Monthly Archives: June 2007

Day of action, followed by many days of inaction

A march is being planned for Friday at noon at the corner of Parc and Sherbrooke to protest for aboriginal rights.

It’s part of a nationwide “day of action” (I see that phrase used a lot, but I’m unclear on what it’s supposed to mean) for aboriginal rights in this country. At issue (not to imply that these aren’t perennial issues) are aboriginal poverty and land claims, among other things.

See the Facebook page for the event.

Other events are happening in Kahnawake, on the other side of the Mercier Bridge. Look at our new mess has undergone a redesign. And it still sucks.

The French version, especially, is a vast improvement over its disaster of a “portal”, but for some reason they’re following the same mistakes everyone else is making in trying to “go Web 2.0”, not knowing what the heck Web 2.0 is all about:

  • Headlines in blue-grey Helvetica bold, and a complete ban on serif fonts for no good reason
  • “Rotating headlines” which, in addition to sucking up your CPU time, force you to play a cat-and-mouse game (or is it mouse-and-mouse?) to click on it before it’s replaced with another one. (Did someone send out a memo somewhere giving people the impression that this is what “dynamic content” is all about?)
  • Everything portals that include thousands of links (OK I exaggerate, there are only 339 links on the homepage).
  • Pages that scroll down forever. Every inch down, an entirely new layout style appears with its own rules and logic, guaranteeing as much confusion as possible on where to find things.
  • Three separate horizontal menus.
  • Space wasted begging people to use this page as their homepage, instead of offering a page anyone would want to use as one.
  • Inside pages so jam-packed with ads you’re searching for the “print-friendly” link (pages of course don’t simply include print-friendly stylesheets) so you can just read the story in peace.
  • Duplicate links to sections like News and Sports just a few pixels apart.
  • Separate “narrow” and “wide” versions, because your monitor is only 800 or 1024 pixels wide, no matter who you are.
  • Each section page has a different brand, a different layout, and a different way of finding things.

Look for another massive redesign in a year or less when the folks behind realize their layout sucks and nobody can find anything.

Tremblay speaks out about Zeke’s suit

Michel Leblanc has comments from Pierre-Antoine Tremblay justifying his court cases against blogger Chris Hand.

Tremblay’s side has some valid points:

  • This isn’t a case of freedom of speech, it’s a libel case. Bloggers are just as responsible as media outlets as far as not using their right to free expression maliciously. Assuming Tremblay’s interpretation of the original post is true (that Hand accuses him of fraud and links to the mafia), those are certainly things that someone could make a legitimate libel case out of.
  • Tremblay hasn’t been charged with any of the crimes he’s been associated with. His dispute with Loto-Quebec was settled out of court (the result is sealed), the paintings are still on display, and he hasn’t been accused of any direct links to Frank Martorana or other members of the mafia.
  • He’s not a rich mogul looking to shut down a blog. His injunction is very specific, and doesn’t even prevent Hand from discussing Tremblay, just from repeating the allegations.
  • Hand was clearly exacerbating the situation through other media until recently when his lawyer told him to clam up.

On the other hand, he doesn’t answer some of Chris Hand’s main criticisms:

  • Why hasn’t Tremblay attempted to contact Hand about all this, instead of issuing threatening lawyer’s letters every couple of weeks?
  • Why not have Hand simply correct the post, which he indicates he was perfectly willing to do, instead of bringing him to court?
  • Why is the Loto-Quebec press release, which Tremblay says is false, still available to the public? How are we supposed to know that the paintings weren’t fake (if that is indeed the case) if the settlement is secret?
  • Why is he suing for $25,000, and now trying to increase that to $60,000?
  • Why not simply try to settle the case out of court, since both sides are poor and the only people to win here are the lawyers?

Either way, unless these two can start talking to each other like humans, a judge is going to decide which story is more sympathetic. And lots of money and time is going to be wasted on both sides.

Which Canadian journalists, after having invented, over 25 years ago, a board game which features confusingly-long trivia questions, have just successfully defended a lawsuit against them that was launched in 1994?

The case of David H. Wall vs. Christopher Haney and Scott Abbott may finally be settled.

For those who need a refresher, Wall sued Haney and Abbott, the creators of the Trivial Pursuit board game, in 1994, claiming Haney stole the idea for the game from Wall. Wall was hitchhiking one day when Haney picked him up (or so Wall says) and that’s when Wall apparently laid out in explicit detail how the game would work, enough that Haney stole his idea. Right.

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge dismissed Wall’s case, pointing out that Wall doesn’t have a single shred of evidence beyond his self-serving testimony to support his claim.

This isn’t the first lawsuit Trivial Pursuit’s creators have faced. In 1984 they were sued by the creator of the Trivia Encyclopedia for copying their questions and answers. They admitted to it (they were caught red-handed copying a made-up question), but argued that facts cannot be copyrighted. A judge agreed and dismissed that case too.

The Trivial Pursuit origin story always interests me because it was created by a CP sports editor and a Gazette photo editor. According to Gazette lore (read: old-timers’ occasional rants), the two went around seeking investors from among their journalistic buddies, and most chose to hold on to their money. The phrase “I could be retired by now” would inevitably follow, along with wet grunts and smoke-filled phlegm.

Now they can go on to regretting the past two and a half decades of their lives.

Wanna bet?

CGTV Canada

CBC has a story on how “gambling critics” are waging a campaign against Videotron for a channel on its digital cable network it says glorifies gambling.

The channel in question is CGTV Canada (Casino and Gaming Television) which can be found on channel 59 on Videotron’s Illico digital TV service (it’s not on classic cable — but for some reason it’s included as part of Videotron’s required base channel lineup, along with local broadcast stations, CPAC, The Weather Network, Newsworld and other important cable channels).

The charge is being led by Sol Boxenbaum, who in addition to being an anti-gambling crusader (he’s sued the Quebec government over VLTs) hosts his own very-very-late-night talk show on CJAD. His principal argument is that digital cable subscribers have no choice on whether or not they should have the channel as part of their TV lineup, and that THE CHILDREN might see it and cause untold harm on society.

Of course, the first question that comes to my mind is: Why now? CGTV (formerly The Gaming Channel) has been licensed for six years now. They’ve been on Videotron’s basic digital lineup for more than a year. And there are other all-gambling channels on the way: The Players Channel, The Wagering Network and Gambling TV.

Breaking Fête nationale news

  1. Prime Minister says Quebec is good.
  2. Police are present where a large gathering of people is taking place.

Wow. The assignment editors must be really stretching.

A comment about the CP article on police presence: Was the holiday really “often known for violence”? I know hard-liners do their hard-liner thing, but was it really enough to make the entire holiday appear violent? Or is this just an example of a reporter talking out of his or her ass?

This post is 174% accurate

Back when I was in high school, I didn’t read books. Not because I couldn’t, I just didn’t like them. Even now I don’t own any novels, rarely read biographies, and my bookshelf consists of Star Trek technical manuals, old Garfield books, and some computer science and philosophy textbooks I still think are interesting.

So the library wasn’t exactly my place to be. I still went there for the computer books and other non-fiction instruction books, but you’d never find me in the fiction section.

One day, I was researching a school paper in the local library (Shout-out Pierrefonds/Dollard-des-Ormeaux Intermunicipal Library! Yeah!). These were the days before Google, so I actually had to look at books to find information. I was walking down the aisle and I happened on this book about statistics. I couldn’t remember what the title is, though it was a play on “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”. I flipped through the pages and started reading.

I read the entire book cover to cover. It was fascinating (well, fascinating for a teenager who didn’t have access to Wikipedia, anyway). It talked about advertisers using bad statistical math saying things like “200% off” and how that makes no sense.

I credit my high-school English teacher for getting me to read more. She was a forest’s worst enemy, photocopying Shakespeare, Chaucer, and mythology texts from all over the place. We needed three-inch D-ring binders just to hold them all. I still have mine at home, and will probably read it one day when I can finally understand it.

When my mother told her I went into journalism and became a writer/editor, she apparently laughed. I don’t blame her. I was a mathematician who had no room for English back then, and the English teacher was always my worst enemy. She turned out to be one of my favourite teachers.

Anyway, getting back on track, the Canadian Freelance Union, a new group trying to secure rights for freelancers with big media corporations (a long battle if there ever was one) released its first newsletter. In it (and on its website), it says freelancers’ real income has dropped by 163%, taking inflation into account, over the past three decades.

The number, of course, makes no sense. Unless we’re paying publishers to use our content (I wouldn’t put it past some aspiring writers to make that offer, mind you), income cannot be below zero. In reality, the average freelancer income has stayed constant, while inflation has made everything else 163% more expensive. That means buying power has decreased 62%, not 163%.

I know journalists aren’t supposed to be good at math, but numbers like this should at least be put through a sanity check before they’re published.