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XYYZ — Russell Smith & Co. Out On The Town

Wednesday, November 1, 2006
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I’ve been meaning to give you the scoop on this new website for a while, but haven’t gotten around to it until now — unfortunately, Eye beat me too it (see kids — this is what happens when you procrastinate).

So, while I lost the scoop, I’m going to go one better and talk in detail about it, also using this opportunity to gush about its founder Russell Smith.

Russell Smith is more than simply my favourite author — he’s also a sort of mentor-from-afar/doppelganger/literary conscience who pops up in my life every few months or so, as if to remind me of the things I should be doing and keep me on track. The similarities between me and the protagonist ofsmith.jpg his second book Noise are frighteningly uncanny (more so than just the name, although that’s of course where it begins). While reading it I felt as if he had been psychically stalking me — had somehow broken into my brain and used every facet of my personality to craft that character (or, at least, what my personality would be like at 25 since I was 18 when he wrote it). I see him every few months or so — either passing by on the sidewalk, or at the urinal next to me at Bar Italia, or at a Queen W. hipster art gallery where I’m looking at the people around me thinking ‘I feel like I’m in a Russell Smith novel’ and then he walks in five minutes later (that really happened).

As I’ve mentioned on Death From Below, he writes a weekly men’s style column for the Globe and Mail titled Best Dressed. At some point last summer he decided to put all that sartorial know-how to wider use and, with a group of compatriots, started XYYZ, a sort of GQ-inspired site targeting ‘Guys In Toronto.’ (XY being the chromosomal signature for men, YYZ being the airport designation for Toronto — get it?)

It’s broken down into different sections covering all manner of topics of interest to the urbane gentleman: style, personal care, entertainment, food and drink, and, of course, sex (they brought in local sex-advice columnist Josey Vogels to offer up her wisdom and know-how). There’s an interesting area entitled What Would Cary Do?, a kind of ‘ask-the-experts’ forum which is based on the premise that Cary Grant was the coolest guy ever and we should all do what he did (and after seeing him suave around in To Catch a Thief, who could argue?)

Then there’s XX in YYZ, which is a section of ‘real advice from real women.’ This is supposed to be genuine advice from women about how to go about doing such things as picking up at clubs or dishing out good foreplay. Problem is, it’s obviously . . . embellished . . . at certain points, which makes me wonder if it isn’t just written by these women, or even by some guy, strictly to conform to the fantasies of their target audience. There are a few posts written by ‘Leigh,’ a ‘freelance journalist living in Kensington Market,’ about the right way to arrange a threesome. There are talks about how sex was almost had in a washroom at lounge somewhere. I won’t go into too much detail — you can read all of Zoe, Leigh, Honor and Rachel’s testimonials for yourself — but, it just feels that these women are too perfectly perfect, if you get my drift. Outgoing, smart, sexual, but deliberately not unattainable. Perfectly normal. So, either these four women really are the type any man would want to meet and I’m being too suspicious, or they are composites created for entertaining reading. I’m curious to see what you think.

While overall I find the content of the site interesting, unfortunately the design is very convoluted and confusing. The front page only consists of links to each section, but there is no indication of which sections have most recently been updated or where the new content is. You have to click on each link, and in many cases on each sub-category link, just to see if there’s anything new there. Obviously, this isn’t very conducive to easy navigation — every time you check the site you have to surf through the entire thing just to see where all the new stuff is. There is an online newsletter that can be subscribed too, so maybe that’s where all the new-content notifications are, but in terms of the basic site itself it would make a lot more sense to have some sort of scroll of all the new stuff (kind of like the way The Culturatti, or any blog, is set up) along with the section links. Just a suggestion.

Anyway, the site is pretty fun. Even if the XX in YYZ stuff is fantastical it’s still a guilty pleasure. And the style tips are helpful, just like Best Dressed always is. I’ve added it to the Links at right, so be sure to check it out every once in a while.

And, please, buy all of Smith’s books and enjoy them thoroughly. Dammit, the man deserves it. I’ll be doing an in-depth post about them all at some point . . . 03971semaj

Photo credit — Christa Conway
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