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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tell me lies: tell me sweet little lies

Michael does not like to be told things that are not true.

My mom says that my grandmother is the same way: apparently she even hates fiction. Michael is not nearly that extreme; in fact, he loves fiction stories and movies. But he does NOT want to discover that he was wrong about something he previously believed because he was told it was true.

He often asks if TV shows are "real", meaning whether the people onscreen are actors. This is usually easy to explain but no more reassuring: the international news can be hideous at times. However, he seems to find some comfort in knowing what's true.

He lost his two front teeth the other day.

He is basically on to me about the tooth fairy: in fact, he thinks it's creepy that I steal his teeth. What do I DO with them? Why would I want them?

I have not confessed, but he knows the truth.

He did not mention the tooth fairy to me, but made it clear that he still expected remuneration for the teeth. By bedtime, he was willing to play along for the sake of capitalism. He left them on the table next to my bed, with a note under the pillow: Dear Tooth Fairy, my tooth is on the tabel table. <------

He has four shiny new twonies in his "muny bank".

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When the night falls, there's nowhere to go

I do not like being alone at night.

Houses make sounds that are amplified in the darkness. I hear every creak and every groan. And they frighten me.

I used to think I was afraid of aliens, because when I was very young, my (insane) grandmother made me watch a scary movie about aliens invading a house during the night and abducting Christopher Walken and his family. It was billed as a TRUE STORY, and my grandmother told me she believed it was true. My parents did not, but I was unsure. I never stayed up later than the others in my family. If everyone else went to bed, I did, too. I am not sure how this was supposed to protect me, considering that the people in the movie were abducted from their bedrooms, but it made sense inside my head.

I am no longer afraid of aliens abducting me at night, but my original concerns have morphed into fear of an overnight break-in or arson. This is not entirely crazy: both are semi-regular occurrences in Name of Town Withheld. Exactly how the presence of another person protects me from them, however, is unclear to my subconscious. In the light of day, I can see that this is just a continuation of the fear I had as a child, but at night I'm not so sure, especially when I hear noises.

Last night, I was certain I heard someone at the door fiddling with the lock and then coming into the house. I even ventured into the dark hallway, cell phone in hand, to investigate after being momentarily paralysed with fear. (I had left the phone next to the bed just in case someone broke in and I needed to call the police. Yes, you can say "self-fulfilling prophecy". It is now daytime.)

Naturally, nobody was out there. The deadbolt, which I had been certain I'd heard turning, was still locked. Perhaps the criminals were frightened off when I turned on the light in the hall.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Nice of you to drop by

Reader-submitted complaint: And you're opinion matters because?

Well, I could say the same to you. However, you've clearly put in a lot of effort to spell-check your message to me.

My opinion doesn't matter any more than anyone else's. That's one of the interesting features of the Internet.

You don't have to come here if you don't want to. That's another interesting feature of the Internet.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Go to Clare's blog and check out the videos of the killer whales that swam into Arctic Bay a few days ago. Just incredible.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dancing in graveyards with vampires 'til dawn

Reader-submitted complaint: Let me get this straight. Do you actually do anything other than sit around and listen to Fleetwood Mac? Because this is getting really depressing.

You know, I'm not really living my life to entertain people. But no, I don't just listen to Fleetwood Mac. I also listen to things like this.

I can't help it. It seems appropriate, somehow.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beware of greedy leaders who take you where you should not go

Reader-submitted question: Am I correct in stating that the NWT, like Nunavut, does not have political parties at the territorial level?

Yes. When Nunavut split from us, they took our form of government with them. As far as I know, it is unique.

This tends to be hard for people who aren't from the north to understand, but I will try to explain. I am not really an expert on consensus-style government, but I have picked up the main points over my time living here. We do not have territorial political parties: although elected representatives may personally identify with one of the federal parties, we don't have the same system here.

All of our members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) sit as independents. They do not have any formal links to each other, and they do not run for office based on any unified platform that could be easily summed up with a word or two.

After the election, the MLAs select a premier from among themselves. This is the opposite of the way it's done in the rest of Canada, where the leader of the political party with the most seats automatically becomes the premier. Remember, we don't have parties. There is no easy way to tell if the majority of the MLAs are environmentalists or tough on crime or whatever, so they have no clear leader right after the election. After they elect the premier, they elect the cabinet. Again, this is very different from the way it's done in the rest of Canada, where the premier chooses the cabinet.

It's not really a rule, but our legislative assemblies have generally decided to elect cabinet ministers based on where they're from. I'm totally serious. One third are from Name of Town Withheld, one third are from the southern NWT and one third are from the northern NWT. This is formalised: they do it in three rounds. Regional representation is a big deal: there is a constant concern that Name of Town Withheld is going to take over and get more than its fair share.

The premier then assigns departments to cabinet ministers. He can't remove them from cabinet; he can only take away their portfolios. This happens from time to time. Only the MLAs can remove someone from cabinet. They do this from time to time.

Although question period is what gets on TV, it has always seemed to me that the real work happens at the committee level. Non-cabinet MLAs are assigned to committees that review legislation and budgets. They also meet with cabinet ministers to discuss programs or anything else that might be relevant. These meetings are often held in communities, where anyone can show up to hear what's said or make a presentation to the committee.

Because we do not have political parties, you will not generally find organised opposition to proposed legislation. Federal politicians will push legislative initiatives based on the mandates their parties received on election day. Opposition parties will push back (some of the time). We have no opposition parties, at least not formal ones. I have heard some people refer to the non-cabinet MLAs as the "unofficial opposition", but it really only seems that way if your only experience with the system is watching question period. They do ask questions, but I don't think that automatically makes them the opposition.

I hope this is an acceptable overview. More information about this style of government is available on the Legislative Assembly's website.

Thanks for your question.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Grumpy Old Complaint

Reader-submitted complaint: Oh yeah -- I bet Mr Harper is a real GROOVE MACHINE!

This is in response to my observation that the people at Bill Clinton's inauguration "party", if you can call it that, were losers who could not dance or even clap on beat.

The Forces of Evil still have me under surveillance, so I will say that I am sure that federal cabinet ministers are excellent dancers. In fact, I just met one last week. The attorney general did not bust a move, but he did make his feelings about the former Liberal government perfectly clear. Ask him about crime, and he'll mention the last government. Ask him about gangs, and I'm sure the Liberals will come up somehow. Odd. You don't suppose there will be an election soon?

Also, he had a nice suit. I bet he's a great dancer, because Justin Timberlake usually wears nice suits. I'm also sure he would never pick a song about divorce as his campaign theme song. He's much smarter than that. That would lead to the sort of degeneracy that we are still trying to recover from after years of Liberal rule. The damage will take years to recover from, and a strong hand will be needed. At this point, we cannot afford to lose sight of our goals. We are the ONLY ones who really appreciate the value of a good campaign theme song, and it's a constant struggle. The other parties would probably have "Let's Get It On" as THEIR theme songs. That's why we have to be strong. These things are too important to let slide after we've worked so hard TOGETHER AS A COUNTRY. That's what really matters to Canadians.

Americans: This is Prime Minister Harper:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What new readers are searching for

  • hasselhoff lyrics (and) david hasselhoff warcraft (and) david hasselhoff and shar pei (and) hoff greeting cards (and hundreds of similar searches, including a ton of them through Google Images)
  • Kevin [last name withheld] sermons
  • free communication advice
  • i love money megan h naked
  • amber macarthur nipples (I don't think this person found what he or she was looking for)
  • is it normal to be obsessed about god
  • advertising of "fit" yogurt
  • solution of seal hunting (and) snow seals hunt (and) stop clubbing baby seals
  • words to say when someone dies (I'm pretty sure I've never blogged about this topic)
  • i lost my power in this world (and) don't break the spell (and) damn your love damn your lies (and) follow those who pale in your shadow (etc., etc.: there are too many like this to list)
  • maria giani hyperemesis
  • "nine gram brain"
  • cbc staff health canada
  • ham and eggs ham and cheese hammond lumber

Friday, August 22, 2008

Though you don't believe that it's true, I never meant any harm to you

Reader-submitted question: Were you supporting Hillary Clinton for president?

Why? Because of this?

Unfortunately, this is not the sort of thing that would make me support a politician. I am pretty forgiving when it comes to cocaine abuse, megalomania and experimental double albums, but this is a real freak show.

I generally look for some indication that the person has good judgment. As much as I like Christine McVie's music, this is not a song that should inspire confidence in a national leader. Perhaps this is because I listened to the words. You would think that the Clintons would have put in a similar amount of effort before choosing this song to represent their campaign. Or even just skimmed the lyrics. (I know, this is crazy talk.)

I used to think that Republican delegates were bad dancers, but watching these Democrats lurch around trying to clap on beat makes me proud to be a Canadian.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I hate elevator music, the way we fight, the way I'm left here silent

It occurs to me that I am never really going to be happy, simply because I cannot manage to be truly unhappy.

True unhappiness is a kick in the pants. You can't stand things any more. You have to change it up, and you know exactly what has to be done. Even if it's painful, you know you can't keep things the way they are. That pain will be temporary, and you'll be replacing your current situation with something that will be better, even if it's unfamiliar and a little bit scary. Okay, a lot scary.

I'm never going to get to that point. I'm in some sort of weird no man's land where there are distinctions between unhappiness and un-happiness.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Thank You For Visiting Of The David Hasselhoff Club Of America [DHCA]! Dedicated to bringing you everything David Hasselhoff since June 1, 2000. A comprehensive website and fan club; download the largest selection of exclusives, photos, multimedia, articles, icons, links, plus much more.  The main page is updated daily with the latest news and updates. Enjoy interviews, current contests, and features. Thank you very much for visiting and please enjoy your stay online!

Reader-submitted question:
Have you seen this?

Well, yes. This is THE PLACE to buy official merchandise like his autobiography (Don't Hassel The Hoff) or join HoffSpace, the social networking site. Perhaps I should put a permanent link on my blog, just so you can all get there every day.

However, I would not want to restrict you to one website. (As if David's manliness could ever be contained on one page!) I also recommend:

The Official David Hasselhoff House of Worship: This site includes a downloadable paper airplane, greeting cards, and the ever-popular Ask David feature.

The Hoff-Cam: It seems that this is David's official site, where you can follow his "apperances".

A God Among Men: Naturally.

David on Twitter

Every day, I get a ton of visits from people searching Google Images for photos of David. I always wonder what they think of me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


CBS investigates:

  • Is Stevie Nicks a witch?
  • She is so awesome. How does she write such wonderful songs?
  • What's up with her hairstyles? She's changed her hair since the 1970s!
How low can TV journalism go? We might have an answer!

I'm not aware that there is ANY news hook here at all, and I say that as a fan. She's not touring. She hasn't released a new album. She wasn't even the one who announced that the band will be touring in 2009. There is absolutely no news value in this sort of interview.

I could ignore this if there was some indication that the interview is intended as a human-interest-type profile. In fact, you could make a case that true journalism isn't just about what happened yesterday; it's about putting all of the pieces together to reflect something that's even more real than the news. I really like profiles. They give a reporter the opportunity to ask probing questions that show a person as he or she really is.

News flash: Witches are not real. If a famous person is actually delusional enough to believe that he or she can control evil spirits, that might be worth some inquiry. Questions about hairstyles are the sort of fawning garbage I expect from ET Canada, not from CBS News. The reporter is positively giddy at being in the same room with Ms. Nicks, who, to her credit, is answering the questions very seriously. This is all so odd that I wonder if a publicist set it up and insisted on ground rules: no questions about Ms. Nicks herself.

I also feel compelled to tell the producer of this item that Don't Stop is not a Stevie Nicks song. Nice try, though.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Maybe your attention was more than you could do

Reader-submitted question: Why would you be so mean to that guy?

Mrs. Bell? Is that you?

Zach WANTED me to be mean to him. He said that he doesn't get rude comments about his blog. He wanted to get a message like the one I got from the PETA weirdo from Singapore. Did you miss that part of the post?

It's OK. You're not alone: A lot of my regular readers have Humour Impairment, too. In fact, we may have enough of you now to form a support group. Perhaps I can put you in touch with the reader who complained that I do not use smileys often enough.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gettin' cards and letters from people I don't even know

Reader-submitted question: Where did you get those David Hasselhoff greeting cards?

I got them from a reader in the States. I believe they are available at Target, and there are several different types you can choose from. You can see photos of the set here.

I know what you are thinking: How could you possibly choose just one? And how could any retailer put a price on ART like this? I could not agree more. That's why I like to use the free e-card service from David Hasselhoff Online. Sometimes I send them to myself, just so I can pretend that I am getting e-mail from David.

However, e-cards are not appropriate for every situation. Sometimes, nothing can replace a card in the mail. For example, after a job interview, you'll want to make sure that the interviewers have a good impression of you. But you'll also want to stand out from the crowd. Anyone could send a hand-written message. If you really want to be sure a potential boss will remember you, send a card with a picture of the Hoff, shirtless, leering through his car window. I guarantee you will make an impression.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm so afraid of the way I feel

I need to take a break. See you in a few days.

Happy birthday, Philosopher King

I was going to post "Mari-Mac", but then I remembered that you thought it was dirty. I definitely would not want to offend your delicate sensibilities. That sort of vulgarity is beneath me.

This sweet, traditional song about a young man who falls in love with a mermaid is probably much closer to your taste. Considering the Princess's stated career goal, this video is probably as close to perfect as I am going to get today.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Editors at the Paper of Record: Please use some discretion with Leah McLaren's columns. You cannot possibly be contractually obligated to print this garbage.

Leah now informs us that she only SEEMS like a normal person. The truth is that she is a weirdo.

I see.

Even before I read the column, I knew this was going to involve a comparison to a celebrity, and Leah does not disappoint. She imagines herself to be quirky and adorable, just like a character Jennifer Aniston played years ago!

The proof:

  • When she was 12, she tried to get people at summer camp to call her Jordan, but they wouldn't go along with it. They thought she was ridiculous. (What a shock.)
  • She wanted to find a lost ferret. Not because she likes ferrets, but because she thinks other people will think she's eccentric if she has one. It apparently does not occur to her that stealing someone's pet is not eccentric behaviour that would make her look quirky and adorable. Rather, it is the sort of self-absorbed behaviour I already expect from her.
  • Who needs a third example? Not Leah/Jordan!
I have no idea why the Paper of Record is publishing this.

Here's something Leah would discover with even the slightest bit of critical thought: Her headline is a lie. She is not a weirdo trapped inside a regular life. She is a boring person trapped inside a pathetic world she has built for herself.

Here's a column idea for you, Leah: Why do you still, in your thirties, want people to think you haven't changed since you were twelve?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Funny how the cracks don't seem to show

What a boob

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: We've heard it all before.

You would think that by now, store owners would be smart enough to just shut up about not liking breastfeeding. But apparently not.

The story's familiar: A woman is either asked to stop breastfeeding or is shuffled off into a corner. The next day, she shows up with dozens of her closest co-lactationists. (No, that's not really a word.) News spreads and the store looks stupid. Meanwhile, idiots come out of the woodwork to proclaim that breastfeeding is disgusting, or, alternatively, totally fine as long as women are discreet about it.

I am opposed to discreet breastfeeding, mostly because the only people who talk about it are total jerks.

"As long as it's discreet" is code for "as long as I don't know it's happening". People who say this usually mean one or more of the following things:

  • They should never be exposed to a baby who is beginning or ending a meal.
  • They should never be able to tell that the baby is eating at all. Ideally, they should not be able to tell that the baby even exists.
  • Babies should have blankets fastened securely over their heads while they eat.
  • Babies should eat in the public bathroom. (This is one of my favourites.)
  • Anything other than this is basically the same thing as peeing in public.
The alternative to breastfeeding is a screaming, hungry baby. I know which is more disruptive.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Flame me, please!

Reader-submitted question: Hrumph...I haven't gotten anything even close to a hateful e-mail or other correspondence in response to my own blog. I'm so frustrated that I'm thinking of trying to find a service that will send me one hand crafted hate mail message each week. Now how do you go about finding something like that...and who do I get to pay for something so useless?

I recently spent a bit of time cleaning trollish messages off my YouTube account, so I thought I'd be able to come up with something off the top of my head based on my own experiences. Sadly, "u r fat" is not the sort of insult I can be proud of. But I do think it's interesting and a little sad that when strangers want to insult a woman, they figure that saying she's fat will do the trick.

As a good Canadian, I am not in the habit of being rude to people, but I'll do my best. Maybe my readers can help.

Zach Bell is a bloated piece of crap just making his way through the sewer system of the Internet. And he's not floating on the top. No, Zach's blog is the sort of crap that leaves track marks on the bottom of the toilet in your office bathroom. You're just going about your day, minding your own business, when WHAM you're hit with the unmistakable evidence that someone (and by "someone", I mean Zach) has unleashed something nasty upon the world. You're horrified, and all you can think is that you need to get rid of it right away. But no matter how many times you flush, the marks don't go away. You're forced to go looking for a bathroom on another floor, because you wouldn't want anyone else to see you in there and mistake those marks for your own work.

That's what reading Zach's blog is like: holding your breath, trying to cover up the evidence of a stranger's impropriety, and hoping you don't get unfairly saddled with his richly deserved reputation.

Readers: I aim to please, but if you can do better, feel free to post comments.

UPDATED: Don't miss Part Two.

Friday, August 08, 2008

This made me laugh

From the comments at Friendly Atheist:

How many atheists does it take to tell a joke?


  • 4 to tell the joke.
  • 12 to wonder if joke-telling sends the “wrong message” to the religious majority.
  • 7 to argue back and forth about why humour is or is not an appropriate mind-changing tool.
  • 3 to sternly suggest that religion is NOT a laughing matter.
  • 4 to self-righteously assert that children NOT be let in on the joke. Because that is child abuse.
  • 2 to intone darkly about how this “doesn’t reflect well” on atheists.
  • 1 to imagine that the joke actually will metamorphose into the thing being parodied, and that atheism will then make a religion of itself, with all the same trappings, robes, songs and candle-lighting.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Memes, memes everywhere

Saskboy has tagged me for another meme. For some reason, I enjoy doing these things:

(A) Four places I go over and over: Edmonton, Orlando, Dexter, uhhhh...the Toronto airport? Really, there's no other place I go. It's not like it's easy to drive out of here.

(B) Four people who e-mail me regularly: Away from work, almost all of my e-mails are from people who are posting on my blog. The people who comment most are Torq (AKA Philosopher King), Scribe, Karen and Miss Lyndsy.

(C) Four of my favorite places to eat? I usually eat at home, the pub across the street or the Vietnamese place around the corner. When the tapas place opens again in the fall, Steve and I will probably start going there again.

(D) Four places you’d rather be? Big sigh. I have to limit myself to four places? Perhaps I could just say that I am ready to leave Name of Town Withheld and would like to move south.

(E) Four people I think will respond: All of them.

(F) Four TV shows I could watch over and over: I only watch a few TV shows, but I have Lost, Big Love and Arrested Development on DVD. I don't think I could watch anything else "over and over", but I do enjoy late-night TV on the rare evenings I can't sleep.

This tag is passed to four people I know in person: Karen, Karan, Cindy, Glen. Just copy the questions, write your own answers, and tag four more people.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"I curse your whole family"

Reader-submitted complaint: hope youre whole family gets reborn as seals and you see you're mother being culled like the bitch she brought you up to be. I curse your whole family just cause you believe seal hunting is just. You will also continue to be poor and freezing in that beautiful ice plate you call home. So yeah, continue earning a living off fur, and blubber. You people are so mentally and emotionally wasted and a redundancy to this planet. You should kill each other and sell your meat and fat to your relatives. It's a pity you have to live off fish you're whole life, rednecks. Maybe then the world would be truly be rid of the last remaining savages when youre corpses are 7 feet below ice.

I'm sure you'll understand when I say that when I received this complaint, I dropped everything and e-mailed it to as many people as possible. After all, you don't light a candle and hide it under a bushel.

This is now my favourite reader-submitted complaint of all time.

Happy birthday, Steve D

What, Anglicans aren't fun?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Reader-submitted greeting cards

Imagine my excitement when I found THESE in my mailbox!


I adore my readers.

And because you pervs are always after the Hoff's back side:

Thank you, reader. You are awesome.

Monday, August 04, 2008

"If you identify yourself, or could in any way be identified..."

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Just don't say anything. That way, WE don't look bad.

Remember the CNN producer who was fired for blogging in his spare time?

Well, CNN has finally come up with a blogging policy to guide its employees' activities online. Apparently, they wanted to make sure it was restrictive enough to allow the guy to be fired. There is nothing more embarrassing than having to backtrack and say that a person was fired under a policy that didn't exist at the time and, even when it was developed, wasn't tough enough to allow firing based on what he actually wrote! What a black mark on the company THAT would be!

Here's the policy.

The gist of it is that CNN would like to control what its employees say on their own time. All of its employees. Even behind-the-scenes people like shooters. Even freelancers, who aren't employees at all but are still covered by this ridiculous policy. Some of the more interesting parts:

We’ve gotten a number of questions from CNN staff wanting clarification of CNN policy on communicating publicly about our work, or on news or public affairs -- on the internet. In Blogs. In Chatrooms. On video sharing sites. On social networking sites.

I sure hope these guys don't write anything that the public will read. This is a disastrous attempt at parallelism. In fact, the entire policy is such a grammatical mess that my shoulder muscles seized up several times while I was trying to read it.

[I]f you’re discussing things that are in the news, keep in mind you could be seen as representing CNN, and therefore you should not comment on the issues CNN covers.

I love this. I assume that CNN sees every blog as representing the official views of the blogger's employer. This is helpful. It means there are no personal blogs, only official company websites.

CNN’ers are encouraged to visit Second Life, just keep in mind it’s a public place and the same rules (listed above) apply as they would to “real” public life.

Also: CNN'ers are encouraged to play Scrabulous, WoW and online chess!


Yes. But you should notify your supervisor about it, to have it cleared as a non-conflict for your work. Your supervisor may choose to then have it cleared at another level or by S&P. And again, you shouldn’t post commentary on anything you might cover in your work or CNN may report on, or write about the CNN workplace or post CNN material without permission by a senior CNN manager.

I really have a problem with managers "approving" personal blogs. Why would any company want to approve someone's blog? I absolutely don't understand this. When some idiot posts racist material on the Internet, the last thing you want is the media reporting that the guy's blog is company-approved. You want to be able to say that his blog is entirely personal and the company had nothing to do with it.

No commentary on anything you might cover in your work. I agree with this one. A health reporter probably shouldn't be blogging about health trends. It blurs the line between your personal blog and the work you do for your employer. A good rule of thumb: If you're writing something that looks too similar to something you might produce for your employer, it's probably best to use it for work instead of your blog.

No commentary on anything CNN may report on. Hmmm. I'm not sure how anyone would predict this. Staff are now supposed to know in advance what the news will be? This is just stupid.


Again, on these sites only write about something CNN would not report on.

"Would not report on" is not the same as "may report on". I'm not sure which was intended here, but really, it doesn't matter. I don't know how you could possibly write only about things CNN would not report on. Is there a list of topics CNN refuses to do stories about? I've watched their coverage; I know they report on just about everything. (Check out this recent story about yo-yos.)

It's good to have policies about self-expression, but this isn't the way to write them. I still think that Name of Employer Withheld has one of the best policies I've seen. To summarise:

Employees may say what they want about matters of public interest. However, they cannot use their jobs to give their personal opinions added weight.

Common sense and normal journalistic ethics are all that CNN needs. They just need to figure out how to get some.

I wrote more about reporters' blogs here.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Leave Barack alone!

Could the CBC possibly suck any more?

Apparently so.

"Joe Clark" (AKA Fake Ouimet) took a look at the small print for the MotherCorp's stupid contest for a new Hockey Night in Canada theme. I knew it was awful, but I didn't realise just how bad it was.

My favourite line is In the event of any dispute concerning the operation of any element of the Competition or these Competition Rules, the decision of CBC will be final.

I repeat: $100,000 is a pathetic offer for a theme song on the national broadcaster's most popular program.

Happy birthday, Ben

Saturday, August 02, 2008

*You* are on the record. *I* am not.

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: The rules of journalism don't apply to journalists!

A reader sent me a link about the New York Times' placement of a story about the money, fame and influence female bloggers have. Apparently the Times believes that this sort of story belongs in a section called "Fashion and Style". You see, anything women do belongs in the Style section. Not in Business or Technology, even if the story is about the business of technology.

I'm not saying that Style is a lesser section than the others, but the placement does seem a bit odd to me.

I'm not the only one. Amber Naslund wrote a letter to the editor complaining about it:

I’m so disappointed that you managed to completely undermine the professional, hardworking group at BlogHer by parking that article on your “Fashion & Style” page. Why not Business? Technology? These women are changing the face of technology and the online world, and you’re parking them off in a trivial corner instead of among the gamechanging minds of Web 2.0 where they belong.

This is exactly why glass ceilings exist. Way to take a legitimate, amazingly powerful event for professionals and treat it as “aw, how cute!”.

Shame on you.

And that probably would have been the end of it.

Until the Times decided it didn't like what Amber had said. An editor contacted her and asked her to change the letter. Apparently, the Times believes it doesn't have an answer for her. They can't respond to questions about placement, because stories are placed wherever they are pitched.


This is interesting, because it's only half true. I do believe that stories are placed where they're pitched, because this is common in the industry. For example, if I'm freelancing to CBC and pitch a story to Definitely Not The Opera, it won't air on Quirks and Quarks even if it's about science. The shows have separate producers and don't usually give stories away to each other. I assume the Times has a similar setup.

Now, was that hard to explain? Does it look like the sort of thing that doesn't have an answer? I'm trying to imagine what would happen if someone told the Times there wasn't an answer for whatever question their reporter had posed. I'm betting the issue wouldn't just go away.

It gets better.

The editor also asked Amber not to reveal her name, because she's not a higher-up and doesn't speak for the section.


You have probably already grasped the silliness of this, but let me spell it out more clearly: A representative of the New York Times has asked a member of the public to change its criticism of the paper, and then asked for anonymity because she is not an official spokesperson.


I hear a lot of complaints from reporters that people won't go on the record for their stories. They don't WANT to talk to the guy at the top; they want to talk to the employee who really has all of the dirt. And they want to talk to that person in a casual way at the grocery store, so he doesn't realise he's being interviewed. Well, that describes the news industry better than any other.

What a bunch of hypocrites.

Friday, August 01, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: CBC staff psychologically unhealthy!

Reader-submitted question: Have you seen this?


Judging by the number of times people have sent me this story today, this is of keen interest to my readers.

A 2005 survey showed that almost half of the CBC's staff were suffering from high levels of psychological stress related to their working conditions. That's the same year there was a bitter, months-long lockout, so I'm not sure if the survey was completed before or after all of that nastiness. I'm also not sure if it's an accurate reflection of the current situation.

CBC treats its staff really poorly. I am still bitter that they screwed me out of my maternity leave because there were two days I did not work while I was moving to the Arctic. It was a weird human resources thing: I was short two days on paper and they were unwilling to accept that I had probably put in the equivalent of two months of unpaid, unclaimed overtime. I was furious, but unable to do anything about it.

I am not fond of unions, but the situation with management at the CBC is just ridiculous. The stories about people being systematically screwed over are infuriating. When people across the country started to compare notes, they realised that they had all been told the same thing: there was coincidentally only enough work to last the exact length of time the CBC would not have to pay them benefits or convert their jobs to permanent positions! Who would have imagined it?

I'm not sure why they seem to hate their own staff. During the lockout, I heard a lot about the need to be "flexible". This meant that they needed to be able to fire people for no reason at any time. Their solution: converting permanent positions to short-term contracts. They claimed that young people want contracts. You see, young, sexy, carefree people don't want to be tied down to permanent positions with health benefits and pensions. Flexibility is IMPORTANT to them. Only old fogeys with hair coming out of their ears want permanent positions. Dental work is for losers. And really, which would you rather be: young and carefree or old and toothless? Clearly, short-term contracts are for you!

This argument never made sense to me. Sure, I like flexibility. And there is nothing more flexible than the ability to quit my job whenever I want to. That's why I took a permanent job.

They also claimed that they needed to be able to fire bad staff. I would never argue that bad employees should be kept on the payroll. Sometimes people need to be fired. However, the CBC's problem is not that they have no way to get rid of bad staff; it's that they have been unwilling to follow their own rules about disciplining people. The rules were set out very clearly in the collective agreement. People could be fired. And yet, they usually weren't. Why is it the union's fault when management can't get its act together enough to fire someone who deserves to get the axe? The problem was never the collective agreement or the staff. The problem was management.

For another perspective on this story, check out Tea Makers.


Check out Clare's photos of last night's eclipse over Nunavut. Very cool.