Monthly Archives: December 2007

Big media won’t touch girls, cup

WARNING: Don’t read the following post if you’re eating, you’re under 18 or you’ve ever cringed at anything in your life.

Name a YouTube sensation or Internet meme and there are mainstream media articles about it. TV news, desperate for attention-grabbing video, will run whatever people are watching online and try to explain why it’s so popular. Newspaper lifestyle writers, desperate for some new sociological situation to discuss, look behind the meme to find something about our lives that’s changed in recent years. The rest just want to convince readers, viewers and listeners that they’re hip to the Internet and aren’t being left behind in the mad rush to the Web.

But there’s one Internet meme that mainstream media hasn’t touched yet, and for very good reason: They just can’t show the video on television.

For the few of you who don’t already know what I’m talking about, I’m going to choose my words carefully. Because despite the warning at the beginning of this post, there are people with a sense of decency who read this blog regularly (e.g. my mother, her mother).

The video in question is called “2 girls 1 cup”. It’s a pornographic fetish video created by a Brazillian pornographer, and billed as the most disgusting set of moving images ever produced. Basically it’s two women eating their own feces and vomit out of a cup.

The Internet meme isn’t so much the video itself, which even YouTube won’t allow posted to its website. Rather, it’s the reaction videos, videos of people watching it for the first time and the horrified, disgusted looks on their faces when the tame lesbian porn turns into … gross.

It’s gotten to the point where those reaction videos themselves are being spoofed (see the Kermit version — and again remember the warning above), and others who are trying to leverage the video’s infamy to gain some fame of their own are going so far as to create music referencing it:

But still, mainstream media is silent. A gay magazine here, a college newspaper there. Maybe a spoof article.

Have we finally crossed that line that big media won’t follow? Have they finally drawn a line in the sand and said this is so offensive that they won’t dignify it with even a passing reference?

If so, perhaps that’s a good thing. Perhaps it will cause some people in the news business to rethink their approach to coverage that picks up on Internet memes at the expense of wars, politics, science and all those other boring topics that don’t drive up ratings numbers they can sell to advertisers.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps they’ll just show the reaction videos and hope they can tell the story without showing the original or even mentioning its name.

Anyone want to take any bets on how low the media is going to go on this?

Paul Potts, diamond in the rough, is coming to Montreal

Paul Potts

Remember Paul Potts? He’s the guy who got onto Britain’s Got Talent as a funny-looking manager of a cellphone store with no tie, a broken smile and zero self-confidence, and during his audition literally caused Simon Cowell’s jaw to drop mesmerizing the audience singing Nessun dorma:

That video (well, actually another copy of it that was taken off YouTube after a copyright complaint) went all over the world on YouTube (mostly because of the expression on Cowell’s face), seen by people who’d never even heard of Britain’s Got Talent. Still today, few outside Britain can name any other performers on that show.The judges pretty well guaranteed him a victory in the competition and sure enough… well I’ll just let you see it for yourself.

Now, after performing for the Queen, he’s on a world tour in a nice tuxedo and backup singers and everything. He’s coming to Place des Arts March 14. Tickets start at $49.50 ($58.96 with all the fees if you book online).

Editor and Publisher aren’t scooping anyone

Editor and Publisher has a short article (via J-Source) about The Gazette’s Green Report Card, in which the newspaper looks at its own environmental impact and comes up with some sobering results (they use a lot of paper). E&P calls it “groundbreaking,” which makes me wonder what took them so long: the report was published in April.

I realize magazines have long lead times between writing and publishing, but this is kind of silly.

Anyway, the report is still worth reading, if only for its surprisingly honest self-assessment.

Station C

Station C

By now most of Montreal’s technology community has heard about the Station C coworking space being setup by Patrick Tanguay and Daniel Mireault. Patrick especially has been blogging about it since forever, talking about it at BarCamp and related events, and annoying his girlfriend about it.

Last week, I sat down to interview both of them at Laïka, which gave me a pretty good idea of the disadvantages of working in cafés (not that Laïka is particularly bad or anything). Right after our interview they walked over and signed the lease, which means they’ve passed the point of no return and the project is officially going ahead.

My article on Station C appears in this morning’s Gazette (Page B3):

Their jobs didn’t exist 20 years ago. Their offices consist of a laptop and a cellphone. And they want to work from anywhere but home.

They’re freelance geeks, and they’re wandering the streets looking for a place to work. You can see them lugging their laptops to cafés, buying coffee in return for a table, a power outlet and a few hours of wireless Internet.

But Web developers Patrick Tanguay and Daniel Mireault are getting tired of setting up offices in cafés. It’s loud and uncomfortable, the Internet access can be slow or unreliable, there are no printers or office supplies and no place to meet clients privately.

So two years ago, Tanguay and Mireault started toying with the idea of setting up an office that freelancers and telecommuters could share, even though they’re all working on different projects for different people.

It’s called co-working, and it’s already caught on in Toronto, Vancouver and dozens of other cities in the United States and Europe.


I noticed during our interview that there are two types of people at Laïka: those who come to socialize and those who come with laptops to work or study. Some try to do both, but end up looking at their laptop screens more than their friends.

For those who are interested, other Canadian coworking spaces include:

The Network Hub (Vancouver): An incubator for Internet startups, The Network Hub offers an office for people with big ideas and small budgets. It provides funding and administrative services in exchange for 5 to 10 per cent equity in the company.

WorkSpace (Vancouver): Describing itself as “more like a club than an office,” WorkSpace is the first coworking space in Canada that runs as a business. Membership ranges from $95 to $695 per month. It also accepts drop-ins at $25 per half-day or $35 per day.

Indoor Playground (Toronto): Open since February, Indoor Playground is a non-profit space for working, collaboration and events. Rates from $50 to $300 per month, and there are day rates for individual workers or groups.

Centre for Social Innovation (Toronto): Offers private desks and shared desks for $75 to $350 per month. The centre’s goal is to encourage new ideas that foster social change, and it is home to over 100 community and non-profit organizations.

Queen Street Commons (Charlottetown): A member-owned non-profit space in a century-old three-story Victorian home, operating since the summer of 2005. Membership is $35 per month with a 12-month contract.

Trains aren’t running on time

The Agence métropolitaine de transport has still not recovered from this weekend’s snowstorm, and trains on the Dorion/Rigaud line are still not opreating operating properly, forcing delays during every rush hour since, for a variety of reasons (but basically “snow” and “cold”).

Spokesperson Mélanie Nadeau says she hasn’t seen anything this bad in six years.

Which is the same thing she said Sunday, which was “the worst day since I started.”

And apparently it’s worse than breakdowns in May, when she said nobody could remember anything as bad in 10 years.

How many more worst days is the AMT going to experience?

UPDATE: My mother points out that I misspelled “operating” above. I live with the unending shame.

Arrests in case?

The RCMP announced today that they have made eight arrests in a DVD counterfeiting network based in Montreal that was selling bad copies of DVDs (and in some cases off-TV recordings) of U.S. television series through multiple websites.

The RCMP doesn’t name the eight people arrested, nor the websites involved, nor the name of the company they were working under. But all signs point to, which The Gazette wrote about in August after many users complained of either not getting what they ordered or getting bad copies of what they were expecting. The website is currently offline.

(I tried to call the RCMP spokesperson to confirm this, but their office apparently closes before 3:45pm on a day they issue a major news release.)

Garcia Media Group, which was the company behind the operation, distributed the DVDs through the following nearly-identical websites:


as well as a number of other domains that have since been turned into spam sites.

Many of the sites listed above are still operational and will still gladly accept your credit card information.

Not that anyone should be held responsible for being defrauded, but some simple sleuthing on the part of surfers could have prevented their losing money to these scam sites:

  • Check a vendor’s reputation, if only through a simple Google search, before deciding to do business with them. Don’t just assume a professional-looking website will be any more official than some unknown person on eBay.
  • Find out information about a vendor from their website. Do they have a head office? Do they say who they’re owned by? Do they provide links to other organizations that can vouch for them?
  • Be suspicious of any company that offers region-free DVDs or DVDs that haven’t been released yet.
  • If a company says “no problem” at shipping (especially copyrighted and release-controlled material like DVDs) to over 100 countries, chances are they’re ignoring the law.
  • 80% discounts on popular items just don’t happen.
  • Don’t give your credit card number on an unsecured connection!

It should be noted, of course, that this is bootlegging in the traditional sense, profiting off the selling of copied copyrighted material. It is clearly covered under existing copyright law, and it’s clearly illegal.

The RCMP says it started an investigation in February (why did it take them that long?). Let’s hope they have a solid case that will result in long sentences and heavy fines, and that everyone who has been scammed will be refunded.

UPDATE (Dec. 25): Missed this TQS video of the operation, including stacks of dozens of DVD burners that practically bring it into the territory of cartoonish supervillainy.

Quebec to censor fast-car ads?

It’s pretty well agreed among most reasonable people that speed is bad. Unless you’re speeding just a bit above the speed limit, then it’s ok because everyone else does it and you’re not hurting anyone. But anyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, and everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot.

So, some wonder, why do cars have speedometers that go up to 180kph? Why not just technologically limit how fast they can go and make it simpler for everyone?

Well nobody is doing that quite yet, but Quebec is taking a step in the direction of making automakers responsible for speeding. They’re considering banning all advertising that glorifies excessive speeding. Basically all that “professional driver on closed course” stuff, as well as shots of ski-doos flying through the air.

It’s clear that self-regulation isn’t effective here. Half of car ads feature unsafe driving, possibly in violation of the industry’s own rules about advertising. New Zealand started cracking down on these kinds of ads years ago, and Australia is running interference suggesting speeders have small penises.

To see an example of how bad it is, take a look at this Volkswagen commercial, which features speeding, unsafe driving, near-collisions and apparently drunk driving, with the moral of the story that the car’s safety systems will leave you without a scratch no matter how far you push the envelope.

That’s just irresponsible. It’s time to shut down the closed course.

UPDATE (Dec. 22): Of course, to say that such a law is a ridiculous overstepping of legislative authority, a gross attack on free speech and an outrageous violation of our rights by a nanny-state too concerned with wasting our money pretending we’re idiots would also be true.

Cyberpresse putting up 360 photos

Cyberpresse (which just started playing music on my laptop without permission) is putting up 360-degree photos on its website: already one of a snowy Gilford St. shovelling on de Mentana St., and a truck accident on Cremazie Blvd.

It’s just another example of how big media companies like Cyberpresse understand the Internet and are prepared to use cutting-edge 1994 technology* to bring things that are cool but uninformative to users. (The last picture is particularly apt at showing the weaknesses of the technology: a truck accident is shown from only one angle — it’s great that I can see out in different directions, but I can’t see the other side of the truck.)

*Actually, it’s a Flash-based emulator of cutting-edge 1994 technology, but otherwise indistinguishable from Quicktime VR (right down to the unintuitive navigation).

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 6

Monday went by and I totally forgot about the geography question this week. Christmas shopping (and writing stories to be published over the holidays) have gotten the better of me.

So here we go, another what-do-these-things-have-in-common quiz:

  • Ste. Thérèse
  • Du Moulin
  • Rochon
  • St. Jean
  • St. Pierre

Go fish.

UPDATE: Yul B. has the answer below. They’re all (mostly) undeveloped islands in the waters immediately adjacent to Montreal. Ste. Thérèse is the largest, next to the eastern tip of the island, Du Moulin and Rochon are north of the island in Pointe-aux-Trembles, and St. Jean and St. Pierre are part of the Iles de Boucherville.

TQS on the brink


TQS, which you’ll remember is in serious financial trouble, blaming it on a lack of revenue from cable operators to which they’re not entitled, asked CIBC World Markets to conduct a business review and tell them what they should do with themselves to avoid going under.

The answer, apparently, is bankruptcy protection and a major overhaul. Ouch.

TQS is owned 60/40 by Cogeco and CTVglobemedia.

UPDATE: Le Devoir goes into detail about the network’s troubles and owner Cogeco’s financial situation. It even adds an editorial cartoon.

UPDATE (Dec. 19): More stories about the network’s troubles:

UPDATE (Dec. 20): Patrick Lagacé writes eloquently about how Quebec media, and not just Radio-Canada, have special treatment from the CRTC that forces people to subscribe to their channels whether they want to or not.

The idea of blaming Radio-Canada for being government-funded is kinda funny. People blame the Mother Corp when they waste government money on unpopular programming. Then they blame RadCan for popular programming.

Considering TVA, an entirely private company, is killing TQS in the ratings, the blame seems a bit misguided. Perhaps if they just stopped producing crap…

UPDATE (Dec. 21): The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business has an article about Radio-Canada and how it’s a ratings success compared to CBC’s ratings failure. I’m sure the fact that CTVglobemedia owns the Globe and 40% of TQS has nothing to do with the article’s negative stance toward RadCan.

The article also misses one very important point in comparing CBC and Radio-Canada: French TV receives 22% of the CBC’s budget, and English TV 36%. That’s a pretty significant advantage for RadCan considering the number of francophones in Canada’s population.

UPDATE (Dec. 22): La Presse’s Nathalie Petrowski asks what Quebec would lose if TQS just disappeared.

Montreal 3-1-1 service is here

Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay announced today (the press release is, naturally, not available in English) the launch of 3-1-1, the city’s non-emergency information service, just over two months after Laval brought its own system online.

It’s basically just a shortcut for the city’s Access Montreal phone service, and is available from phones off-island by dialing 514-872-0311. It runs weekdays 8:30am-8:30pm and weekends/holidays 9am-5pm. Things that can’t wait but aren’t necessarily life-threatening (broken traffic light, water pipe burst, snow’s been falling a whole five minutes and your street hasn’t been plowed yet) will be dealt with immediately you can leave a message about at any time and I guess someone will check the voicemail during the off-hours regularly.

The city plans to spend $3 million on this service in 2008, but wants to remind you that most of what you’d need to call about is available on its mammoth website. That includes finding out where those evil plow people took your car last night.

UPDATE: A Gazette story.

Don’t act in competing TV series in Quebec

La Presse reports that Louis Morissette, who stars in Radio-Canada’s C.A., was scrubbed from a list of potential actors for the upcoming season of TVA’s Lance et compte, even before he could audition for a part.

The reason is simple: The two shows air at the same time, opposite each other.

I’ve always found it cute when I could see one person on two different channels at the same time, for whatever reason. But I hadn’t considered the idea that the network would care so much about it.