Clarifying what you want

May 2, 2009 at 1:22 pm | In just_so, local_not_global, scenes_victoria | Comments Off on Clarifying what you want

I got to meet blogger Victoria Klassen through Twitter at several local tweetups, but I feel I really get to know her through her writing. Today she published a wonderful post, A Forrest Gump kinda interview…, based on customized interview questions sent to her by Raul Pacheco (aka Hummingbird604).

I was really impressed by the clarity of Victoria’s – or Tori’s – responses. Jealous, actually, since I seem to be in a hazy sort of funk where clarity stands no chance against the shadows. In particular, I thought her answer to question #2 (“Which element of communications is the one that makes you most passionate?”) was awesome:

Same thing that excited me most about being a journalist: the opportunity to explain difficult subjects to a lay person with accuracy.

She then goes on to describe the various topics she deals with in her professional life as a public servant …and, well, wow. Just go read her post.

And as if that isn’t enough, there’s her personal history, into which she gives readers some glimpses. It sounds like quite a life, with plenty of ups and downs. But as her blog’s name Samothrace indicates, she’s a marathoner who’s in the race for the long haul: clear-headed, authentic, role-modeling, and having fun. A winner, for sure.

Google business cards (but not in Canada)

May 1, 2009 at 11:16 pm | In just_so | Comments Off on Google business cards (but not in Canada)

If I still lived in the US, I could do free advertising for Google by getting some of these:

Yule Heibel's Google Business Card

I’m looking for a job.

May 1, 2009 at 3:28 pm | In FOCUS_Magazine, victoria, writing | 2 Comments

I’m nearly ready to throw in the towel, asking myself why I bother writing locally, given that letters such as this one get mailed to the editor …and are published, without any opportunity for me to rebut them. The letter is in response to my April 2009 article, It’s the people, stupid. I bolded a particularly risible bit:

Yule Heibel looks to Europe (as does Aaren Madden’s story re VPD’s Bill Naughton) for better ways of doing things here. Good idea. I was born in Europe and have travelled and lived there many times. However, promoting businesses to encourage an active nightlife after the government workers go home is the opposite of what Europeans are generally about.

During dinner one night in a restaurant on the Champs-Elysees, the waiter descended on our table unexpectedly and whisked everything away. Only then did we notice the restaurant emptying out quickly. (It was only 5:40pm.) The explanation: they had made their quota. Apparently, most French restaurants, as well as other businesses, operate on quota systems; once they make their daily financial goal, they go home. Granted, some days it takes longer, but if they reach the quota even as early as noon, they take the rest of the day off.

Begrudgingly, as this was overtime, the waiter put our unfinished meals into poodlebags and off we went to eat in a rather deserted Bois de Boulogne. The Parisian evening was fabulous; not a single unsavoury character in sight.

Life is different in Europe. It’s richer precisely because businesses shut down. While some governments have caved in to pressure from certain sectors to be more competitive, the populace is trying to hold onto that which gives fulfilment to life: time off. In Italy, they siesta. In the Czech Republic, all stores close before noon on Saturdays and there’s no Sunday shopping. The French and Germans have no intention of giving up their annual four-to-six-week vacations. Paris and Prague are devoid of locals all summer.

After-hours or 24-hour businesses are not the answer to any vagrancy woes. No one really needs to be downtown at all hours of the night, on any day of the week. No one really needs to eat at 3am or shop on Sundays. Such activities (read: distractions) promote neither community nor social wellbeing. It’s not the people, stupid. It’s the family, and that’s exactly what the Europeans are about.

I withheld the letter writer’s name, basically to protect her from herself.

The missive is full of misinformation – her generalization about the alleged “quotas” (based on one incident at what sounds like a dodgy restaurant) is laughable; nightlife is thriving in Europe; 4 to 6 week vacations have nothing to do with my article; Sunday “blue laws” are fought (and abolished) in Germany and elsewhere in Europe; the “siesta” is a climate necessity, and it means people keep their shops and restaurants open later at night. As for Paris and Prague being “devoid of locals all summer,” what does this have to do with Victoria? The French and the Czech are much more apt to have “synchronized” vacation patterns, and the tradition of taking off for the month of August is a habit of those who can afford it – and not everyone (or every family) can.

I’m especially annoyed by the restrictions of my mandate – I’m obliged to stick very very closely to Victoria-only issues, and am not allowed to stray into anything of universal value, or with a non-“Victoria” angle (which seems to include issues around social media or technology, too – even though they are hugely influential in transforming Victoria at this very moment). Meanwhile, letters by armchair critics who blather on at length about issues unrelated to Victoria (or to the article at hand) get printed, clearly communicating to me that the magazine isn’t on board with what I write either. That’s the bit that’s really wearing me down.

I ask myself more and more frequently these days why I bother writing for and about Victoria at all.

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