Category Archives: News etc

Bad ideas grow in strange gardens

Boing Boing does many things reliably in its cataloging of “wonderful things”. Its five contributors give us a window on pictures of weird shit someone put up on flickr, thrilled fawnings at repetitive science fiction, customer service gripes that bring down whole industries, and attempts to confabulate the programmability of your TiVo with freedom itself. Its well-scrubbed cast of peripatetic Californians have been into the things they’re into for quite a long time, and is made up of the kind of terminal self-actuating monad that cheerfully confuses the repeated gratification of vapid, secondhand obsessions with the more profound human curiosity that in other social conditions would lead to literature, philosophy or political action.

We check it roughly every 45 minutes anyway, jonesing for the next Victorian medical illustration, biographical factoid about some long-dead spacedork, or household gewgaw from somebody’s trove of midcentury populuxe cheese that makes Richard Neutra look like Mies. Reading Boing Boing is watching American online “culture” chew its cud and fart while blankly staring at a fence.

One of these contributors is don’t-ask-us-why nerd sex symbol Xeni Jardin, a presentable go-to commentator beloved of lazy segment producers, who call upon her to jazz up snoozy NPR and PBS offerings with her insider perspective and asymmetrical outfits. During some time off from target practice, Xeni recently found out about that nasty nasty Hugo Chavez and has been helping out those who are afraid of what mass literacy and justice might do to their privilege, passing along messages from university students who are furious at losing their primary source of imported reruns.

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Man on a white horse

Yes, still here motherfuckers. Just because there’s no updates for a time doesn’t mean that anyone’s been sleeping on shit so recognize.

Ah leaders. We are supposed to love leaders in Quebec, because although we have a civic life and associational tendency that is virtually unparalleled on this continent, we are still governed and shaped by a merry little band of rich people who like one-stop shopping when wielding influence and seeking public congratulations for their accomplishments. Lucky for us that they’re a rickety and second-rate ruling class, and always have been; the failed scions of Scotland gave way to the self-congratulatory “self-made” types from the sticks and the successive generations of preening overambitious sons of Outremont that Stanislas and Brébeuf cough up like clockwork.

Today, La Presse is unhappy with the mayor but it can’t figure out why. So it builds a shockingly incoherent article, critical of his lack of take-charge leadership, around last year’s sneering public smackdown offered by Tremblay’s former friend Charles Lapointe the professional tout, who is bitter that his economic sideshow is not universally regarded as the three-ring circus of servility he believes that it should be. Tout aux touristes.

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Over at Midnight Poutine we are treated to an instructive lesson in the difference between print journalism and online “coverage”. In fact, in a Baudrillard Memorial Moment, we come to embody the lesson our very selves. Chris DeWolf of urbanphoto gets a link to his piece in Saturday’s Gazette about the STM’s proposed smartcard system, Assertions is drawn into the fray due to an MP editor’s brief moment of confusion about whose blog is whose. And feels obligated to take a now-ritual morning swipe at the Gazette. Then steel glints, nostrils flare, and two transit herbs mix it up. Until the storm passes and love reigns once more.

(Not without this side pulling that move where you accidentally click “post” and the page doesn’t load, so you think you’re safe, but then you spend too much time continuing to polish your little words and by the time you post your interlocutor has already responded. Which makes you feel super swift and totally classy. Like Rochelle Lash.)

You see, print media pay people to research and write stories, and pay other people to edit them and remove their intemperate or inaccurate statements, because they exist in a context of responsibility and accountability. It is from this that the print media derive the sodden, flimsy vestiges of their fast-disintegrating authority. Whereas most online “media” don’t pay anyone to do fuck all, much less retain the authority they never had in the first place.

In Montreal, one of North America’s great transit and port cities, the English daily doesn’t pay anyone to regularly cover transportation. (Does it? See, that’s one of those intemperate and potentially-inaccurate statements that nobody’s getting paid to check!) Instead, it relies on freelancers to provide what coverage it can occasionally be stirred to provide. Because freelancers don’t require benefits, or require the paper to maintain a newsroom where human beings might want to work for more than a year or two, or require publishers and editors that know the business and that are more concerned with treating their people right than with pleasing some fuck in a Bentley. Even competent and engaged freelancers, like DeWolf is on this very topic, are no substitute for an actual commitment of resources and people to the day in, day out grind of beat reporting.

Now we here at Assertions are as dedicated to freelancers getting money as we are to the third person. That, in fact, is our next tattoo: a back piece with FREELANCERS GET MONEY in blackletter script. And what better freelancers to hire than aficionados with love for that which they cover? But when those sorts of serious discussions of the infrastructure that makes your life work are increasingly rare, don’t wonder why: it’s because it’s as hard to cover the STM on the cheap out of CanWest’s Winnipeg headquarters as it is easy to score cheap points hiring your right-wing pals to snipe at Quebec from a closer and more comfortable perch.

Monday’s Media Morsels (via Midnight Poutine)


Suburbs like to act like they’re creations of god, the same lil’ ol’ community that’s been there since farming days, only now with tens of thousands of residents. So folksy, so homey, and offering convenient access to so very much that you don’t have to pay taxes to support.

One would think that the outcome of the megacity flap, the victory of the West Island’s arbitrary crazy quilt of lilliputian municipal anglostans over modern solutions for better regional management, was enough to restore the often-tempestuous love affair between the Quebec Liberal Party and a key component of its base. In those heady days, West Island suburbanites suddenly discovered that their anomic shitscape inhabited by a few hundred thousand bored and anxious mallrats was a community, and one that those sovereigntist bastards were going to take from us.

Now Bourque Newswatch (no, you don’t get a link, because he’s a dick) — Canada’s favorite allegedly pay-to-play “news” aggregator — alerts us to a new twist in their knickers. The Globe and Mail reports that West Island mayors, frustrated with Charest’s disinterest in fully undoing one of his predecessor’s most sensible decisions, are going to add their voice to Mario Dumont’s coalition of right-wingers, soft nationalists who still think it’s 1993, and lumpen idiots from Quebec City. Continue reading

Benn there, done that

And while we’re on the subject of articulate leftists that aren’t on the radio often enough, the Guardian puts out an mp3 of an interview with left Labour stalwart Tony Benn. Guaranteeably more entertaining and informative than anything on pusillanimous NPR or the CBC, as man with the pipe and the crisp shirt says things like:

The shift from Stalin to Blair is a minor adjustment.

Canadian politicians generally don’t get to talk like this, and when they do they eventually lose their shit and steal rings and resign and then have to run against Hedy Fry.

Like a pencil eraser with DRM

The consequences of arbitrarily truncating budgets and building legnths are not exclusive to our shores. As part of the process by which Berlin wills itself as the city of the future, seemingly by trying to repeatedly update the La Défense program and shoehorn it into one of the capital’s many centrally-located wastelands, an enormous train station has been built as a new hub for the venerable Deutsche Bahn system.

When dealing with cost overruns on megaprojects, social-democratic governments like to prove their fiscal tuffness by maintaining strict budget discipline, hacking off expensive details and functional elements alike while insisting that reckless cuts late in the construction process will have no impact on the actual operation of the structure or institution within.

Berlin’s new Hauptbahnhof was subjected to such a procedure, but quake in fear, o cutters of construction budgets, for you have stirred a mighty beast from the depths. For the powerful arm of offended architects now wields the scimitar of intellectual property lawsuits, and many ranks of stout-hearted attorneys stand at the ready. Hideously expensive litigation and dangerous precedent — if I have an interior designer over and go for a cheaper couch than the one he or she suggests, am I liable? — is historically the most effective substitute for political courage and financial transparency.

(via Sign and Sight, which in a better world would have an equivalent in every European language)

On the next page, a semi-relevant addendum about shitty writers.

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First thing you learn is that you always gotta wait

Belated congratulations to Warren Hill of the aforementioned Backroom Records and Pastries (till December 15th, don’t sleep) for his cratedigging dream come true, which should come with complementary dark glasses and his n’ hers black turtlenecks. Fuck Disneyland, his celebratory indulgence will be a space heater and more letraset.

(L’image est sauvagement copié d’Eastern Crates. Check ça, la.)