Toronto is One Big Lazy Susan: Advice & Tips for Refugees

Vinay Menone, Toronto Star arts and life columnist & feature writer, offers observations on adapting to Canadian society and the specific advantages offered in Toronto.

This is a world-class city with great prospects. All you need to do is work hard and follow the rules. Don’t worry, you will — nothing elevates a human more than a second chance at life, especially when the first one was snatched away rather than squandered. When you gaze up at the CN Tower, think of it as pointing at the cosmos and the infinite possibilities now within your reach.


He points out the  range of food  as an example of how cultural touchstones are always near.


The good news: not much needs to change with your diet. Toronto is one big Lazy Susan, upon which all of the world’s spices and regional dishes are just a few twirls away. Kibbeh, tabbouleh, shawarma, mujaddara, you name it and someone is selling it. Or they are preparing it in restaurants such as Byblos, Tabule and Takht-e Tavoos. 


It is his observations on mass media popular culture that are of  particular interest. Menon provides the insight on how to navigate the flood of Mass Media influences and recognizes that it has value , while also being a continuum of styles, content and messages, “I’m not suggesting Star Wars or Miley Cyrus are equivalent to Shakespeare or Mozart” . He identifies the wide range of possibilities available to widening and sharing in community experience. from opera and live theatre to the the AGO, ROM, Science Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium and Toronto Zoo.

If you have children, don’t be alarmed by how popular culture shapes their interests. Music, movies, fashion, games, TV, books, these diversions only thrive in places of imagination and harmony. This is why religious extremists, like the ones you are fleeing, are so eager to impose barbaric laws that govern daily life.

“Art is a path to enlightenment.

It is the enemy of totalitarianism.”

 Vinay Menone, Toronto Star




Advertising Hunger: Values, Beliefs & Ideology



Jennifer Lawrence disappears in a constructed  reality of marketing  the latest Hunger Games movie. It has been reported in Variety that “ a handful of cities across the Jewish State have cut Lawrence herself out of the film’s posters ”.


Israel Mockingjay Posters

In the ultra-Orthodox suburb of Bnei Brak, as well as in the city Jerusalem – where several neighborhoods are heavily religious – only a censored version of the poster, featuring the image of the fiery crown is being displayed. Extreme adherents to Judaism  consider any display of the  female image to be immoral. Ultra-orthodox newspapers and catalogues commonly remove images of females from any images.

While this segment of the population is not the intended target audience for the movie, any advertisements in public space which is frequented by this group risks creating an offence to their cultural views.  Since more militant/aggressive members of the group are known to vandalize images that depict women,  it becomes necessary to be proactive in posting advertising.

Now, in some parts of the world,  the news reports of such public attacks of movie posters would be seen as valuable publicity, in Israel such news reports produce a negative image of the country. So by modifying the advertisements, public behaviour itself is modified.  This in turn constructs a reality that portrays Israel in a different light.  Unfortunately, in this instance the significance of the movie and its female lead makes the altered poster news-worthy and as a consequence, the event creates much the same negative impact as would reports of vandalized posters. Some would see this as worse, since the self-censoring could be interpretation of capitulating to an extreme element of the Israeli population, rather than defying them and treating the vandalization  as a criminal act.


Media Principles: Click Those Ads for Helpful Information

Media Principles - Click Ads 1Those  click bait ads for articles and services are ubiquitous.  Just remember to keep in mind the Mass Media Principles. They play to your values, beliefs and ideologies, but what if we change those icon images ? A different constructed reality emerges. How do those business interests and intended  target audiences look now ? Use the principles to view with a slightly ironic eye and underlying intention of the message becomes obvious.

Media Principles - Click Ads 2

Volkswagen Devil Logo – What Stays in the Dog Park


volkswagen devil logo

An ironic logo combines with a pet owner’s  bumper sticker ( I spotted this while on a family outing ) to make a social commentary about the Volkswagen Emission Standards Software Scandal.  As that little devil says, “what happens in the dog park, stays in the dog park”.  Unfortunately, the company’s dog-poo has come  back with a vengeance.

VW Sham

Meanwhile, “A new website called is selling magnetic bumper stickers bearing anti-VW slogans, such as “Another VW? No tanks,” “VW took me for a ride,” and “VW. German for FU.” Each magnet costs $7.50, with 5% of sales going to the International Council for Clean Transportation, according to the site.” ( Source Link )

Besides the impact this scandal will have on Volkswagen, the German economy and general attitudes towards vehicle technology, this revelation demonstrates how our culture, and the economy that sustains it, is all about information and controlling it. 

Volkswagen designed and used software to manipulate data. It sought to control information to enhance the marketability of their products. When this came to light it creates a wave of distrust that taints not only the information it provided to its target audience, but also information coming from other sources, companies and independent agencies. This is not dissimilar to the public’s distrust of government agencies and political messages; all become tarred with the same brush.

Notice it is  a company that aligns itself with the aggrieved consumer, giving them a way of communicating their frustrations and sense of betrayal, that attempts to capitalize on the scandal.  Recognizing that giving  the target audience a means to express themselves in such a way that the consumer’s personal message is directly connected to the product causing the frustration ( devaluing the consumer’s self-image) is very effective understanding of an information & messaging mass media dominant culture.

It will be interesting to see how Volkswagen, the car industry and other stakeholders try to  control the flow of information and how the public with respond to these attempts. In the meantime, those who understand the cultural need to interact and express ideas & feelings through various mass media platforms have an opportunity capitalize financially/socially.