November 2010

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
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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