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.
Are Montreal anglos well served by local television? There are three stations with daily local newscasts, and a fourth could be coming within months. By this time next year Montreal could have two English-language TV morning shows. But what about the rest? What about the entertainment shows, the talk shows, the music shows, the cooking shows and everything else that we used to get on local television?
We get some of these things as part of the news (or, in the case of Global’s Focus Montreal, a weekly program set in the news studio). But their very nature limits them in terms of length and format.
Now, someone’s trying something like this again. His name is Dimitrios Koussioulas, and the show is called Parc Avenue Tonight. It’s a very-low-budget (like, $2,000 a season) weekly talk show about Mile End, with videos so far between 10 and 17 minutes long.
The show looks promising from the three episodes posted so far. It has a nice intro theme, and seems to be well edited. Koussioulas is an engaging host. About the only thing that I don’t like about it is all the smoking, which seems almost as if it was put in there to seem cool, like this was the opposite of an after-school special.
But could this make it on regular television? The answer depends not only on whether the advertising it could generate would offset its costs, but whether the profit it generated would be higher than whatever programming CTV or Global would put on the air instead of it.
Sadly, with most local television owned by big national vertically-integrated companies, there’s little incentive to change. Even putting a show like this in a low-rated spot like Friday nights at midnight would be asking too much of local commercial television stations.
Which is a shame, because given modest means, something like Parc Avenue Tonight could turn into quality programming that attracts a small but loyal audience.
Thankfully there’s the Internet, where anyone can do something like this on their own, and if it’s good enough it will attract enough eyeballs to make it financially viable.
We’ll see if Parc Avenue Tonight is good enough to make it past one season.
It’s fun the kinds of things you can do with data.
Montreal’s transit agencies, including the STM, STL, RTL and AMT, have made their trip data public through a standard called General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). This allows the data to be sucked into applications like Google Maps, making it easier for people to plan their trips. The time of every stop of every bus is a set data point.
In this video, published a few weeks ago on YouTube, someone has taken this data and created an animation of every bus trip during the average weekday in the Montreal area. STM, STL and RTL buses are represented by little dots that race along their routes.
It’s an interesting way to visualize the activity involved in public transit. The animation, which is presented as a 1:600 timelapse (every second represents 10 minutes), starts at 4am with just the night buses on the island of Montreal. After about 6am, it expands into the morning rush hour, and you can see a clear bias toward downtown from all directions. Some thoroughfares like Henri-Bourassa Blvd., Sauvé St., Parc Ave. and Côte des Neiges Rd. emerge as lines because they see so much bus traffic during this time. The traffic dies down a bit after the morning rush hour, though not as much as I expected. After about 3pm there appears to be a general bias away from downtown as the evening rush hour begins. After 7pm, it noticeably dies down, more so after 11pm and 12:30am, and after 2am it’s back to just the night buses.
Each of those dots is a bus with a driver in it. Some could have just a few passengers on board, while others could be so packed they’re not stopping to pick up more.
It’s an expensive system, and a complicated one. But without all those little dots, the city would grind to a halt.
If you’re interested in trying to figure out other cool ways of manipulating transit data, you can download the STM’s GTFS data yourself. Data from the RTL and STL and AMT are also available. (The AMT data includes commuter trains, its express buses and data from smaller transit agencies like the CIT du Sud Ouest and CIT La Presqu’île.)
It’s never not awkward selling yourself. It feels so vain, so self-important. And at times it can feel like you’re kidding yourself, giving yourself too much credit for minor accomplishments.
I take the humble route. When people praise me and my blog, I pretend they’re exaggerating. (But deep down we all know this is the greatest blog to have ever graced the Internet. Right?)
Anyway, I stumbled upon a YouTube channel in which some local radio people are selling themselves like they’re on an awkward video dating service. I don’t want to make them feel too embarrassed about it, but it’s too funny not to post:
One of the advantages of living where I do is that I happen to be in the Papineau federal riding. It’s apparently the smallest geographically in Canada because of its high residential density.
But more importantly, it’s the riding currently being represented by Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party superstar and the closest thing this country has to a political prince, making him an easy target for harmless fun.
Being a constituent apparently gets me one free calendar every year. This year’s came last week in my mailbox – almost four weeks into the year, far beyond the point when calendars in stores enter liquidation pricing. I don’t know if it’s a party expenditure (since it has the Liberal Party logo on it) or if it comes from his MP’s budget (since it has his parliamentary contact information on the back).
What I do know is that, like last year’s calendar (this is apparently his third), it’s filled with pictures of Trudeau, in most cases more than one on each page. As you can see in the video above, I count 33 pictures of Trudeau in his calendar, which is the same as I counted in last year’s. Some photos are captioned as “Justin”, others “Mr. Trudeau”, others are written in the first person, and the rest don’t have a subject.
But that’s not interesting. Nor is it interesting that his welcome message spends more time bashing the Conservatives than talking about his family. What’s interesting is that someone thought it didn’t look silly that a calendar with 12 months has 33 pictures of Justin Trudeau in it, and a year later decided that shouldn’t change.
There are some things at CHOM that will always be constant: The name, the format, the listeners complaining that the same songs get played over and over, and every decade or so the program director deciding to shake things up by putting Terry DiMonte back on mornings.
I’m not a music critic. I couldn’t dissect a song to tell you what parts of it are good and what parts are bad. That’s why you won’t see me writing about music a lot.
But this is an exception.
The above is United State of Pop 2011 (World Go Boom) by DJ Earworm. It’s a mashup of the 25 most popular songs of 2011, including songs by Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, LMFAO, Rihanna and Adele. It was uploaded to YouTube on Christmas Day.
And it’s awesome. But I expected it to be.
To describe it as a “mashup” seems unfair. In reality, this is a song created from little bits of other songs, a masterpiece of musical editing that is as awe-inspiring by its complexity as it is catchy in its melody.
If you haven’t heard of this before, you need to listen to the previous years’ versions:
Last month, I gave a talk to some student journalists from Ontario and Quebec who gathered in St. Henri as part of a regional conference of Canadian University Press.
I occasionally get asked to talk to students, and like most professional journalists I’m happy to do so, because it gives me a chance to help others and because it totally inflates my ego to see so many people look up to me.
As it happens someone was there with a camera and recorded the whole thing.
About half of the talk (which is in English but has questions answered in English and French) has been posted to YouTube in three parts (keep in mind I was low on sleep and didn’t have enough time to prepare a script or even a list of talking points, so you’ll hear a lot of “uhh”s and awkward pauses – the question period is better):
I find it funny how the lady in the Sun News Network promo complaining about how “political correctness has run amok”:
is the same lady promoting government assistance to old people in Quebec:
(Click on the photos to get links to where they come from)
This is, of course, a stock photo. I tracked it down to German photographer Martina Ebel, who sells it through various stock photo sites. She confirmed the photo was hers, though she didn’t give me information about the model, who appears in dozens of other photos taken by Ebel.
I’d be willing to put money on the assumption that this nice-looking old lady is not Canadian, has never requested financial assistance from the Quebec government, and has never watched the Sun News Network.
But that’s not important, right? What’s important is the illusion that this photo represents an actual person we can relate to, and who are news media or the government to dispell us of the false impressions they planted in our minds?
Besides, it’s so heartwarming that right-wing media blowhards and left-wing government money wasters have at least one thing in common: the same taste in generic old women.
It wasn’t quite the way I pictured it would be, but on Friday evening I was on national TV for the first time.
Well, maybe calling it “national TV” is an exaggeration. It was during the 5pm hour on a Friday, and the audience was probably somewhere in the low five figures at best. I was actually more curious about the experience than I was excited about the idea of having wide exposure or getting famous or something.
Well, you knew it had to happen eventually. Big Orange Crush (on Ruth Ellen Brosseau) is the creation of Snowman in Heat, a Vancouver-based band (about as far from Berthier-Maskinongé as you can get). You can listen to their other songs here.