Friday, October 29, 2004

Election round-up

Over here at On the Fence, we're biting our nails, lighting votive candles and checking electoral-vote.com several times a day in the lead-up to the Presidential Election to End All Presidential Elections. Here's some of the news you don't need to know:

Item A: How John McCain could end up president. [Via Coshitry: The Art of Killing a Cat.]

Item B: The Bush Campaign's Fun with Fotoshop!

Item C: Zogby says Kerry is going to win on The Daily Show. No link! I saw it with me own eyes! [Perhaps his confidence is because of this new Florida poll. More polls, please. Addicted. Need fix.]

Item D: Germany's largest-circulation newspaper endorses Bush. Reverse psychology, anyone?

Item E: Tommy Douglas neck and neck with Don Cherry! My man Lester "Carpet-pisser" Pearson in a sad, sad eighth place!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Richler to Walrus: Kootchie-kootchie-koo.

Well, The much-beleagered Walrus turns one year old this month. And Noah Richler has a piece about it in the latest NOW -- a rebuttal to the infamous Fulford takedown of publisher/editor Ken Alexander in Toronto Life this summer.

There are many flaws with Richler's piece, not least of all that he makes it out as if Fulford has some sort of fundamental problem with the idea of The Walrus, not the strange way that Alexander has run it. "The idea that it is somehow acceptable to one of our foremost cultural critics that our best writers have no forum here, their stories and opinions only read when some crack appears in America's current solipsism, is deeply worrying," writes Richler. (Later in the piece, Richler tries to make it seem like Fulford wrote the piece because Toronto Life "competes" with The Walrus.)

This is all, of course, ridiculous. Fulford praised the magazine and its mission when it first began in an article The Walrus still touts on its website.

Richler goes through his whole piece generally ignoring the fundamental issue from Fulford's Toronto Life piece: In its first year, The Walrus has gone through editors like they're going out of style and shown a lack of focus. Richler skirts this question, writing:
What is really at issue is Alexander's sometimes egocentric bravura and the way he has replaced those in key posts. In America, a couple of swift sackings are routine to save an enterprise, but in Canada years at the wheel and not what you do in them are what counts...

Alexander, formerly the publisher of the Walrus and now effectively its editor, committed a major Canadian faux pas when he behaved like someone who believed he could do better than the small pool of apparently proven trade staff from which Canadian custom says he should hire – "proven," in this instance, merely meaning that the departed worked on various incarnations of magazines that have consistently, um, failed.
Yeah, as if an American magazine publisher could go through two editors-in-chief and then appoint himself editor in his publication's first year without attracting criticism and skepticism... Also, Alexander HIRED these people (Wilson, Berlin) who apparently have only worked on magazines that failed. Doesn't that mean, at the very least, that Alexander is a really lousy publisher, unable to choose editors who he can stomach or who can stomach him for more than six month?

Back to Richler:
When I spoke to Alexander recently, he was delighted that his subscriptions were healthily on the rise. But the future of any magazine is uncertain, and he also remarked that if the Walrus fails, it's likely that no one else will try anything like it for 20 years. He's right. We can support Canadian writing. Or we can wait for some American magazine to publish something that matters to Canadians, usually accidentally. The time to prove that we are more than some other nation's appended consumers is now.
Alright, already. Stop fellating him! You're hired...

Fulford's takedown of The Walrus was perhaps a bit much. It could use a dissenting opinion. But this article by Richler is such a blatent attempt to curry favour with Alexander -- who is given a total free pass -- that he's just made the magazine look worse.

I, for one, am hopeful that The Walrus will be able to pull it together. Alexander can't fire himself as editor, so the magazine will have some stability for a while at least...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Correctomania!

Believe it or not, sometimes newspapers make mistakes. I know you don't want to believe it, but it's true. I'm sorry to shatter your faith in the press so harshly.

Anyway, when Newspapers Go Bad, they often print corrections. This happens often enough that there's even an entire blog dedicated to them: www.regrettheerror.com. (NB: Cats happen often enough that there are thousands of blogs dedicated to them.)

Today, everyone in the blogsphere has been on a Correctofrenzy over a couple of funny and/or absurd corrections makin' the meta'news.

First, a correction that makes the Wall Street Journal look extemely ridiculous:
NEWS CORP.'S Fox News was incorrectly described in a page-one article Monday as being sympathetic to the Bush cause.
One imagines that the Journal decided to print this correction to avoid a lawsuit, not because the statement made wasn't observably correct.

And here's a correction from the New York Times that Andrew Sullivan says is a sign of the times:
A headline last Sunday about a wedding the previous evening misspelled the given name of the bride who was married to Jeffrey Alan Trogolo. She was Julia Saidenberg, not Julian.
Can a doctoral thesis "Correcting the Quo: Politics and Culture in Early 21 Century United States as Evidenced through Newspaper Corrections" be far away? No. It cannot.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

In the Shit.

Perhaps you heard this recent toilet history news:
Archaeologists in Germany say they may have found a lavatory where Martin Luther launched the Reformation of the Christian church in the 16th Century. The stone room is in a newly-unearthed annex to Luther's house in Wittenberg.

Luther is quoted as saying he was "in cloaca", or in the sewer, when he was inspired to argue that salvation is granted because of faith, not deeds.

The scholar suffered from constipation and spent many hours in contemplation on the toilet seat.
Well, if you were wondering why this scene was left out of Luther, the recent biopic of the Father of Protestantism starring Joseph Fiennes, (okay, maybe only I was wondering this) here's an explanation from a reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog:
Having mis-spent my youth in grad school studying late medieval and early modern European intellectual history, I can now -- 20 years after leaving academia -- shed some valuable light for you and your readers (as well as for the BBC News).

When Luther said he made his discovery 'in cloaca' (literally translated 'on the toilet'), he was using one of a long list of late medieval theological-scatological phrases that meant 'in deepest humility' or in a state of profound 'worthlessness' (i.e., like shit).

So when Luther described arriving at his big theological conclusion 'in cloaca', he (like hundreds of other theologians of the time) was not making a literal reference to his bathroom routine.

If this sounds strange strange today, it shouldn't. The English language still uses lots of scat lingo (e.g., 'up shit creek without a paddle') to express extreme emotions or for emphasis. ('No shit!', you might say).

So once again, on major matters of import, the BBC News doesn't know 'shit from Shinola' or its 'ass from a hole in the ground.'
Perhaps in the future, misguided archaeologists will spend years searching for the Vietnamese toilet where former President Kerry had his much-discussed experiences "in the shit."

...And speaking of cloaca, if you didn't see Cloaca when it was in Toronto at the Power Plant, you missed out on some good shit -- though the day I went to see this feces-producing art, it was constipated.

Monday, October 25, 2004

More Media Meditations!

Are the Parliament Hill media too buddy-buddy with the politicians they cover? If you think so, the annual Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner is just more proof that the 'T'wa is just one big jaw-jawwing clique.

I, however, don't really think that. I think the best sign that our nation's journalists are doing a pretty good job is that both the Left and the Right regularly complain about media bias. And the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner, at least since it started being held on the record, allows everyone -- not just the clique -- to enjoy a laugh.

The best lines last night surely came from Stephen Harper, who appeared on stage with a binder marked 'Hidden Agenda' and said that his party could come with a warning label that it "may contain nuts." (As an Epi-pen carrier, I'm a sucker for food allergy-related humour.) Every so often Harper pulls out this self-effacing charm and you just have to wonder why he doesn't more often... (Last June, Harper --then the head of the Alliance -- poked fun at his reputation for being humourless with this joke: "How many Stephen Harpers does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "One, only one Stephen Harper.")

In other Ottawa press news, spurred on by my old McGill Daily colleague Phil Todd (who runs the Mediascout blog at Maisonneuve Magazine), Paul Wells stops talking about his surf 'n' turf with Brison and commends Don Martin's column about Ottawa journalists angling for jobs with the politicians they are covering. Writes Wells, "Don did have a point and should be congratulated for raising it... The substantive proposals in Martin's column — a cool-off period between employment for news organizations and politicians; a ban on Order-of-Canada appointments for working reporters — all made sense to me."

---

And on the topic of the media, the National Post will celebrate its sixth anniversary on Wednesday and is not going to disappear anytime soon... according to The Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley of all people. This is the fellow who has said for the last six years that the paper will be destroyed by the Globe any moment now.

I, myself, will have been working at the Post for 18 months at the end of the month -- a quarter of its lifespan. The first day I was supposed to show up for work, I actually was at a Canadian Newspaper Association conference speaking about how to get young people in their 20s to read newspapers. (My self-serving answer: Hire young people in their 20s and don't confine them to writing about being young.)

Having been in Toronto for exactly two days and completely unaware of who was who at the conference, I accidentally sat down at a table full of newspaper publishers including Phillip Crawley and The Star's John Honderich during lunch that day.

Now the day that was supposed to be my first day of work at The Post -- the day I was speaking at this conference -- was also the day that Ken Whyte, the first editor-in-chief of The Post, was unexpectedly fired. It was a gleeful Crawley who told a suddenly-terrified me the news and joked that I should call in and see if I still, indeed, had a job...

To Crawley and Honderich gabbing at the table, Whyte's departure was a sign that the paper was on its last legs. Honderich, kindly trying to make me feel better, told me to call him if I didn't have a job the next day.

Of course, in the end, The Post survived the regime change and my job ended up lasting longer than Honderich's...

With this tale, I wish an early Happy Birthday to the National Post.

(See David; I do indeed mention my job on my blog from time to time!)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Curious Headlines, Part VII of a series

Here's the lede to Susan Delacourt's Saturday Star story about Sheila Copps's allegations that Paul Martin once attempted to get rid of the Canada Health Act:
Booksellers may be thinking about moving Sheila Copps' new book from non-fiction to the fiction shelves today in light of seriously flawed "revelations" about how the former deputy prime minister thwarted a Paul Martin plot to kill the Canada Health Act in 1995.
Seems pretty clear what the slant of the article is. But then here's the headline:
Copps' new book stranger than fiction
And what is stranger than fiction, ladies and gentlemen? Well, truth. At least according to one of the best-known expressions in the English language...

So, the lede says Copps has made "seriously flawed 'revelations'" that might lead booksellers to move her book to the fiction section (read: Copps is a big, fat, unambiguous liar). Meanwhile, the headline says that the book is "stranger than fiction" (read: very possibly the Truth).

I suppose this may just be your average run-of-the-mill garbled headline, but I still think the juxtaposition is interesting. Whether it means that the editors (copy or otherwise) are more sympathetic to Copps than Delacourt is, I don't know.

Here's a question, though: Does Delacourt usually write such bold, tell-it-like-I-think-it-is ledes? It seems to me that the question of the veracity of Copps' claim about the CHA is still at least a little up in the air at this point... In particular, Copps' swearing on her father's grave that it is true on Newsworld has given me pause in dismissing the tale completely.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Maurizio Bevilacqua: Master of his own Domain!

Acquaman is teeeeed off about all this "asymmetrical" federalism business:
Liberal MP and former Chretien Cabinet minister Maurizio Bevilacqua also came out swinging against Mr. Martin's new federalism that promotes a role for Quebec on the international stage. "We as Canadians need to recognize who speaks for Canada," the Toronto-area MP told reporters yesterday. "In my world, it's the federal government.... That is our domain and it should stay our domain and there should be really no opening in that area...."

"My point is, and I want to make sure it's very clear -- that in my world, in my politics, the federal government and the prime minister or a minister of the federal government are the people that speak on behalf of Canada."

Mr. Bevilacqua was one of Mr. Martin's earliest backers in caucus during the early '90s but relations cooled when he was dropped from Cabinet in December.
Oh, it is clear, Acquaman... You want to be Prime Minister of the country!

As for asymmetrical federalism, I'll say this: What exactly is symmetrical federalism? Can that even exist? Does that mean that every province gets equal treatment? Does that mean that we have to treat debt-free Alberta the same as the have-not Maritimes? Does that mean we should we should tackle Aboriginal issues the same way in Newfoundland as we do in British Columbia?

Do we have to serve up everything the same everywhere in the same inflexible manner? Of course not. Federalism is inherently asymmetrical. It simply means that provinces are different and have different needs and concerns. There's nothing wrong with that. Asymmetrical federalism is redundant.

That said, as if Paul Martin would have ever let Bernard Landry represent Canada on the world stage...

It's a game. And I suspect it's all about driving some nails into the coffin of the separatist movement, which is self-destructing fine all by its lonesome.

[This post is part of a continuing series on MP Maurizio Bevilacqua.]
October Surprise: Mary Cheney likes girls!

What you might have missed in last week's debate, from the New York Observer:
John Kerry: "We’re all God’s children. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney’s daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she’s being who she was. She’s being who she was born as. Which is a lesbian. All of us need to feel comfortable being who we are, even if someone happens to be a lesbian, which is what Dick Cheney’s daughter is. Even if a young woman prefers to have sex with other women, like Dick Cheney’s daughter does, she should feel comfortable. Being a lesbian..
[Via Andrew Sullivan.]

Oh, laughter. By the way, the best fake headline from this week's Onion? "Jacques Derrida 'Dies'"

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Before Sleeping...

... I just wanted to point out a few things on the ol' Internet:

1) The number of abortions in America steadily decreased under Clinton and has steadily increased under Bush. See: The pro-life case against Bush. [Via Andrew Sullivan.]

2) Paul Wells had surf 'n' turf at Scott Brison's country home and is now busily protesting too much on his blog. What can I say... It's no Rathergate. The bigger threat to Wells' credibility as a Parliament Hill pundit? His big-time crush on Stéphane Dion. Prime Minister Dion? Think Céline before Stéphane...

3) Team America: World Police is an absolutely brilliant film. (Something Wells is oh-so-very-very-right about.) If you haven't seen it already, go see it. Truly the sanest take on the war on terror I've seen. It also says something about the shift in the way we view celebrities, but I can't articulate what I want to say about that, so I'm just going to sleep.

4) Oh, and if you're one of the three people who hasn't seen this clip of Jon Stewart on Crossfire, go see it now. Poor Tucker.

5) Congratulations Red Sox!

Now: sleep. Perchance: dreams.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Vote for Bush...

...cuz he'll hug you!

Watch out Terror...

... cuz Bush's a one-man huggin' machine!

He make have lost the debates...

... but he'd sure win a huggathon!

Rearrange the letters in George W. Bush...

... and you get his codename "Hugger" Bowes!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Ring States; or Swing Tones

Since it is illegal for pollsters to call cell phones, Americans who do not have a home phone, only a mobile are not being counted in the polls for the upcoming election. The Hill has an interesting article about what effect -- if any -- this has on the accuracy of telephone polling.

The polling companies, who have to defend their product, say the effect is minimal:
Shawnta Wolcott, director of communications for Zogby International, which reaches voters by telephone as well as the Internet, conceded that the cell-phone-only crowd is affecting pollsters’ ability to reach voters.

“We acknowledge it is a problem, but it has not compromised the quality of our polls at all,” Wolcott said. “It has affected the way we reach respondents across the board because we only call those with listed numbers, so in response we just stay on the phones a little longer and keep calling people back.”

Many political consultants agree, however, that since younger voters vote at a lower rate as it is, the wireless-only crowd should not significantly affect this year’s results.

“There’s enough people out there that this is still a very small proportion (of voters),” said GOP pollster Jim McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates.

McLaughlin pointed out that though this group only makes up about 5 percent of the electorate, pollsters should not be missing them entirely because a large number of young voters still do have land lines.

Roger Entner, director of wireless and mobile services for the Boston-based Yankee Group, agreed with McLaughlin, saying the majority of “cord-cutters” were already apathetic to voting.

“This really is not that big of a deal because the segment that is underrepresented is underrepresented in most panels anyway,” Entner added.
[I should note that I'm a 'cord-cutter' myself and got rid of my land line because I kept being called by pollsters and market researchers.]

It's pleasant to know that pollsters have basically written off young voters. Maybe -- I know this is utopian thinking here -- you bright young Americans could prove them wrong this time?

[Via Electoral-Vote where Kerry is barely ahead and the margin of error is so slim that even cell phone users could make the difference.]

Friday, October 15, 2004

McCarthy's Wake.

Pete McCarthy, humorist and travel writer, died earlier this week of cancer. [BBC]

I hadn't really heard of McCarthy -- or his best-selling books "McCarthy's Bar" and "The Road to McCarthy" -- until I was assigned to interview him when he passed through Toronto last October. He was as charming in person as he is in his books, which are funny, anecdotal tales of his trips around the world.

McCarthy -- who started his career writing and performing with a theatre company called Cliffhanger -- was one of those guys to whom strange coincidences happened all the time. For instance, the day I interviewed him was the same day that I interviewed actor Pete Postlethwaite.

Yes, they're both famous Petes, but the bigger coincidence was that both came from Warrington in northwest England. In fact, Posthewaite was a prefect at McCarthy's high school when he was in first year. Basically, they're the only famous artistic people to ever come out of Warrington -- "a small, deeply unfashionable little town in the North of England that's always in the shadow of Liverpool and Manchester," McCarthy described it for me -- and I interviewed them one after another in a city across the ocean. McCarthy marvelled at that. He also marvelled at the fact that we had both read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man at the same age, a decidedly less coincidental coincidence.

Over a pint, McCarthy and I had a great chat about coincidence, and whether some people are actually more prone to it than others or if some people are just more open to it and therefore notice the weird synchronicities of life more often.

I'm fairly certain that it's the latter. McCarthy was one of those people who see connections between everything and constantly have "chance encounters." It's people like that who make the best storytellers, those who can make a trip to a pub sound like the most incredible and hilarious adventure of all time.

I'm sad to hear he's passed on. My condolences to his wife and three young daughters.

+ Pete McCarthy's official website.
+ My article from the Post last year.

Post-script

By the by, in my interview with him, McCarthy -- who was half-English and half-Irish and visited Ireland every year -- had something to say about the old Guinness debate:

"One thing that people always want to know is: Is the Guiness really that much better in Ireland than it is anywhere else? My feeling [is] that the gap has been eroded in the last ten years. As happens with lots of global products, the local idiosyncracies are ironed out. So, there used to be a huge difference between a pint in Ireland and a pint in England and now there's a barely perceptible difference."

He then took a sip from his Toronto-poured Guinness and added: "This is pretty good."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Open Letter to Senator John Kerry after the Final Debate

Dear John,

You did okay last night. But there was one line of yours that I wanted to bring up and urge you never to use again. "[B]eing lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country."

Dammit John, don't you see you already have the HBO-watching voters in your pocket? This line just cements your reputation as an HBO Liberal.

The point is good. You had me at "Tony." But in the future, I should like for you to present it in one of the following ways, which will better appeal to middle American viewing habits:

- "[B]eing lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Ray Barone talking to me about being pussywhipped."

- "[B]eing lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Joey Tribbiani talking to me about Stanislavski."

- "[B]eing lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Jeff Probst talking to me about charisma."

- "[B]eing lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Donald Trump talking to me about socialism."

- "[B]eing lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Paris Hilton talking to me about fiscal responsibility."

Godspeed,

J. Kelly Nestruck

Saturday, October 09, 2004

How many Bush officials does it take to change a light bulb?

None. "There's nothing wrong with that light bulb. It has served us honorably. When you say it's burned out, you're giving encouragement to the forces of darkness. Once we install a light bulb, we never, ever change it. Real men don't need artificial light." [Via Andrew Sullivan]

To be fair: How many Democrats does it take to change a lightbulb?

"I supported changing it, but now I realise that it was the wrong lightbulb, in the wrong socket, at the wrong time."

Friday, October 08, 2004

Could Kerry win?

He's a smidgen ahead in the electoral college today! (Pardon me for using a decidedly off-the-fence punctuation mark.)

Post-script

You know what won't win Kerry the election? This meme going around that he was being fed lines by Karl Rove during last week's debate through a receiver on his back and a transistor in his ear.

Democratic Dude(tte)s...

a) Bush is not stupid. That's just a myth. A myth, I should add, that has led to the Democrats to repeatedly underestimate Bush and alienate the average-intelligenced masses. Give it up.

b) Bush's campaign team is not full of freakin' morons. If, for some reason, they decided to secretly wire Bush, they wouldn't have done it so that he looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

c) There's a reasonable explanation for that weird bulge on his back that the Bush-haters just want to ignore: He is part alien.
I want to be a Minority...

Whoa! You know what's fun? Our system of government. The shit is hitting the proverbial fan, dude(tte)s.

See, the Liberals presented their Throne Speech earlier this week in parliament. But then the Bloc presented an sub-amendment to the Speech from the Throne, supported by the Conservatives.

Now, the Liberals have declared that the vote on the sub-amendment -- which is taking place Friday -- is a vote of confidence, meaning that if it passes the government falls. Whether it passes or not depends on how sick two Conservative MPs are and whether or not the one independent Chuck Cadman decides to support it.

Anyway, the ridiculousness of all this is that if the government falls, it falls for no reason. And then we have an election all over again and the Liberals say, "The Conservatives got in bed with the separatists and forced an election!" and the Conservatives say, "The Liberals turned a vote on a sub-amendment into a vote of confidence and forced and election!" and every normal person in the country is like, "Excuse me? Didn't we just have an election last Spring? You're all absurd!" and then the Bloc and the NDP form a majority government, and the John Ralston Saul is crowned King of the Nation, and Sheila Copps becomes the Governor General's husband because the Supreme Court is pissed off that it has been asked to rule on the same-sex marriage reference when it should be up to parliament to pass such legislation, and then the Supremes get revenge by decreeing that all heavy-set women must become lesbians and something about Adrienne Clarkson being forced to marry only socialists from Hamilton as God intended.

Wait! Hold on. Late today, Prime Minister Paul Martin decided that the Bloc sub-amendment -- with a slight change -- was no longer a confidence motion.

Whew. That was close.

We're safe.

For now.

(And I didn't even get into the bizarre sidestory of how NDP leader Jack Layton accused the Conservatives and the Bloc of conspiring to make Stephen Harper Prime Minister today.)

Post-script

Also, Toronto police chief Julian Fantino is going to be on the cover of the next issue of Fab, a local gay magazine. [Star article.]

Has the world gone mad?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

More From the blogosphere

There's nothing like writing about blogs to get blogs writing. Some more comments on the Post piece, The Revolution Won't be Blogged:

-- The Monger.

-- Smith's CMNS 253 Blog

-- Dead People Taste Like Chicken

-- The End of the World As We Know It

-- And my personal favourite reaction is at Blue Skies Over Bad Lands: "We (bloggers) are the same self important dog shit that the rest of the internet is."
Flogging the Blogs...

Gettin' some flak about The Revolution Won't Be Blogged:

-- Heart of Canada.

-- Thistle and Maple Leaf.

-- The Media Drop.

-- JornalismoPortoNet. (Well, I actually don't know if this is flak, since I don't read the language. Perhaps it is praise...)

Some, unaware that I was involved in bloggage before I started at the Post, have seen the article as another mainstream journalist scared for his job thing. (If I am, trust me, it's not because of bloggers.) I guess what I wanted to say, and only really did at the end of the article, is that blogs aren't hurting the "old media," but actually helping it become better. The New York Times, for instance, has improved since Jayson Blair. Maybe Dan Rather will survive Memogate, maybe he won't; CBS News, however, will work really hard to restore its reputation.

But, yes, as someone writes in the comment to the post below, I guess I am arguing against a position that is not widely held. How many bloggers actually believe that it's "new media vs. old media"? Most smart ones recognize the symbiotic relationship between the two.

But there are people who write things like "new media stomped all over old media so badly that old media will never fully recover" or "2004 will be remembered as the year has brought true shame upon broadcast news, and will likely be remembered as the year old media began to whither towards the broadcast graveyard" and just don't get that political blogs need the old media to exist... It's this that I find ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Slagging Blogs

So for the National Post's Academy of the Overrated series, I decided to write an article about how blogs are overrated. Here it is: Why the revolution won't be blogged.

The central points -- that blogs do not democratize the media; that their status as journalism is tenuous at best; that they're not nearly as influential as the New York Times Magazine would have you believe -- I will stand by. But I'm sorry to say I didn't argue these points as well as I could have in the article.

If I could do it again, I'd start with an anecdote. This one: Last January, I went to give a talk about blogs to a class of communications students at the University of Toronto. Given the media's non-stop obsession with blogs -- high school students with blogs, pet blogs, political blogs, Howard Dean's blog, blogs about blogs -- I assumed that I could stir up an interesting debate by taking a contrarian attitude about the new medium.

Instead, what I had to start off with was an explanation of what blogs were. About half the class didn't know what a blog was, only a sixth or so had actually visited a blog, and only one student actually had a blog of her own.

And we're talking about a class of young people -- people who have used computers all their lives -- who are studying communications...

So, yeah, don't for a minute think that things have changed all that much over the past nine months. Blogs are fun, blogs are great, I love blogs. But there are people out there saying that blogs are to the 2004 presidential race what television was to the 1960 campaign. (Sidenote: I've never really bought into that whole "TV won the election for JFK" myth, personally.) The fact is that blogs are still only visited by a small segment of the voting public. Stories like Rathergate would have never hit if it wasn't for the back-up of the old media.

Again: I love the blogosphere. But I'd love it even more if it displayed a little more humility...

Monday, October 04, 2004

Some investment advice...

... forwarded to me by Verstehen:
Si, il y a un an, vous aviez acheté pour $1000 d'actions de Nortel, ça vaudrait présentement $49.00.

Dans Enron, il vous resterait $16.50 de votre placement original de $1000.

Avec WorldCom, Il vous resterait moins que $5.00 .

Mais si, il y a un an, vous aviez acheté pour $1000 de bière et après avoir bu toute cette bière, ayiez obtenu un remboursement lors de la vente de toutes les cannettes d'aluminum aux fins de recyclage, vous auriez $214.00.

Compte tenu de ce qui précède, le meilleur placement suggéré, à ce moment-ci, est de boire beaucoup et de recycler.
More wisdom from The Internet.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Sultan of Swing States

I am completely addicted to electoral-vote.com. Aside from its brilliant, frequently-updated map of the U.S.A., this non-partisan site is always chock full of neat little tidbits like this:
Survey USA has polled over 20,000 people in 14 states and 21 cities to ask who won the first debate. In 11 states and 15 cities Kerry was the clear winner. In 2 states and 6 cities, Bush was the clear winner. Colorado was a tossup. Ominously for Bush, the 2 states that said he won the debate are Texas and Oklahoma, which he has in the bag already, but the states that gave Kerry the win include Oregon (by 19%), Maine (by 18%), Pennsylvania (by 22%), Arkansas (by 12%), and most significantly Florida (by 24%).
Come on, post-debate polls... I need a fix.

Number LVII in a Series on the Uselessness of the Political Spectrum: Red Ken

The traditional left vs. right understanding of politics no longer makes any sense. The so-called right pushes legislation that would have been seen as left-wing a few decades ago, while the so-called left embraces concepts that would have been seen as right-wing until just recently.

This is On the Fence's personal dead horse, and we like to flog it as often as possible.

The Globe and Mail's Doug Saunders has an excellent profile today (pay site, sorry) of "Red Ken", the mayor of London, who talks the socialist talk, but walks the law-and-order and pro-business walk. Former whipping boy of Thatcher, Ken Livingston has made friends with the police and businessmen and admires former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, a staunch Republican who he describes as "the standard by which all mayors will be judged in the future."

Here's is a wildly popular politican not blinded by ideology -- which I define as thinking by a system, rather than thinking for yourself -- but acting in the best interests of his constituents. It's no surprise he's a mayor, one of the few political positions left where it's not all about the Party.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Master Debaters.

I missed the debate tonight. Yes, I was at the theeeeetah, watching Brad Fraser's latest play Cold Meat Party. (Verdict: Good!)

Anyway, I got home and I was just clicking through the blogosphere looking for a reasoned analysis of who won the presidential debate, when I suddenly realised that it was impossible to find a blog that looked at the debate in a non-partisan manner. Every right-wing blogger called it for Bush; every left-wing blogger called it for Kerry. Well that's a whole heck of a lot of help...

So, who won? Well, not to be cynical or anything, but it's not who wins, it's who spins better. And this partisan nattering on the blogs is a part of that spinning. Gentlemen, start your search engines... you've got six hours before the Eastern seaboard wakes up.

[Update, next morning] My apologies. Apparently there are some bloggers who can look beyond their partisan feelings and assess a debate. Andrew Sullivan's got a good list here, and they all seem to be leaning towards Kerry winning last night's debate.