Monthly Archives: June 2007

A missing voice

This week’s blog profile is une vie en musique, whose author René Lapalme died June 9 of cancer. It was written before the latest post went up. Normally blogs and other websites of the deceased stay frozen forever. This one, it turned out, was an exception.

Reading René’s blog gives a timeline of his declining health. His increased fatigue causing him to take a break and slowly return to work a month later not knowing the cause, the decision to finally see a doctor, the battery of tests eventually leading to the discovery of cancer, his tearful video thank-you to his readers for their support, and eventually his last post, a self-portrait of a man half his previous weight and without his long curly hair, where those who heard of his death added comments to say their final goodbyes.

The blogosphere response to news of his death was huge. I won’t try to summarize the dozens of blog posts about him from his readers, but it was clear he had a lot of them. A few to point out though:

  • Guy Verville, who first broke the news.
  • Martine, from whom many learned of René’s passing.
  • Andre, of Metroblogging Montreal, among many with brief stories of their encounters with René.
  • A special video tribute, feating one of René’s songs.

Radio Centre-Ville had a special show the Tuesday after his death (where he volunteered his time on a radio show) devoted to him. It’s no longer online, but if someone saved a copy I’d be glad to point to it.
The official obit is here. His self-written biography is better. Though to truly understand his character, I would recommend taking a look at his photo comics, or listen to his music.

I’m not normally an emotional person. I don’t like writing sad things. Hopefully I won’t have to write another blogger obit for a while longer.

The parking meter myth rears its ugly head

A CNet blog post about a new website mentions an old YouTube video (how it’s related to classifieds is beyond me) about how easy Montreal parking meters can be “scammed”. Because putting money in an already-paid-for spot doesn’t add to its time but instead replaces it, the video alleges that you can add a nickel to a paid-for spot and cause the hapless soul parked there to get a ticket.

Missing in this vast conspiracy theory is any evidence that this actually has happened. Nobody seems to have come forward to complain that these mysterious party poopers who want to screw drivers for no reason have targetted them.

Besides, drivers are issued receipts when they pay for their parking. If these nefarious evil-doers do execute their brilliant plan, it would be a simple matter of showing up with the receipt to have the ticket dismissed.

This of course assumes that parking spots can be cancelled in this way, and that meter maids will be told that the spot is not paid for. As I understand the case (can’t find a link to the article that talked about it), this is not what happens.

So you can rest easy parking in Montreal. But, just to be safe, keep your receipts.

GPS doesn’t solve common-sense confusion

UPI has plagiarized referenced a Gazette cover story about Quebec’s law against screens in the driver’s seat. As if it’s bad enough that they can’t do any reporting on their own, they seem to misunderstand the very story they’re copying. The headline is “Canadian province turns OnStar off”, which doesn’t make any sense. Quebec hasn’t passed a law against OnStar, it’s an existing law which GPS systems may prompt an amendment to.

For those curious, the applicable section is article 439 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code:

439. No person may drive a road vehicle in which a television set or a display screen is so placed that the image broadcast on the screen is directly or indirectly visible to the driver, except in the case of a closed circuit system used by the driver to operate the vehicle, or a system used by a peace officer or the driver of a road vehicle used as an ambulance, in accordance with the Act respecting pre-hospital emergency services (chapter S-6.2), in the performance of their duties.

The intent of the law is very clear: No TV sets visible to the driver. It’s a common-sense safety law that is hardly “idiotic”. But it is in need of updating, considering an apparent study that suggests drivers consulting navigation systems are less distracted because they have a better idea of where they’re going.

Considering they’ve already given a free pass to emergency vehicles, it’s a common-sense amendment to a common-sense law.

But please, let’s make a big deal out of it.

Le Soleil: We don’t outsource (wink, wink)

Oh snap: Quebec City’s Le Soleil is not pulling any punches in its campaign to steal as many readers as possible from the Journal de Québec, whose workers are on the street and whose content is being generated elsewhere.

Perhaps this will make both sides realize that no matter how this goes, the real winner will be their competition.

Speaking of the workers, they’re calling a one-day boycott of the Journal a success without any evidence it was followed or made an impact.

Holy pixellation Batman!

The Gazette today launched their “new and improved” Alouettes coverage. This includes a special Alouettes section to their website, a new blog by football writer Herb Zurkowsky, and a special downloadable newsletter called Game Day (direct PDF link).

If this sounds familiar, you might be from Ottawa. The Citizen has been doing the same thing for Senators games since January. This is also similar to afternoon news editions like the Citizen’s Rush Hour or the Star’s Star P.M.

How successful these PDF papers are is a mystery. I don’t have access to the Citizen’s or the Star’s website stats. But they’re easy to produce and can be distributed instantaneously for free. So it’s certainly worth a try.

The Gazette’s first foray into this new system has hit a few snags though:


Pixellation: Don’t adjust your monitors, this is how the text (and everything else) appears, which makes you wonder why it’s not just a giant JPEG instead of a PDF. Normally things like this are done when font problems appear, so hopefully they’ll have that figured out by next time (UPDATE: Nope.). Not only is the text unreadable, but giant images like this require larger PDFs than vectorized text.


Font problems: You’d think they’d be solved by the rasterization of the entire document, but apparently not. “n” in one of the dingbat fonts makes a bullet, and it’s replaced here with a red Courier New letter.


Headshot: This shot of the lovable Herb Zurkowsky appears everywhere: in the paper, on the blog, in the Game Day special. And I’m afraid to look at it. Let this be a warning folks, HERB ZURKOWSKY WILL MURDER YOUR FAMILY.

Oh, and in case you’re curious, we won: 34-26 against the Toronto Argonauts. doing some things right

Following my earlier critique of’s redesign (other blogs are weighing in, a list is compiled here), I should give them props for a good use of technology: Blog Watch.

I first noticed it when I saw I was getting traffic from a CBC article I had commented on. It turns out CBC is using services from Technorati for pingback-like features. It scours the blogs for links to news pieces, and links to those blogs in the sidebar. The Blogwatch page finds the most blogged about articles.

Though some have expressed concern that this will just elevate pop culture articles above important news pieces, I still like the idea. It provides direct, relevant links to the blogosphere automatically, and without sacrificing editorial quality.


I still hate your homepage though.

Zeke maintains status quo in court

Chris Hand, the Zeke behind Zeke’s Gallery, spent most of today in the Palais de Justice with his lawyer and mother. At issue was an injunction which stops Hand from making specific statements about Pierre-Antoine Tremblay, an art dealer who is suing him for libel.

After hearing about an hour’s worth of arguments from both sides, the judge has ordered a renewal of the existing injunction against Hand, but without changes asked by the plaintiff (those seemed centred around preventing Hand from using other media to make statements against Mr. Tremblay). The injunction prohibits Chris Hand from saying that Pierre-Antoine Tremblay is associated with Frank Martorana and the mafia, or that he tried to sell fake paintings to Loto-Quebec. Both statements Tremblay’s lawyer says are entirly false.

The injunction lasts until Sept. 6, 2007, when further hearings will take place on this matter.

Among other things of note:

  • Tremblay wasn’t present in court.
  • Tremblay and his lawyer have increased their monetary demands. What was once $25,000 is now $60,000.
  • Hand was barely recognizable. His hippie haircut has been replaced with a professional-looking crewcut. He sat well-behaved in a suit (no tie) and didn’t bite the head off even one chicken throughout the proceedings.
  • The proceedings were held entirely in French, except for what was read from blog posts and newspaper articles.
  • From the plaintiff’s lawyer: “Comment ça se dit en français ‘quack’?” Hand’s mother tried to explain before Chris cut her off and explained that she’s helping opposing council.
  • Legal chit-chat between the lawyers and court reporter are always cute. They talk about the temperature of the drinking water in the courtroom, or what lawyer was at which firm when, or about the noise of construction on the floors above them.
  • Shout-outs to Montreal Tech Watch and Hou-Hou Blog whose posts were used in evidence by the plaintiff. No mention of my huge post, but my article did get quoted so I won’t complain.
  • Both lawyers were very effective at pleading their case. The plaintiff’s arguments boiled down to the fact that this is a very specific injunction (the facts of the libel case weren’t argued today), that Hand is using other media (Yahoo! Groups, other blogs, personal communication at YULblog meetings) to repeat the same allegedly libellous claims, and that Zeke’s Gallery is in competition with Tremblay’s Galerie 2000 (a claim Chris calls an exaggeration).
  • There are still three related cases pending. All have been postponed to Sept. 6:
    • The injunction preventing Hand from making these statements about Tremblay
    • A contempt of court charge for allegedly ignoring the previous injunction
    • The libel case itself
  • Tremblay’s lawyer said outright that the paintings sold to Loto-Quebec were not forged. This is the first complete denial of this charge I’ve heard. The out-of-court settlement between Tremblay and Loto-Quebec is secret, but I’d love to find out what the real story is behind it.
  • The Zeke’s Gallery blog remains effectively shut down. Hand isn’t sure if he’ll bring it back, even if he ends up winning the case.

Fun with the legal system

The Internet is a pretty cool thing. In the past, to find information relating to a court judgment you’d have to have a Lexis/Nexis account or spend your life at a library going through giant books. Now, you just have to search.

It’s amazing how many legal cases are dealt with every day in this city alone. Some are big, like class-action lawsuits, union arbitration, or big companies going at it. Some are small, with small-claims court rulings about the silliest of subjects.

Here’s a smattering of some cases that were decided earlier this month:

  • Rabinovitch vs. McGill University Health Centre. Hospital loses a gold bracelet a woman had when she was admitted. She demands $800. Court agrees the hospital was negligent, but without a proper appraisal of the bracelet orders only $450 be paid.
  • Sportsplexe 4 Glaces Pierrefonds vs. Montreal (Roxboro/Pierrefonds). Building owner (who purchased the building from its previous owner) demands the court annul its 10-year lease which is about to end because of a technicality. The court points out that they had 10 years to bring this up and didn’t, plus the technicality itself (that an approval from the province was required) doesn’t apply anymore. Rejected with costs.
  • Moran vs. Montreal. Deaf guy (his deafness isn’t an issue, but for some reason he makes it one) sues the city after he fell on the ice and got a hernia for his troubles. Sues for $185,000. Court notes that on one hand, the 48-hour delay between the snowfall and the accident was too long. However, he made the decision to go out, and cities are normally not responsible for such accidents (there’s a specific law that covers it) unless there’s evidence of negligence. Decides city is 25% responsible, Moran 75%. Orders city to pay $18,750 with interest, which works out to about the $25,000 the city offered to pay.

What about Mr. Tremblay?

Michel Leblanc has an interesting on-the-other-hand take to the Zeke’s Gallery situation. He points out that Tremblay hasn’t been convicted of anything, and just because the media accuses him of something doesn’t make it true.

The point is well taken. Chris Hand shouldn’t be immune from prosecution for libel just because he’s a blogger.

But this whole mess was caused by Tremblay himself, who instead of sending an email with his side of the story (a side he hasn’t expressed publically, in part because of a confidentiality agreement with the Loto-Quebec thing and in part because he’s just chosen not to) sent a lawyer’s letter to Hand. Then, when Hand complied with the letter, he sent another more threatening one making more demands.

Tremblay (as far as I know) didn’t sue Radio-Canada, Le Devoir or the other media who first made these claims about him (UPDATE: He sued La Presse, who made much more outlandish statements about him, and lost). And despite an agreement which Tremblay implies was in his favour (as the paintings are still on display), the original press release which accused Tremblay of fraud is still online.

Hand and Tremblay (or their lawyers) meet in front of a judge tomorrow. Let’s hope they can still resolve this amicably.

Boys will be boys

Cecil Humphries, the principal of Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School (my alma mater) is getting raked over the coals over comments he made that bullying is a “conflict” which is a “natural occurrence”.

It’s not an isolated case. Schools everywhere consider bullying to be not their problem, and as long as nobody dies they freely ignore the psychological trauma inflicted on these kids. And the government, which cuts education funding every time they can find a new gimmick to throw money at for votes, isn’t helping anything.

But seriously, don’t deny it exists.