Monthly Archives: July 2007

“Pilot-reporter” says it all

When news of a mid-air collision between two news helicopters hit the news forums (read: Fark), the immediate reaction was “it was just a matter of time”. While mainstream media is slashing real reporters, they’re shelling out more and more for gimmicks like police-chase news helicopters, so viewers can get real-time updates on how some idiot is trying to get away from police.

The problem isn’t that there are too many helicopters trying to cover the same thing. It’s not that air traffic controllers are failing to separate low-flying aircraft. It’s one, simple phrase:


These news choppers have two people on board: A camera operator, who focuses the video camera on what’s being covered, and the reporter, who describes what’s going on while, you know, piloting a low-flying aircraft in heavy traffic.

The fact that this is common doesn’t make it any less ludicrous. A pilot’s sole mission should be to fly an aircraft. So many aircraft crashes and near-crashes have taken place because pilots become distracted. To have a pilot in a dual-role which requires him to concentrate on some non-flying activity is just asking for trouble.

It’ll be a while before we find out what exactly led to this crash. Perhaps it was something out of both pilots’ control. But either way, I can’t imagine how separating the duties of reporter and pilot can’t lead to safer flights.

Can you get aroused with probes on your penis?

All sorts of medical studies ask strange things of their guinea pigs. Taking new pills, sleeping, not sleeping, changing their eating habits.

But I hope the compensatory indemnity was high for the group who volunteered to have their sexual arousal monitored by taking readings of their penises, in a study to show whether circumsized men are less sensitive. The conclusion: they’re not.

Pointe Claire Village IS the West Island

The Gazette released the results of their West Island icon poll today. The story attached to the results online mentions concerns some people had about the northern half being completely left out, and reporter Max Harrold, to his credit, takes full responsibility. (Of course, had nominations been open to the public this might have been avoided, and the story that made the paper doesn’t talk about this.)

Old Pointe Claire (or the Pointe Claire Village) won with about 1/4 of the vote, narrowly beating Hudson Village (which, as I and Kate McDonnell pointed out, isn’t even on the West Island).

Maybe I was wrong about Just For Laughs

After last week’s premiere of the ABC version of Just For Laughs Gags, I pointed out audiences were highly critical of the show.

Now, after its second week, the press is getting better. With 8 million viewers, it represented ABC’s best summer launch since 2005. (That doesn’t say much, considering how ABC has been at the back of the pack lately.) Now ABC is talking about this being a long-term thing.

Could this be a hit? Is dialogue overrated on American TV?

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Get ready for a revolution (but don’t hold your breath)

Some anonymous radical leftists are calling for “5 days of decentralized direct action and economic sabotage” during the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership summit in Montebello, Quebec in August:

This is a call to action against the companies and governments who govern our lives through law and capital. Since the beginning of the invasion process, capitalism and state governance have perpetuated colonization on the lands of Turtle Island. This process has not stopped. Instead, it takes new forms through the neo-liberal agenda and continues under the authority of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP).

From August 17th to the 21st we encourage decentralized direct actions and economic disruption for the purpose of making the SPP and our resistance against it widely known. During these five days, we hope to hear of actions that will inspire further resistance to this under-the-table plot. We encourage a diversity of tactics, and propose sabotage as a potentially effective means of revolt.

Now, for those of you who don’t speak activist-ese, some definitions:

  • Turtle Island: North America. It’s a term the Crazy Left uses to make it seem as if they’re in touch with native issues. Because their primary concern right now is the name given to the continent.
  • Decentralized direct actions: Uncoordinated guerrilla tactics that no central figurehead can be arrested for.
  • Economic disruption: Vandalism. Smashing store windows, knocking down McDonald’s signs and tipping over mailboxes. Actions that don’t have any major economic impact but allow young adults to vent their unfocused adolescent outrage.
  • A diversity of tactics: Violence. Against things, against people, it doesn’t matter. Anything is fair game.

And these people wonder why we call them crazy.

It’s Just for Laughs — why am I not laughing?

Montreal’s Just for Laughs comedy festival is essentially over. The big-ticket galas are done, the newspapers have moved on, and the streets have been handed over to the Francofolies.

Last weekend, I stopped by the JFL street festival to see what was going on. They had lots of stuff there: a giant human-sized chess game (they had an entire section for games including checkers, darts, trivia games, and pool), street theatre, giant heads, people on stilts (and their over-aggressive crowd-clearers), overpriced “official” merchandise, annoying noisemakers, and charismatic Videotron-branded information booths.

As I walked through it all, I wondered: What does any of this have to do with comedy? Nobody was laughing. The only thing in the entire closed-off get-searched-as-you-enter zone that brought on any laughter was a giant screen showing Just for Laughs Gags.

If you want to have people playing chess on the street, go ahead. But don’t brand it “Just for Laughs” when there’s no laughter involved.

Fairview: No longer the centre of the West Island universe?

Apparently the STM is considering a major overhaul to the West Island bus network in the coming years, which will increase service and, more controversially, “do away” with having most of the buses go to the Fairview bus terminal.

Fairview bus terminal

Currently 17 buses go there, making it the largest STM bus terminal on the island. Only Bonaventure’s massive RTL terminal is larger.

I’m not sure how much I like this idea. As it stands, you can get from just about anywhere in the West Island to just about anywhere else using two buses. And where you have the option of more than one bus, you can just take whichever comes first to Fairview.

The STM is considering a grid system, in which buses go either East-West (like the 68 and 211) or North-South (like the 209 on Sources or the 201 on St. Charles). That way to get anywhere you’d still only need two buses, but could avoid an unnecessary detour.

The problem comes in their solution to the bigger problem: Shuttle service to the metro. Currently only the 470 Express Pierrefonds serves this function, and only during rush hours. Lots of people who go downtown take a bus to Fairview and then transfer to the 470. With a grid system, people might have to take two buses to get to Fairview, lengthening their trip.

Expanding express service is a brilliant idea (if only someone had thought of it earlier), but I’m unconvinced that enough people are taking trips where going through Fairview is a burdensome detour to justify such a shift in routes. Let’s start by getting more frequent service and faster service to downtown and we’ll go from there.

UPDATE: Wow, beat CTV News on this by over 48 hours. Someone sleeping on the job there? Or did their copy of the Chronicle arrive late?

Can someone score Le Devoir some Police tickets?

Le Devoir is whining this morning about not being given free tickets to see The Police.

The article, which makes both Le Devoir and Gillett Entertainment Group look kind of petty, goes over Gillett’s excuses for denying them passes:

Excuse #1: They don’t have enough tickets to give away to “all the media”. Le Devoir sees right through this bull, noting that their photographer (also refused access) doesn’t take up a seat, and the rest of the media didn’t seem to have any problems getting as many tickets as they needed.

Excuse #2: Le Devoir doesn’t have a high enough circulation to make it worthwhile. Also BS. The paper’s circulation is in the six digits and rising, which clearly makes it a powerhouse worthy of the same treatment as the other newspapers and other media.

Excuse #3: Le Devoir doesn’t list when tickets for concerts go on sale. Or, to quote Gillett’s flak: “The other papers are easier to do business with.” This sounds more plausible. Le Devoir is a small paper (small as in size, not circulation or importance), and probably doesn’t have the space nor the lack of shame to give concert promoters free ad space.

Thankfully, Le Devoir isn’t taking this blackmail lying down. If staying independent means they can’t go to the Police concert, they’re not going to the Police concert.

And what do they lose, anyway? I don’t care about what Le Devoir thinks about a concert the day after, and anyone who likes The Police that much was probably at the concert and doesn’t need to read about it the next day.

Maybe, instead of sending journalists to see musicians everyone’s already familiar with, they can find some new people to talk about. It’s not like our city is lacking in talent.

UPDATE: Not a peep from the media concerning Le Devoir’s shunning. So much for media solidarity. The Gazette, the Journal and La Presse all had plenty of coverage of the concert (kinda pointless since nobody who doesn’t already have tickets can see it now), and none made mention of their colleague’s foible (OK, it got one mention — see Kate’s comment below). I guess this is what the mainstream media has come to. Since, when referring to each other’s scoops, they use terms like “a Montreal newspaper” (what are we, idiots?), I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

UPDATE 2: “Vive le Devoir libre!”

Cheap, universal health care: possible?

Montreal writer Thoth Harris has an interesting question about health care in light of Michael Moore’s Sicko: Why not copy the system used in Taiwan?

As Harris explains it, Taiwan’s health care system is cheap, universal and available. The main reason he cites is that Taiwan’s system is more “egalitarian” (*cough*communist*cough*), and doctors make about the same salary as other workers there.

I don’t know if that’s the whole story, or if it would help here. Though I do think if our legislature was more like theirs it would be pretty fun to watch.

Corner Gas to pass wind in U.S.

A week after the U.S. premiere of Just for Laughs Gags comes news (Star, Globe, CanWest, CP) that CTV’s Corner Gas is being picked up by Superstation WGN out of Chicago (they already run Da Vinci’s Inquest as well as a number of syndicated U.S. reruns). There’s also rumours of Little Mosque on the Prairie being on some radars south of the border.

Compared to Just for Laughs, which probably won’t last the summer unless it capitalizes on a niche audience of deaf grandmothers, this sitcom probably has a better chance.

Barouf! Barouf! Barouf is on fire!

Fire on St. Denis

A fire broke out this evening around 7 p.m. at Rachel and St. Denis, above, among other things, L’Barouf. Fifteen people had to flee their homes and will probably remain homeless for a while (which suggests local news outlets won’t use my headline above). Plenty of pictures on Flickr from users wjpbennett (including the one above) and jusmobile.

UPDATE: The owner of Le Continental, also destroyed in the fire, vows to rebuild. As do the owners of L’Barouf.

Rampaging shooter takes break, listens to Vancouver talk radio station?

You would be forgiven for missing this story, curiously buried in the back pages of Saturday’s papers: a Vancouver talk radio station has been slapped on the wrist and forced to apologize by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for broadcasting the location of people inside Dawson College during the Sept. 13, 2006 shootings.

Here’s the story:

On the afternoon of Sept. 13, as media around the world began to clue in that a school shooting was in progress at Dawson, Vancouver’s CKNW News Talk 980 broke into its morning show (they’re three hours behind, remember) to pick up a live feed from Montreal’s 940 News. Both stations are owned by Corus.

Like every other media outlet in Montreal, 940 was desperately trying to get information on what was going on. The police didn’t know how many shooters there were or where they were or anything else. So the media filled their otherwise dead air with rampant speculation. There were four gunmen. They were shooting up Alexis Nihon. All sorts of stuff.

Fortunately in this age, everyone has a cellphone. And though the cell sites around Dawson were saturated, some calls got through. And among those were calls to the radio stations from students inside Dawson.

One of those was a girl named Sannah, who told 940 she was in a lab on the 7th floor with 30 other students. Then there was Dahlia, who 940 said was on the 3rd floor. After the interviews, host Michael Dean repeated their locations in a summary of what was going on.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this. On one hand, announcing (and repeating) the locations of people hiding from a gunman on the air can be seen as mind-numbingly stupid, allowing a loose gunman to find sitting ducks by listening to the radio. On the other hand (and this was the station’s argument) that same information would also be helpful to police to find them first.

Of course, a call to 911 would have had those advantages without the drawbacks. Whether they couldn’t get through to 911 or whether the police already knew of their locations isn’t clear.

And, we should also mention, all of this is sort of a moot point. By the time anyone was talking on the radio, Kimveer Gill was dead, and he wasn’t listening to the radio. So this is really just an academic argument.

Nevertheless, the British Columbia regional panel of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council concluded that the Vancouver station was in violation of a Radio Television News Directors Association Code of Ethics article which is surprisingly on point:

Reporting on criminal activities such as hostage-takings, prison uprisings or terrorist acts will be done in a fashion that does not knowingly endanger lives, offer comfort and support or provide vital information to the perpetrator(s). RTNDA members will contact neither victims nor perpetrators of a criminal activity during the course of the event for the purpose of conducting an interview that would interfere with a peaceful resolution.

Now, some logicians and common-sensers in the audience out there might be asking themselves: Why are we talking about a Vancouver radio station? Why isn’t this applying to 940 News?

Because nobody complained about 940 News.

Unfortunately for the CBSC, someone has to file a complaint against a station before they can act. Even if they find evidence of wrongdoing, they can’t take action. The ruling made mention of this:

[The panel] also observes that it would have been pertinent to apply its conclusions to CINW-AM [940 News], the Corus sister station in Montreal, as well as to any other Corus stations running the challenged portion of the live feed. The CBSC’s procedures do not, however, permit such a conclusion. In the circumstances, no complaint having been received from a Montreal listener, the Panel confines the requirements of its conclusions to the Corus Vancouver station, with respect to which it did receive the complaint with which this decision has dealt. Moreover, since all CBSC members are bound by the principles established in all CBSC decisions, the Panel recognizes that the reach of the conclusions will mandate the application of the principles established here in all Corus and other broadcaster newsrooms.

I’m at a loss to figure out what part of this story boggles the mind more.