Monthly Archives: July 2008

Anglo comedians don’t want to talk to La Presse

La Presse’s Hugo Dumas is displeased that the big anglo headliners at the Just for Laughs festival didn’t give as many interviews to francophone papers as they did to The Gazette. While the Gazette got some of them for phone interviews (people like Kathy Griffin, Craig Ferguson, Joan Rivers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Bill Hader), La Presse had to settle for an email back-and-forth with Jimmy Fallon. (The email part was a requirement from NBC, who also wouldn’t allow Fallon to discuss his upcoming gig replacing Conan O’Brien on Late Night — a request that led The Gazette to turn down the interview)

Setting aside the Fallon silliness (and the fact that La Presse didn’t mention that arbitrary content censorship in their article about him), I’m not sure what to think about the situation. On one hand, people shouldn’t be playing favourites with the media, whether it’s the prime minister or a trashy comedian. On the other hand, it seems silly that the franco paper is all bent out of shape because they couldn’t get a five-minute phoner for a fluff piece with a comedian.

Somehow, I think calling for a boycott of celebrity interviews is going to work. And that’s why their handlers can make these ridiculous demands on the media.

STM drivers do OT: The horror!

Matinternet has a piece about an Info690 report that plagiarizes (without attribution) an OMGclusive article in the Journal de Montréal this morning that says bus drivers in Montreal are doing a lot of overtime, a few of them even doubling their salary with all the extra work they do.

I guess this is news for some people. If you’ve ever seen an STM driver’s schedule (four hours on, two hours off, three hours on, etc.), you’d start to understand a bit better.

The articles, of course, offer no solutions to this problem. The STM is doing the best they can to hire more drivers, but that takes time, and the number of retirements is creeping upward at the same time as the transit agency wants to add more service.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 29

In researching her article for last weekend on one-way streets in Montreal, reporter Brett Bundale asked me a question that I couldn’t think of an answer to off the top of my head. So I’ll pass it on to you.

What is the longest one-way stretch of street in Montreal?

Here are the rules:

  • On the island
  • One-way throughout the entire length (the street can continue in both directions, but only the continuous stretch of one-way street counts)
  • Same direction the entire length
  • Keeps the same name and doesn’t break the entire length

I think I’ve figured out the correct answer, but you never know…

UPDATE: According to my calculations, it is indeed de Maisonneuve Blvd., which is one-way westbound between where it starts at du Havre and where it ends (for the first time) at Melville next to Westmount Park, for a total of 6.7 km. That makes it slightly longer than the longest north-south stretch I could find, St. Laurent Blvd., which is one-way northbound between Notre-Dame and Jean-Talon, for 5.8 km.

(Ste. Catherine Street, perhaps our most famous one-way street, is only one-way between Atwater and Frontenac, for 5.5km)

Gazette starts transit column

This morning, The Gazette launched a new weekly column where readers submit incessantly boring rants about the most minor of uninteresting inconveniences questions and suggestions about the Montreal transit system and they get responses from an STM flak.

The first column includes complaints about metro doors closing too fast, the 162 bus schedule, and wheelchair ramps on buses.

It remains to be seen whether such a column can sustain interest to be repeated on a weekly basis, or whether it will degenerate into a bunch of random people ranting like old men about how the buses are always too full, people aren’t courteous, or that one bus showed up late that one time.

Ceci est Sparta indépendantiste

Does anyone else find the music attached to this video unnecessarily menacing?

Is it that they want people to hate them, or do they think this is going to become some sort of armed conflict and The One True Way will prevail gloriously?

I’ll could also point out the irony of uploading a Parti indépendantiste video that’s militantly anti-English to a website that doesn’t have a French (or at least Québécois) version.

TWIM: Can Flashpoint become Due South 2?

This week, the Bluffer’s Guide is on the new CTV series Flashpoint, the cop drama “proudly set in Toronto” (but not mentioning its name) which was picked up by CBS and is being aired on both networks at the bound-for-cancellation hour of 10pm Fridays. The decision to pick up the show was made in desperation because the U.S. was facing a writer’s strike, and considering how U.S. critics panned the show, CBS isn’t exactly promoting the heck out of it.

But then a funny thing happened: The show’s ratings weren’t horrible. It got more than 8 million viewers in its premiere, and 7 million last night, winning the night against such fierce competition as repeats of America’s Funniest Home Videos and more repeats of Most Outrageous Moments. Now CBS is talking about potentially renewing the show beyond its 13-episode order.

Then again, that Just for Laughs ABC show also had adequate ratings in the face of critical failure, and it didn’t last long. The plug on that show was finally pulled in May.

UPDATE (July 22): The plot thickens. CBS has rewarded Flashpoint with a switch to Thursdays at 10 (Swingtown does the reverse). The Gazette has a piece on the show, with a dig about how the franco press aren’t covering it.

Blastback Babyzap: Electrifying

I’ve always been a big fan of comedy, and I’ve lived in Montreal my entire life, so you’d think Just for Laughs and I would be a perfect fit (it’s only a year younger than me). But I’ve never been to a gala, and before last night had never been to any live production related to the festival.

The main reason behind that is money. Why should I pay $40 for a nosebleed seat for a show I’ll get highlights from a few months later on TV?

The other reason is that I’m not easily impressed by comedy. Jokes about relationships and making fun of people’s acccents got old about three decades ago.

But last night, both those problems were alleviated as I stopped by to see the Uncalled For’s Blastback Babyzap production at Mainline Theatre. I’ve seen the group perform improv shows, so I had an idea that there would be some funny stuff going on. And at only $12, it didn’t hurt the wallet to attend.

I must say, I was very impressed.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the show, some of the stuff below may ruin the surprise. But it’s still worth watching.

Continue reading

Use YouTube, not your crappy clone of it

Buzz Machine’s Jeff Jarvis has a piece about how newspaper companies suck at a lot of the technical stuff they do, and should consider outsourcing that to companies like Google who know what they’re doing.

Though I don’t agree with the sentiment that newspapers should get out of the printing business (yes it’s expensive, but newspapers are highly qualified to do it), I can’t help but agree about the technology stuff. A quick comparison of any media website’s proprietary hacked-together, flash-based video viewing system and something simple like YouTube and you wonder why they even bother.

So why don’t media companies take advantage of sites like YouTube and Flickr? They’re cheaper, they function better, and they provide a much wider audience for content.

The answer is, sadly, that it represents a loss of control. Newspaper websites want 100% of the ad revenue, even if they’re bleeding through the nose on IT staff to keep their own video portals running. They don’t trust YouTube and Flickr (even if some of their own journalists make liberal use of those sites when management isn’t looking).

That’s a mentality that needs to change. Either news websites’ content management systems need to improve drastically, or they should abandon them and use off-the-shelf systems that have proven popular.

Believe me, I had to deal for years with a hacked-together CMS (that I myself chose and installed) at a student newspaper. Killing all that work is painful, but it needs to be done.

Addicted to press releases

If you ever needed an idea of how much the media relies on organizations to do their work for them by sending out press releases, you need only read this article in the NDG Monitor, blasting the NDG Soccer Association for not letting the paper know what’s going on. (To be fair, it’s more about them not cooperating with schedules and things.)

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

Dear Portugal

From Portugal\'s display July 13, 2008

I take back everything mean I ever said about you. If only because you played the Ghostbusters theme and had green fireworks.

The lady selling those bloody glowsticks in the middle of the display, however: we need to talk.

The next fireworks display (from Australia) is Saturday at 10pm, followed by shows every Wednesday and Saturday until August 6. The best (free) spot to view them is in the parking lot where René Lévesque and Notre Dame meet (Papineau metro). Be sure to bring a radio (105.7FM) to listen to the music that goes with the fireworks.

Highway through the danger zone

Radio-Canada has a report on the Transport department’s 86 most dangerous highway segments in Quebec. Of the ones on the island of Montreal (see the full list in an HTML table here), all but one are either in/near the Turcot interchange or near the Dorval airport. The other is Notre Dame East between Pie-IX and Dickson, a road they’re trying their best to make even more dangerous.

Dr. Horrible: Adorable evil

Thanks to the magic of the Internets, I’ve been introduced to a curious little made-for-web TV miniseries, called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It stars Neil Patrick Harris (above), who plays the misunderstood evil genius who’s just trying to get some from a pretty girl.

What I like most about this is that the three main actors represent a broad range of geek cred. Harris, of course, brings along the middle-age Doogie crowd and is no doubt the most mainstream-recognizable actor here.

Nathan Fillion, of Firefly fame (and just about every other series that Joss Whedon has been involved with), brings along the Whedonites. Not that this is necessary, mind you, since Whedon directs this project.

Felicia Day, meanwhile (the aforementioned pretty girl, as you can see) brings along the ubergeek web crowd who totally recognize her from this other show she does.

BTW Felicia, that marriage proposal is still open. Just, you know, putting it out there.

Some back story on this whole thing from the L.A. Times.

(Oh, did I mention it’s a musical?)

UPDATE (July 21): Too late. Now you have to buy it on iTunes ($6) if you want to see it. Either that or find a low-quality pirated version somewhere.