Opus of Prince Arthur and St. Laurent, No. 03

Movement 1, (“September 20”)

it’s saturday night and im here without you again
a psychic wanders the street, a dollar for your questions
and I wonder why he’s wandering the streets
if he can’t see his own future, how will he see mine?
what about the firedancer, amassing a crowd
she hula hoops a ring of fire
and the passersby stare
with her grace, she manages not to burn herself
like a ballerina
the ants scurry in spurts
some on one corner, some on another
all go in different directions
but end up in the same place
limousines roll down, but they carry no one important
hummers noisify the block but the people inside will never leave the city
some ants take respite from the work,
pulling up tables and chairs at the 24 hour coffee shop
french, english, arabic, une mélange extraordinaire
a police car sits across one corner, waiting for trouble
but the only thing flocking to these corners
are girls, lots of them, beautiful
dressed to the nines,
but none of them hold a candle to your light
not even the firedancers.

in the sip of my orangina
two couples make their home at the table in front of me
the psychic makes his prediction
while a trendsetting young blackman’s dreadlocks match those of his girlfriend’s
i think of the talk we had earlier in the day
how tempting the girls at the cashier are,
dancing to the repetative one-twos
but their shallowness will never cut it for me
they’re going on dates from club to club, bar to bar
she wears a mcgill hoodie, he wears a fake curious george shirt
the ants mass without queen
cluster here, cluster there
escalade limousine but a no name appears
ferraris, porsches
people who’ve got money and want to show it

and im thinking of you
and the fire dancer
i cant see across the sea of people
as i stare in the plateglass window at my reflection
and i hope that ill see you through the glass
in ten minutes they’re gone
in a half hour, no one’s left this corner
bikers pop wheelies
a pack of girls ready to go out and get picked up
an hour later, the psychic’s still out there
swinging his pendant, your question for a dollar
i should only be able to ask him about us
is it real or am i just jaded by my love

the crowd is there but diminished
they’re probably all in the clubs having the times of their lives
but me I worry about you
Tokyo, Saphir, Lucifer…
chic yuppie places, as they say in french
But that’s not you
No 75 dollar shirt that you buy for five dollars at a t-shirt shop
“Best ass” contest- 5000$ at club millenium
Yours worth more than a million dollars
115 and the bums are counting their change

people petering out of the corner
the psychic was still there
some high priced functionary without a job is willing to slip a 20 to know about his girlfriend
mass exodus come 3am and the corner is alive
pizza and shish taouks for some
expensive drinks and cheap eats
the next day’s cleanup never saw
fewer ants than before
the newspaper reading ants, the business ants, and the 120 dollar torn-sweatshirt ants
all these make me yearn for my ant
the sun-dried little man, the hideous woman whose misshapen figure causes all the guys to shutter
she rolls her shirt under her bustline but it makes things worse

And yet, this corner-
this coffee shop, these banks, the restaurants and
the ants-
makes my pen bleed for you…

20 Sept 2003

Movement 2, (“October 18”)

start it off with a giant inflatable dildo
being carried by a group of girls out for a night of debauchery
and Ms. High-Class complains her hot cider is too hot
1132 and i miss you
tonight was the Habs-Leafs game
reminded me of my first year when they came from Toronto
drink themselves silly at Peel Pub or
Club Supersexe
ragging about the french, wondering why the dislike
naturally this leads the inclination
that despite 3 degree weather,
drunks have no fear of being assholes
i miss that shit, i miss last week’s conversation
about liquor and about

passing me by on my reflecting Saturday
where have all the firedancers gone?
the psychic? did he forsee himself back on this corner or was it not in the cards?

another group of tight-jeaned girls leave the coffee shop
and i notice it’s mostly girls of the sorts
that hang around
merely drawing attention to the fact that they don’t want to be pieces of meat
and the “Best Ass” billboard is now Armani perfumes
i think of you, i think of Pear Glace and fruity shampoos
that i used last week
the cold has sent people inside
and the vapid Armani-ites pop in and out
a limo pulls up and I expect to know who’s the star
like it’s brad pitt or angelina jolie back to see us
alas, no,
it’s quickly replaced by the armoured truck carrying money.
the ants’ money.
some song i don’t hear plays the radio and keeps the barristas busy watching more women
but it’s blacked out in my headphones with a minor-keyed song
the ants form in clusters

and that girl I wanted to ask out two years ago
she walks in
she changed my life but she’ll never know
You, I tell it to every day
that cluster is gone
but within minutes, a new one appears-
-this one looks like they’ve been roaming around the city, they wear colours that don’t belong in this city.
behind them is a stream of cars because no one is walking as much in the cold.
ferraris, porsches, souped up, tricked out miatas or civics.
they all look the same though, big cars, tiny dicks.
or, they’re in their taxis
if it was okay to never worry about money…

a camera takes life as we want to be seen
happy and good times
for it was said that no one wants a picture of sad
maybe that’s why it’s been so long since i took any

i hear pounding bass
but it’s rather monotonous
and her stockings are half fishnet, half full
and she grips the back of his coat to let everyone else know
he’s got glamstar glasses
some fashion just loses common sense
take the bum who, earlier, walked in with a shaggy mullet and stained jeans
i bet he wasn’t thinking about the money truck though
bald black guy walks in, gold earrings in each ear
and eyes another guy’s girl,
like there’s so many
but with his cell phone earpiece, he looks like a bouncer
maybe i could follow him back to his club,
but i would want you to be dancing with me
usually i don’t go to clubs
goddamn that bass
but with You I welcome the invitation to sweat and sensuality.

i can’t help but wonder about the winter months when the temperature is so cold out
the coffee line has died down
the tables and chairs are inside
we don’t get to see leaves changing colours often
the ones that do though, they’re magical
add another Armani SUV and billboard
and maybe we have our own type of automne.
you left and I wonder how you are, where you are and where you’ve been
where the masses have gone in one month.
last month’s dynamic was the same and different, like this corner is all year
1235 into another Sunday and those who came to party
put on beer jackets
along with the aboriginal bum picking change off the street
and girls in halter tops shivering because they rejected one too many guys and have no one to walk home with them
there goes the October nightcap
-they just didnt realise this time
when the snow hits, so does the game
when will they learn, when will I learn?
that sometimes transition comes full circle like these seasons, and back to each other
like this corner-
this coffee shop, these banks, the resturants and
the ants-
make my pen bleed for you…

18 Oct 2003

Movement 3, (“November 22”)

i switched pens
and i was a little bit late this evening
on my way home from Subway I was stopped
three times
people noticed my jersey and asked me the score
I love the fans and it reminds me of the specialness I found in three blocks

three police vans station themselves where people usually gather
I again hear the bass I would normally hear
from above
and I know you’ve already gone to sleep this night
It’s pleasantly warm for this time of year
As christmas decorations go up and we’ve yet to have first snowfall
The cheesy Janet Jackson song plays on the coffee shop radio
A biker whizzes by outside

yes, I’m late tonight
was struggling to be happy with myself, ever struggling
Saturday nights are never the same without you
And spending them differently serves to show me what I miss in myself is you

it’s a splendid little night out, but
the crowds have shrunk
those Escalades still remain though
and taxis multiply like guppies, swimming through St. Laurent traffic
the line at the shop here is one
where did all those rich people go?
the ones I saw flocked outside Exit and London last night?

there goes a gaggle of Americans
It’s clear they’re not from this city
Just look at the way they dress, all sloppy

this one girl walked in sporting a poppy on her jacket
11 days ago was Remembrance Day and
Yet every day for me is Remembering you

the line of police vans is whittled down to one-
-now none
they’ve all gone to protect and serve
I wish there were police to serve my heard and protect it from pain
the barista is cute; she made my vanilla frappe
the daytime one is cuter though
But definitely not as much as you

Although the corner is empty now, it makes me think
One month from now, we’ll be reunited
Does it matter

Two tables behind me, an old man with buckteeth and the worst overbite I’ve ever seen
ah… there’s some capitalist bastards now
cute girls, but how bout the idea of free market socialism?
my roommate’s studying “the structures situated behind the manubrium of the sternum”
it reminds me of high school anatomy, when my life was simpler
but the radio plays “Another One Bites the Dust”
Here comes the moving billboard/

Best ass contest is back
So is Paul Oakenfold.
I thought it was Oakenfeld.  Maybe not.
Where are the bums, have they taken refuge?
Flown south for the winter
I wish I could fly south, but to be with you again
A group stands around taking pictures of each other taking swigs from the bottle of wine.

Alas walked some excitement into this otherwise dreary night
A group of pompom carrying women walk in, one of whom is veiled
They’re easily identified as a wedding party and obvious who is the bride.
I’ve been blinded by love, but those clichés exist because of time-tested truths
Makes me think ahead to my own marriage
In due time, in due time…

The line’s resteadied even though the ant clusters have all but disappeared
Extinct like the grasshopper or the guy who smacked his girl’s ass?
Ou sont les montréalais de souche?
What happened to this city
What happened to the life and the vivacity?
I love the sight of your breath
The crispness of gaits
The shifts of wardrobes changes this city-
who goes where and when,
who has money and how
once again back to nothing

All the words I’ve said ring my truths
and I wish you could ring these truths back too
rather than leave the corner with nothing
even when I imagine us walking the corner together one saturday
but maybe it’s because I changed my pens tonight
It often happens this way
Because this corner-
this coffee shop, these banks, the resturants and
the ants-
Make my pen bleed for you…

22 Nov 2003

Movement 4, (“December 20”)

This day I jetsetted around the world
To escape the frigid temperatures and snowy winters
It used to snow here and I
Used to build snow fords
Sledding around the front lawn
But weather’s blown caution to the wind
Yet another transformation in this season of life
I came home and I’m closer to you
But now you’re not even here
Can’t help but wonder who is winning that Best Ass Contest
Has it taken them this long?
Subzero temperatures have not stopped the ants
No hibernation
Though I’m home away from home
That corner-
the coffeeshop, the banks, the restaurants and
the ants-
Make my pen bleed for you

20 Dec 2003

Movement 5, (“January 17”)

Another cop car on the corner
And despite subzero temperatures, no one’s hidden
Alcohol infusion keeps warm and security on this corner
I’ve missed you so much since the last and I now know the name of the girl behind the counter
Her story intriguing and gives me the “VIP discount”
Coupes and taxis continue their ramps in the frozen snow covered streets
This week’s temperature was -40
Like my insides
You were supposed to be here this week
You were supposed to use this space to write this chapter with me
But left me with a pen and blank pages

Four months ago, there were firedancers and psychics
Beats pound the coffeeshop
363 St-Laurent
Girls wearing tight jeans and fur-lined jackets
Attache ta tuque my dear
Not the one who wondered why her mini skirt was cold
131 is the middle of this night and
When temperatures raise, fear of this life subsides
Walk out in the cold, lose none of this
Wrapped in blankets or scarves

I’ve kind of infused myself into this shop
And Chantelle and I discuss music across the counter
My interview with the second biggest British band tomorrow
Talk about Coldplay and “Green Eyes,”
My second Coldplay discussion of the day
A bum with a beard walks in
Mucus running from his nose down his lips and across dirt encrusted and frozen facial hair
He disappeared into the washroom, but hasn’t come back yet
Winter hasn’t lost its beauty
Ants still scurry around, the 363 comes for another pass
Those in flimsy jackets and Michelin Man parkas
Leave me pondering the outcome of the Best Ass Contest
A Cadillac limo and a Bocawear bum who scrounged enough to buy himself a coffee
She gets his p’tit cafe while he looks like he’s never seen a girl
I would have to agree with his assessment of her
For now, she’s my “depot girl”
Scurry scurry

The few flakes that flutter down dont stop high class or low class from spending their money
True, this is not August, but neither are my feelings
A month ago, I was so close to you
So far away
Others of mine went to Queue Leu Leu
Where I danced with another, two months ago
Toy with my thoughts
Obsessive little scribbles on unlined pages
At a coffeeshop in -20.

Studio XXX
Danse Contact
8 Ste-Catherine est
Replaces the Best Ass Contest, though I don’t know if the two are linked
Bear down with a slicked ponytail swaggers in
He’s most likely not as drunk as cocky
Another indigen comes with his recorder
What I fail to see is how one can wear short-sleeves
What I fail to see is the crosswalk in the middle of this intersection

I commented to you on U2’s “One” this week
And how it haunts me through life
As of late, Bono serenades me
“You act like you’ve never had love
And want me to live without”
It plays now and reminds me
I’m always reminded of you here
And yet, your’re not here
Never here, never no more
Lines in, lines out and a drunk girl falls in the snow puddle
And after a visit from friends, I revel in solitude

George gets up to leave
Attache ta tuque bleue, George!
Queue has resurfaced as the ants shuffle around before they go afterhours
No cause for the future, no cause for concern
To live in the present, I could use these ants to teach a lesson
Not to rely on my feelings for you
Or her
Or anyone else who follows the rest of these ants

High style Jews, JAPS,
Party after Shabbos
Baby Blue Timberland boots
Button-down striped shirt eats a muffin but drools over the black girl’s large ass
Maybe she won the contest
But it’s not just her and he does more than just stare
You were supposed to be here for me to stare at
For me to kiss
And though she’s gone through her own heartaches,
Chantelle can’t help but think, “Bitch”

And the weird man whom I’ve seen here before
Stares at me like he’s stared creepily at me before
Long queue again
And she gives me another green tea on my way out
I tip her like always
Magic reminder of thoughtfulness
Think of you like this corner-
this coffeeshop, these banks, the restaurants and
the ants-
Make my pen bleed for you

17 January 2004

Movement 6, (“February 21”)

Slush filled darkness abounds
On the ground and in my heart
We’re going on a warm snap and it’s okay not to have a scarf
Left the party early to find this spot,
The place I always come back to
I was supposed to leave here for another city
And in twelve months time, who knows if I’ll end up there
Two cop cars parked in puddles
And although everyone is gone, this is no ghost town
No, it’s as if this city thawed its cold veins and bled the life I feel for you
No tuque, no Chantelle
Police officer having friendly conversation with the owner expressed in the motions of his hands

The ants crowd on the corner while exhaust fumes from jeeps
Have I run out of things to say; have I lost my voice?
Rather, I heard the blind recorder woman on Peel and Ste- Catherine was told to leave her spot
Rarely in this city can you trust whom you give your change to
The strains of her recorder notes were always something illiciting coins from my pocket
Her name is Louise
While the ants flock here in the evening, they pass her every day on their tasks
Enter the man who always finds and loses money
Chantelle had a conversation with him in French a few weeks ago
Suspect he went in there on a hypodermic mission

Four cute girls walk in, and another three follow
Their demeanour suggests first-year university students
Struck by the redheads who’ve made me smile and wave back
Oddly enough, they’ve decided to make their way over
It’s interesting how the written word brings people together
More scribbles through their inquisition of my doings
And I’ve been reaffirmed of their statuses
Funny how the name of the game changes after introducing yourself
I’ve hit instant celebrity, being nicknamed, pictures taken, their words in my book…

“Ode to Spence-dog
Here ye, here ye,
you da COOLEST;
and thee bestest
thas dost ever
-Trinity + Virgin Mary

They’ve lost interest and gone out the door to home
A couple has watched their fawning over me and laughed
The ponytail man’s female “companion” has hobbled in on her cane, probably to shoot up with him
Chantelle says she’s found their needles in the bathroom

These girls aren’t coming back
They went out into the crowd with the rest of the ants,
Ephemeral like a flower
It forces me to wonder what causes things to leave and never return
What holds the nature of the universe to be like this?
Wonder if you’ll ever return to me
Cute and enebriated
The look on the barrister’s face said it all
And the woman who was staring at me talking to those girls
Notices the way I stare when I observe
Recall my “observing” your eyes, your smile
Eminem plays on the radio but will he be playing in 40 years
Reminds me of my roommate who’s gone home
Or my former roommate and his friend, who have come home here to roost for the weekend

The ants have dispersed
The 363 makes another pass up St-Laurent
And I have yet to see the requisite moving sexual billboard
Fur coat, tight jeans, pink scarf over her head, white stillettos and cigarette
White Escalade EXT pick up, souped up
Rolls by, tinted windows down for bastards to hoot
Guillaume assumed I’d known the girls and casually observes that visually the guy goes over
I’ve never been the guy to go over
If that was my nature, I’d maybe not be the guy to sit in coffee shops on saturday nights
Snowball fight!
Attention mes amis!
Two guys stand out, arms flailing to the homme cache down the street

The sirens go off, the lights flash
Traffic is backed up for the police cars to get through
Alcohol fuelled rant gone awry
The man from the laundromat sees me as he walks by and stops, backtracks, and waves to me in the window
Now there’s an ambulance, now a fire truck
And the coffee guy of old, Thobey, came in telling me it was because of a fight in the pizza place next door
As always, it’s the Americans causing the ruckus

Rachel has left for the end of the party
Reflect on warmer weather, vacations never taken, girls flocking, et ayant besoin de toi
For even through “celebrity,” this corner-
this coffeeshop, these banks, the restaurants and
the ants-
Make my pen bleed for you

21 February 2004

Movement 7, (“March 27”)

At 127, the 363 has stopped at the traffic light
And I don’t deny this night any different than other months
Denim cut low with Paracuso shirt to match a blonde hair
Haven’t seen you in months and the feeling still lingers
Something else is different in the air, a sense you never cared
Like the crispness that cuts through a warming spring air
I think en francais
American spring breakers traipsing the streets, jacketless with brown paper bags
More girls tell me to study
But I study the ants as they meet in full force
Through taxi fields and valet service

I’ve listened to these same songs month after month- I remain convinced not everything changes in life
Didn’t want things to change
Didn’t make it this way
But for this slight pause in the action
One girl uses someone else’s legs to walk
At one point, there are no people on the corner
And I think of a zen koan possibility-

with the millions of stars in the universe, is there any fraction of a second where none of them shine?

is there an infinitessimal period where I am not alone,
parmi les fourmis?

shift to techno beats at 159 am

But not as many people tonight
And where did Chantelle go, she was just here
I still think about where you are and who you’re with
Why things during the cold months seemed so dynamic
And why the reality has been that the action is continuous
Stepping back to notice when you throw yourself into the sea
I have died and come back
A black man with a Kangol wool hat on a cell phone
Post-club stumble once, stumble twice and explain the meaning of life over a cell phone
Green and blue blinking lights must have cost a fortune
I helped a man in french, use wireless internet to find a bus schedule.
Parfois les riches deviennent plus riches et les pauvres deviennent plus pauvres
No long lines here
With the nice weather, everyone’s out
Tomorrow I wait with a different group of ants for playoff tickets, creating memories not to be forgotten

The daytime barista walks in, swipes a cookie
And flashing police vans whiz down the prohibited street
237 and the evening ends for many
As I see the girls I saw going out in the evening commencement
My friend Rachel stops in
-little Rachel-
Finding that I’m online, she inquires to add me to her buddylist.
Things I think about:

Will the internet become obsolete?
What if depth perception never existed?
Why are select lignts on in skyscrapers and who is in room 1329 at le 1000 at 10pm on Saturday?
What is life with someone else in my head?

Que pense-je, tout le temp
Invasion de mes pensees, mes sentiments
Nights spent on ants and watching others, like the pointed fuschia shoes with silver purse
And wishing you, no one else was here
The more I think, the less you want
But is it me or someone else that this corner-
this coffeeshop, these banks, the restaurants and
the ants-
Make my pen bleed for you

27 March 2004

Movement 8, (“April 17”)

I’ll come back to the ants shouting and horns blaring
But for a venture to another bar for a bit
Where “Birthday” by the Beatles plays
O, the irony on this day
Of all days
If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be at that concert
I wear my CH with pride
As it shines over this city like the Batsignal
Gotham Montreal
Exciting, excitement surges through this city
And it runs deep into my veins
This was supposed to be the end;
My apocrypha
1124pm 1125pm
I fell in love with this city
Tombant en amour

“I love how you wear a jersey and it starts a conversation,”
His girlfriend says about the four people who have thus far approached
The bleu, blanc, et rouge
Je suis tombe en amour
Only French words sound best tonight
Series eliminatoires, Theodore, il tir…
et le BUT
I’ve waded through the masses
And she’s put a sticker on my face
Cute browneyed brunette
I love Montreal
Je suis tombe en amour
Confused bemuddled at the way life has turned out
The ants celebrate their score, celebrate our score
Another Go Habs Go
My pen still bleeds-
the line has gone blurry…
1150pm 1151pm

I retreat to my spot
As the 363 passes by
And a man tries to break dance on the sidewalk
NY Mets, cap to the side, the gaggle
Of homeboys
The cops come up, the line queues
And my buds Chantelle, Guillaume, and Marc-Alexandre are serving up the lattes
I’m electronic and writing mail
Stretch limo with the Christmas lights
Evermore we are never satisfied
Evermore it’s tight jeans and cornrows

My roommate from second year’s
Friend walks in, long time no see
Girl after girl, I’m convinced there’s more of them than me
And yet I run back to you
In dreams and visions of coffee creamer swirling around in confusion
Slut slut whore
At 315, the clubs have let out
Chantelle and Marc-Alex still on shift
360 Des Pins
Tabarnac my link is severed
A white boy wears Wu-Tang; what does he know about the ghetto?

Another limo,
My stomach is on fire, burn burn burn
Lucky Strike motorbike jacket
For his high lifestyle, modern solutions for modern living
Stumble stumble, it’s like the beginning
Where is the firedancer
Street performer
Rally bandana

The 323am fire alarm adds some excitement
To the queue
Someone pulled it, someone is in trouble
But no firemen.  I would be burnt to a crisp
Ants marching
As the season returns, I struggle
For tables and chairs, umbrellas and feeling like life could never end
Like I am the King Ant fading out the colony
Watch me disappear
Cluster colony
Je suis tombe en amour

Hallelujah the alarm has ended after 10 minutes
It’s always old endings and new beginnings
Those who enter our lives, and those who leave them
Like the newspaper man with headlines reading
“Off to Game 7”
Who approaches me at the sight of my chandail

Dichotomy me
Love it and hate it but this corner-
this coffeeshop, these banks, the restaurants and
the ants-
Make my pen bleed for you

17 April 2004

Movement 9, CODA, (“May 22”)

The 55 rides its way up
And the blue parka-ed man comes for his routined coffee
Millions of ants are swarming the paths of this city,
Following their Queen of the Night
The heart of this city’s flicker fade
Yellow, red, green, the cars come
Undeterred by the onset of rainstorms
At 1243am, this is it
Deep breath, swallow, dive into whatever was and whatever could be

Techno beats,
Bop bop bop bam
There goes the garbage truck
Where goes the Best Ass Contest?
Whenceforth comes the white Escalade
It’s as if the ants built a new nest for their queen
Change is a constant
Like shifting seas and hopeful hearts
Queue up, wait your turn
As a friend walks out
And beauty walks in
Inexplicably and inextricably
I’ve thought of you all year
I moved on all year and I came back all year
The 55 is 363
The 55 is 363 evermore

Fakeosity, a stigma to these trendsetters
Mass culture, mass society, the habitual harem is full of tossaways and vapidity
Throw aside the stranger like the two trashed cans of Budweiser
Let the bums take the rest,
Flashing police lights signal discomfort

“She needs time alone right now; she needs time to miss you,”
Says Chantelle in comforting her friend
I feel like I’ve heard that before, I feel like I’m waiting to be missed
We reflect on our first nights here
As she’s just come back from a party
“She’s beautiful, she’s wild, but she treats you like shit,” continues Chantelle
Cellphone conversations that I feel like I’m on the other end of
Over and over and over I’ve been
When you realise this network we create,
How do the bonds form?

Think back to the first cup of coffee I got from her
En regardant les fourmis
There it is, the Best Ass is now Coors Light
The silver tour where you could win
Partout ou ca brasse
The sixteen year-old who drank too much
The sixteen year-old who couldn’t get into the club
Ultimate failure and ultimate rejection
A call to arms
Brown eyed brunette beautiful butterfly in the white shirt
Shed your chrysalis for me

We swap songs over Bjork’s Human Nature
It hasn’t been a passing chance
Or a simple twist of fate
Like a mirror to myself
Reflection skewed from my first encounter with myself
Counting down until I can quash these visions I had of you here
The streets, strewn with little handbills
Expired parties and VIP passes for everyone
Deflating my importance
It’s the second time I’ve seen this Escalade pickup truck

The death of the streets
Brings the impending death of the coked-out, ponytailed man
The rich, the poor, the things I’ve seen
The people I’ve met
And as I’ve come to know this place,
I’ve become like Nighthawks in Phillies
I’ve become a 24 hour fixture at this intersection
Like the ants marching, before these crowded streets
I’ve become this corner-
this coffeeshop, these banks, the restaurants and
the ants-
That make flow the tears, as my heart bleeds for you

22 May 2004

Movement 10, REMIXED, (“February 11”)

I sit in a seat I’ve never sat in before
Next to a barista I’ve known from years ago
Her look, unmistakable
They’ve redone all of it-
As I redid my life
La plus ça change…
A flatscreen TV was unimaginable back then, but now
Shows how vegetables reduce cholesterol
The Banque Scotia, the Vol de Nuit, the same as they ever were
The barista looks at me, but a thousand faces…

A thousand faces have passed through
Pour ici ou pour emporter?
She could fractionally remember me
It’s brighter in here
And I wonder

About George and his blue tuque
And Costa the Greek
About the Best Ass Contest
And about why the snow is prettier now
About Chantelle and her friend
Four girls and a guy
And then, the barista sits back down next to me on her break

This place-
So much brighter, so much cleaner
Like myself
The myriad places I’ve been and things I’ve seen
“Les Algériens dans la rue”
And older man looks through the offres d’emploi and drafts
A fax cover letter for his resume

My pen-
it no longer bleeds, instead,
telling a victory tale of
Mes exploits
Ma famille
Mon futur
Mon café–I learned to drink the real stuff
A victory tale of why
The 55 comes up St. Laurent
And I’ve changed to see it in the daylight
All the wasted time in the past
Brought back to make me who I am
As the barista checks her Blackberry,
The TV talks about a weasel’s Facebook page having 300,000 fans
And I could not fathom the changes
This city
-and I-
Have gone through over seven years
I’ve missed it all
Mes pensées en français
And the styles
“La Class de 5é”
But I move forward, onward
taking this with me forever
This corner-
this coffeeshop, these banks, the restaurants and
the ants-
Make my pen spill gold for you

11 February 2011

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve gotten to post here. Things have been somewhat hectic with school, life, etc. Plus, I tend to engage more frequently with my professional blog, my professional twitter, etc. It’s hard not to when you’re an academic, after all, academia isn’t really a 9-5 job. And when your brain is always on and reading and absorbing and thinking of ideas, you’re more apt to hit the professional side of things instead.

The past nearly two years since I last posted (it feels like forever, yet it also feels like it’s breezed by)  have been busy. Since that point, I took and passed my comprehensive exams, I went to three conferences in 2011, I went to two more conferences in 2012, and I went to the doctoral consortium in 2012. I also wrote and successfully orally defended my dissertation proposal.

At the moment, I’m working on my dissertation and looking to finish it in February 2013. As well, I’m on the academic job market. That is to say, in a somewhat formal process of seeking a job as assistant professor, I’m playing the waiting game with a bunch of schools. To top it off, my wife is pregnant with our first child and we’re expecting Baby Smalrus to come any day. So you can imagine, it’s been tough to find time to bounce around where I used to post. Twitter, in particular, has made it extremely easy for me to share links, to bounce simple thoughts, to complain about my day… particularly in a non-academic context.

I’ve managed to watch the evolution of this site as I’ve evolved. My digital footprint spans nearly 15 years, to when I first created a web page on my high school’s server back in 1996. In 1997, I adapted the ‘smalrus’ handle. Smalrus was a portmaneau of my name and my favorite Beatles’ song, “I am the Walrus.” It’s a name I registered in every place around the web. From the defunct geocities to the defunct xoom to the defunct nbci.com… aol, rocketmail, yahoo… you name it, smalrus has been there. For me, ‘smalrus’ is a trademark identity that’s an important part of my personal life on the web. These days, I frequently register dually on sites: one using ‘smalrus’, the other using my professional handle. Regardless of the frequency with which I post on smalrus.com, I’m still smalrus. In fact, for nostalgia’s sake, here’re a few smalrus pictures from years’ past:

Claire and Smalrus, circa 2001 Smalrus, circa 1998 The 'Original' Smalrus Picture from July 1997. Smalrus in the Living Room, 2001 Smalrus in Quebec, circa 2003 Smalrus at Cap Jaseux, circa 2003

Smalrus is me.

So, you can imagine how odd I found it when someone–some stranger–randomly in February decided she was going to start some tumblr picture blog using my handle. Not only that, the pictures were of cats… which clearly aren’t what the smalrus pictures from 1997 are. So why does this bother me and why do I heavily consider paying the couple hundred dollars to formally register a trademark with USPTO?

The answer is because it’s my identity. And usurping that usurps the half of my life that’s been using that identity to express myself online. Much like this bit of catharsis in this post, this blog has frequently been used to grapple with issues I’ve had, whether they be the banal gettings over of a high school girlfriend or the realm of politics. It’s been a nickname online and in real life. So it’s hard to think that by attributing anything else to my name, that it’s not me. To me, it’s much like forging my signature and saying it’s me. That’s something that’s hard not to want to protect.

Not quite sure what or when I’m going to do it, but it’s given me serious pause for ontological thought, especially with the impending arrival of Baby Smalrus (as he or she has been affectionately referred to by others). But regardless, I’m still smalrus. Regardless of the frequency I get around to posting over here, I am (and always will be) the smalrus, smoo goo g’joob.

            The article, “The Safety of Objects: Materialism, Existential Insecurity, and Brand Connection,” (Rindfleisch et al. 2008) roots itself in Terror Management Theory (TMT; Greenberg et al. 1990; Greenberg et al. 1986).  In particular, this theory is based on research in social and clinical psychology that posits self-esteem and cultural tendencies are susceptible to fears of death and other tragic uncertainties.  Rindfleisch et al. use TMT in part as the motivational factor of their particular research, employing it as the synthetic framework for their new discovery.  It achieves this by exposing extant marketing research on materialism and brand connections to the new framework and then conducting empirical research to validate the new proposition.

            The logical explanation provided by the research presented in Rindfleisch et al. can be assessed by the positivist model presented by Hempel and Oppenheim (1948).  This model assumes that there are both antecedent conditions to a phenomenon and general laws (a universal affirmative or generally accepted principle).  By the power of deductive reasoning and logic, if there is a series of valid antecedent conditions and general laws, the explanation of the phenomenon must also be valid and sufficiently explained.

            Hempel and Oppenheim describe the explanation of a phenomenon as having two parts: the explanans and the explanandum.  The explanans (predictor) is the set of antecedent conditions and general laws; the explanandum is the description of the phenomenon to be explained.  Therefore the explanadum is the consequence of the explanans.  According to Hempel and Oppenheim, the soundness of an explanation relies on 1) general laws that serve as a necessary condition for a sound explanation and, 2) empiricism that tests whether or not the general laws predict the explanandum.

            The Rindfleisch et al. article follows the Hempel and Oppenheim view of scientific explanation by using TMT (derived in part from death anxiety, mortality salience, and self-esteem) to drive the empirical work bridging the gap between materialism and brand connections.  First, it proposes a conceptualization of materialism, a conceptualization of brand connections, and a conceptualization of how insecurity leads to materialism as a result of insecurity.  TMT explains “why materialistic individuals employ brand connections as a means of assuaging existential insecurity” (p.2).  From these general laws provided as part of the explanans, Rindfleisch et al. thereby deduce the article’s fundamental proposition that materialism is associated with high materialism when existential insecurity is high and low materialism when existential insecurity is low.

            Empirical measurement is used to test this proposition in a two-study process; these measurements can be treated as antecedent conditions in the explanans.  In the first study, a sampling frame is given a survey with items from various scales measuring the proposition’s key concepts.  Using high-low blocking conditions for the measure of existential insecurity, they form regression interactions to estimate the effect of materialism on the two conditions, the theoretical proposition is affirmed; brand connections provide materialistic individuals with a coping mechanism for existential insecurity.

            The second study is an experimental study, designed to cross-validate and extend the results of the first study, making the central thesis more robust.  This experimental manipulation adds another antecedent condition that provides further support for the explanandum.  The high-low median split blocking technique is then used on the results of the manipulation, ensuring the robustness of the empirical testing.  Thus, using propositional logic, the Hempel & Oppenheim model applied to Rindflesich et al. would appear as such:

1. Materialism –> Increased Connections
2. Brands –> Connections
3. Increased Connections –> Higher Self-Esteem
4. Higher Self-Esteem –> Lower Existential Insecurity

5. Therefore, Materialism –> Brand Connections –> Lower Existential Insecurity

where 1-4 serve as general laws, 3 and 4 explain TMT, and the high-low median split blocking technique serves as an antecedent condition; together, these comprise the explanans, while 5 is the explanandum.

The concept of marketing is one that has been both broadly and narrowly defined for more than a half-century.  However, more ink has been spilt over an existential question that has absolutely no objective answer; Karl Popper (1959) is right in suggesting that philosophy has no definition.  Whether or not we broaden, widen, deepen, or refine the boundary definitions of marketing, these definitions are in essence, arbitrary.  As a result, the framework approach to marketing scope is of referential context only, not of absolution.  The boundaries of a science are artificial; as researchers we constantly force those boundaries to evolve.  Thus, while the arguments posed in this week’s set of readings are valid, their fragmented subjectivity only constitutes the basis of a set of opinions from which marketing practitioners and academics can work.

In the original “Marketing Myopia” article (Levitt 1960), a theory is posited, wherein the activities of a firm will ultimately become stale if the definition of that firm’s business becomes too narrow; a firm will only grow if it constantly redefines its markets.  The same claim can be made about any academic disciple or science.  For successful academic pursuit of knowledge, a domain must constantly be broadened, narrowed, and refined.

The articles by Kotler and Levy (1969a; 1969b), Luck (1969), and Enis (1973) provide suitable discourse defining the “marketing concept,” while Hunt (1976) prescribes normative and positive facets for the marketing scope.  However, while Hunt’s scopes of marketing may continue to flourish in the contemporary marketing environment, evolving, granular details enable the fundamental “definitions” of marketing to possibly leak into other domains.  This should not be considered uncommon for the sciences as knowledge-leaks only serve to embolden a particular science, giving more credence to our answers to the question, “Why?”

A multidisciplinary approach to science often provides new (and sometimes, more rewarding) answers to old questions.  For example, a group of mathematicians at a university in Rome decided to apply fluid dynamics concepts from physics to solve a traffic engineering problem.[1] By “overreaching” the traditional definitions of any one of those three domains (mathematics, physics, engineering), the resulting algorithm they developed paved the way not only for normative objectives, but also for positive future research objectives.  As researchers, we could choose to philosophize the merits of their boundary definitions, but it is objectively moot; as they stand, the results of the research are, indeed, very real.

Marketing therefore has no real boundaries; it borrows from various other fields of study (mathematics, economics, social and cognitive psychologies, sociology, and more) and virtually contributes in-kind to each of those fields.  Hunt (1976) suggests that the core of the marketing concept is based on the “science of transactions.”  This science itself seems to be based on Homan’s (1958) notion of social exchange theory (n.b.— Homans (1967) also states “what makes a science are its aims, not its results.”).  The marketing concept (Houston 1986) is all-encompassing, yet in an applied context: commerce.  “It is a willingness to recognize and understand the consumer’s needs and wants, and a willingness to adjust any of the marketing mix elements […]”

Thus, both the positive and normative studies of marketing enable the researcher to extract maximum value out of the social exchange process.  As we constantly discover the nuanced dimensions of the science of transactions, we contribute incremental knowledge to the disciplines we borrow from.  It comes as no surprise, for instance, that many marketing academics are wont to publish in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  So long as marketing has distinct subject matter, presumes underlying uniformities, and adopts intersubjectively certifiable procedures (Hunt 1976), there is no reason why its principles cannot be found applicable to all other disciplines.  It would be nothing less than myopic to presume that boundaries must remain static both between and within disciplines; rather marketing thrives and evolves from this constant redefinition.

[1] Bretti, Gabriella, Roberto Natalini, and Benedetto Piccoli (2007), “A Fluid-Dynamic Traffic Model on Road Networks,” Archives of Computational Methods in Engineering, 14(2), 139-172.

Given the history of marketing, it is nearly impossible to blame the discipline for current displays of consumer abundance.  Marketing takes roots from the development of mercantilism and, even earlier (though not posited until fairly recently), from the theory of specialization of labour.  If we are to extend these theories to a sociological level, then consumer abundance is merely a hallmark development in human society.  As “marketing” developed as a science that studies the decision making of both producers and consumers, it as well studied the relationships between these two parties.  To say that marketing is “evil” as a result is, therefore, an erroneous claim.

Market economies have dated back to biblical times; agricultural-based markets seemed to become an evolutionarily-necessary staple for producers to match oversupply with consumers who required such goods essential for survival.  The Greek and Persian bazaars served as storefronts for these producers to price out their wares and for consumers to purchase.  Ultimately, these wares included more than just food supplies, but other household objects as well.

Over time, it seemed to make sense that the market-makers would serve as intermediaries between these parties.  The responsibility of production of market activities became an internal business venture, particularly through retailing channels.  As a result, the bazaar could truly be described as one of the first displays of consumer abundance.  The idea of producing goods—aligned with theories of competitive advantage—meant that businesses (as they eventually became) could dispose of surplus in conjunction with matching consumer household deficits.  Initially, these transactions took place using bartering (and haggling) techniques, but monetary systems ultimately fell into place, enabling more efficient pricing mechanisms and allowing business to outsource marketing operations.

The theory of competitive advantage fully started to take root around the mid-1600s, when Jean-Baptiste Colbert laid the foundation for mercantilism.  Mercantilist theory played to national strengths in a particular market for goods and selling those goods to other countries where those goods were in demand.  This was an early form of globalization, setting up global trade routes to enable such market-making.  In the contemporary marketplace, China has found a way to apply surplus production from a command economy to global exports, while simultaneously loosening the restrictions of this command economy to widen domestic consumer abundance.

Thus, history has shown that marketing in its various incantations has been a precursor for consumer abundance in almost every era, irrespective of any implications on modern consumer society.  The arguments made by O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy (2002) initially seem to demonstrate the pitfalls of consumer abundance.  In retrospect however, their presentation of the various facets of hedonism in terms of enjoyment versus pleasure seems to exemplify the arguments for consumer abundance.  It is as though consumer abundance allows for existence in a truly material world, giving some dimension to an otherwise ontological quandary.

There is a misconstrual that Western civilization is the only civilization that can adequately grasp consumer abundance.  Buddhism emphasizes the provision and the enjoyment of material goods, albeit at the expense of their material attachments.  As Tyler Durden said in the film Fight Club, “the things you own end up owning you.”  The hedonic component of consumer abundance does not contribute to happiness, but serves as rewards for the Sisyphean struggles of our lives.

Does marketing contribute to market-making?  Yes.  Does it contribute to fulfilling latent desires?  Yes.  And in doing so, it may even create perceptions of consumer abundance that upend the outcomes of traditional need-hierarchy concepts.  But insofar as marketing cannot manufacture those latent desires, it cannot be considered “evil.”  Desire (affect-driven choice) is the result of emotion and rationalizations, based on various other social constructs, including components of social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner 1979).  Values espoused by these social constructs (religion, ethnicity, etc.) are therefore the double-edged arbiters of consumer abundance, not marketing.

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