Opening Notes

Tanya Davies,Barbara Righton May 17 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies,Barbara Righton May 17 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies

It’s CanCon time at Cannes

Cannes. Some people pronounce it “can,” and some pronounce it “con,” but either way this is the year of CanCon at the Cannes International Film Festival (May 12 to 23). This week, director David Cronenberg becomes the first Canadian in the 52-year history of the festival to preside over the jury. And among the 22 directors from around the world with features in the main competition, fellow Canadian Atom Egoyan is a top contender with his entry Felicia’s Journey, which premières on May 17. After Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter, he is also the first Canadian to be honoured with three films in competition at Cannes. Egoyan and Cronenberg, both based in Toronto, are pals—and strongly supportive of each other’s work. So how does a jury president remain impartial when judging a friend’s movie? “Well, I have to assume that everybody on the jury will have friends and col-

leagues, and enemies,” says Cronenberg. “I’m going to have to get everyone to strip these things away and somehow get close to a pure vision of the movie. As much as I love Atom, I would have to do the same.” When Cronenberg’s Crash competed at Cannes in 1996,

Egoyan was on the jury headed by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. And he c was instrumental in a decision that I awarded the controversial film a special I prize for daring and innovation. Egoyan I says Cronenberg will discover on the jury that “it’s a highly political decision that has to be made, but one’s friendships and personal affiliations have shockingly little to do with it.” Adds Egoyan: “We had to deal with someone on the jury who felt that Crash would create copycat occurrences, that people were going to drive into each other and want to have sex.” Felicia’sJourney, a thriller starring Bob Hoskins, seems unlikely to cause such heated debates. Meanwhile, another Canadian feature will première in the Director’s Fortnight program—The Five Senses, which Egoyan’s colleague Camelia Frieberg co-produced with director Jeremy Podeswa. In the world of Cannes CanCon, six degrees of Atom Egoyan seems to be the game du jour.


In from the cold

Even with the end of the Cold War, paranoia apparently still runs deep in the U.S. National Security Agency. Not content with global eavesdropping, the NSA folks have turned their attentions to last year’s hottest toy, Furby. The spymasters have concluded that the talking furball is a threat to national security and have banned the toy from their Fort Meade, Md., headquarters. Although Furby’s manufacturer, Tiger Electronics, denies it, NSA says the toy contains a recording device that will allow it to poach secrets. Which raises the questions: what kind of spy would have such a toy, and what kind of spy would bring it to work?

Sit-ups at 30,000 feet

Introduced 30 years ago, Boeing’s 420-seat 747 is still the world’s largest passenger jet—but not for long. Airbus Industrie of Toulouse, France, recently announced it is going ahead with plans to build a giant two-decker plane that would hold 550 passengers. The airliner, which could cost $ 15 bil-

lion to get off the ground, would

dwarf the 747 with two full-length, wide-body cabins. Airbus even foresees gyms or theatres added to the second deck to help pass the hours. Though the company has not given a firm date when the A3XX would be ready to fly, officials say it would probably be in 2005.

Boeing, which has had the jumbo market all to itself, says such huge planes would not sell well enough to cover the development costs (still, the company says it is studying the possibility of producing a larger version of the 747). Boeing thinks the market is shifting from jumbos to smaller planes such as its 767 and 777 that are easier to fill. And for those who have ever waited at the back of a 747 to disembark, easier to empty.

The end of grey

Soon, Mac users won’t be the only people who get to have lime-green computers. The iMac from Apple has made a popular fashion statement with its translucent, snazzy-coloured boxes—and PC users are obviously feeling deprived. Now, Californiabased A-Top Technology, which makes cases for PCs, will start producing them in five tones: lime, strawberry, grape, orange and dark green. Visitors to the company’s Web site can vote for the colour they like best and the winning shade—dark green is ahead so far—will be first out of the factory in June.

Does it come in spearmint?

stick, which weighs about 30 g, uses a chip to store the data and has a lock that prevents accidental erasure. It will become the storage of choice for Sony’s digital cameras and camcorders,

We’ve come a long way from punch cards. Sony has introduced an eightmegabyte storage device the size of a stick of chewing gum. The so-called Memory Stick, which also comes in fourand 16MB versions with a 32MB model to follow, is not a replacement for disk drives but a way to temporarily store information or digital images. The

and the company sees the day when it will be used to record music for portable stereos. The eight-MB stick has a suggested retail price of $70.

On liberty

Classic liberad freespeech theory—the right to offend—is far from dead. Alan Borovoy’s The New Anti-Liberals (Canadian Scholars’ Press) reflects his 30 years in the anti-censorship trenches as general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. It’s an attack, made more in anger than sorrow, on his former allies in the fight against entrenched privilege. Borovoy argues that disadvantaged groups— women, minorities, the disabled— while once victims of official discrimination, often now seek privileges of their own. For the CCLA leader, that change in goals from liberty based on individual rights to equality based on collective rights is profoundly harmful. He passionately defends the liberal values of free speech and non-discrimination and says “the anti-liberals of the equality-seeking left” should be resisted as fiercely as right-wing opponents.

Opening Notes

Double Take

Elfi Schlegel’s balancing act

The nickname “Elf” was inevitable for Canadian gymnast Elfi Schlegel, who was only 10 years old and four feet, six inches tall when she began her meteoric rise through the ranks of world-class gymnastics. The Toronto native started gymnastics classes when she was 7, and while her parents tried to interest her in other activities, “I would always sneak into a gymnastics class and start stretching with the other kids.” It was this spirit that made Schlegel a natural crowd-pleaser wherever she went. When Schlegel won the individual gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, she became an overnight star. A team gold at the Pan-American Games a year later and a bronze medal at the World Cup in 1980 sealed her fame.

But Schlegel never had a chance to be an Olympic sensation like her idol, Nadia Comaneci, who won three golds for Romania at the Montreal Games in 1976. At age 12, too young to compete, Schlegel could only watch Comaneci from the sidelines. In 1980, she lost her chance when Canada joined the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics. And when she tried out for the Canadian team going to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, she was deemed too old by officials. Still, now at 34, with her own gymnastics centre in Oakville, Ont., Schlegel says: “I am the big name in Canadian gymnastics.

When mothers come in with their kids, they say,

‘You’re the only name I knew.’ ” And she adds that for a sport that typically has a short career span, “I lasted quite some time.”

In fact, Schlegel never really left gymnastics. In 1982, she attended the University of Florida on an athletic scholarship and 0 was a national collegiate | champion for four years. &

While she studied telecommunications, Schlegel began a part-time broadcasting career as a gymnastics commentator for CTV. She moved to the CBC for the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and since 1992 has been a commentator for the American network NBC. “I am never not taking notes and watching tapes,” says Schlegel, who is preparing to cover the 2000 Sydney Olympics. When she isn’t coaching or attending competitions around the world, Schlegel likes to cook with her boyfriend, Marc Dunn, a firefighter and professional beach volleyball player, in their Toronto home. The couple also stay fit by biking, hiking and water-skiing at her parents’ cottage north of the city.

But Schlegel never forgets what she calls the “old days.” After she won her Commonwealth gold medal, Schlegel remembers reporters asking her if she had had a normal childhood and whether she thought the sport was linked to child abuse— based on the fact that gymnasts were too young and too tiny. “I was tiny,” she allows, “but I was strong. Besides, there was nothing else I wanted to do.” As for her size, Schlegel says laughing: “I did grow, I’m now five feet, three inches.”

Barbara Righton

Opening Notes

ung, impatient and empowered

The light went on somewhere around Vulcan. It was July, 1994, and Robert Barnard was in Alberta driving his Dodge Neon across Canada after finishing work on Generation 2000, a project designed to engage young people in national issues. At 27, carting along 50 CDs and his Mac PowerBook, he was every inch a Gen-Xer. Problem was, Barnard didn’t buy the disaffected-slacker stereotype, inspired by Douglas Coupland’s best-selling 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. Gen-Xers were expected to be filled with ennui and ambivalence. They were supposed to hold “Mcjobs” or no jobs at all and live, in the words of Coupland’s protagonist, “small lives on the periphery.”

But the young people Barnard knew were starting small businesses, travelling, and immersing themselves in digital culture. He believed they did have a unique identity, but it wasn’t that of the Gen-X loser. On the drive, Barnard began to muse about bringing together a network of twentysomething thinkers to define their generation. By the time he reached British Columbia, his thoughts had evolved into a plan for a consulting company. Barnard decided to base it in Toronto and dubbed it d-Code (a play on decode). By 1995, after a year of research involving informal polls of young Canadians, Barnard defined a new demographic with a new name: the Nexus generation.

According to d-Code, Nexus is a wave of more than seven million Canadians between 18 and 35. They represent 33 per cent of Canada’s population and 40 per cent of voters. Revenue Canada statistics from 1996 showed the Nexus generation had $105 billion in total disposable income. In a 1997 d-Code poll of this age group, close to half the respondents expected to meet or exceed career goals and to leave a “better world” to their children. “We found a generation of young people who want to succeed,” says Barnard. “They are resourceful, adaptable and optimistic.”

The Nexus concept gained wider acceptance last fall with the publication of Chips & Pop: Decoding the Nexus Generation,

which Barnard co-wrote with his d-Code partners Jennifer Welsh (who will soon leave the firm to become a professor at the University of Oxford) and Dave Cosgrave. The book’s title—a play on two of this generation’s favourite food groups— refers to the two main influences on the Nexus identity: the computer chip, and the importance of global TV and the Internet in pop culture. Chips & Pop describes how Nexus shops, works and plays and it established d-Code as experts in the post-baby-boom demographic. The book argues that two global recessions, cable television, the fall of communism and the rise of the personal computer shaped the views of Nexus.

Barnard says baby-boomer supervisors are bewildered by the Nexus generation’s lack of company loyalty and penchant for job-hopping. “They offer them a job for life and Nexus isn’t interested,” he says. “The lifetime employment contract is dead.” Nexus consumers are prone to “cluster loyalty”—instead of one favourite radio station, one of these listeners will have six. Barnard says such traits cause employers to look upon Nexus as the impatient generation. “That’s true,” he says. “They want to have meaning in their work at an entry level,

Opening Notes

rather than waiting 10 or 15 years for it.”

D-code statistics show the Nexus generation is entrepreneurial by nature and 25 per cent expect to be selfemployed. They are skeptical of government safety nets. Most, for example, do not believe the Canada Pension Plan will exist 40 years from now. “They have a very low expectation that the government is going to be able to help them,” observes Welsh, 34, who says Nexus’ choice of RRSPs as their number 1 purchase item is evidence of their misgivings. Even so, the generation is optimistic about the future.

Their bright outlook is matched by their purchasing power. In North America, Nexus has hundreds of billions to spend. This has translated into business for d-Code, the only consulting company in Canada focusing exclusively on the 18-to-3 5-year-old market. Since d-Code was launched four years

ago, it has landed some high-profile clients, including the Royal Bank of Canada, Molson Breweries and Nortel Networks.

“We discovered that 36 per cent of Nexus were intending on becoming entrepreneurs,” says Charles Coffey, executive vice-president of the Royal’s business banking division. “We refocused our efforts on youth entrepreneurs.” Royal Bank now has a Nexus entrepreneurs advisory committee and is implementing some of d-Code’s less statistical advice, such as “lose the suits.”

D-code’s key selling point is its “network,” an informal roster of 150 Nexus professionals. These trend spotters tip d-Code to the latest developments in the Nexus demographic. In Ottawa, Nortel enlisted d-Code and its network to improve on-campus presentations. “It had a substantial impact on our recruiting,” says Nortel’s Craig Ingram.

The company hires between 550 and 700 new graduates each year and more than 2,000 students. Nortel and d-Code came up with the “Living in 3-D” campaign, designed to appeal to the Nexus desire to mesh work, play and personal life. As a result, Nortel attracted more interest and better applicants.

Still, the Nexus concept is a long way from replacing Gen X as the label for a younger generation. “I think it’s a generation trying to be interesting,” says Philippe Garneau, a partner with Toronto-based Garneau, Wiirstlin, Philp Brand Engineering Inc. But Garneau finds Nexus’ 18-to-35 range too broad to be useful. “You have got to be very precise,” he says. “You have to know their cultural references, not just their demographics.” But such criticism does not perturb Barnard. “Nexus is a way for us to start a conversation without bringing along the preconceived ideas attached to Generation X,” he says. “We’re not trying to relabel the generation. God knows, that hasn’t worked in the past.”

Andrew Clark

Opening Notes

Hand in hand

Talk about convergence. Recently, Toronto political journalist Stevie Camerons 1998 book, Blue Trust: The Author, The Lawyer, His Wife, and Her Money, was shortlisted for two major Canadian literary awards. Her tale of the rise and fall of Montreal lawyer Bruce Verchere received its first nod from the jury that selected the six finalists for the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award—in the true crime cate-

gory. Last week, Blue Trust was among the four entries nominated for the National Business Book Award. But while some might perceive one book fitting both categories as a bit incongruous, Cameron, editor-in-chief of Elm Street and a contributing editor at Macleans, is not among them. “Nobody should be surprised,” she says. “After all, business and crime have long gone hand in hand.”

Family feud

Last week, Anne-Marie Péladeau, 34, claimed that her brothers had rendered her penniless. The daughter of late Quebecor media tycoon Pierre Péladeau filed papers in Quebec Superior Court, demanding that Pierre-Karl and Erik hand over blocked funds from the family’s publishing empire. The sister, who has been treated on numerous occasions for cocaine addiction, says that they have offered to pay $300 a week directly to a drug-rehabilitation centre. But, saying that she has no confidence in the clinic, Anne-Marie reported that her

monthly expenses amount to more than $10,800, including care and schooling for her 14-year-old daughter. According to her lawyer, Philippe Trudel, Anne-Marie is asking for $21 million in damages, the estimated worth of her shares in the Quebecor empire, now run by Pierre-Karl.

Anne-Marie’s problems were publicly acknowledged by her father before his death in 1997. In 1993, the family placed her under trusteeship. In 1997, the trusteeship was turned over to a third party, General Trust of Canada, but the two brothers recendy overrode the trustee. Lawyers are scheduled to return to court this week. Said Trudel: “In effect, this is a move to control her life.”