Category Archives: On the Net

Four years later, from Toronto, it’s Parc Avenue Tonight Season 2

This post has been corrected.

Dimitrios Koussioulas interviews comedian DeAnne Smith during the CBC taping of Parc Avenue Tonight in 2013.

Remember Dimitrios Koussioulas? He was a flash in the pan around 2013. He had a web series called Parc Avenue Tonight, in which he interviewed locals late-night-talk-show style in his apartment, and CBC Montreal created a one-hour TV special out of that. That same summer, City TV aired a local lifestyle series called Only in Montreal in which he was one of three hosts.

And then, nothing. A second season of his show was filmed in 2014, but never got released. Only in Montreal was never renewed (though its timeless episodes spent a long time in reruns). And Koussioulas seemed to move on with his life.

And then, last Friday, this:

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The bus and the cyclist

Wednesday, April 11, Sherbrooke St., heading east from Atwater Ave. A cyclist, riding in the right lane, is minding his business when suddenly an STM bus passes within inches of him in a dangerous pass. The cyclist catches up to the driver twice to argue with him, all caught on video. He posts it to YouTube and a day later some prominent local personalities (Dominic Arpin, Patrick Lagacé) share the video on social media.

The response from their followers is overwhelming: the cyclist is at fault. He should have been further to the side. He shouldn’t have been zigzagging around cars. He should have used the bicycle path on nearby de Maisonneuve Blvd. He shouldn’t have engaged the driver.

It’s disappointing that anti-cyclist mentality has reached this point. As an occasional cyclist myself, I’m well aware that there are some really dangerous cyclists out there. But nothing this cyclist did was dangerous, and yet he gains little sympathy from people.

Let’s analyze their arguments.

He shouldn’t have been in the middle of the lane

The bus makes its dangerous pass, inches from the parking lane.

The wide angle of the camera distorts it a bit, but I estimate about a metre, maybe a metre and a half, between the bus and the lane of parked cars as it passes the cyclist. That’s far less than there should be for any semblance of safety.

According to Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, Article 487: “Every person on a bicycle must ride on the extreme right-hand side of the roadway in the same direction as traffic, except when about to make a left turn, when travel against the traffic is authorized or in cases of necessity.” What “extreme right-hand side” means isn’t clarified here, and this article has been criticized as being written assuming country roads with wide lanes, not city streets with street parking. In my mind there’s little doubt that the cyclist is as far right as he can be safely. Remember as he passes those cars he has to worry about being doored.

In any case, Article 341 is quite clear: “No driver of a road vehicle may pass a bicycle within the same traffic lane unless the driver may do so safely, after reducing the vehicle’s speed and ensuring that a reasonable distance can be kept between the vehicle and the bicycle during the manoeuvre. A reasonable distance is 1.5 m on a road where the maximum authorized speed limit is more than 50 km/h or 1 m on a road where the maximum authorized speed limit is 50 km/h or less.”

The driver of the bus clearly did not respect the code.

But let’s put that aside and assume the cyclist *was* in the middle of the lane. Is that legal? It’s hard to say. Is it safer? Absolutely. Because drivers do this kind of stuff all the time. They don’t care about what’s a safe distance. They don’t even care if they hit the cyclist, because they’re protected by their car. So if they can squeeze by in the same lane, they’ll give it a shot, no matter how dangerous it is for the cyclist. The only way a cyclist can protect himself is to stay in the centre of the lane.

I’ve been there many times. And believe me, if the lane was wide enough for both, I’d be more than happy to move over to the side. The last thing a cyclist wants is an angry and unpredictable driver right behind them.

The cyclist should have used the bicycle path

From where the video starts at the corner of Atwater Ave., de Maisonneuve Blvd. is about 200 metres away. That’s not far. But past Fort St., that distance starts to increase. By Berri St. it’s 500 metres. But more importantly, there’s a much larger difference in altitude between the two. So much so that at Hôtel-de-Ville Ave., the sidewalk is actually stairs.

Without knowing the cyclist’s origin or destination, it’s hard to say for sure whether it would have made more sense to use the path. But as someone who has cycled on Sherbrooke a lot, the height difference is the main reason why. I’d prefer to take side streets, but there aren’t many options for that downtown above Sherbrooke.

In any case, there’s no law that prevents a cyclist from using a street if another street nearby has a bicycle path.

Why was the cyclist filming this?

Because this kind of stuff happens all the time. Just like Russians have gotten into the habit of installing dashboard cameras in their cars, some cyclists have put cameras on their helmets and set them to record automatically, knowing it won’t be long before they catch some driver doing something dangerous.

Cyclists are all awful

There are a lot of dangerous cyclists out there. Those who run red lights, zig-zag dangerously through stopped (and sometimes not-so-stopped) traffic, go the wrong way on one-way streets, ride on sidewalks, and talk on their phones. We should definitely have more enforcement of safety laws. But that doesn’t mean we should endanger the life of a cyclist who has broken none of these laws.

Anyway, the STM says the driver is going to be spoken to, and the actions were unacceptable. (They should also talk to him about driving with headphones on, which is also against the safety code.) Hopefully he learns his lesson before a decision to risk someone else’s life leads to a mistake with more lasting consequences.

UPDATE (April 24): La Presse reports the bus driver has been suspended five days.

The Oasis trademark dispute gets short documentary treatment

You might recall back in 2012 there was a big scandal because of a dispute between Lassonde, the Quebec-based maker of Oasis fruit juice, and Olivia’s Oasis, a small company that makes skin care products.

It wasn’t the cease-and-desist letter that made headlines, or even the court case itself, which resulted in a judge not only dismissing Lassonde’s lawsuit but ordering it to pay costs. Instead, it was a court of appeal judgment that reversed the lower court’s ruling on costs that sparked social media attention when it was written about in La Presse.

Olivia’s Oasis was a small operation, and lawyer’s fees fighting the case would have put it out of business were it not for social media attention (including a Guy A. Lepage tweet) that prompted so much bad publicity for Lassonde that it quickly reached a settlement — on Easter weekend — with Deborah Kudzman, surrendering to a woman they had just beat in court.

Now, Ottawa producers Heidi Lasi and Pat McGowan have published a 14-minute documentary on the subject, which is posted on YouTube, called The Oasis Affair. It’s financed by Bell Media’s BravoFactual production fund.

The documentary is professionally produced and interesting, but it suffers from Lassonde’s refusal to participate, beyond sending an impersonal letter. I get that the company would rather forget about this story, but it would have been great to hear from people in the company at the time about how they reacted to the media onslaught and what they learned through the process. It might even have made the appear more human.

Another wasted opportunity, unfortunately.

K103 moves into new building, and says goodbye to 30 years of history

The new main studio at K103 Kahnawake.

The new main studio at K103 Kahnawake.

For this community where tradition is so important, the move of K103 to a new building in July was bittersweet, even if it was a long time coming. Staff and supporters were excited about entering a much larger building and sitting down to state-of-the-art equipment, but it also meant leaving the building that the station had occupied since it launched in 1981, and bringing with them only small relics of the memories that were made there.

I talk about the K103 station move, as well as two other radio stations on Mohawk reserves near Montreal — KIC Country (CKKI-FM 89.9) and Kanesatake United Voices Radio (CKHQ-FM 101.7) in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette.

Below are videos, photos and more about the K103 move. (I’ll have posts about the other stations soon.)

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Montreal media personalities dump water on their heads

The latest viral craze sweeping the western world is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people dump ice water on their heads in exchange for a chance to nominate three (or more) other people to do the same. Videos of celebrities and athletes doing this are all over the Internet now, and the campaign has recently spread to certain parts of Montreal media.

The challenge has been criticized as a gimmicky fad that’s more about doing silly stuff than actually raising money or awareness. Kind of like Movember. And there’s something to that. But the ALS Association has also seen eight times the amount of donations it normally does for this time of year. That’s more than $10 million that would otherwise not have been donated.

In Montreal, the challenge has begun sweeping the local media scene, and is continuing to spread (I’ve updated this post several times to add new ones).

Here are some links to videos of their dunkings, which I’ll be adding to as it spreads further. (Most are posted to Facebook, and some of those might not be accessible to everyone. If you’re going to post one of these videos to Facebook, be sure to make it public — or better yet, post it to YouTube instead — and don’t shoot it vertically for crying out loud).

If nothing else, they provide insight into what your favourite TV and radio personalities’ backyards look like.

CBC Montreal

Sabrina Marandola got Andrew Chang in on it, and he decided to spice things up.

CTV Montreal

Global Montreal

City Montreal

City Toronto has compiled videos of these challenges from City personalities across the country

ICI

CJAD

The Beat

The Beat also got former colleague Jeremy White to take the challenge, and former PD Leo Da Estrela.

CHOM

Virgin Radio 96

This video combines the following:

  • Morning host Freeway Frank Depalo
  • Afternoon host Mark Bergman
  • Evening host Tony Stark
  • Overnight host Mike D
  • Weekend host Kelly Alexander
  • Weekend host MC Mario

TSN Radio 690

KIC Country

The Gazette

Others

I made my $100 donation through the Tony Proudfoot Fund. The Gazette has reposted Proudfoot’s stories chronicling his life with ALS.

Video: CRTC 1987 specialty channel hearings

With a month to go until the CRTC begins what will probably be the most important hearing into television policy in decades, it’s fun to look back at one of the hearings that shaped television in Canada as we know it, back in 1987.

The Youtube channel Retro Winnipeg recently posted nearly five hours of video from CRTC hearings held in July 1987 on specialty channel services. It led to a wave of new channels, including YTV, TV5, Family Channel, The Weather Network, CBC Newsworld and more.

Rather than have you sit through five hours of people in suits talking as boringly as they possibly can, I’ve split them up into sections, and you can watch the parts that interest you.

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ICI est là: Ethnic TV station posts its programs on YouTube

When the cooperative local ethnic television station ICI launched last fall, its website wasn’t a primary consideration. I asked its manager about posting its original programming online, but he was more concerned about getting the transmitter up and getting that programming on the air first.

Four months later, ICI has started making its programs available online in the simplest and most effective manor: By posting them to YouTube. Over the past two weeks, 171 videos have been posted, representing almost all of its local original programming, which makes up almost all of its schedule (it has only a couple of non-original programs, the Portuguese soap opera Bem-Vindos a Beirais, the dated OMNI cooking show South Asian Veggie Table, and the religious show Il est écrit).

The episodes are posted in their entirety, and for the moment anyway are without any restrictions or (additional) ads.

Being a television station that produces its own programming (or, more accurately, works with producers who create programming and sell their own ads for it) means there’s a lot more freedom to get video out without being stuck with geoblocking or custom video platforms.

Posting to YouTube is easy, offloads bandwidth costs, and is versatile, employing all of YouTube’s features from automatic captions to website embedding.

The videos show that, for the most part, ICI is doing what it promised. Many of its shows have left the confines of the green-screen studio and gone out into the field. Those that are shot in studio have unrealistic virtual sets where even the tables aren’t real, but they’re still better than anything we saw on CJNT.

Most of the shows still consist of dry interviews that demonstrate how little experience many of the people involved, particularly in front of the camera, have with television. But they’re improving. The shows are becoming more watchable as each week goes by.

The big question will be how long they can keep this up.

Sun News Network 2012 debate translation highlights

This marks the second provincial election campaign in which TVA has decided to separate itself from the consortium that organizes televised leaders’ debates and go it alone with a series of one-on-one debates.

It almost didn’t happen. Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois said no at first, wanting to limit her to the other, more traditional debate that aired on Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec. But she later relented.

You might recall that the Sun News Network, which like TVA is owned by Quebecor Media, also aired the TVA face-à-face debates in 2012. Few people watched it on Sun News, but when a report about the debate that included two short clips were posted to Sun News’s website, it went a bit viral. The clips came to a total of about 23 seconds, and they were highlights picked by Sun News, so they didn’t show the worst parts.

Since the translated debates weren’t posted online, they might have been lost to history if not for one thing: I recorded all three hour-long debates on my PVR. And they’ve been sitting there ever since.

With the 2014 face-à-face debates only hours away, I recorded some clips from the debate and compiled them into eight minutes of highlights. The result is the video you see above.

A source at Sun News tells me that the network will air tonight’s debate, but that they have hired different translators.

I’ll be PVRing it anyway. Just in case.

TVA’s face-à-face debates air Thursday, March 27 from 8pm to 10pm on TVA and simultaneously translated on Sun News Network. It will also air on CPAC.

UPDATE: After posting the video to YouTube, I went in to clean the automatically-generated captions. But the captions generated for the debate clips were just so great that I couldn’t touch them. They include such gems as:

  • 2:06: “I wouldn’t victims contra months prego merman”
  • 5:28: “second spend your life getting minutes for me his / as Julia and modern yesterday sent / week with the mall butthead”
  • 6:14: “he added that the troops mister sister 20 as you go”
  • 6:34: “thank you so much as a queen of thank you so much musica”
  • 7:21: “and mister across america their leader / how to Chris you’re a doctor becker / he wouldn’t allow your the day all the balls we have”
  • 8:08: “going to help me fire a gritty / you lose my me I cannot do we”
  • 8:37: “your house layout so attacker 7,000 jobs that are you gonna cut people”
  • 8:49: “overheard the Cougar 30 Passa Passa”
  • 8:53: “I hope this exchange farewell lighting you for your torso”

TSN 690 personalities thank their fans for saving the station

Because it’s owned by Canada’s largest media company, and now Canada’s largest radio broadcaster, it’s hard to argue that TSN Radio 690 is a mom and pop shop.

And yet, just about everything about this station screams “underdog.” It has the lowest ratings of the five commercial English-language stations in Montreal. It puts out a lot of original programming on a small budget. And twice in the past year and a half, it has faced annihilation because its parent company made it clear that it valued each of the three Astral stations more than it did this one.

This underdog feeling was certainly present Thursday night at Hurley’s Irish Pub, as Mitch Melnick and other personalities from the station invited fans to help them celebrate the recent CRTC decision that not only allows it to maintain its format but guarantees it for at least seven years.

There are still changes to come. Melnick pointed out that the plan is to eventually move the station from its current home on Greene Ave. in Westmount to the Astral Media radio (now Bell Media radio) building at Papineau Ave. and René-Lévesque Blvd. There’s also the looming threat of layoffs as the consolidation of resources creates redundancy in staff. (The hammer has already fallen at Bell Media stations elsewhere in the country.) But, while it may not have been a raucous affair, there were a lot of thank-yous given out on this night.

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Abby Howard and my Strip Search obsession

Abby Howard got rich quick off the Internet (kinda)

Abby Howard got rich quick off the Internet (kinda)

Is “why don’t you go suck a dick?” inappropriate for a family newspaper? It’s a question I had to ask myself while writing the lead of a story for The Gazette about Abby Howard, a (temporary) Montrealer who gained thousands of fans online and raised more than $100,000 for a project she’s working on after she was a contestant on a reality series produced by Penny Arcade.

It was a story I really enjoyed writing, and enjoyed researching. And like many such stories, it’s very long (by newspaper standards) and there’s tons of information I couldn’t cram into it. Thankfully the Internet has no limit on story size, and my blog imposes on itself no limit to how much detail I can get into.

I’ll start off here by introducing you to the series, and inviting you to watch it. Because suspense is a big part of the fun, I won’t spoil it for you until later in this post.

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10-year-old documentary an insight into insanity of student politics

I recently discovered that Concordia University’s television club has posted to YouTube a 10-year-old documentary called Student Politics. Directed by Sergeo Kirby, who would later produce other documentaries including Wal-Town, it tells the story of a student election at Concordia University in 2003. I appear a few times in the film giving somewhat incoherent commentary.

The time from 2000 to 2004 was a crazy one for Concordia and its student political bodies, and I was fortunate to have spent that time as a student journalist covering student politics. My first year, there was a $200,000 embezzlement scandal involving the VP finance writing 50 blank cheques to herself, and then a war between the student government and the student newspaper that resulted in the latter being shut down over a summer. My second year, an unprecedented popular impeachment campaign fuelled mainly by a post-9/11 backlash against radical activism, and an executive by-election that was derailed after a bribery scandal and ended in the election result being annulled. My third year, a controversial visit by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that triggered a riot, a very controversial moratorium on free speech related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a rush to the ballot box to replace radical left-wingers with a more moderate mainstream in the student executive.

Student Politics tells the story of that third year, about the heated battle between left and right (though it’s simplistic to describe the two factions in such terms), and the dynasty change that came after thousands of students from the apathetic majority finally decided they’d had enough. (That dynasty, which turned out to be no less corrupt than the leftist one, would stay in power for several years. By the time it disappeared, the left-right divide had largely faded away or been replaced by other pressing political divides.)

Highlights of the film include a point at the 22-minute mark that shows the campaigns, gathered in the lobby of Concordia’s Henry F. Hall building on de Maisonneuve Blvd., rushing through the building at midnight on the first day of campaigning to plaster every wall they can find with their posters. It’s an absurd indication of how seriously both sides took their campaigns back then.

(It’s also not the first time that year that I ran up that set of escalators in a panic trying to avoid a stampede.)

Other documentaries were made about that year at Concordia, though this was the only one to focus on student politics specifically. The other two focused on the Netanyahu riot and the conflict between students supporting the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the Middle East conflict. I wrote about them a few years ago. There was Discordia, which is on he NFB’s website, which told the personal stories of the people behind this campus conflict. And there was Confrontation at Concordia, a heavily biased anti-Palestinian rant that aired on Global television. (It was originally posted to Google Video, but that no longer exists. A few minutes of it can be seen on YouTube.) The latter led to complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which found that although it obviously had a point of view, it didn’t engage in unethical practices or violate any broadcast standards to express it.

Student Politics isn’t the best documentary in the world. It was the effort of a first-time filmmaker. And I can’t really evaluate how well it tells a story I already know so well. But it’s a nice trip down memory lane to a time when the pettiness of student politics reached its peak.

And also a sad reminder of how much my hairline has receded in the past decade.

Italians are everywhere

CBC's Sabrina Marandola is among the Italian Montrealers profiled by Panoram Italia

CBC’s Sabrina Marandola is among the Italian Montrealers profiled by Panoram Italia

It’s not just me who’s been talking to English-language broadcasters in Montreal. Italian community magazine Panoram Italia has been profiling members of its community who have jobs in the media in Montreal. The magazine’s December/January issue is devoted to it, with CBC’s Sabrina Marandola and CJAD/CTV’s Laura Casella on the cover.

Video: Montreal’s 2013 No Pants Subway Ride

The No Pants Subway Ride, an annual event organized by New-York-based Improv Everywhere but which has since expanded around the world, came to Montreal again last weekend, though it received fairly little media attention (which is probably for the best, at least until after the fact).

In this slickly-produced video shot by Étienne Marcoux and edited by Vincent Laurin, dozens of participants take the metro with no pants on in the middle of January and act as if that’s perfectly normal, prompting odd expressions from hapless bystanders.

Montreal has seen other such rides in the past, with mixed amounts of success. Nice to see the tradition kept alive.