What We Talk About When We Talk About "Buyer's Pain"

Globe and Mail ROB Magazine

My introduction to the topic of “buyer’s pain” came via a colleague, an editor of an American food magazine, who was describing the excruciatingly long line-ups he had to endure to get a hamburger at the Shake Shack in New York’s Madison Square Park. I’ve never eaten one, but I’ve talked to a few people. This is not a particularly special burger. It has your basic beef patty on a squishy bun plus all the ordinary garnishes: American cheese slice, pickle, lettuce, tomato etc. I’m stymied to think why anyone would wait for up to 2 hours (yes, I actually heard that from someone) all for what another foodie colleague, Amy Rosen, Food Editor at Canadian House & Home magazine described to me as “not mind-blowing”.

Painful, yes. And so, the Shake Shake seems to me a perfect example of what a Carnegie Mellon neurological study published two years ago has shown: that when consumer experience discomfort buying certain products, this frequently enhances the appeal of those same products.

Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010 12:00pm

Naturally Hazardous

Feminine beauty is, by virtue of having no definition, controversial. Hold up an image you find exemplary and expect to get everything from murmurs of approval to charges of sexism from virtually any random sampling of people. Beauty, it seems, will always be more of a question than it is an answer.

The photographers in the upcoming photo show at the Catalog Gallery in Vancouver - opening Friday November 5th - are aware of that reality and game to explore it. Called Natural Hazards, the show features the work of three of Vancouver's most exciting photographers. Jen Osborne, Byron Dauncey and Lincoln Clarkes.

Are beauty pageant contestants beautiful or exploited? What about women in tight dresses smoking menthols and tottering around in cheap stilettos on Granville Street late any given Saturday night? Or that Texan woman in shades holding a Kalashnikov in the baking desert sun: gorgeous or trashy?

The harder I look at these photographs, the more complicated the answer becomes, the more displaced beauty becomes from the subjective boundaries within which I might wish to corral it.

Is she beautiful? Maybe the better set of questions (with a nod to Terrence Mallick) would be: where did beauty come from? How did it steal into the world?

Posted: Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 9:27am

Watching the Waterfront


Timothy Taylor


It’s my central Vancouver image, which surprises people on occasion. If they’ve read my fiction, people tend to expect Stanley Park to occupy the definitive place in my imagination’s geography. But this is not so. I think of Vancouver – and I think of it often, especially when travelling – and I think of container boxes. I think of acres of jetty. I think of berths and ships sliding slowly into place under the looming cranes. I think of the port. Stanley Park may be the city’s lungs. But the Port of Vancouver is the city’s beating heart.

And I hear it beating, too. Anywhere from Seymour to Nanaimo, and roughly north of Prior.  I only have to stop myself in the middle of the day, tune out traffic and sidewalk conversation. And there it will be, both large and faint, something settling and resettling just out of view. It sounds like this: steel plates clanking, train rails and the grind of hull against old wood, the vent of steam, the scream of an ancient whistle, walkie talkie voices and the cry of gulls.

Posted: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 8:33am

Scott Sellers on The Blue Light Project

Scott Sellers is the VP Marketing Strategy for Random House of Canada. He spoke recently to Michelle MacAleese of Knopf Canada about The Blue Light Project.

Please click HERE to see the video.


Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010 9:40am

Chef Mavro Interview 2010

For the essay series Global is the New Local published in EnRoute Magazine in September, October and December 2010, I visited Hawaii and ate my way around the island of Oahu. One of the best meals, of the trip and probably my life so far, was had at Chef Mavro's, where extremely high-end does not mean pretentious. And where I didn't feel like keeling over after our eight course meal (like I did after eating what Tom Aikens had to offer, for example).
Here's the transcript of our conversation, which touches on his idea about "regional", the technical reasons his cuisine is so approachable and paradoxically light, as well as his creative process in creating a new menu item.
Chef Mavro: When I arrived in Hawaii it was just starting. You maybe know this story. When I arrived, many restaurants were doing “continental cuisine”. Mahi mahi with beurre blanc, even though Mahi Mahi wasn’t from here, it was frozen from Mexico. Everyone was doing a Caesar salad and a shrimp cocktail. But there were already a group of chefs Roy, Alan Wong, Sam Choy, and we say: we don’t do Caesar salad. So we created Hawaii Regional Cuisine. And we started of course to work with farmers who were doing specific ingredients just for us. Nalo farms was one of them.
Posted: Thursday, Sep. 2, 2010 12:02pm

Time Warp

Originally published in Saturday Night Magazine
You might think it's the year 2000, but a group of prominent Russian mathematicians is arguing that history is all wrong, and it's actually 936AD. They've set off a battle that's now come to Canada, and it's getting nasty
The man in the tweed jacket sitting ahead of me is growing visibly agitated. We're at a mathematics conference at the University of Alberta just before the end of the school year, and things have been predictably calm so far. But twice in the past minute what's coming from the front of the room has made my tweedy neighbour twist angrily in his seat.
Our speaker is Gleb Nosovskii, a mathematics professor from Moscow State University, a man with a long black beard and dark eyes who is deeply serious about the matter at hand. This is only appropriate, because his presentation is nothing short of a mathematical case against history as we know it.
Nosovskii and his Russian colleagues, led by the famous Moscow State geometrician Anatoly Fomen-ko, believe that our "global chronology" is profoundly flawed. They argue that the conventional sequencing of historical events in the Mediterranean and in Europe from 3000 BC to 1600 AD - a chronology they say was formalized in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the scientists Josephus Scaliger and Dionysius Petavius, and has never been fundamentally challenged since - is shot through with inexplicable duplications. These duplications, Nosovskii maintains, are revealed through mathematical-pattern analysis.
Posted: Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010 9:50am

Blink and You'll Miss It


Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010
I was made to feel stupid by a video on YouTube the other day. Designed by neuropsychology professors Christopher Charbris and Daniel Simons, the clip shows some basketball players passing a ball around. Count the passes, the viewer is instructed. So I did, and got the right answer: 15. But I entirely missed the person in the gorilla suit who danced across the screen halfway through.
I’m not alone. Half the people who have taken the test missed it, illustrating how we frequently overlook the bigger picture when making quick assessments. It’s a principle Charbris and Simons explore in The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us, a book that should be compulsory reading for anybody who keeps a dog-eared copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink in their desk drawer. That would have included former Lehman Brothers president Joseph Gregory, who was so impressed by Gladwell’s case for “the power of thinking without thinking,” he had Gladwell address Lehman staff not long before the whole company went down the drain.
Posted: Monday, Aug. 30, 2010 10:45am

Garry Kasparov Interview from 2001

Originally published in Saturday Night online, 2001

Chess writers typically describe world chess champion grandmaster GarryKasparov as either the best player in the world or the best player inworld history. He won the title in 1985 at the age of 22. He hasdefeated all human challengers in tournament play since. Last year,Kasparov won a match on MSN that pitted the champ against a collective of 3 million chess players from 75 countries who logged in to vote on their next move. Kasparov is, in short, a legendary chess brain.

Yet Kasparov is also a voracious student of history. He has read a library of books and memorised most significant dates in the human chronology. To him, there always seemed to be discrepancies in the human chronology. Then in 1996, Kasparov came across the famous Moscow State University mathematician Anatoly Fomenko who had published a textbook outlining his mathematical theory that history contained statistically improbable pattern duplications. The two men met and in 1998 Kasparov wrote a supportive Preface to Fomenko’s radical book "Introduction to New Chronology."

Earlier this year, I interviewed colleagues of Fomenko’s for a story in Saturday Night. During these conversations I found out about Kasparov’s fascination. It took a few weeks to track him down – Kasparov constantly travels the world playing chess -- but when I did, he spoke freely about several of the major problems in the chronology; including discrepancies in mapping, military technology, mathematics, and how historians are reacting.

- Timothy Taylor

Timothy Taylor: Let’s talk about maps. You're saying the Romans couldn’t have had them, is that correct?

Garry Kasparov: There is no single original of the Roman time. So we
assume that the maps never existed. Because, if you look at the first
maps of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, you’ll see the quality of
these maps is a joke.

Posted: Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 9:40am

Food/Crime Fiction

Food is married to crime through the poisoner. Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici reportedly poisoned his brother with a peach he’d just sliced in two, the other half of which the Cardinal had just eaten himself to no ill effect. (Think about it: two sides to every blade.) But food is married to crime fiction for a more complicated set of reasons altogether.
In the old days – that is, the pre-foodie era prior to the late twentieth century – plenty of fictional poisoning went on. Agatha Christie is littered with corpses whose last breaths smelled oddly sweet, or bitter, or of almonds. But what to make of the gourmand sleuth? There were so many. Hercule Poirot grew his own vegetable marrow and was fussy about sirop de cassis. Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret ate endlessly of such fare as bouillabaisse, blanquette, and tete de veau. Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Wimsey was so refined that, in The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste, hecorrectly identified the grape and vintage of a Chablis Moutonne, a Chevalier Montrachet, a Schloss Johannisberger, a Laffite, a Clos Vougeot, a Grand Imperial Tokay, and, to climax, a true Napoleonic brandy with the Emperor’s seal on the hand-blown bottle. And he remained standing, too.
Posted: Friday, Aug. 20, 2010 10:05am

Cinema Salon September 7th - Vancouver

 Cinema Salon

Timothy Taylor presents THE THIN RED LINE
Tuesday, september 7 at 7:30 pm
Once a month, Melanie Friesen invites a distinguished guest to present his/her favourite film. After the screening, audiences and guests have the opportunity to discuss the film over drinks and snacks in our spacious lounge.
Based on James Jones' novel of the same name, THE THIN RED LINE is set during the battle of Guadalcanal during World War II, in a battle between the Americans and the Japanese.
A courageous and unique take on the terror and chaos of war, the film stands apart by getting inside the minds of the soldiers, so the film's many internal monologues, heard in voice over, are more significant than the battle scenes. War is a series of private torments played out on a global scale, or as one character describes it as, "War don't ennoble men. It turns them into dogs. It poisons the soul."
Presenter: Timothy Taylor
Timothy Taylor is an award-winning novelist and journalist. He’s the author of the acclaimed and bestselling novels STANLEY PARK and STORY HOUSE. He’s also the BIG IDEAS COLUMNIST for the Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine and a regular contributor to EnRoute, Walrus and Vancouver. His highly-anticipated third novel, THE BLUE LIGHT PROJECT is a taut political thriller about a three day hostage crisis. It will be published in the US and Canada in March 2011.
Cinema Salon tickets are available in advance:
• on-line at www.vifc.org
• in person at the Vancouver International Film Centre during regular box office hours
Call the FILM INFO LINE: 604.683.FILM (3456) for the latest info and listings. Tickets can be purchased in advance on-line at www.vifc.org or in person 30 minutes before showtime.
To see films at the Vancity Theatre, you must-with a few exceptions-be age 19 or older and be a member of our registered non-profit society. This is because we are allowed to screen films that have not been seen by Consumer Protection BC. By joining the society, you are entitled to attend the next Annual General Meeting. Valid for one year based on the date of purchase, the VIFC basic membership cost is $2.00.
For More Membership Information go to MEMBERSHPS
Vancity Theatre is located at 1181 Seymour St. (at Davie)
Posted: Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010 12:17pm
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