Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Movie Update

It's been a busy week on the cinematic front. The big afternoon cine-siesta featured District B13, a rousing cops and robbers tale about drug dealers and missing nuclear warheads, community redemption and political corruption and Paris. Produced and directed by the makers of Ong-Bak and Little Miss Sunshine, about a family falling apart but trying desparately to hold themselves to together as the youngest daughter is escorted to a beauty pageant. Greg Kinnear plays the self-motivated failed salesmen, Alan Arkin the heroin snorting grandfather, while Steve Carell takes a turn as America's pre-eminent Proust scholar. The son, adorned in his plain white t-shirts, black and maroon low-top Vans, and love of Nietzsche, reminded us all very much of our very own editor, Elvis Bonaparte, when he was in high school. The usually flighty Toni Collette plays the steady mom, offering support and guidance. Easily one of the best movies we have seen this year.

Other movies that crossed our screens included two Giovanni Ribisi vehicles, I Love Your Work and The Big White, which also featured Robin Williams and Woody Harrelson, as well as Inside Man, which while engaging and thoughful, ultimately offered one to many loose ends to tie up. It must be said however, that Spike Lee continues to impress us in his post-9/11 manifestation.

Agassi, the Eternal Return

This was perhaps one of our favourite Andre Agassi headlines, taken from Le Monde's US Open coverage a few years. The interview cast Andre in Nietzchean terms, but not in the tumultous superman exerting his will-to-power over those around him, but rather in equilibirium and control. Watching Agassi take centre court Monday night you hoped desperately that Agassi could recapture the same kind of magical spark that ignited Zinedine Zidane at the World Cup. As he and Andrei Pavel traded breaks and headed into a first set tiebreak, we were on the edge of our seats, hoping that he could battle back from the points he so easily gave away. Anxiously we counted unforced forehand errors in the second set, fearing that Pavel might win three sets straight, but jumped for joy when Agassi won the next tiebreak to even the match at a set apiece. However, we were quickly brought crashing down to earth at his uninispired beginning to the third set, falling 4-1, and were baffled by his hand signals to his coach. If we were surprised with the start of the third, we were awestruck by the difference those new rackets retrieved by his coach made, allowing Agassi to storm back to take the third set. Pavel looked like the old man andready to collapse. We knew it was over. Agassi would be back. He skipped about the court like a spritely tennis spirit, rejuvenated by his surroundings.

Monday, August 28, 2006

U.S. Open now Open

One of our favourite sporting events starts today with Wenzel contributor Bassano del Grappa's countrywoman Maria Elena Camerin taking on Justine Henin-Hardenne, the tournament favourite. Both del Grappa and Camerin are from the Venice area and our office space has already given itself over to Italian passion.

But yes, we always seem to enjoy the U.S. Open. Maybe it's because of the drama and atmosphere of New York, maybe its the tension and storylines that come from the season ending tournament itself. Can Federer hold-off Nadal? Can Agassi enjoy one last special ride before he retires? Can Marat Safin finally clear his head and win again where he won his first slam? What about up-and-coming players like Andy Murray or Gael Monfils? Or the Andy Roddick show?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Housing Bubble

Two news stories published this weekend help to show that Wenzel is not alone in worrying about an impending housing crash and recession in the United States, although analysts differ on the extent that it will affect Canada. Check out the following stories, but notice that our economic picture attempted to include the impact of the energy market on the U.S. - we keep hearing rumours that American oil companies are being threatened by the Chinese, something that the BBC reported this weekend too.

"Will it be a crash or a soft landing?"

"Canadian bank raises warning of U.S. recession"

"Chad orders foreign firms out"

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Al G. is a Fun Guy

Fungus and microbes are responsible for providing us with food, such as mushrooms and yogurt, as well as the subtle flavours that make other food like wines and cheeses so diverse and enjoyable. The complex interplay of various sugars and organisms creates the chemicals that tingle our taste buds. Now it appears that fungus can also play a role in the taste of coffee beans. Researchers are underway with the process of taming these creatures to help craft new types of exotic coffee flavours.

Can Harper Hope to Hang On?

A few weeks ago, we here at Wenzel suggested that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was going to lose the next federal election. Our argument was that Harper misunderstood the nature of his mandate, that his success was not due to his own electoral pledges, but rather as votes against the Liberal Party led by Paul Martin. We suggested that Harper's actions in regards to Israel, peacekeeping in Lebanon, his relationship with US President Bush, his failure to support the Kyoto Accord, as well as his failure to appear at events like this month's AIDS conference, will only remind disenchanted Liberals of the gulf of beliefs between them and Harper.

A recent poll indicates that this might already be the case. Support for the Liberals is on the rise in Quebec, where the party took the biggest hit, and support for the Tories is in decline. In fact, support for Harper has declined to pre-election levels. Granted it's far too early to call the Harper regime dead in the water, the telling moment will come following the Liberal Leadership elections in Montreal this Novemeber. Currently, the box of chocolates appearance of the Party leadership race reminds us too much of the chaos of the 1968 Democratic race. The Liberals will need a charismatic leader, who can appeal to Quebec without alienating Ontario. Is that something that Michael Ignatieff can do?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Music Update

The last week has seen three discs in rotation around the Wenzel office, The CJSW. However, once eleven o'clock rolls around, it's time to warm things up with the latin jazz/afro-funk of the Oculte Soul Sounds' new album El Nino Y El Sol. A great colloboration between members of New York's Antibalas and Austin's Grupo Fantasmo, it plays like a best of War album, and speaks to sunny afternoons, block parties, and chilled drinks.

Similarly, if you catch us working late, you'll find us listening to the spectral soundscapes offered up by the Parisian duo Sao Paris. Their combination of bossa nova, poetry, and experimental electronica made us instant fans of their debut Movimento. There follow-up album, La, finds the band somewhat edgier, darker, and slightly more cosmopolitan, as they draw in musical inspiration from China and Romania.

However, it is The Dudes who have become a fixture in our mid-afternoon musical rotation. The catchy guitar jangles of "They're a comin'" and "Dropkick Queen of the weekend", combined with the anthemic refrains of "Do the Right Thing" and "Mendoza Line (Whoa Caroline)" demand repeated plays. While we don't necessarily claim any special insight into the music of the Dudes, having been through school with lead singer Dan Vachon, it does make the antics of Dan vs overprotective girlfriend's mother in "Mom 100" very entertaining. Nice night for a knife fight, indeed!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Turning a corner.

We at Wenzel have two espresso machines that we use on a regular basis. There's Nancy, our prized Rancilio, and Old Guido, our Gran Gaggia. Old Guido is better used for cappucinos, but every so often generates a healthy crema on an espresso. Nancy however, produces fine espressos, though she requires a little more start up time. Yesterday, Wenzel writer and self-profressed Cafe Kimbo antagonist, Bassano del Grappa, turned Nancy on and then got called away. Forty-five minutes later, del Grappa returned to make his espresso, and declared that Nancy had finally produced a Kimdo worth drinking. Espresso is a fickle mistress, each brand requires its own proper temperature and pressure.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Price of Parking

As we mentioned a few days, many of us at Wenzel cut our teeth as parking lot attendants, and the experience gave us many insights into the workings of the industry and some of capitalism itself. Many people complain about paid parking, and we heartily agree. Paid parking is one of the ugly realities of capitalism. A parking lot is a patch of land devoid of productive capability, but still manages to generate wealth. Parking lots made from vacant neighbourhoods act like a cancer, disrupting the vitality and senes of community those neighbourhoods once had, as in Victoria Park, near the Stampede. However, the easy profits to be made from paid parking, only encourages their proliferation.

Thus, we were not surprised to find out that Calgary is the fourth most expensive metropolitan city to park in, according to a recent story in the Calgary Sun. Calgary has always prided itself on its low-density residential areas, resulting in one of the highest single city urban sprawls in the Western world. Furthermore, this low density makes it difficult to build up ridership in the public transit system, since people have too far to walk to the nearest bus stop (the low housing density makes it too expensive to run enough bus routes). Add in the fact that poor urban planning has concentrated the majority of jobs in the central core, and you have a private vehicle occupation rate of 1.1 people per car. The rate actually decreased between 1990 and 2000!

Therefore, Wenzel would like to continue to encourage its readers to try and work near where you live. Not only will it contribute to making your neighbourhood healthy, but it will also cut down on your parking bill.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More learnin' = more earnin'

Yes, this is a supposed truism "more learnin' = more earnin'" and stay-in-school advocates repeated point to statistics that show college graduates making more than high school graduates making more than drop-outs. Ignore issues such as whether or not a post-secondary degree guarantees you more money if you get a job in your field, for example, how many English Litt majors barely got by in publishing until they moved over to adsales? Regardless however, the fact remains the more education opens up more career opportunities and greater income. That's why we at Wenzel continue to shake our heads at the Alberta provincial government and their chronic underfunding of education at all levels. With recent reports in the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun that thousands of students will be turned away, not because of a lack of qualificatons, or ability to pay, but simply because there is not room for them we find it hard to believe that a province awash in oil money cannot afford to make a long-term commitment to education.

What makes this even more frustrating is when the education shortfall is presented in the context of a drastic labour shortage at all levels. Some have long argued that the conservative Klein government's undermining of education has been to help create a low-skilled blue collar workforce that believes in Klein's 'man of the people' facade. Keeping potential students out of post-secondary education can be viewed as an effort to divert more students to the labour shortage. Unfortunately, Alberta is short not just in burger flippers and oil roughnecks, but in doctors, engineers, and other skilled professionals and trades people, occupations that requirem access to a college, university or technical school.

One Crema to Another

It turns out that not everyone is enjoying our new Kimbo. Bassano del Grappa has complained that the move from Illy has been like getting used to candle-lit dinners and five star chefs and switching to dockside food with the sailors on payday.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Care for a Kimbo?

With August lingering on, heading towards the eventual demise of summer, now is the time that our thoughts at Wenzel turn to unfulfilled projects planned at the beginning of the season. Our lazy gaze returns to those early dreams begun before afternoons of patio-sitting, World Cup and tennis watching, festival going and so forth, all took up our time, and we realize it is time to get back to business for one last flourish before a regular work pace returns with September. Thus, the silky taste of Illy gives way for the more robust flavour of Kimbo, and by "robust" we mean down-right rough. An Illy makes one want to sit, ponder, and enjoy, while a Kimbo says "Let's go!"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Our Best Wish for the Swiss Miss

Yes, Wenzel will be fully supporting Martina Hingis today in Monreal as she attempts to gain her second title of the year. Meanwhile, Cincinnati will see either finalist, Andy Roddick or Juan Carlos Ferrero pick up their first title of 2006. For Ferrero this is his first final since coming back from a serious illness several years ago. Oddly, both of these men were the last to No.1 players before Federer.

Slurpee Cup!

With an announcement that the ninth edition would bring charitable donations over $20,000, CJSW's Slurpee Cup kicked off yesterday, pitting twenty-two hungry indie rock, media, and drinking establishment teams against each other. The Drum and Monkey pub caused a sensation in their tight-fitting gold pants, as did the Secret Cervix in their black spyware and under-handed antics. CJSW went four for four as they found a winning formula in a relentless attack, made capable by the hordes of volunteers who kept rolling off the CJSW benches. Backstopped by the Wenzel's very own Sean Marchetto, Fast Forward Weekly finished seventh in round-robin play, advancing to quarter-final playoff action before losing in sudden death overtime to the appropriately costumed Team Dracula. Marchetto, named team MVP, boasted a stunning tournament low goals-against average of just one goal per game.

Tomorrow will bring words about the Slurpee Cup final and its victors, but today is a day for icing bruises and celebrating a great day for hockey.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Brain Heart Guitar; Dudes Bringing It All Back Home

Ten years ago, many of us here at Wenzel were paying our way through life as parking lot attendants at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, perhaps the greatest outdoor show on earth by its own estimation. Most of divided our time between two of the Stampede's many parking lots, one located on 12th Avenue, immortalized by our own Sean Marchetto in his CJSW radio show of the same name as well as in an unpublished novel, joculotore domini, while the rest of us hung out at a large gravel pit named, you guessed it, Wenzel. Both of these parking lots were in the middle of the residential area of Victoria Park, and across the street from Wenzel was a flop-house called 'Rock Central', home of the Dudes. As we would lounge around in our parking lots, the Dudes would practice on their front porch and we would holler and dance. When the Dudes hosted their first Stampede Breakfast, we skipped out from work and were there. When Marchetto dropped the first Slurpee Cup, there were the Dudes.

Now that the boys are getting some airplay, some notice, and a prime spot in a Rogers' cellphone commercial, we wish them all the success. Check out the media coverage!

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/entertainment/story.html?id=c1039a87-9c56-49a1-aa82-110431c91bda&k=53039&p=2

http://www.vueweekly.com/articles/default.aspx?i=4425

http://www.calgarysun.com/cgi-bin/publish.cgi?p=144434&x=articles&s=music

http://www.moregoatthangoose.com/interviews/theDudes.php

Of course, you can also check them out at www.myspace.com/wearethedudes or get the new album Brain Heart Guitar from iTunes.

A Contradiction Goes a Long Way

People are complex things. At Wenzel, we acknowledge this, and at times celebrate it. That's why we can root for the horribly inconsistent Marat Safin, who somehow managed to lose his Cincinnati opening match to the talented, but very young, Gael Monfils of France, going 4-6, 5-7, so at least it appears he made a game of it, while at the same time we get behind the ever steady Martina Hingis and wish her the best of luck this weekend en route to what we hope is her second title of the year. Back in Cincinnati, with Safin out, Federer out, and now, Nadal out, perhaps its time to get behind Andy Murray and wonder out loud if Brad Gilbert is the greatest tennis coach of all time?

Back from Banff and the Rim

If you've been wondering where the Daily Wenzel posts have been for the past few days, we decided to have ourselves a little retreat out in the beautiful surroundings on Banff. Our colleague, Sean Marchetto, was heading out into the wilderness to better prepare himself for tomorrow's prestigious Slurpee Cup Hockey tourney, by going on long hikes, chopping down trees and wrestling grizzly bears. We decided to hang out on Banff Avenue and stay at the Rimrock Hotel, while attending an open air concert put on by Sarah Harmer at the Banff Centre. Talk to us all after the Slurpee Cup and we'll tell you who had the better time.

Monday, August 14, 2006

More tennis anyone?

The Rogers Cup for women begins today in Montreal, while the men are in Cinncinatti. It is possible to watch over eight ours of tennis this week, someting we are very excited about. Yes, it might be hard to find exciting was to promote Roger Federer in a tennis final - Toronto marked his 54th straight win in North America alone, but we are very eager to see the first round match-up between French phenom Gael Monfils and Marat Safin.

Similarly, we would love to be in Montreal, one of our favourite cities, strolling the streets, watching the tennis, and listening to Richard Dorfmeister's tennis-inspired Grand Slam album (if you check out the G-Stone Recordings website, they even have a little spoof of Roddick vs Pong to play). Yes, there's an awful lot of missing players at this one, but really everything takes a backseat to a sultry August night in Montreal.

Harper avoids AIDS conference

While we understand that the life of a prime minister is very busy, especially when there's trouble in the middle-east, a place where Canada traditional tries to exert its soft power in peace negotiations, but we wonder when Stephen Harper will realize that he has to hold his nose and do a few things to establish some common ground between himself and the disaffected Liberal voters who helped get him elected. Jean Chretien was elected by former Conservatives driven from the party by the Mulroney years and rewarded them by having Paul Martin reveal some of the most fiscally conservative budgets in years. Harper, who is fighting this image that he's a secretive pro-business arch-conservative from the West and Bush's lapdog, could have scored some easy points by appearing at this weekend's AIDS conference. Now, Chretien was also a no show at this conference during his tenure, so an appearance by Harper would have made a dramatic impression, demonstrating perhaps that Harper really does like people.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Curious Case of Canada's Currency

The Canadian dollar is riding high on the strength of strong exports and high energy and mineral prices. Industrial exports are down slightly as the dollar makes our goods slightly more expensive internationally, but home grown consumption has been pretty good - until May of this year that is. The Bank of Canada announced a few weeks ago that consumer-driven growth was flat through May, while it had been running around 2.5% each month previous to that, leading to speculation that the central bank will halt its slow increasing of interest rates on September 5.

Does this mean that the bloom is off the boom?

Two interesting statements were released this week, the first that housing starts were slowing, and the second that our trade with the United States is still dramatically lopsided.

How does this relate to the strength of Canada's dollar?

As with Canada, the housing market in the United States has been booming for the last few years, generating consumptive demand on both sides of the border. However, the American market is entering a decline in demand and looks ready to go into freefall in certain areas. The Americans are also entering a general economic lull, both of which means less demand for Canadian goods, both raw materials and finished goods. Looming in the background to all this is an eight trillion dollar debt and a weakness in the American dollar that some analysts fear is reday for a crash. Since the Canadian dollar is valued relative to the American, an initial fall in the price of the American dollar would cause the Canadian to appear to rise, helping to create a false economic picture. A collapsing American dollar would cut Canadian exports to the United States, putting a huge whole in our economy.

Alternatively, a housing slowdown in Canada might signal the end of the housing boom. If economic relations with the United States stay stable, then perhaps we can hit a plateau instead of a decline. At any rate, if you can avoid holding off on major purchases until the spring, give the economy a chance to form a clearer picture before committing yourself.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Problem of the Young Trudeau

Pierre Elliot Trudeau has always been something of an enigma to us, our first prime minister and public figure to be very aware of his image as a public figure. He counted as his friend, and received advice from, media guru Marshall McLuhan. Trudeau dazzled us, inspired us, and out here in the West inflamed our anger with his energy policies.

A new biography, written by Max and Monique Nemni, two former Cite Libre editors, has set re-awaken the mystery of Trudeau. A two volume set, Young Trudeau, functions as an intellectual biography, tracing the influence that various teachers and books had on the future prime minister. What is fascinating here is the extent to which Trudeau, and many of is generation, were enamoured by the fascist writers of France during the 1930s. Trudeau, known to many of us as a left-leaning leader, appeared ready to participate in a fascist coup to create an independent Quebec. Then abruptly, everything changed in 1942, where volume 1 ends.

It is easy to see historians lining up to examine the recently opened Trudeau archives, the same ones that the Nemni's had privelleged access to during their work on Young Trudeau. For the authors, the source of Trudeau's fascist connections comes from his staunch Catholicism and Jesuit schooling, where Rome's rejection of socialism, and the abuses of capitalism, led to the welcoming arms of Mussolini. However, they leave the source of his disillusionment for the second volume, causing all of us history buffs to hunger for more.

Friday, August 11, 2006

On Ong-Bak

Having finished watching the Thai film Ong-Bak a few days ago and being rather enthralled at the fight scenes, discussion soon came around to the uneasiness and confusion that we felt at the beginning of the film. Essentially, our problem lay with the introduction of the characters and their relationship to one another, it did not seem readily apparent or sufficiently explained why these characters went where they did. However, one of our writers, the ever studious Bassano del Grappa, used this as an opportunity to remind us of the cultural biases and presuppositions loaded in something as simple as a Thai fight movie. Recalling the work of Claude Levi-Strauss, who analyzed folk tales throughout the world, certain types of stories always have certain elements, the hero, the friend, etc, though how these elements appear may vary slightly from culture to culture. In a fight movie, you typically have the hero, the girl, the mentor, the villain, and the friend. Instead of establishing these relationships relative to the martial arts, Ong-Bak uses other themes such as village kinships and networks of gambling. We still don't really feel that we understand the movie's introduction, but we do enjoy that it has given something to think about.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Closing CBGB's

The legendary punk club CBGB's is closing at the end of September and moving to begin it's post-modern display life in Las Vegas. Wenzel will be collecting your CBGB stories until September 15th. Either leave your comments or email your stories to our editor at elvisbonaparte@canada.com - thanks!

But I Like It!

A severe thunderstorm last night put the kybosh on some after-work plans, so instead we sat around the Wenzel offices reading copies Peter Bagge of Hate fame. While Bagge banged Hate out of Seattle, Sacco worked down the road in Portland, but soon found himself on the road in Europe as a roadie for his friends' the Miracle Workers. These experiences form much of the first half of the book, while the second is more paying bits and pieces done between work on

But I Like It!

A severe thunderstorm last night put the kybosh on some after-work plans, so instead we sat around the Wenzel offices reading copies Joe Sacco's new rock n' roll comix compilation, But I Like It!. Sacco inhabits the same cartoon world as say, Peter Bagge of Hate fame. While Bagge banged Hate out of Seattle, Sacco worked down the road in Portland, but soon found himself on the road in Europe as a roadie for his friends' the Miracle Workers. These experiences form much of the first half of the book, while the second is more paying bits and pieces done between work on Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, his two main works. Sacco has enjoyed the same arms legnth relationship to musicians and the music business as many of us here at Wenzel and his work provided many giggles into the wee hours.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Music Update

Even if the new Nomeansno's a little lacklustre, it's been a good week in music so far, and with the recent release of the new Cursive album we can only expect it to get better. The Pink Spiders and their debut album Teenage Graffiti has been in pretty heavy rotation, filling our pop quota. This trio from Nashville may look like L.A. New Wave and have you dreaming of angular British guitarwork, but really it's all hooks and distortion as Ric Ocasek has helped to craft a pretty piece of ear candy. The lead-off single, "Little Razorblade" just hit a million downloads off their myspace page.

For a more meatier sound we've really been enjoying the self-titled second release from The Bronx, who actually hail from Los Angeles, dispite their name. Think Queens of the Stone Age, but faster, louder, and harder, or perhaps a more melodic pre-Rollins Black Flag. Rumour has it that The Bronx will be subbing in for Black Flag in an upcoming film about legendary Germs lead singer Darby Crash. "History's Stranglers" gets our back up every time. However, the best rock single of the summer is quite likely to be "Black is the Rockinest Colour" from the Vancouver based The Belushis and their debut album Rich in Broken Glass. You owe to yourself to listen to this one - it's like the MC5 as fashion police.

A Brief Announcement

We are pleased to announce that fellow Wenzel staffer Sean Marchetto will be participating in the Ninth Annual CJSW 90.9 FM SlurpeeCup Street Hockey Charity Tournament. Marchetto, who founded the tournament while a summer intern at CJSW in 1998, will be backstopping the lovely lasses and laddies at Fast Forward Weekly. The SlurpeeCup features sixteen street hockey teams made up of local Calgary bands, media, and venues in an afternoon of attempted atheletic excellence. So far, the little tournament has generated over ten thousand dollars for a variety of charities. Way to go Marchetto!

The CJSW website is rumoured to be accepting online donations during the event which runs August 19, 2006 at the University of Calgary.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Many Faces of Marat Safin

Yes, Rodger Federer and Rafael Nadal are probably the better players, and certainly more enjoyable to watch for most people. But we here at Wenzel enjoy the unexpected and that's why we love to watch Marat Safin on the tennis courts. Safin, you see, is like a box of Forrest Gump chocolates. Sometimes capable of the most sublime play (he is the only player, along with Nadal, to beat Federer in the last two years), whereas at other times he looks like a drunk chasing a balloon near the edge of a cliff. Unlike some players, like Andy Roddick, who may be inconsistent and you know within the first few games how the match will go, the many faces of Marat can show themselves within the same set. He keeps you guessing throughout the whole match. Will this be the point where he smashes his racket, lobs it into the crowd, fires off a 140 mph serve, or threads a delicately aimed passing shot over the net, barely tagging a line to stay in?

For many, this can be a frustrating experience, to watch a player capable of so many ups and downs in one match, but Marat rewards you in the long-run, even if he lost today to Tommy Robredo (5-7, 7-5, 2-6). We've always liked rollercoasters, and we'll always watch Marat.

For more tennis action, check out the Rogers Cup.

Beano for your Braino

Here's a little something that our good friends at Illy passed our way, upon hearing about our love for their beans. It turns out that the Fanatic Cook has an opinion or two about the same report.

While we at Wenzel are among the first to declare our love for the crema e gusto of a good espresso, and will take any excuse we can get to pour ourselves a cup, we nevertheless share a bit of the scepticism offered by the Fanatic Cook. The idea of an International Coffee Organization reminds us too much of the dubious Tabacco Research Institute.

In somewhat related news, it turns out that organic chocolate farming is booming in Venezuela. The beans are fetching four times the price of non-organic ones, and some industry experts are predicting the rise of "single bean organic Venezuelan" chocolate to be akin to single malt scotch in brandability.

Stepping on The Long Tail

As promised, a more in-depth look at Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail . The argument is pretty straight-forward, that the best economic use of the Internet is to offer a wider array of products to a much larger and dispersed audience. However, what Anderson points out, is that Internet based companies are not best at offering a full range of products, from best-sellers to specialized products, but should rather concentrate on the niche sellers.

If you remember your high school math, graphing and limits and whatnot, then the idea becomes easier to grasp. The title of the book comes from the part of the distribution curve that occurs just after the spiky head (high volume bestsellers) drops off. Products in the tail sell fewer and fewer units but it takes a long, long time to reach zero. The aggregate sales of everything in the tail equals or in some cases surpasses, that of the bestsellers.

Anderson wants to extrapolate from this economic model, the idea that we are moving away from a "hit" or celebrity-obsessed culture. The shift towads niche marketing, coupled with cheap digital tools to make digital media, means that more of us could end up being the stars of our own little corners of the world, something that we here at Wenzel would agree with.

Of course, a shiny new Mac and the Internet won't help you build a new car company and The Long Tail is too optimistic about the broader social implications, gushing about a new era of abundance, or "post-scarcity" describing not the allocation of finite resources like cotton, or oil, but rather the availability of physical goods on store shelves. It's a less sophisticated image than the last time we heard those terms in the Sixties. It was a bit of a dream then, and its a bit unrealistic now.

Monday, August 07, 2006

We love espresso!

Yes, we do, we really do. The editorial staff at Wenzel very much enjoys a cup or two of Illy espresso during these lazy August days. The good people at Illy are very serious about what they do (www.illy.com) - just like us!

Tennis, anyone?

Canada's men's tennis championship kicks off today, marking the 125th anniversary of the third oldest tennis tournament in the world. The website, www.tenniscanada.com promises to offer streaming video, a feature that I tried desparately to find during the World Cup of Soccer. Isn't it about time that we gain the ability to watch sports online, live? How else will I be able to watch Federer and Arsenal tomorrow? For more on Champions' League action, checkout www.uefa.com for all of the fixtures.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Introducing Mr. Ignatieff, our next Prime Minister?

With a tenuous hold on the House of Commons, Harper's recent handling of the the crisis in the Middle-East is throwing considerable doubt on his political future. While it is too early to tell when the next federal election will be called, many are predicting Harper's to be a short-lived government. Public opinion polls show that the majority of Canadians feel that Harper's recent actions in the Middle-East demonstrate two things: 1. ours is not the most worldly of PMs, and 2. is content playing second fiddle to George Bush. Considering part of the Liberal campaign strategy was to allude to Bush's fondness for Harper, Harper is playing into Liberal hands. Similarly, the Harper government's undermining of the Kyoto Accord is helping to emphasis differences between the Liberals and the Tories.

The election of Stephen Harper was viewed as a victory for the West and big business, but perhaps this is a rose-coloured picture. More accurately, it was a defeat of the Chretien-Martin legacy, with millions of disenchanted Grits fleeing the Liberal ship. If Harper fails, as he currently is, to make common cause with this support base, in the next election they will no doubt flow back to the Liberals. Although the Liberals are currently in search of a leader, and the indication seems to be Michael Ignatieff, all they would need to do in the next election is conduct a campaign to lure those voters back.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Running

Am currently listening to the new disc from the Pink Spiders, called Teenage Graffiti, a riotous tongue-in-cheek glam punk affair - sort of like a Los Angeles version of the Strokes with a studied historical pose, that looks and sounds good. You almost forget they're posing. Think Darby Crash goes New Wave.

Also got a hold of the new Nomeansno, All Roads Lead to Ausfarht. Not sure yet, it took eight or nine songs in to find some interesting work in "Mondo Nihilissimo 2000". I mean, it's still typically challenging and adventuresome, but maybe the guys need to re-establish contact with the world.

Currently reading The Long Tail by Wired's Chris Anderson, about how on-line virtual warehousing is changing the face of marketing. We'll revisit this in a few days.

Started watching Ong-bak today, a Thai film about a local village hero who goes in search of the village talisman. Of course, this involves a trip to the nearby metropolis and much much fighting. I am watching this primarily because the production team is working with Luc Besson on District B13 a film I feel oddly interested in. Sometimes you just can't look away.

Starting Line

Fire breathing test drive fuelled by espresso-laced grappa with a flush of blood based chemicals sparking explosions behind my eyes.