January 10, 2008
New Year, New Company
I’m going to be blogging about more personal and pop-cultural matters at my new Wordpress joint, ajkandy.wordpress.com.
Professionally, I’ve launched a new sole proprietorship called Marks & Pixels. I’m specializing in interface design, user experience consulting, usability testing, and presentation design. As of this writing, there’s just a bare-bones site up now, but it’ll fill in very soon.
I’m continuing to work with Ken as a Creative Director on many projects for existing and new clients. If anything, the past year has taught us a lot about how to adapt in order to pursue new opportunities, and I look forward to what 2008 has to bring.
That said, will the last reader please turn out the lights? I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, and it’ll remain here as an archive as long as the electricity still flows.
Cheers, and sayonara,
Posted by aj_kandy at 3:46 AM
October 20, 2007
Given yesterday’s torrential downpour (and bizarrely warm weather — the reported high was 24˚C / 75 F), I decided to purchase Singin’ In The Rain and The Life Aquatic on DVD.
Also, check out the new Wes Anderson flick, The Darjeeling Limited. It rocks, no matter what the critics say.
Posted by aj_kandy at 11:51 AM
October 1, 2007
The culture of flirting and aging gracefully
My good friend Nadia recently blogged about flirting. According to her, “the benign flirt is a kind of kindness and politeness towards the opposite sex […] it keeps things ‘lit up,’ plus we receive smiles, compliments and winks in return…all good for the ego.”
The culture of flirting — of openly looking and receiving a look in return — is something that’s intrinsic to life in Montreal. Often it means nothing, but it’s part of the joy of life here. Other times, a wordless look seems to communicate entire novels. It’s an interplay located in the sweet spot between voyeurism and exhibitionism. Sometimes it’s just about appreciating beauty and style — as David Bowie once sang, “When you’re a boy, other boys check you out.”
I’ve always felt that our longing to look is rooted in the visually rich culture of Catholicism — iconography, art, visual storytelling, architecture, etc. You see the same open flirting, with variations of importance, in Madrid, Paris and Rome. Change the setting to a Presybterian stronghold, however, and a look that lingers a bit too long can provoke a sharp argument.
The culture of looking, to call it that, can be hard to navigate for people from other origins. An acquaintance of mine* from university was a striking woman who was brought up in a strict Mennonite enclave out West. While she still turns heads everywhere she goes — and has quite the hunky boyfriend already — she thinks of herself as unattractive, and protests any declarations to the contrary.
Of course, this may be one of the quirks of Protestant culture — trying to fit in by avoiding sticking out, aka Tall Poppies Syndrome — or attempting to devalue beauty in others by declaring it unwanted. ‘i reject my own beauty; therefore beauty is invalid; If no-one is beautiful, then we’re all even,’ or something like that. I wonder what sort of Style Intervention it’d take for her to realize that it’s OK to be attractive.
As I move into my late 30s, divorced and dating again, flirting’s become more important. I’ve learned to accept some realities — I can look good by dressing better, and look better by exercising. While I can’t compete with 20somethings on the youth stakes, I’ve got light-years more life experience. It is this that allows me to flirt benignly, accept compliments gracefully, and realize when someone truly interesting comes along — our responses are more poised, our filters more precisely tuned.
Meanwhile, a male Quebec City blogger, under the name of Em Ka Be, responds to Nadia’s piece with one of his own, seemingly eulogizing a kind of lack of flirtation in his life, as if some sort of great rift has opened up between men and women in the 30 years since his adolescence.
I’ve heard this story before. Usually, it’s when one of my older buddies starts striking out with women for any number of reasons. From what I’ve seen, letting yourself go, being stuck in the past, or downplaying your own right to be happy / successful all play a part in falling into Enforced Singledom.
To be blunt, aging gracefully is something a lot of men just don’t do well. Women can sense this and they avoid them like patchouli and pleated pants.
Some men are just prematurely old — they get stuck straight into full-on tweed-overcoat-and-cabbie-cap granddad-ness early on and never get out, as some sort of futile anti-style gesture.
Others give up (or never tried) — choosing instead to take the Dark Path into casual athletic leisurewear worn out in public when not engaged in exercise. Or worse - socks with sandals.
At the other extreme, some slide into their 40s while desperately clawing on to their 20s. Recently while dining at Lemeac with a friend, a tragic midlifecrisis-ist walked in wearing flashy white leather rocker duds and wraparound shades that only a 23-year-old could pull off successfully. He was accompanied by an attractive 18-year-old who we presumed was his daughter. “At least she had the decency to look suitably embarrassed on his behalf,” noted my companion.
Another near-50something I know has a perverse grip on a kind of 1980s CEGEP student protestwear look; even though he’s fit and successful, his style vocabulary never progressed beyond the ethnic pillbox hat as a ‘statement’. He’d look fantastic in a tailored suit, but I despair of ever seeing him get one. (He’s also one of those types that eschews cuisine, preferring to think grudgingly of food as fuel, and seems to mostly live in his head; as Sir Ken Robinson called them, the kind of people that use their bodies strictly to transport their heads around to academic conferences.)
Beyond mere issues of style, however, are deeper-rooted insecurities that most men face, especially being single at an age when they feel they should have had a partner and possibly kids.
I think for many, it’s all too easy to fall victim to poor mental habits; a fear of success, call it, that encourages risk-avoidance. Why try for best and risk losing the mediocrity we’ve settled for, goes the reasoning. We devalue ourselves, or become slaves to work; like my old school friend, we can think we’re unattractive even when there’s copious evidence to the contrary, or stay in failing relationships well past their sell-by dates.
After all, if we don’t love ourselves — if we can’t take care of ourselves — how can we convince someone that we can take care of them or anyone else?
As Lisa Jones writes in “Why I’d Date an Older Man,” older men fall into two categories, the ‘attractive bachelor’ and the ‘pathetic single guy;’ — with an exception made for the hot family man who’s strictly hands-off, but still admirable. In essence, at some point you have to choose between being George Clooney or George Costanza.
Jones’ ideal older man embodies elegance and most of all, comfort in his own skin:
- He’s experienced, but not fatherly.
- He’s intelligent, yet hip.
- He’s successful, but not flashy.
- He’s a man who has something to show for his life.
- He’s in shape and healthy.
- He’s stylish, but also age-appropriate.
- He acknowledges his age, but doesn’t focus on it.
- He makes me dream about taking him to bed.
- He knows what he wants. He’s passed the waffling, what-do-I-do? stage. When he wants a woman, he tells her. And not surprisingly, often gets her.
As one of my closest female friends puts it, “There has to be something of the wild man there…someone that looks good in a suit and has good table manners, but is still at heart, untamed.” As they said of Connery’s Bond: Men want to be him, women want to be with him.
September 15, 2007
Can A Shopping Mall Save Griffintown? Find Out At Pecha Kucha Night - Tuesday Sept. 18th
Recently, Quebec developer Devimco partnered with Toronto-based RioCan to build the suburban Quartier Dix30 “lifestyle centre,” a drive-in power-centre big-box shopping mall located in a greenfield development at the intersections of Highways 10 and 30 on the South Shore.
Devimco is now working with the City of Montreal to push through a similar $1B development near the Peel Basin section of the Lachine Canal. The Gazette’s Mary Lamey reported that a parcel of land west of the Bonaventure Expressway and south of Ottawa Street, comprising 18 hectares, was to be developed. By my rough estimate, that would seem to indicate it will be sited on the former Canada Post sorting plant, but also possibly combined with other land adjacent to the Peel Basin itself. Reportedly, Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire are to be anchor tenants. Essentially, it’d span an area from Guy to Peel streets.
A suburban mall at the feet of two of Montreal’s central boulevards, in the middle of Griffintown and adjacent to Old Montreal, ignores both the “retail DNA” of Montreal and the history of a proud neighborhood. It’s anti-urban, representing low density and sprawl, and there is serious doubt that it will contribute positively in terms of built space, eyes on the street, and other issues.
Even if there is a residential tower attached, as the current proposal includes, it’s still likely going to be a lot of cheap car-dealership-style sheds separated by acres of parking lagoons… It’s an odd decision in a neighborhood that is moving towards drastically increased residential density and good urban design, and which is likely to be enhanced by the Harbour Commission’s plans to demolish the elevated portions of the Bonaventure Expressway to create a pedestrian-friendly urban boulevard and tramway links. With Peak Oil on the horizon, are big-box malls of national chain retail even viable, anyway?
We — being Stephanie Troeth and yours truly, AJ Kandy — are proposing an alternative, urbanist vision for the project in a quick six-minute presentation at the upcoming Montreal Pecha Kucha Night, Tuesday, September 18th at the SAT, starting at 8:20pm. We hope to see all of you there, and for those who can’t attend, we’ll be republishing it online with narration, background articles and links, and providing tools for action and discussion.
In the meantime, interested citizens should get in touch with the Sud-Ouest borough mayor’s office about an upcoming series of public consultations on the project.
Originally posted at Urbanphoto.
Posted by aj_kandy at 2:41 PM
September 7, 2007
I’ll subscribe ONLY if they promise lunch with The Kevin himself.
Posted by aj_kandy at 9:24 PM
September 6, 2007
Personal degrees of Kevin Bacon
At tonight’s YULBlog meetup the topic of six-degrees-of-separation came up over and over again. So, from the trivia dept:
I used to take bass lessons with Hansford Rowe a former member of prog-rock-jazz group Gong who lived part-time in Montreal; his actor father, Hansford Rowe Sr, played Leon Bavardage in Bonfire of the Vanities alongside Tom Hanks; and Tom Hanks was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon.
But, you know, we don’t hang out much these days…
Further reading: The small world phenomenon (Wikipedia)
September 5, 2007
bits and bites
- new iPod Nano, Classic and Touch. Sweet.
- Yesterday, someone answered an email I sent via a web form wayyy back in March, and tipped me to an open position at their company…which I’d applied for just the previous Friday.
- I have this strange plant i was given as a housewarming gift ages ago. Every year it seems to die, there’s just a papery bulb left in the soil; then every year, it shoots up this one huge new V-shaped leaf. It just did that last week. sign of renewal?
- I have really strange abstract dreams and never see anyone i know from real life in them. But last week, i had a dream and saw my late maternal grandfather. I’m not big on assigning meanings to these things, but it is interesting.
Posted by aj_kandy at 11:34 AM
August 28, 2007
Photo by JaxPhotography, used under Creative Commons license.
Recent trip to Ikea with blogger friend Zura. As usual, the pilgrimage through the Halls of Temptation was fun, plenty of ideas for the eventual kitchen remodelling I’m going to do.
Once you get to the self-serve warehouse, however, all bets are off. Zura was looking for those wire-basket drawers for her new Pax wardrobes; in the Boucherville store, they’re available in self-serve, but at the Cavendish location, you have to speak to a sales staffer…. all the way back in the Storage department.
Then you need to take the multiple slips and forms and whatnot that they give you down to the cashier, pay for everything, then go to the Immigration Canada-like waiting area where you wait for some bored teenagers to hunt your merchandise down, verify it, and actually hand it over to you.
And wait. and wait. and wait.
If you want to get your merchandise delivered, you have to take your newly received cart of the precioussss over to a completely separate counter where you then fill out even more forms and pay a fee to the transport company.
Inevitably, carts and people pile up in a space that was apparently designed as a last minute “F—- it” afterthought. Why not build something like…I don’t know…an actual car drive-through pick-up? Grocery stores have had this problem licked for decades now.
Why not treat customers to something like the SAS first class lounge while they wait for their order to be picked, so they can then relax, and when their number is called they can leisurely finish their coffee and bun, and go to the drive-thru to pick it up in their car (further avoiding the scramble for pickup parking spots?)
Is this fun? Is this easy? And what’s with all the paperwork? Why isn’t there just some sort of integrated system? Why can’t I pay (using credit or debit) up in a different section, say, kitchens or storage, get a receipt, and just leave?
At a certain point, the hassle of going to Ikea outweighs any sort of ‘value for money’ considerations. I try to order online whenever possible, but even that seems stuck in a 1980s dot-matrix timewarp, because once the order is placed, someone phones you to complete the order. That’s like 1982, when people would call to ask if that fax went through…
Not only that, but often the telephone staff are clueless about what you’re trying to buy. When I purchased my Bonde cabinets for my dining room, I asked them specifically if the mirrored bar insert would fit in the unit I was buying - the one with a central vertical brace so you can make 12 cubbyholes. They assured me it did, but when everything arrived it was apparent that it actually fits in a different model of cabinet, necessitating a return trip to the store to get a refund — sadly, I can’t get money back for my wasted time.
How hard would it be to include a little information notice in the online store, to the effect of, “fits inside model XXX-XXX-XXX only”, with a hyperlink and photo of said piece? Many other websites use this: it’s called cross-selling. Show compatible accessories, sell more items…
And furthermore, what’s with certain things not being available for online purchase? When I bought a full-length Hovet mirror, I was informed I had to go to the store, buy it there, then arrange for delivery myself…essentially, spend 30-40 minutes or more getting there, picking the mirror from the warehouse, going 50 feet to the checkout, then going another 50 feet to the delivery area, waiting in line and filling out forms? Does Ikea think this is “common sense”, as their ads say? — having their customers pay for the privilege of being glorified warehouse stock-pickers, and to drive several miles, in order to move merchandise a total of 100 feet?
I know that the ‘central’ Ikea operation and the franchisees who run the stores are separate, but the customer doesn’t care about that. To us, it’s all one big blue-and-yellow machine and it ought to just work the way we think it ought to work, not the way that’s convenient for someone else.
If they sell it, it ought to be online, and we should be able to order it online and have it delivered — no hassle, no extra paperwork. With their volume of sales, surely the cost of paperwork and IT integration could be covered by tiny, imperceptible price increases across the catalog…a nickel here, a dime here. Surely they could do something smart - say, integrate a smart chip into their Ikea credit cards that stores your purchase history and address details.
Overall it’d more economical for the customers, and more ecologically friendly, to have a dozen trucks making multiple deliveries, vs. 1000s of cars coming to Ikea every day.
so…while it pains me to say this…. I’m just going to boycott Ikea until they get this sorted out.
In the meantime, while it may be pricier, I encourage you all to shop at local stores making sustainable furniture right here in Quebec (plenty on St-Laurent just below Mont-Royal), or check out the wonderful array of stores with vintage modern pieces on Amherst…or why not recycle a vintage piece with new upholstery?
August 27, 2007
A slew of updates and tidbits
• Man’s man, ladies’ man, man-about-town Alston Adams (aka Jonas Parker) is in recovery from his 6.5hr surgery for esophageal cancer today. Our thoughts are with him and Julie, and if you want to lend some moral support, join our Facebook group.
• It’s been a very strange year. I don’t usually delve into personal matters here on the blog, but my wife and I separated about a year ago; I got together with and broke up with the same person twice in the interim, and I’ve been just dating since then. The biggest morale-booster: repainting and decorating the bedroom. Make of that what you will.
• It’s been a very strange year, volume II. Technically, I don’t work for King Marketing anymore. I’m still working with with Ken on projects for existing and new clients, and I’ll continue to write things here, but I’ve started my own specialized practice in presentation design / coaching — Marks & Pixels, Inc. (website in the works.)
In the meantime, if you’ve dealt with me through King Marketing or Ken, please continue to do so, and if not, why not get in touch?
Posted by aj_kandy at 10:18 PM
July 30, 2007
You know you spend too much time in Photoshop when...
You’re in the Finder and you select a group of file folders, expecting you can right-click on them and create a new Layer Group to store them in…
Posted by aj_kandy at 11:57 PM
June 26, 2007
AJ Kandy is...
an Animated Designer.
which makes sense since I’m working on a motion graphics project right now.
June 27, 2006
Did you see this?
Right at the end of CTV’s broadcast of The Colbert Report, when he was talking about Highlights magazine, the satellite feed jittered for a second and there was a really weird freeze-frame from Colbert’s “The Word” segment — with graphics overlaid, including - i kid you not - strange hypno-rays coming from his eyes, and parts of the broadcast graphics (like the bullet points) circled in red.
What was this? Part of the satellite feed that we’re not supposed to see?
If anyone Tivo-ed it, can you get a frame grab and post it?
Posted by aj_kandy at 12:58 AM
April 26, 2006
Cultural literacy: seen these movies? (via Kottke)
Jumping on a meme here, via Jason Kottke:
Film critic Jim Emerson recently compiled a list of 102 movies that you should see before you can consider yourself movie literate. How well do you score?
Here’s my list: 54 out of 102. I guess I’m only semi-literate then. I have a membership at Boite Noire, I have no excuse.
Items in italics are ones I have yet to see. So now I have 48 excuses for movie dates.
2001: A Space Odyssey
The 400 Blows
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
All About Eve
The Battleship Potemkin
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Big Red One
The Bicycle Thief
The Big Sleep
Bonnie and Clyde
Bringing Up Baby
Un Chien Andalou
Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis
A Clockwork Orange
The Crying Game
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Days of Heaven
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Do the Right Thing
La Dolce Vita
E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial
The Empire Strikes Back
The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II
Gone With the Wind
A Hard Day’s Night
It’s a Gift
It’s a Wonderful Life
The Lady Eve
Lawrence of Arabia
Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior
The Maltese Falcon
The Manchurian Candidate
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Night of the Hunter
Night of the Living Dead
North by Northwest
On the Waterfront
Once Upon a Time in the West
Out of the Past
Rebel Without a Cause
The Rules of the Game
The Scarlet Empress
The Seven Samurai
Singin’ in the Rain
Some Like It Hot
A Star Is Born
A Streetcar Named Desire
The Third Man
Touch of Evil
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Trouble in Paradise
West Side Story
The Wild Bunch
The Wizard of Oz
January 5, 2006
Goals for 2006
- Write more. Blog more often. I've really fallen off on keeping this blog updated, because I have a tendency to write longer pieces and be a bit too perfectionist about it. The appeal of blogs is that they are semi-permanent records of transient thoughts, so this part of the goal is basically to jot down thoughts, get them up and edit later, not get hung up over their fitness to be committed to the Pantheon of classic texts. On the other side of the equation, I wrote a few articles for TheCreativeForum.com last year that were fairly well-received, and I'm committed to writing one a month now.
- Become a better designer. As with writing, it's all too easy for me to get hung up over doing that elusive 'one perfect design' when doing faster, rougher, iterative work often serves our clients' needs better.That said, I didn't really stretch my design skills last year - working methods, inspirations, techniques - and building those "design muscles" is something I'm going to invest serious time in.
- Grow the business(es). KMA+C is the core business right now, but our goal was always to spin that out as a resource for a string of interesting new business opportunities. We've launched version 0.0001 of Enablr.com, and you'll see quite a few more interesting, and hopefully surprising, things coming from us this year. (And watch for our expanded portfolio section soon.)
- Get in better shape. Anyone who spends upwards of 10+ hours a day in front of a screen needs to get outside more. My poor bike sat on the rack all year in 2005, and while some dietary changes helped me lose some weight, I want to get better core strength, lower my cholesterol, and build some upper-body tone (clicking the mouse doesn't count)
- Save money. 2005 was the year of unforeseen expenses which didn't help - funerals, airfare etc - but on a personal level, I could have been much more frugal. I'm aiming to simplify my life considerably this year anyway, so I'm really going to consider whether I need something or not before the wallet comes out.
- Read more fiction. I read a little too much non-fiction - probably an ongoing reaction to the aftermath of 9/11 and how it polarized the world and North American politics - I think I need a good dose of high imagination now.
- Make better friends of the friends I have. I've met many fantastic people in the past few years, particularly in the Montreal blogging community, that I see regularly in social contexts, but that I haven't spent a lot of one-on-one time with; I hope 2006 means doing more fun stuff together, and me talking less, listening more.
- Relax and recharge regularly. I think we all found 2005 to be a hectic, stressful free-for-all where it was hard to balance work and life. I'm now going to make balance in my life by better organizing, and in a sense reclaiming, my time. When you work from a home office, it's far too easy to blur the lines between work and home time until they become meaningless, and it affects both your productivity and your ability to have a real life. Getting physical office space this year is one part of it, and instituting positive uses of time is another. For example, my friend Christina Hagopian of hagopian ink created "de-plug Fridays," where she shuts off the computer at noon and gets out, taking time to recharge creatively: Taking a walk, spending the afternoon with friends and colleagues, going to a play, a concert, the museum. It's something that focuses, contrasts, and ultimately gets more productivity out of the hours you work the rest of the week, in my view.
What are your goals for 2006?
July 5, 2005
Ben + Pat
Benita's father, Benedict Gronek, died at the end of June after a long struggle with cancer. He'd been a long-time chain smoker, but was paradoxically strong and healthy most of the time - he'd bike everywhere on an old one-speed, up hills, long distances. A sometimes painter, Beat aficionado and Charles Bukowski devotee, Ben lived most of his early life in Chicago's Bucktown and Wicker Park neighborhoods, which were until recently very ethnic, low-rent, bohemian areas. His family were Polish immigrants; his parents divorced early on and his mother remarried. His biological father wasn't very involved in his upbringing; he's still alive, in his 90s, in Florida somewhere.
I only met Ben a handful of times; he was weathered, with a big Stalinist moustache (as Eddie Izzard would put it). He had a dark, sarcastic sense of humour and while he lived a bohemian life, he had high standards and could be harshly critical of people or things he didn't approve of. Parenthood never really suited him, to put it mildly, and his roller-coaster marriage to Benita's mom broke up after only a few years.
With few to no living relatives in town, we opted for a simple cremation and no service; we took his ashes down from Madison, WI to the cemetery in the Chicago suburbs where his mother and stepfather are buried, and planted a flower. Nothing can prepare you for receiving someone's ashes; it's hard to reconcile your memories of a person, their whole life, everything they were and did, with the knowledge that they are somehow transmogrified into the contents of an incongruously heavy black box.
Benita's mother Patricia died almost 11 months earlier, to the day. She was almost completely the opposite of Ben: she was Southern, friendly, cheerful and uncomplicated, though under the surface, she struggled with various personal demons. She had recently converted to Catholicism and worked in a parochial school. She had a great affection for the late, sainted Princess Diana, and read a lot of celebrity magazines; I suppose she still hoped her life would turn out like a happy Hollywood fairy-story. She lived in Madison but was laid to rest in her family plot back in Ponca City, Oklahoma.
In writing this I only realize how little I really know about these people, beyond the stories Benita has told me; it wasn't a happy home to grow up in by any means. I feel eternally lucky to have two very stable, loving, supporting and relatively happily married parents. They weren't perfect parents, but they always encouraged my brother and I to explore, to learn, to try things and ultimately, to do what made us the most happy.
Posted by aj_kandy at 2:32 PM
September 28, 2004
Buying a home: avoiding the pitfalls
Lightspeedchick is starting her search for a new place, buying for the first time. So, M-J, here are some notes from our friends and our own buying experience in the extended post body, if you find them helpful.
GET A BUYER'S AGENT
The buyer's agent is important because they can do faster, more powerful and up-to-the-minute property searches than the stuff you may find on MLS.ca or on other listings -- they get them before they are posted to MLS so you have a better chance of finding a place you really like in the neighborhood you want. Still, MLS is useful for getting an idea of neighborhoods and prices and the type of housing stock available.
GET A GOOD INSPECTOR
We used Amerispec for our inspection and we were a bit disappointed in their service -- they noted some things, but completely failed to notice things such as leaking / broken U-bends under both the kitchen and bathroom sinks. We also ater found out that the basement's sump pump was completely encased in tree roots that had cracked the foundation in their search for water! So your mileage may vary -- someone that comes with recommendations from friends is probably a good bet, over picking someone at random from the Yellow Pages.
Be aware of things that require periodic maintenance like roof membranes and asphalt if you live in a flat-roofed building, for example, that need to be redone every 10 years or so to maintain their integrity: the inspector should be able to let you know when you'll need to do this.
EXISTING VS. BUYING ON SPEC
It's better, definitely, to buy an existing place than something unbuilt. As we found out when our condos on Garnier + Mont-Royal failed to materialize, sometimes the funding falls through, or the company is shady, or just have a bad track record in project management. So do your research!
If you do buy unbuilt, make sure any deposit cheques are held in escrow by a notary until delivery -- we didn't have a notary at the time, and the construction outfit we had been dealing with, Habitations D3 (also does business as Altima Construction) cashed our cheque, which is against common practice, and we had to chase them down to get the money back after their vaporware condos failed to materialize -- they had sold over 100 units without a clear title to the land they wanted to build on!
NEWER VS. OLDER
Wherever you buy, there will always be the choice of older vs. newer buildings. Newer usually means less electricity costs thanks to better insulation, and construction techniques which provide better soundproofing. If you're tired of living in a creaky, loud, wooden place where your neighbors might as well be in your living room, newer is the way to go. But usually, new places lack architectural detailing like moldings, hardwood floors etc -- so they can seem a bit flat and dull. The ideal situation is a renovated older place with new windows and insulation, in my view, but they are also the hardest to find, so when looking, you'll have to choose your priorities.
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
If you choose a place in a low-rise, mixed-use building with ground-floor retail, be aware of the store's line of business, hours and clientele. For example, if there's a high-traffic store like a depanneur or restaurant underneath, be prepared to live with with noise, smells, cars, lots of delivery trucks, etc.
Even living close to a high-traffic area like a stadium, school, shopping center or bridge (as you well know) can be a drag.
In order to gauge this, be sure to visit the place or the area at different times of the week or day -- not just on Open House Sundays when it's quietest. Monday morning and Friday afternoon rush hours, around 9pm or midnight, noon, etc.
There also might be other businesses in the immediate neighborhood that may affect your enjoyment of the property -- living in a 'light industry' area as we do, with the Robin Hood flour plant, a paper mill, caleche stables and a meat-packing plant within 2 blocks of us, there is a lot of truck traffic and occasionally, a distinct...horsiness in the air. For example, we have a commercial film studio behind us, who, the other day, decided to start their loading-dock operations at 3am; it's one of those things the seller neglected to mention.
Not to say that industry is bad, but if it is there, ask other people in the neighborhood or building (NOT the vendor) if they find it bothersome, and it's worth Googling the company name to see if there have ever been complaints.
RENOVATIONS: KITCHENS AND BATHROOMS
If you buy a place with the idea of renovating until it looks like something from Metropolitan Home, the one thing I can say is try to find a place with a really good kitchen and bathroom already in place, because these are the most expensive parts of a house to renovate. At the very least, watch out for strange layouts, because redoing wires and plumbing is a costly pain in itself. Estimate on $5-$10K with labour per room if you plan on chic-ifying it -- so the less you have to do here, the better.
If there is a Jacuzzi tub, check it out thoroughly - generally, they have a tendency to accumulate mildew around the intakes etc, and there's always the problem of bacterial buildup in the filtration system. If it was never maintained, you may end up having to chuck the whole thing out.
THE CONDO BOARD
If you're looking at a condo, get a full rundown of the condo board meeting minutes, condo agreement and financials. You don't want to walk into a situation where someone hasn't been paying their dues, leaving the condo board cash-strapped for maintenance and repairs. Sometimes you may find absentee landlords who rent out their units to people that treat them like student apartments, so in that case it's important to get to know both the tenant and the owner.
INTEREST RATES + DEBT RATIOS
Nothing's worse than finding that perfect place and then getting turned down for the mortgage! Banks calculate your ability to get a mortgage based on two debt ratios, the Gross Debt Service (GDS) and Total Debt Service (TDS) - on is more the essentials, mortage plus regular payments etc, and the other includes other debt such as lines of credit. For example, for a CMHC-insured mortgage (where the down payment is less than 25%) these ratios are usually 32% and 40%, respectively.
You can usually check these using bank's online calculators. If your ratio isn't initially favourable, you can try adjusting it by lowering your credit limits. Assuming you have a good credit rating, you can always raise them again later on.
One thing worth knowing is that mortgages are likely to be the 'cheapest' money you'll have in your lifetime; you can easily take more time to pay it off if you need to. If you can swing it, think about adding a little extra to your mortgage amount to pay off credit cards etc. - you will in effect be consolidating your debt under a much friendlier interest rate.
BUYING TO LIVE VS. INVESTING
The general advice is, unless you really plan on moving again in 2-3 years, buy because you love the place and the neighborhood. That alone will probably ensure that you can get your money back if you ever decide to sell. If you buy purely for market speculation, there is always the chance that some event (the price of oil, politics, interest rates) will cool the market off completely -- so you'd better be happy with what you bought.
Hope that helps, and good hunting!
July 20, 2004
Momus (aka Nick Currie), the postmodern David Bowie of our times, spends a hell of a lot of time in Japan. In this excellent piece, he carefully, lovingly deconstructs minor elements of social interaction and outlook, most of which underly the cultural differences between Japan and the West.
According to Currie, Japan's collectivist, role-based society is in reality much flatter and egalitarian (although it appears very hierarchical to our eyes) than our fragmented, unequal one. The difference is in our expectations and how we approach our social roles. If you are a janitor here, it is a pretty low ranking job. You dream of doing something better. In Japan, you are The Janitor. You embrace the role and do it to the best of your ability. And society confers not just legitimacy, but superlegitimacy on that role. Currie calls it a positive upward spiral, compared to the vicious cycle of disappointment and anomie that usually occurs in the West when we find out we all can't be astronauts and superheroes.
August 13, 2003
In the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of these Oh! Canada kits were distributed to schools across the land by the Commissioner of Official Languages.
It was a surprisingly effective bid to create a sense of Canadian-ness in kids by showing them the whole Great Span of our Nation and to show them that learning the Other Official Language (depending on where you lived) was actually fun. The kit included a board game about travelling across Canada, a 45rpm record that taught basic French-English vocabulary, and the Oh! Canada comic book (drawn by Madeline Kronby, who readers of a certain age will remember from the beloved CBC kids show Chez Helene).
The comic book followed the adventures of a bunch of kids and teens who accidentally end up flying across Canada in an all-terrain bathtub (at one point, it even went underwater) made by a crazy inventor uncle. They went from the East Coast to the West Coast and even up North, discovering regional differences and learning English and French along the way. (I seem to remember the oldest teenage girl of the group discovering romance in Montreal...)
If you have one of these stashed away or extras for sale...let me know.
Posted by aj_kandy at 1:26 PM