail (I quickly learned her short-forms and words she commonly misspelled on her blackberry) they had in earnestness. Actual task oriented missives meant more in terms of actual job productivity.

The reality is that most people aren’t that detail oriented. My dear friend M worked in advertising for many years before her own retirement to become a Calgarian socialite. Most account executive job descriptions in the advertising world say they want someone who is detail oriented. Yet at some point in her career M. had to stop the production of an advertising flier because there was a huge spelling mistake. How many “detail oriented” people do you think looked over and read the proofs and approved it? 2? 5?

Was everyone in this instance awesomely bad at his or her job? No, not really. “Detail oriented” isn’t a task; it isn’t a job description; it’s a falsity. We’ve created an economy where we somehow expect everyone to be detail oriented – because they lied to you in their job interview – but managers don’t often actually ask people to be detail oriented. Imagine if in the above situation, a job description specifically stated: must be able to proofread. Proofreading is different from being detail oriented; proofreading is a skill and subsequently proofreading is a specific requirement that not everyone can lie about. Because it is also specific employees view it as a task, NOT as an expectation.

Our expectations from employees shouldn’t be nebulousness. By demanding that everyone be detail oriented however, we risk creating an employment marketplace wherein we prioritize generalism (whatever, apparently that’s not a word) over requirements. In the interim – detail oriented has simply become a cliché of the HR world.

The time for rebellion is nigh!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dick > Latkes, or Latkes > Dick?

In my younger and perhaps more experimental days I wrote what I consider to be “the semin-al” [that’s a pun, so laugh] article discussing the topical situation of being Jewish and gay in Toronto. Using the leitmotif of Toronto’s village structure I expressed my discomfort at what were meant to be “my two villages” i.e.the Church and Wellesley Village, Toronto’s gaybourhood, and the Forest Hill Village, our city’s de-facto J.A.P. nabe. While I recognized that both were part of my identity – I admitted that I felt at home in neither. At the time I was 24 and I had moved back into my parents’ house in Toronto after completing my undergrad degree. I found myself alienated by Toronto Life; the choice that I felt was imposed on me between suburban heterosexual normativity versus downtown homosexual hedonism. My larger insinuation was that as Torontonians we prescribe to a set of villages as a sort of safety net; we chose where we lived because we feel comfortable only in certain areas. My theory, to put it succinctly, was that we wanted to be surrounded by people who had Longchamp purses because we all had Longchamp purses [at the time I think Coach was the purse du jour, so consider this an update for the new decade].
After going to business school and spending 70k I learned that this whole village mentality was what organizational behaviour professors call an in-group bias. We like those who are most like us.

In the intervening years I discovered my own Toronto Life, which precariously found itself on the second floor of an old Annex Victorian. The apartment that I nicknamed Buggeryville sat about halfway between the centre hall normalcy “up-hill” and sexually charged deviance “down-hill”. Equilibrium was temporarily reached - temporary being a key word of course.

Habitation in Toronto’s villages is somewhat time sensitive. I recently moved back into the Faux Hill,, housesitting as my parents travel around the world, and now that I am pretend lord of the manor I’ve actually begun to enjoy the uptown lifestyle. Its quiet, and clean (compared to Bloor Street) and if I want some gay I can turn up the Katy Perry and invite over some friends who will try and see if any of the hot neighbourhood construction workers have the Grindr app installed on their iPhone.

And yet, in truth, I’m still Faux in Faux. Forest Hill is not really my home. But where is? A part of me realizes that the need for a village trumps a lot in this town, which begats the age-old question: if you belong to two different communities just where exactly do your loyalties lie? Temporary respite in the Annex, or Ossington only leads to the same sort of question later on in life. Does gay trump Jewish or does Jewish trump gay?

I was talking with a gay and Jewish friend recently who admitted that he really longed to meet a nice Jewish boy, even though this desire made his dating life fairly difficult by severely limiting the pool of potential choices. Why the desire for a Jewish mate? When pressed he admitted that he felt more Jewish then he did gay. As I jokingly responded, in Chanukah theme: latke’s > dick.

And while being Jewish and gay isn’t mutually exclusive, I would argue that there is
an underlying current in Toronto’s broader Jewish community of you’re either in the Village or you’re not. This is not entirely due to Conservative Canadian Jewish indifference (at best) towards homosexuality, but the factual realities about being gay. Any gay with any sense of religion (from Jewish to Christian…_ has to coalesce their sense of religiosity with their [homo]sexuality. Bridging that divide is still something that inherently requires a personal thought process. If you’ve grown up kosher but come out of the closet do you suddenly start eating breakfast sausage because you’ve started to eat breakfast sausage?

I think this question underscores the strong desire and perhaps in different terminology, the need, for gay Jews to find a place that fits within the heteronormativity of Torontos’ Jewish Village. That lingering insularity of present day cultural Judaism is surprisingly prevalent for those of us who may have blown the closet doors of those Faux Hill Centre Halls wide open. Just like our sister’s, who wanted to marry Nice Jewish Boys, shockingly a lot of gay-Jews have that same want. A friends’ boyfriend recently hosted a gay, Jewish bar night with the caption: “the event you’ve all be waiting for” and for the hundred plus gay Jews who attended… it really was.

The pull of the Jewish Village even for gay Jews is specifically strong in Toronto. We have one the best-organized Jewish communities in North America. UJA Toronto, the defacto organizational nucleus of Jewish Toronto, is the benchmark to which other North American Federations aspire - few can speak to a $400 million capital campaign. Yet within this well organized core there are relatively few gay Jewish organizations; unlike major gay centres like New York and Los Angeles - Toronto has no gay synagogue. Even cities with similar sized Jewish gay populations such as Boston and Philadelphia have LGBT specific synagogues; Atlanta, with fewer people, fewer gays and fewer Jews also has an LGBT synagogue. In some ways this probably speaks to Canada’s greater tolerance of LGBT issues (especially in Toronto from a broad socio-political perspective) yet it may also speak to the fact that Torontonian Jewry hasn’t really found that happy medium in terms of figuring out what to do with its faygellehs.

One of the problems may be that Toronto Jews, when it comes to religion, are far more conservative then our American urban counterparts. According to research by UJA Toronto only 19% of Torontonians consider themselves Reform; in the States, however, Reform Judaism is the largest of contemporary Jewish movements, with 35% of American Jews classifying themselves as Reform. In Toronto Conservative synagogues are the principal places of worship, housing almost 40% of Torontonian Jews (in the States the number falls to 30%). On top of this and what is most concerning in terms of being gay and Jewish is that Canadian Conservative synagogues have actually started to break away from what was the major governing body of Conservative Judaism in North America: the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Four Toronto-based synagogues (including Beth Tzedick and Adath Israel probably the two largest and wealthiest synagogues in Canada) formed the Canadian Council of Conservative Synagogues. While certainly geography played a role in this schism, social issues came to play as well. According to the Canadian Jewish News: “[there were] growing theological differences between Adath Israel and Conservative synagogues in the US who tend to be less traditional in practice and where the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary has begun to admit openly gay students to its rabbinical program.”

Thus my issue when it comes to finding a place in the Jewish Village is that I worry that homosexuality in Canadian Conservative Judaism operates under a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell type of anachronism, or even worse, is simply trotted out for political opportunism. While officially non-denominational (Conservative, Reform or Orthodox) UJA Toronto’s vision speaks to conservative and traditional mores; ie, “supporting core Jewish values” and to preserve and strengthen the quality of Jewish life in Greater Toronto, Canada, Israel and around the world…. When core Jewish values are often defined by mispocha, education and supporting the next generation wherein do we begin to question where Judaism and sexuality intersect, if at all? The only reference to LGBT issues on the UJA website has little to do with acceptance of gay people, and more to do with politics (i.e. the decision to march in Toronto’s Pride Parade had NOTHING to do with acceptance and everything to do with contemporary Israeli-politics).

And still… gay Jews just want to be a part of that Jewish Toronto Village. So where is our place? Is it through organizations like Kulunu (supported by Hillel, which in turn is supported by the UJA), which has a fairly religious bent, while Jewish parties at gay bars pose the rather awkward question of: are we just going out to get drunk and hook-up with other gay Jews where simply knowing that your partner has had a bar-mitzvah is as much a form of in-group bias as a Longchamp purse is for your typical Village JAP (not that there’s anything wrong with it)?

My worry, much as my initial problem with the Village, is that it is a bit insular isn’t it? It’s a bit, trying to buy into the hetero-normativity of the Village when as gays, we don’t have to; especially as “day-walkers” gay-Jews have the potential to cross the insipid boundaries that modern day Judaism likes to put-up.
This of course leads to the very relevant discussion of whether conceptions of Judaism in the twenty first century are based on religious or cultural affiliation. If culture is the case, (and lets throw in Israel into the mix), then really Canadian gay Jews should be quite angry at the short thrift we’ve been given from our Conservative Jewish fore-fathers. Why must Canadian Conservative Judaism cling to unnecessary traditions regarding homosexuality?

But in the same vein it should be asked: why do gay-Jews want to be part of the Village? Do we desire a sense of political representation (ie to implement community change in terms of acceptance of homosexuality), or are we trying to hook-up with each other to fulfill some sort of cultural manifest destiny?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Singing to Make It Rain...

(NB: I consider this my end of year blog-jam so enjoy.)

Unlike the religious right I don’t blame Bill Clinton for much. In fact I think his wife Hilary was the greatest lesbian President since Eleanor Roosevelt. I even have a soft spot for Bill’s daughter Chelsea who, after her gawky teenage years, redeemed herself by marrying a nice mensch in an old Astor estate, natch. With maturity Chelsea has also become the prettier of the two famous Chelsea’s easily eclipsing Prince Ginge’s on and off again escort: Chelsea Davy.

But I do blame Clinton for something: singing politicians. It is because of Clinton’s seminal appearance (during the 1992 primaries) on the Arsenio Hall Show, where he whipped it out (I’m talking about his saxophone, get your mind out of the gutter), that it has become de rigeur for politicians to use whatever artistic talent they do or do not possess as a quick and dirty way to gain political favour with a jaded public. Bill’s big blow was so successful that pundits actually argue that his performance saved his campaign. The gimmicks success proved that musical talent earns quick political points from an unsuspecting public. In the years following the Clinton-era it is clear that war-room strategists who obsess over dips in polling numbers see falling personal approval ratings and think: we need to get our candidate on the View to talk about Snooki, stat.

The Harper political machine has clearly learned a fair bit from Clinton deploying his pianist skills at opportune times. In 2009, just under a year after he declared war on culture with spending cuts and his infamous statement: "I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at a rich gala all subsidized by the taxpayers, claiming their subsidies have actually gone up, I don't think that's something that resonates with ordinary people,” Harper (with four by-elections on the line) found himself “shocking” the crowd at the National Arts Centre Annual Gala by playing a Beatles song.

The crowd and the Canadian public went wild. With that one twinkle on the old ivories suddenly that creepy dude in a blue sweater clutching onto a kitten wasn’t so scary after all. Harper was just like us.

With the success of 2009’s “Get By With a little Help From My Friends” I can just see the machinations at the Prime Minister’s Office this year, how could they one-up last years efforts? This year the Conservative brain trust had Herr Harper strut across the stage at the annual conservative party Christmas party (which is probably the least fun Christmas party since Hitlers 1941 Christmas Party in Munich – “are there any Jews in da house?”).

For those who haven’t seen Harper strutting his stuff – check out the video posted by the good people at CTV. I love the 3:35 mark at the end of his encore when he appears to be mouthing the words: ok. You can almost see him exhale the huge sigh of relief – he looks almost as nervous as Gwyneth Paltrow did while singing at the Country Music Awards (that’s also probably the only thing Paltrow and Harper have in common, at least until Harper unveils his post retirement lifestyle blog: Hoop.)

The best, however, was the over zealously laudatory CTV commentary. CTV just couldn’t get enough. Watch as Stephen Harper lumbers across the stage like a zombie extra in the Walking Dead to gingerly pat his guitarist on the back, while the CTV reporter comments on how he gets to into the moment he "slaps his guitarist on the back” (Minute mark 1:33). Its almost as if they were trying to imply that Harper is Bono manhandling the Edge in front of 200,000 people at Glasto. Almost.

Because our politicians have the mental capacity of my four year-old nephew so anything Harper can do, obviously Iggy can do better (except win an election, I went there…).

So in retaliation here is Michael Ignatieff, leader of the official opposition, sang some sort of Christmas song for the cameras. The whole 50 seconds is awkward and bordering on awful, but look at the smirk of self-satisfaction on Michael’s face. His thought process is clear: “Haha Canada. You think I’m a stick in the mud. But would a stick in the mud sing!!? I mean, SING!? Clearly I Michael “author, auteur, journalist, professor and NOW singer” Ignatief am no stick in the mud. I am like Diana Princess of Hearts. I am your prince of darkness, I mean Prince of the People. I SANG FOR YOU BITCHES.” And the final smirk coupled with a tinge of self-doubt: “you’re going to vote for me right?”

Thank god 2011 will probably be an election year folks cause I can’t wait until Harper and Iggy unleash round two of their sing-off.

Happy New Year.