Hiring: Gut Feel or Hard Numbers?

Originally published in The Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine:

Mike Brydon and Peter Tingling are decision theory specialists at Simon Fraser University's Faculty of Business, and they have a question they like to ask when giving presentations to senior management groups, especially to human resources managers. "How many here have taken golf lessons to improve their game?" A lot of hands go up. Then they ask: "How many have had instruction to improve their decision making?" No one raises a hand because, as Brydon and Tingling have discovered, all managers, but especially those in HR, consider themselves to be expert decision makers already.

We all tend to judge others intuitively, having "evolved to take the measure of people quickly," Brydon says. But in recruiting, it can be a costly practice, as anyone knows who's hired someone they liked after a few interviews, only to find that person couldn't do the job.

This happens because of the many biases that affect our decisions about people. We are instinctive pattern matchers, for example, judging character by a person's shoes or tattoos. This tendency affects even companies like General Electric (long a bastion of analytic management), whose outgoing CEO Jack Welch wrote that his successor, Jeffery Immelt, met with his approval because the man seemed "comfortable in his own skin." Was that a job requirement? In which case, did Welch really know what it meant or how to measure it?

Equally common are selection process biases. Brydon and Tingling cite "first-date interviews," where banal questions elicit no useful information. Or the study-proven phenomenon that applicants who let their interviewers do most of the talking tend to earn higher rankings. Likewise similarity, such as coming from the same school as your interviewer, is known to create what's called an "association" bias.

Do politeness and alma mater-overlap correlate in any way with likely future performance? Probably not. But plenty of people get hired because of them.

Information asymmetries are an even bigger issue in hiring, Tingling says. If you don't have a rigorous way of measuring candidates against job-relevant attributes-such as leadership skills or analytical abilities, market profile or sales results in the previous quarter-then there are all kinds of ways applicants can game the system. They can pump up their resumés. They can hide jobs from which they were fired. They can train themselves to give a great interview using guides available on the Internet. These tactics make candidates more attractive and articulate to the boss who goes with the gut, but this doesn't mean that the person will be any good at the job.

The question for the HR manager, then, is how to make the selection process more analytical. To help, Brydon and Tingling have developed a sophisticated decision-making software called Amadeus SRA. They refer to it as "Moneyball for the rest of us," a nod to Michael Lewis's book about the 2002 Oakland A's under manager Billy Beane. That team won its division with a payroll of $41 million (U.S.), a third of what the New York Yankees shelled out in the same year. The A's success hinged on Beane's radically non-traditional recruiting practices. He set aside the standard measures of a player's offensive success-stolen bases, RBIs and batting average-in favour of on-base percentage and slugging average. Beane was convinced that those two statistics, while undervalued in the marketplace, were more indicative of a player's potential.

That mentality, Tingling and Brydon assert, is critical in non-sports management, too, and their software guides every aspect of the interviewing and hiring process. It sets the desired attributes and considers exactly what the successful applicant must bring to the table relative to company objectives. It provides interview and testing methods by which those attributes will be measured in each case, and compiles the input of however many interviewers are involved. It then produces rankings, and slices and dices the data in inventive (and patented) ways.

Compared with traditional blunt measures, this new rigour gives company directors a new way of assessing how well the HR department is doing its job.

As Tingling says: "I've never met an HR manager who didn't know his company's attrition rate. But I've never met one who knew his company's regrettable attrition rate." That latter stat is the one that matters, of course.

The Amadeus software is currently being tested by several educational institutions and is being considered by at least one unnamed security agency. Those employers who are attracted to the software, Tingling says, appreciate the words of W. Edwards Deming: "In God we trust. All others bring data."

Posted: Tuesday, May. 24, 2011 9:53am

Ottawa Writers Festival

 AND ALL IS ALWAYS NOW

Pleased to be reading 8:30 PM Sunday May 1st at the Mayfair Theater in Ottawa, at 1074 Bank Street.

From the program notes:

Join us for three stunning evocations of how the future incorporates the past into the present. These forward-looking novelists examine personal journeys through our collective histories. 

 

In Progress , a stirring story of lives lost and found, Michael V. Smith introduces us to Helen, who is unable to move on with her life. But life itself is moving on around her—literally. The building of a dam is forcing her small town—and her family home—to relocate.

 

A haunting novel about national identity, race, liberty, loss, dislocation and surrender,Teju Cole ’s Open City follows a young Nigerian doctor along the streets of Manhattan. But it is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey—a journey that takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into unrecognizable facets of his own soul.

 

Timothy Taylor , the Giller Prize-nominated author of Stanley Park , comes a novel about the clash of art and advertising, the cultish grip of celebrity, and the intense connections that form in times of crisis. The Blue Light Project is a hard-hitting and emotionally wrought commentary on the forces that attract and repel us, and the faith that enables us to continue.



 

 

Posted: Sunday, May. 1, 2011 9:31am
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Herzog's Critically Important Idea

"We need adequate images, or we'll go the way of the dinosaurs."

Herzog has said this numerous times. I think it's one of the most critical ideas of our time. It was true in the 70's when he first said it. It's more true today. In The Blue Light Project, I built my street artist character Rabbit around the inspiration of this idea. Herzog said what he said. I imagined someone taking him very seriously and responding with artistic action. With images. With an attempt at adequacy.

Here's a review from Toro Magazine, by William Morrasuti, that senses the critical placement of that Herzogian idea in the novel.

***

The Blue Light Project, a timely, even prescient new novel by Timothy Taylor, opens with a warning: if human beings don’t develop adequate images, they’ll die out like dinosaurs. This notion, which the reader first encounters in an opening quote from Werner Herzog, turns into a leitmotif – and it culminates when one of the central characters, a street artist named Rabbit, stumbles into a movie theatre and hears these same words just as he’s undergoing a personal crisis. 

“I’ll never forget the words,” Rabbit told Eve. “Herzog said: if you switch on television it’s just ridiculous and it’s destructive. It kills us. And talk shows will kill us. They kill our language. So we have to declare holy war against what we see every single day on television.”

Rabbit’s holy war is, ultimately,
 The Blue Light Project itself – a large scale art installation that blossoms phoenix-like out of the carnage (psychological and otherwise) of a grim, embattled city.

Each of the main characters is adrift. Thomas Pegg, a disgraced journalist, has lost everything to a plagiarism scandal. Eve Latour, a gold medal-winning Canadian Olympian, is haunted by a sense that her missing brother is still alive.

As the protagonists navigate personal crises, a larger calamity grips the city: a gunman carrying a bomb walks onto a reality TV show, kills several people and takes a group of children hostage. We later learn that the kidnapper, a former government interrogator, refers to himself as Mov – a nod to Movsar Barayev, the Chechen leader of the Moscow Theatre Crisis, a tragedy that took place ten years earlier.

The Blue Light Project
 is, on one hand, a serious novel that tackles big ideas. For instance, it’s no coincidence that the act of terrorism occurs at “Meme” Media – and, in conversation, Taylor acknowledged an intellectual debt to Rene Girard, the French academic, literary critic and philosopher who wrote about the role of mimetic desire and sacrifice in human evolution. 

“As I was thinking about the function of sacrifice in our culture,” Taylor said. “I became increasingly certain that’s what is significant about reality TV. We allow people to step out of everyday life, elevate themselves significantly towards fame, and then let them go. And we tear them down. Someone has got to fail. And so if this is in fact lurking in the soul of human culture, then celebrity would be this superficial, half-real, safe version of it.”

Part of the charm of the novel is that, in concert with such serious considerations, the narrative hums along with an appealingly cinematic aesthetic. In fact, reading this book is like being immersed in a tense thriller yet with all the linguistic pleasures of a well-crafted novel. A case in point: the briefcase bomb that Mov carries onto the reality show KiddieFame comes equipped not only with a pressure trigger in its handle but also with a GPS detonator switch. Sharp, precise, pleasantly mechanistic details like these keep the pages turning. Rabbit has angst, but he doesn’t sit around brooding. Instead, he leaps across rooftops and slithers down elevator shafts like a Parkour-powered superhero. Taylor has constructed a vivid, active, mesomorphic novel, a book bristling with bloodthirsty mobs, ballistic knives, wafer phones, blue lasers, light-emitting bombs, towers to be climbed as high winds howl and tunnels to be run through in the dead of the night.
 

And then the action links back to ideas that relate to our most pressing cultural and political challenges. For instance, we find ourselves on a TV set that’s been shot up; a couple of corpses lie in the darkness, as do a group of terrorized children. The presiding villain, Mov, says:

“I believe you’re beginning to see how it’s done. The whole business. Fame and anti-fame. They both grind down at some point. Some solving value when appeasement is required, a sacrifice. And then we feed someone into the machine. We tear someone down and discard them and things return to normal. We run the video of the politician caught with the transvestite prostitute or the tape of the actor delivering a drunken, racist rant. And feel much better about ourselves, thank you very much. Those pictures of Abu Gharib, same thing. We didn’t need to approve of torture to walk away from those images feeling more righteous than we had the moment before.”

It’s easy to recommend The Blue Light Project, a literary meditation (on art, power, fame and sacrifice) with spring in its step.  

***

Please note that book is now available:

1) on AMAZON.ca
2) on AMAZON.com
3) or as an EBOOK right here

Posted: Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2011 9:23am

Blue Light Project Street Art - Part II

Is a fictional character from my novel The Blue Light Project coming to life? A mystery is growing here.

I've just published a new novel about a street artist, the semi-fictional Rabbit. The book's been getting amazing reviews. Banksy even tweeted about it recently. Not bad. In the book there are multiple photos of street art. Most of that work is by friends of mine, artists like JermIXCameramanRich SA01 and legendary graffiti writer and train artist Take 5.

The piece pictured above, however, is by an unknown artist. It is based on a work described in the novel. Note the "Rabbit" tag on the piece at the bottom left corner. This is the subject of minor controversy in Vancouver as - since the book has come out - that tag has been appearing all over the place. Most often, it's been going up near (or on) the work of Cameraman.

Like here, on one of Cameraman's "Bring Back the Spring" posters.

Cameraman has grown kind of impatient about this. He's teamed up with a documentary film crew who are running around interviewing everybody in the street art community in Vancouver.

And then this appeared in the alley behind the Monte Clark gallery:

That would be Cameraman. And yes, that would be a Rabbit trap. So things are apparently getting all serious. I just hope Rabbit - who is a character in a book, remember? - knows how to take care of himself in real life.

Please note that book is now available:

1) on AMAZON.ca
2) on AMAZON.com
3) or as an EBOOK right here

Posted: Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2011 8:47am

"...the name Rene Girard may ring a bell..."

I'm outed as an admirer of Girard by Humber College Professor of Political Philosophy Kent Enns. He's writing about my new novel The Blue Light Project.

If you're interested in Girard and the urgency of his ideas, you might enjoy the novel. About a three day hostage crisis at the studio of a controversial reality television show, the book takes on terror, celebrity, and their disturbing points of overlap.

Here is Professor Enns' review of the book:

THE  BLUE LIGHT PROJECT AND THE URGENCY OF THE NOW

Under the persistent sway of pecuniary-minded editorship, the mainstream of Canadian literature has for the past several decades massaged the novel-buying Canadian public with heartfelt, achingly personal "local fictions," that are reassuring in their affirmations of love and domestic fortitude amidst Canada's natural, rural and coastal glories. These fictions might be classified the way art historians refer to the mannered domestically-oriented still-lives and portraits of 16th Century Flemish painting: miniaturist. When this vein in Canadian literary fiction seemed all but overworked, our readership was regaled with the same domestic miniaturism but this time the ghosts of Canada's history were set in motion along with the usual quotidian suspects. Of course, occasional exceptions peek above these re-iterations of the familiar (one thinks of Ondaatje, M. Richler, Atwood in her better books, and the crucial explorations of contemporary international experience, as Mistry has done). This now familiar miniaturism, it must be noted, has worked wonders for Canadian fiction on the international stage. Drawing on preconceptions of Canada as rural and morally righteous, our literary editorship has done much to bolster the Canada brand. 

The way we live now, however, is deeply embedded in and expressed through the modalities of technology and globalized economics, politics and culture. And for those of us who turn to literature as an art form that takes up and explores central meanings and implacable contradictions in contemporary experience, those previously mentioned re-iterations of the familiar, however finely wrought, cannot but fail to be somewhat beside the point. In this contrast between the familiar Canadian miniaturist brand and the urgency of the globalized now, Timothy Taylor's new novel, The Blue Light Project, takes its stand. As a writer who in his non-fiction has explored the vagaries of global fashions in travel, food, restaurant design, and popular culture, Taylor is an author with his finger on the pulse of contemporary taste and the pervasive economic and political forces that shape such sensibilities. Thus, subtly supporting this taut novel of confrontations between celebrity and politics, personal disgrace and the possibility of redemption, is an elaborate architecture of ideas. 

One of the main clues to this structure is a relatively minor character named Girard. For those who keep up with debates in literary and anthropological theory, as well as in evolutionary psychology and the contemporary significance of religion, the name Rene Girard may ring a bell. (Perhaps the best introduction to his thought is the outstanding five-part CBC Ideas radio documentary, "The Scapegoat".) Girard theorizes that archaic cultures have traditionally maintained their cohesiveness through sacrificial practices, where internal crises generate panic and contagious persecutorial fears and which find a release in the spontaneous killing of a scapegoat. Rituals and prohibitions found in every culture represent for Girard attempts to regulate crises and redeploy this beneficial outcome -- hence the evidence of human and/or animal sacrifice in virtually every culture of which we have record, let alone the startling similarities in many foundational myths from different cultures in which an outsider figure is depicted as a pollution or threat and the community itself as innocent. Working against this tendency in the history of the West and now on an increasingly global scale are insights first expounded, according to Girard, in Biblical narratives (Joseph and Jesus are obvious examples) in which the collective is depicted as culpable and the intended sacrificial victim as innocent. Thus our modern concern with victims, with the oppressed and the downtrodden. This leaves us moderns in a precarious position-- we crave, we may even need, the collective psychological satisfactions of sacrifice yet we also abhor and abjure the very production of victims that sacrifice (and perhaps even politics) requires. 

And what has any of this to do with The Blue Light Project? In this finely executed novel, Timothy Taylor depicts the intersection of four lives, a burned out and disgraced journalist, a sporting celebrity, an unknown street artist, and a political terrorist whose motivations, in the end, expose themes central to this story. And undergirding a page-turner that will satisfy the most ardent of thrill seekers are two sacrificial structures that Taylor uncannily reveals to be at the core of contemporary experience: celebrity and Western expansionist politics. The hostage taking at the studios of a Canadian Idol-like program forces into our awareness the social usefulness and collective gratifications of a system that produces star after star and yet this same machinery repeatedly depicts the sacrificial downfall of our "polluted" idols -- Charlie Sheen, anyone? Lindsay Lohan? Mel Gibson? We experience collective elations not only at their rise but their fall conduces to even greater satisfactions. Running parallel to this, in Taylor's cultural-political economy, is a hidden system of sacrifice that bolsters modern expansionist democracies -- the torture chambers, extra-ordinary renditions and extraditions, and the quasi-legal gulag of off-shore detention facilities that covertly enforce Western ideals and protect our culture from further exposures of its core contradictions. 

By placing his novel at the centre not only of contemporary life but also in the flux of beliefs and morally contradictory practices that sustain globalized living in the West, Taylor relentlessly insists that the vocation of Canadian fiction is in the now, it is in the Twitter feeds and popular media, the international trends and the political machinations that churn endlessly at our lives. Taylor's response to the staid "local fictions" of much Canadian literature is to give us an unnamed city that is as "linked in" and connected as any on the planet. The Blue Light Project has a lot of balls in the air -- fame and celebrity, street art, politics and the secret service, Girard and sacrifice -- and Timothy Taylor masterfully balances these things. And many others. Miniaturist it is not. It is a genuinely moving novel, building to a great climax and with a denouement that provokes the kind of reflection on what has happened, on how it has been depicted, that only the best fiction can do. 

Kent Enns is Professor of Political Philosophy at Humber College in a city named Toronto.

Read more about The Blue Light Project, or even obtain a copy, at AMAZON.ca orAMAZON.com. It can also be downloaded as an EBOOK here.

Posted: Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011 7:14am

Blue Light Project Street Art - Part I

I've just published a new novel about a street artist, the semi-fictional Rabbit. The book's been getting amazing reviews.

Then the other day Banksy tweeted about it. Nice!

But this series of posts isn't about the book. It's about the artists in my part of the world who inspired Rabbit and make him "semi-fictional". Artists whose work ended up in the book as photographs: JermIX, Cameraman, Rich S, A01 and legendary graffiti writer and train artist Take 5.

(There were others who didn't want to be named.)

Please note that book is now available:

1) on AMAZON.ca
2) on AMAZON.com
3) or as an EBOOK right here

This first photo I'll highlight is a piece by Cameraman and Emma, Vancouver artists who work with photography and sound respectively. They collaborated to make this alarm clock. It lit up bright orange and started ringing at 9:00 PM one winter's night in the Strathcona neighborhood in Vancouver.

The sound came from dozens of dollar-store alarm clocks hidden in the weeds nearby. It sounded like a million crickets singing at once.

Wish you could have been there. People were running out of their houses and studios to stand in the street and watch.

People were talking to strangers.

People were smiling.

Unfortunately, since those little dollar-store alarm clocks aren't very smart, the clock rang again at 9:00 AM the next morning. Someone wasn't very happy about that and took a baseball bat to all those poor little clocks.

Still, it was a glorious thing while it lasted. It was one of the first pieces of street art I witnessed go up and "go off". It marked the beginning of something for me. An obsession.

Also, a novel, which I'd be honored if you checked out.

The Blue Light Project is available:

1) on AMAZON.ca
2) on AMAZON.com
3) or as an EBOOK right here

Check in for Part II of this series. I'll be looking at a piece by the mysterious, elusive Rabbit.

 

Posted: Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2011 9:51am

Don Delillo

I'm hugely flattered by some recent and heavy praise for The Blue Light Project, a "thriller that makes you think" about a hostage crisis in a television studio.

In each of these reviews, I've been compared to Don Delillo, who is a serious hero of mine. That comparison leaves me speechless (almost) but grateful.

The book is now available. Please have a look:

1) on AMAZON.ca

2) on AMAZON.com

3) or as an EBOOK right here

Here are the amazing review quotes:

Best of all – and here is where the writer he most recalls is Don DeLillo – Taylor finds surprising angles into his material. A man holding lives in his hands, in a position to demand almost anything, wants only to talk to a small-time journalist. Why? The answer would be unfair to reveal in a review, but it can be said that when it is revealed, what’s offered is not a neat resolution but a whole new set of questions, their implications spreading in all directions. Ian McGillis, MONTREAL GAZETTE Read the full review

The best thing Timothy Taylor has written yet. He has DeLillo-like moments here, if DeLillo were to climb out of the limousine and hang out in the back alleys for a while. Taylor has DeLillo’s knack for seeing the ¬connections between seemingly unconnected things and assembling them into a portrait of our time. Call him a street artist of the page. Peter Darbyshire VANCOUVER PROVINCE Read the full review.

Timothy Taylor is Canada's DeLillo. The Blue Light Project really brings it into focus. Art, reality TV, celebrity - it's all here. The last 20 or so pages are unimaginably great, some of the best writing you will read. It's paced like a thriller, a taut thriller and in its own way, it's that as well. But it's also an extremely profound - and at time hilarious - meditation on our celebrity obsessed culture and our need for "reality" in entertainment. Highly recommended. Arjun Basu, Content Director, Spafax

The Blue Light Project is available now:

1) on AMAZON.ca

2) on AMAZON.com

3) and as an EBOOK

 

 

Posted: Friday, Mar. 25, 2011 10:32am

There's a riot going on: Talking to Timothy Taylor about The Blue Light Project

From the Montreal Gazette, an interview with Ian McGillis.

 

 

Timothy Taylor's new The Blue Light Project is that rare beast: a popular novel of ideas. It's a book whose firm narrative grip goes hand in hand with its thematic depth, a book that addresses topical issues with a rigor that feels timeless, while retaining a playfulness, suspensefulness, and plain readability that many a thriller writer would sell his last plot convention for. Last week, I was able to sit down and talk with Taylor during his brief promotional swing through Montreal. He was feeling a bit rough but rose to the occasion admirably. For maximum enjoyment of what follows, readers are encouraged to first check my Gazette review of the book. Also, the curious are urged to explore Taylor's above-linked website for information on some of the street artists whose work helped inspire the novel.  IM
 
The Blue Light Project pulls in and refracts a lot of themes. It's a very ambitious novel in that sense. I wonder, from among all that you've taken on, what the kernel for the book was for you.
 
The original motive was actually not thematic, it was more structural. I wanted to write something that had a very strong front-to-back pull. Like an artist might wake up one morning and decide they want to work in muted pastel shades, I decided that I really wanted something that had urgency. That just felt right for me now, instead of something slower-paced and contemplative. ...
Posted: Saturday, Mar. 12, 2011 10:11am

Praise for The Blue Light Project

 The Blue Light Project has garnered a lot of press attention this past week. And it’s almost all been very positive. The book is an Amazon.ca New and Notable Title as well as an Amazon.ca Spring Book Feature. Author profiles have now run in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post.

But the reviews have been really appreciative and I’m proud to share a few quotes with you.

Delightfully engrossing. . . . Holding The Blue Light Project together is Taylor’s prose style, which jumps across the page like a joyful, risk-loving parkour artist.” -- Winnipeg Free Press

An ambitious novel, one that challenges its readers to pay attention or get left behind, but it is definitely worth the necessary concentration. . . . It is about the power of art to heal in the aftermath of tragedy. And from a literary standpoint, it works extremely well. The Blue Light Project’s closing image will stay with readers for a long time after they close the book. . . . A wonderful novela thought-provoking and challenging story that will lead to debate and discussion among readers and might even change the way you look at our celebrity-driven culture.” -- The Vancouver Sun

Taylor is an intelligent writer, and one whose novels suggest that he has strong political convictions. Some of the best and most unsettling moments come when the grim ironies of the plot illustrate how governments . . . are quietly dismantling long-taken-for-granted rights and privileges and replacing them with libertarian pseudo-freedoms. . . . Taylor will one day be a Canadian icon.” -- J.C. Sutcliffe, The Globe and Mail

A breakneck literary thriller that combines the worlds of conspiracy theory, reality TV, celebrity culture and street art.” -- Mark Medley, National Post

Astonishing, breath-taking passages of explosive writing. . . . One of the most beautiful and moving codas to a novel I have read for many a year. . . . The Blue Light Project will give you pause, will make you look at media differently than you did before, and the hostage-taking . . . will keep you engaged. . . . A novel worth reading.” -- By the Book Reviews

“It’s tempting to race through The Blue Light Project. It has the compelling narrative momentum and intricate plotting of a thriller. Resist the temptation, because this fourth book from Vancouver’s Timothy Taylor is as much a novel of ideas as it is a page-turner. It’s a crucible of topical issues. . . . By turns hopeful and alarming, The Blue Light Project is a thought-provoking take on what one character calls ‘our toxic times.’” -- Barbara Carey, Toronto Star

“Terrorism, fame, celebrity worship, art vs. commerce––they’re all themes that can and do carry many a novel by themselves, so Taylor risks overload in taking on all of them. He manages it by skilfully juggling the intimate with the public, the small-scale with the monumental. Confining the action to a three-day period, he ramps up the suspense as effectively as any more conventional thriller writer could. . . . The scenario he presents is all too plausible, the time all too contemporary. Best of all––and here is where the writer he most recalls is Don DeLillo––Taylor finds surprising angles into his material. . . . In the end, for all horror on display, hope is what The Blue Light Project holds out.” -- Ian McGillis, The Gazette

Beautifully written and brimming with important ideas. . . . Taylor skillfully portrays a city losing its collective mind. . . . Offering astute satire . . . , Taylor comments pointedly on celebrity and art’s redemptive qualities. The sequence where Rabbit puts his installation into place has an exquisite tension showcasing Taylor’s excellent chops. . . . His themes are absolutely of the moment, and his characters are consistently fascinating.” -- NOW (Toronto)

 

Posted: Monday, Mar. 7, 2011 11:05am

Blood Brothers

This article was assigned to me by Gary Ross, to whom I'm grateful. It was one of the most affecting stories I've ever work on. And I'm honored to be sharing it with people more widely.
From Vancouver Magazine March 2011
***
It’s an unassuming storefront on a dusty stretch of East Esplanade in North Vancouver, opposite the industrial waterfront. Power Max Auto Repair reads the sign above the garage door which is battered from use. Inside, meanwhile, all the typical sights and sounds of an auto mechanic’s shop: the flash and buzz of an arc welder, the radio playing in the background, the big red box of Snap-On Tools and, of course, the house project car. In this case a 1950 Pontiac StratoChief, which sits in a rear corner of the garage, awaiting the attentions of the proprietor as these are available between other jobs.
It’s an ordinary place, in other words. And yet – through the man who founded this shop, Zahed Haftlang, born in Iran in 1968, a survivor of years of war and torture, and a refugee claimant to Canada in 1999 – it is extraordinary too for the way it connects Vancouver to a critical place and date in Middle Eastern history.
Posted: Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 10:17am
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