Category Archives: On the Net

Radio: The problem child of the Canadian people

This National Film Board documentary about the state of Canadian radio (particularly CBC/Radio-Canada) in 1949 has some funny lines. My favourite is this one:

“Radio reads its fan mail and makes its listeners’ surveys because radio has learned to trust the judgment of the listener.  And in Canada, the listener gets what he asks for.”

There’s also some talk near the end about setting up a national television network and developing this new “frequency modulation” radio. And a clip of Oscar Peterson tickling the ivories.

Ups and downs at CFCF-12

I watched the special 50th anniversary broadcast of CFCF-12 last night. It was nice to watch for a local TV buff like me.

The anniversary special was preceded by a very short newscast. And since I made fun of a Global error the night before, I can’t ignore the fancy camerawork on display during a broadcast that I’m sure many other people also had on their digital video recorders.

Wonky, indeed.

CFCF’s own 50th anniversary blooper reel is here.

It happened on the interwebs

You might have missed it because you were on vacation or something, but the ad agency écorce put together a form of online advent calendar in December with … let’s call them interpretations of things that happened online in 2010.

It was kind of hit and miss, but there were a few gems among the videos that were done for this:

Une fille inoubliable, by Les Appendices. My favourite sketch comedy fivesome, the stars of the Télé-Québec show covered an awfully written and awfully-sung song from a video that was posted to YouTube but later taken down (fortunately, the Internet keeps copies of these things). Even though they use the same lyrics and roughly the same music, the Appendices version is actually pretty good. At the very least, it had a much higher budget.

Contrat d’lezz, by le Girly Show. You’ve seen Contrat d’gars, right? The show that goes so over the top with the testosterone you can’t help but laugh. It’s hard to parody something that already doesn’t take itself seriously, so Le Girly Show just turns it on its head and has women playing the lead roles. It’s not much funnier than the original, but it has the same magic.

L’Année 2010 selon CaroleCarole aide son prochain is a straight-faced comic web series that … I’ll be honest, it’s kind of hit and miss, though I like the concept. In this video, she takes on that lots-of-celebrities-political-message asking for a moratorium on shale gas exploration with some simple but effective satiric criticisms.

The rest of the videos from this project are listed on this page, and lots of other non-video-related recaps are also worth exploring.

(Did I miss something awesome? Think one of these videos is stupid and uninteresting? Tell me off in the comments)

The ho-hum Bye-Bye

This parody of Céline Dion and Julie Snyder: Funniest segment of the night, or mean-spirited attack on Quebecor? In this case, funny is in the eye of your employer

It’s tradition in Quebec media to review each year’s end-of-year special from Radio-Canada, the Bye-Bye. It went a bit crazy two years ago when Véronique Cloutier and Louis Morissette decided to take their first crack at it. So much so that there wasn’t one to end 2009.

So you can imagine how much everyone was anxious to see what would happen when Cloutier and Morissette decided they would throw themselves into the gauntlet again and host the Bye-Bye 2010.

I watched it, along with my family, on New Year’s Eve, and followed the reaction live on Twitter. My first thoughts were that it was pretty impressive, that they weren’t overcompensating by pulling their punches compared to 2008, and that it wasn’t likely to offend anyone … or at least, no one not working for Quebecor.

The consensus was that the production values were good (particularly makeup and prosthetics, which in some cases made the actors barely recognizable as themselves and instantly recognizable as their targets), the parodies were well done, and the music videos were great, but the jokes fell flat, which is kind of the most important part.

The first professional reviews came quickly afterward (Richard Therrien’s was up in less than an hour). But many others waited because they were to go in newspapers, and many of them published neither on New Year’s Day nor on Sundays. It would be more than 48 hours before some people would read anything about it.

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CFCF looks at itself

I didn’t catch this on Christmas Day (because, sadly, I was working), but CFCF aired a half-hour year-in-review special in place of its regular newscast. It featured some discussions with CTV staff, and little packaged bits from reporters about their favourite stories of the year.

Artist's conception of the new studio planned for CFCF's newscast

You can watch the whole thing on its website, but the highlight for local TV buffs is the final segment, which takes a look at their plans for a new studio (hinting that the newscast will be in HD in 2012), and finishes off with bloopers (the funniest ones involving Paul Karwatsky).

CBC Montrealers sing Christmas songs for a good cause

Those folks at CBC Montreal have taken to embarrassing themselves in front of the Internet to promote a holiday fundraiser for Dans la rue.

The Carolling Challenge will see personalities and listeners sing along in an effort to drum up donations. There’s even a practice today at 1pm (in case you’re not going to either the protest against the Journal de Montréal or the protest in memory of Mohamed Anas Bennis, which are both taking place at the same time), before they hit five locations between Monday and Wednesday. Send a picture of yourself at one and you could even win a bag!

After that, next Sunday, there’s the annual Christmas Sing-In, a recording that will air on Christmas Day on the radio.

But if you just like seeing videos of CBC radio personalities singing Christmas songs (and if that’s the case, there’s something wrong with you), here’s a bonus video of Sue Smith singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town:

Door ajar

You’ll probably be seeing mention of this video in the local media in the coming days (hopefully some will actually look into the issue instead of just posting the video with baseless conjecture like I am here). It shows a metro train travelling between the Assomption and Viau stations on the green line with a door stuck open, and is already getting traction on Twitter.

It shouldn’t be difficult to see the very serious safety implications of this kind of failure.

Metro trains are designed with a safety system designed to prevent exactly this (which is why it’s so rare). When it detects that a door has opened beyond a set limit, it automatically commands the train to stop. This is what causes a train to come to an abrupt halt, usually as it’s leaving a station, when someone either accidentally or deliberately attempts to force a door open.

Clearly, unless this video is an elaborate fake of some sort, this system failed on this train. Hopefully it will prompt an investigation that ensures it never happens again.

Since the failure happened on an older MR-63 train, expect some people to link this to the age of the trains and the apparent desperate need to replace them with new ones from Bombardier-Alstom.

UPDATE (Nov. 9): The Gazette’s Max Harrold has preliminary details from the STM: It was just that door, it was locked closed when the STM discovered the problem at Berri-UQAM, and it has since been fixed.

The spokesperson also adds “someone should have pulled the emergency brake” – though those handles on board the trains don’t actually stop a train in motion, they merely prevent it from leaving the next station.

Just about everyone has picked up the story, with varying amounts of journalism involved:

  • Radio-Canada posts the YouTube video, and has a phone interview with STM spokesperson Marianne Rouette, who’s had a busy day
  • Agence QMI says the video came to it via Mon Topo on Monday, and it has quotes from Rouette. It also says the train was in the direction of Honoré-Beaugrand, which contradicts the video and what Rouette says.
  • Métro posts the YouTube video, the basics, and links to Radio-Canada for STM reaction.
  • CBC Montreal posts the YouTube video and quotes Rouette, including the statement that parts from the door were sent “to the lab” for analysis.
  • The Gazette posts the YouTube video and quotes Rouette
  • CTV Montreal posts the YouTube video and interviews Rouette.
  • Branchez-Vous does its usual form of “journalism”, posting the YouTube video and quoting Radio-Canada without linking to it.
  • Montreal City Weblog points out that in 2004 the doors opened on the wrong side – twice. Not exactly the same issue, but it’s another case of doors being open when they shouldn’t.
  • Benoît Dutrizac interviews general manager Carl Desrosiers, who says this was caused by a simultaneous failure of two systems that were completely replaced only three years ago.

There’s also commentary already, mostly along the lines of “why did they just film it instead of pulling the emergency brake?” – from bloggers like Cécile Gladel. While I think I would have pulled the emergency brake if I was in that position, I would have also taken photos or video of it.

Consider this:

  • As much as safety is a consideration, there didn’t seem to be any immediate danger because the train wasn’t full
  • Pulling the brake or warning the driver would have caused delays as the problem was discovered and fixed, and most people on the metro are looking to get somewhere quickly
  • There’s a reasonable belief that the STM will take this more seriously now that there’s video of it in the news

The forum also has some discussion of this event and testimonials of similar things happening in the past.

UPDATE (Dec. 30, 2013): It’s happened again. Story includes disturbing quotes from STM spokesperson suggesting this is a “fairly rare” occurrence, but it’s “normal” that such things happen a few times a year.

The garbage can is too dry

Automatic sprinkler systems annoy me quite a bit. I mean, we get enough rain here that it’s really not necessary to use the public potable water supply to water the grass.

But those behind the Place de l’Adresse symphonique of the Quartier des spectacles know it’s important not just to keep the grass drowning in water, but to keep the garbage can and sidewalk wet at all times.

Grass drowning in sprinkler water for no apparent reason

Tout l’monde transpire jusqu’aux orteils

I’m not necessarily in favour of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on massive air conditioning systems for the three or four weeks a year they’ll be useful, but I have to admit this Projet Montréal video is damn funny.

(The original, for those who haven’t seen it)

You can find the party’s dossier on the subject on its website. It includes those pictures of people holding up giant thermometers on the metro.

If only all public policy discussions involved dancers (and am I the only one who thinks it’s a missed opportunity that we don’t see Richard Bergeron, Luc Ferrandez and Peter McQueen prancing around a fake metro car?)

(via Projet Montréal on Twitter)

The Expos: Even the best memories are heartbreaking

Annakin Slayd, known best for his songs about the Canadiens (so popular they’ve been parodied) but also a die-hard Expos fan, has produced a music video honouring Montreal’s former baseball team.

The look back comes just as Andre Dawson is set to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame tomorrow as an Expo (even if he preferred a Cubs cap on his head).

And if that isn’t enough, here’s another video (well, it’s more about the song than the video) to remind you of the Team of Heartbreak:

And a preview of what might be the last Expos Hall of Famer someday, Vladimir Guerrero:

Meanwhile, The Gazette’s Andy Riga explores what to do with that giant monstrosity that the Expos used to call home, including what to do with the space around it, what to do about its roof, and what to do about getting events there. There’s also some numbers worth looking at, and his blog has a whole truckload of suggestions from readers about the stadium’s future (some serious, some not so much).

And the Bleacher Report has compiled a list of the top 25 Expos.

Alex Norris wants to go tie-less

Video: Alex Norris won’t wear a tie (18:22)

Alex Norris is on a mission. The former journalist, elected as a member of Projet Montréal in the last election as a city councillor representing the Plateau, is fighting what he considers an archaic unwritten rule of Montreal’s city council that sets minimum standards for “decorum” including the fact that all male councillors must wear a tie.

At the council meeting last week, Norris rose to debate a point about the city’s democratic process (namely the fact that people need to be registered to vote well in advance of voting day, something he considers undemocratic), when immediately councillors from the governing Union Montreal party rose up to object that he wasn’t following the rules.

This wasn’t the first time that Norris showed up without a tie, and council chair Claude Dauphin had made it clear at the April meeting that the rules would be enforced – meaning Norris would be expelled until he put a tie on.

It might have ended as simply as that, except Dauphin wasn’t chairing the meeting when Norris stood up. Caroline Bourgeois, of Vision Montreal, was filling in for him as he had other business to attend to. She refused to eject Norris, preferring to leave the decision to Dauphin when he returned. So instead, she pleaded with Norris to put a tie on so the council could continue its business, while councillors from Union Montreal objected with strong language (Marvin Rotrand called the move “infantile” and described Norris as a “juvenile delinquent”), and Vision’s house leader Anie Samson rose to object about the ways other people were objecting.

Fifteen minutes later, after Richard Deschamps spent a full minute complaining about the 12 minutes that had been wasted so far, Norris finally put on a tie and was allowed to complete his point.

It reminds me of my old days at Concordia Student Union council meetings in terms of the level of absurdity.

“There is in fact no dress code at City Hall,” Norris explained to me via email. “The speaker has traditionally imposed an unwritten rule requiring male councillors to wear ties but there is no basis for this rule in any bylaw or formal written code of any kind. There is a long tradition of progressive councillors objecting to this rule — and then giving in and forgetting about it, which is why we still have an archaic dress code whereas other big cities like Toronto and Vancouver have long gotten rid of theirs.”

Amazingly enough, there’s a body to deal with these kinds of things. It’s called the Commission de la présidence du conseil. But instead of taking a hard line either way, this body appears to have decided to leave it up to the chair of council to enforce “decorum”.

“Bourgeois, a young (and quite progressive) Vision councillor, had told me that she found the tie rule utterly archaic and ridiculous,” Norris wrote. “I surmised that in these new circumstances the tie convention would no longer be enforced. When I rose to speak, however, a number of Tremblay backbenchers went ballistic. I held my ground — briefly — to highlight the absurdity of the rule, then relented and put on the tie.

“So yes, this is a small protest — one to which I have devoted very little time or energy but one on which I have made my views known and will continue to do so, periodically.”

Norris stresses that this is his campaign and not that of his party. Luc Ferrandez and Richard Bergeron wear ties to city council meetings without complaint.

So why make this an issue?

“I think imposing any kind of dress code on a democratically elected body is anti-democratic and sends the wrong message about who we are and what we represent,” Norris wrote. “We are not meant to be a class apart from the people we represent; we are meant to be ‘of the people.’ Also, dress codes inevitably carry cultural and class biases. Is city council meant to be reserved only for business people and white collar workers? If so, how should we regulate women’s clothing? How low can a neckline go? How high a hemline should be permitted? And what about hijabs, kippas, turbans or any other type of attire for that matter? Where does it all end?

“Inevitably, a dress code carries biases of the sort that I think should be avoided in a democratic body representing a culturally diverse, cosmopolitan city such as ours. Ultimately, I think the final judges on this and on all other matters are the voters who elected us — and that neither Claude Dauphin nor any Tremblay backbencher should have any right to tell me or any other councillor how we must dress in order to be able to advocate on behalf of our constituents — just as I would not presume to tell them or anyone else how to dress at City Hall.”

Norris added that he didn’t see any ties on (male) candidates running against him during the campaign. “If we were good enough to win the votes of Mile End voters without ties, I figure we should be good enough for the council chambers without ties.”

As for wasting council’s time, Norris correctly points out that he wasn’t the one talking during those 15 minutes. He simply stood his ground on a rights issue he believed in and watched as others went crazy over the most minor of issues.

Will Norris resume his campaign during the next council meeting? We’ll see. He doesn’t want to distract the council’s business with such a simple issue, but he doesn’t want to surrender either.

UPDATE: I should point out this post on Coolopolis, in which a barber tells Norris to “get a tie!”

UPDATE (Aug. 25): This week’s council meeting (the first since the one in the above video) sparked a bit of media coverage about wearing ties, including a blog post by La Presse’s Ariane Krol and a column by Patrick Lagacé, who doesn’t own a tie (he has reaction on his blog).

UPDATE (May 19): Another incident at city hall, also ending with Norris putting on a tie.

UPDATE (Jan. 23, 2014): Another minor kerfuffle after Norris fails to wear a jacket.