Tag Archives: Irony

Bell Canada, our Do Not Call overlords

Bell Canada has been awarded the contract to manage Canada’s anti-telemarketing Do Not Call list.

Because when you think “customer service” and “convenience,” the name “Bell Canada” inevitably comes to mind.

No doubt the Bell Canada-run Do Not Call list will be fast, efficient, error-free and in no way a nightmare for thousands of Canadians stuck in customer service hell.

Oh, and the reason Bell won the contract? It was the only bidder.

Can you feel the irony biting you in the ass?

Cherry Chocolate Rain

Good God.

Tay Zonday has gone mainstream:

Cherry Chocolate Rain (via Transmission Marketing)It’s cute, but the fact that the original song “Chocolate Rain” was about how racism still permeates society, having its remix/sequel video done throwing money around, surrounded by gangsta rappers and video skanks and shelling a soft drink… I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be ironic.

Good for Tay Zonday for capitalizing on his immense success. As for Dr. Pepper’s marketing department…

UPDATE: I got an email from a company whose job it is to search the Internet for Tay Zonday blog posts, pointing out another version of the song promoting Comedy Central’s Last Laugh ’07 tonight, singing about celebrity gossip (is that worse than a soft drink?). No word on when The Comedy Network will air the program in Canada.

Don’t tase me, ho ho ho

Sorry for the headline, but it’s all I could think of after seeing this ad (via Muddy Hill Post) from the Taser folks:

Santa’s Taser ad

The ad is for the Taser C2, which comes in different colours and is apparently marketed as a form of self-defence mechanism for infants when they’re separated from their mothers.

It’s also “police proven”, as shown from the great Tasersaveslives stories we’ve seen in the news lately. It’s a track record to be proud of.

For those of you unfamiliar with the cultural reference, Wired educates.

Why are errors in online articles not corrected?

The Toronto Star’s public editor talks to Regret the Error‘s Craig Silverman about his new book (via J-Source).

The article talks about the reluctance of journalists to admit their own mistakes. It’s something you find in all professions, but journalists have a special duty to get their facts right. In fact, it’s the only thing they have to do.

Naturally, the article talks about how great the Star is at their corrections (few Canadian publications have corrections pages) and how they want to get better.

One suggestion, that Silverman has I think given up making because few bother with it, is to actually correct articles online when you issue corrections about them.

As a random example, this article about Ontario’s civil courts makes a simple error, saying that someone is currently in a position when she’s not. The correction is online and everything, but the original error is still there (about halfway down the article), and no mention is made of a correction.

For a more serious example, this correction notes that the Star violated a publication ban by revealing the names of victims in an inquiry. Unfortunately, at least one of the original articles, which has the full names of six children in it, is still online. (I won’t link to it because I don’t want to violate the publication ban myself, but it’s Googlable.)

In case the nature of the problem isn’t blatantly obvious by now, the original articles are emailed, del.icio.used, Dugg and otherwise passed around, and people can read them days after the fact, learning the false information with no clue that a correction has already been issued.

Newspapers, radio stations and TV networks can’t go back in time and unpublish something, but website articles can and must be altered to correct inaccuracies, preferably with a note describing the nature of the error and how it was corrected.

Why is that so hard to understand?

My Olbermann fetish

I admit it, I watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann. In fact, it’s probably the thing I watch most on MSNBC (which isn’t saying much), tuning in occasionally when there’s nothing better on TV.

I first started noticing the show for its special comments, scathing, well-written burn jobs on the Bush administration, that appear occasionally at the end of his show and get huge play online.

But the rest of his show stands in stark contrast. His criticisms are petty, his sarcasm isn’t anywhere near as funny as he thinks it is, his segments are filled with celebrity gossip and fluff, and his ego means he doesn’t realize he’s just as bad as those people he criticizes, particularly Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

A prime example of this happened on Friday’s show, when Olbermann went on one of his many diatribes against O’Reilly, wasting his time picking on the most petty of O’Reilly’s mistakes. (Olbermann and O’Reilly take jabs at each other because they compete directly with each other and have a long-standing feud. Amazingly, they even spar over minute details of their own ratings demographics, an issue only they could possibly care about.)

Olbermann criticized O’Reilly for saying that the Book of Revelation was written 5,000 years ago. Of course, because it’s part of the New Testament, that’s obviously not true. Olbermann explained this by saying that Jesus Christ (whose life preceded the Book of Revelation) died 2007 years ago, and he is the basis for the calendar we now use.

Of course, in criticizing this irrelevant detail, Olbermann himself got Biblical history wrong. The calendar is based on the date of Jesus’s birth, not his death, which came at about 33 A.D. (Of course, whether he was born 2007 years ago or 2013 years ago or at some other time near those dates is still a matter for debate.)

No doubt O’Reilly will pounce on that fact on his show Monday, causing Olbermann to respond in kind, and the cycle will continue.

It’s an unintentionally hilarious journalistic trainwreck, and I can’t help but check in on it every now and then.

Marché Central is an environmental disaster

In an example of corporate chutzpah the likes of which I’ve never seen, Marché Central, the awful strip mall just above the Acadie Circle, is touting its environmental-friendliness by installing 25 recycling bins in its massive parking lots. It’s also distributed recycling bins to its stores, which means that its stores will be allowed to recycle for the first time.

Why do I think this is insane? Look at a map of the mall (click to embiggen):

Marché Central map

The red areas (which represent just about everything but the buildings) are parking lots and roads. The green areas (which are just about invisible) represent foliage (trees, grass), which fill spaces that they haven’t figured out a way to park a car in yet.

It gets worse. Besides enough space to park 4,000 cars simultaneously (600 of which are underground), the giant strip mall from hell has absolutely no provisions for pedestrians. Traffic lights have no pedestrian crosswalks. Sidewalks abruptly end forcing people to walk through parking lots. The closest bus comes only every half hour, and it doesn’t enter the mall. There are no bike paths anywhere on or near mall grounds, and very little bike parking space.

So you’ll forgive me if statements like this make me laugh:

«Ici, l’environnement, c’est devenu une priorité. Maintenant, quand le temps est venu de faire une dépense, on essaie toujours de trouver un moyen de réduire nos dépenses en énergie. C’est important de trouver des façons écologiques de gérer nos activités», précise de son côté le directeur-adjoint, Raymond St-Jacques.

«Ce projet est un bel exemple de responsabilité sociale et un effort important pour l’environnement, de dire la mairesse de l’arrondissement d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Marie-Andrée Beaudoin. Nous les félicitons et il nous fait grand plaisir de soutenir ce projet par la cueillette des matières recyclables sur le site-même du Marché Central.»

Reading further, you get the real reason behind this move (which, of course, should have been done years ago):

D’ici peu, le mégacentre commercial aimerait obtenir la désignation environnementale Go Green, une certification canadienne remise aux établissements commerciaux qui réduisent leurs dépenses en eau, en électricité et autres, afin d’innover et d’améliorer leurs pratiques environnementales.

In other words, it’s a B.S. PR stunt designed to get a B.S. corporate “green” certification that doesn’t mean anything, and convince the yuppie SUV drivers that by putting a used water bottle into a green bin they’re doing their part for the environment.

Shutting Marché Central down would do the environment far better than any PR stunt they can think of.

And shame on “journalist” Philippe Boisvert and Courrier Bordeaux-Cartierville for allowing a company to fool them so easily with smoke and mirrors.

UPDATE: Chris DeWolf agrees with me.

Plagiarized in your own paper — NOT

The irony is just too much.

It appears that La Presse’s letter of the week for Oct. 27, about the oversexualization of young girls, was plagiarized from quoted* a Patrick Lagacé column a month before.

As Lagacé puts it: Plagiarized in your own paper, c’est fort en ta

* The story gets better: The letter actually properly referenced Lagacé’s column. But the citation was cut from the letter before it was published, leaving only the copied text. Now Lagacé, and a copy editor somewhere in the La Presse editorial department, are eating a double serving of crow.

I’m trying not to laugh.

Concordia president doesn’t have a PhD

Last month I opined here that Concordia University was faced with a tough problem. Their president had just decided to quit, and the second-in-command position (provost and VP academic) was vacant. That left them with the unenviable choices of either appointing another VP to the position (all of whom were experts in their jobs and only one had a PhD — the one they appointed as interim provost), or going further down the food chain to find a PhD candidate with little leadership experience.

It looks like they’ve opted for the first choice, appointing VP Services Michael Di Grappa as “acting president” (not to be confused with “interim president” whom they will appoint later, or “president” whom they will appoint … later later).

And while a search committee finds a new president (and a new provost), a special executive committee will find an interim president.

Confused yet?

Di Grappa doesn’t have a PhD. His highest academic credentials are a Master’s of public policy at New York University. He also doesn’t have much academic experience. As VP Services, he’s responsible for making sure the escalators run the buildings stay upright, classrooms have video projectors, and registration happens properly.

Considering the apparent very short nature of this appointment, it’s not like it’ll matter very much. Plus the fact that as a senior administrator for seven years he’s been involved in major administration decision-making.

As sad as it is, it’s probably the best solution to a horrible problem that Concordia’s board of governors has no one to blame but itself. Unfortunately it creates a situation where people the guy running a university granting PhDs hasn’t earned one himself.

And if that’s not bad enough news for Concordia, Valery Fabrikant is in the news again. Meanwhile, McGill has decided to raise $750 million just for the heck of it.

UPDATE (Oct. 20): David Bernans, the non-student student activist, has naturally started a Facebook group advocating Di Grappa’s immediate dismissal. I’m sure Concordia will act immediately based on his demands.

UPDATE (Oct. 30): A letter-writer to The Link points out that Columbia and Harvard had presidents who were PhD-less.

UPDATE (Oct. 23): The Concordian has an interview with Di Grappa, who stresses that the position is temporary. The Link has a similar interview.

Crackerjacks at the Gazette

I know I’m going to get shot by some of my former colleagues for this one, so I’ll be keeping my head low. But I couldn’t resist this one:

Mike Boone, today on A6:

“…it is easier to throw a pork chop past a wolf than it is to slip an error or ambiguity past the crackerjack Gazette copy desk.”

From another article on that same page about burials resuming:

“The 129 gravediggers and maintenance staff, members of the Confdration (sic*) des syndicats nationaux, have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2003. The workers’ last contract expired on Dec. 31, 2003.”

And in today’s corrections box:

“An Agence France-Presse story in Friday’s paper said former U.S. president Richard Nixon was impeached. In fact, Nixon resigned before the impeachment resolutions could be heard by the full House. The Gazette regrets the error.”

* The Gazette still doesn’t know how to upload articles with accents to its website.

Some retirement, Dennis

Dennis Trudeau on 940 News

Remember Dennis Trudeau? He used to be the anchor of CBC Newswatch (that was before CBC gutted local TV news — a decision they’ve thankfully begun to reverse). Two years ago he decided to retire, though he left the door open to other projects, saying he had “lots of ideas” he wanted to work on:

“In this wired world of 500 television channels, opportunities are limitless. I might like to be a commentator. I might like to write. But I do want to try something different from the daily news grind.”

Today comes the news that Trudeau will be joining 940 News as the new morning man, starting Sept. 3, along with Aphrodite Salas (who will move from her current late-morning show on the same station).

Trudeau is no stranger to radio. He’s hosted Daybreak, As it Happens and Cross-Country checkup. I’m sure he’ll do well in front of a microphone. But why oh why would someone who’s tired of the daily news grind agree to host a weekday morning radio show from 5:30 to 10 a.m.?

As for Ken Connors, who currently hosts the show, he’ll move to a “new” afternoon drive-time show on Q92.

UPDATE (Aug. 29): Two weeks later, Mike Boone adds his take with some words from Mr. Trudeau, who insists he’s never retired. It also adds a clarification: that it was Ken Connors moving to Q92 that prompted the station to seek Trudeau, rather than the other way around.

Editorialist, criticize thyself

The Gazette has an editorial today about the Beaver survey and it notes that — gasp — online polls shouldn’t be taken too seriously:

Talk-shows hosts, bloggers, columnists, pundits and letter-writers have all had fun with that online poll, organized by the august historical magazine The Beaver, in which respondents named Pierre Trudeau “the worst Canadian.”

It’s all good fun, we suppose, but it should also be a reminder online polls of this sort are not worth the paper they aren’t printed on.

I looked up the story, and most of the bloggers I’ve found saw right through the lame, transparent attempt to get free publicity. The paragraph leaves out the paper itself in those it names as having “had fun”. After all, it put the non-story on its front page Tuesday morning, one day after the Beaver issued a press release about it. (Little tip folks: Get something on Canada Newswire that’s not business-related and some paper somewhere will rewrite it into a story to fill space. Don’t bother trying to support your outrageous claims with facts, nobody cares about those.)

The editorial makes a couple of points: that online reader surveys shouldn’t be taken at face value (duh), and that “participatory journalism” has its problems:

Reader-participation journalism, a clear trend in print as well as online, has many virtues and can be a valuable tool.

But without the constraints of rigorous sample-selection techniques and careful choice of questions, the findings of some such processes are not only laughable, as with the Trudeau choice, but they can also be potentially dangerously misleading.

Just in case it wasn’t clear yet that mainstream media has no clue what participatory journalism is, here we go.

At the risk of repeating myself, the following things are NOT participatory journalism:

  1. Letting readers vote in multiple-choice online polls and writing a story about the results.
  2. Blogs written by columnists and newspaper staffers
  3. Publishing “online extras”
  4. Writing about what you found on Facebook
  5. Writing about what readers posted as comments to your blog
  6. Republishing blog posts as articles
  7. Republishing articles as blog posts
  8. Asking readers for stories and quoting from them
  9. Publishing writers’ email addresses with their stories

Many of these things are good ideas, but they’re not participatory journalism.

Sorry, mainstream media, but you got suckered in by a press release about an outrageous unscientific survey. Don’t blame it on bloggers and new forms of journalism that are entirely irrelevant here.

How to drive like an idiot

Adrian points us to a video on YouTube (among other places) called “Late for Work” of a young driver zigzagging through light traffic on the West Island. There’s a second video out there (I won’t link to it because it’s on a porn site) called “Late for School” of a similarly dangerous trip down Highway 40 in St-Laurent. Both videos are sped up, but it’s clear from the rest of the traffic that this guy is going fast.

What gets me about the video is not so much that some idiot is filming himself doing this, but the route he takes in it:

Late for Work route

Google Maps says the logical route above would take 11 minutes, which sounds about right. The video is about 3 minutes long. Assuming it’s sped up at about 5 times normal, that means not only did he act like an idiot speeding, but he also lost time.