Shameless self-promotion…

My first published essay, at the wonderful Annalemma Magazine website:

People in the outside world think Canadians don’t get embarrassed by their own country. They think it’s a dubious distinction reserved only for Americans or North Koreans, but they couldn’t be more wrong. This entire Olympic debacle – from the shitty opening ceremonies, the lackluster athletic performances, the death of an athlete, the waste of money – has been consistently embarrassing to me.

Read this now…

In the June issue of the Walrus David MacFarlane takes on hockey and America and our Canadianness and the whole shebang, and it is a doozy. Some of the best nonfiction I have ever read, no lie. I couldn’t put it down:

If you are driving across the state of Florida to attend an NHL hockey game, and if you are a Canadian and on your own, you might – somewhere around Lake Okeechobee, probably – plummet into depths of loneliness heretofore uncharted. I know all about it.

It is just too awesome.

Best list ever…

This music blogger died last year, and man, is it ever a shame. This is hilarious and so true:

But what – I suggested to guardian.co.uk/music editor Tim Jonze – if we turned the cliche on its head and made it about genuinely wank bands that everybody pretends to like, much in the same way that everybody pretends to like Guinness even though they really think it tastes horrid and would much rather be drinking lager with Ribena in it. We could, I proposed, finally expose Nine Inch Nails, Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub, Belle and Sebastian, Tim Buckley, Big Star, Wilco and My Morning Jacket as the emperor’s new faeces-streaked underpants that they actually are.

I received a curt response: “Guinness is the best drink ever,” wrote Jonze, “just like Teenage Fanclub are totally amazing.” Fighting the almost irresistible urge to piss on my own chips, I promptly stripped from my list of bands-that-everybody-pretends-to–like-but-actually-suck those acts I thought my editor might actually like. The results are as follows …

As much as I love Dylan, this may be the funniest paragraph I’ve ever read:

Dylan actually died of shame in 1964, shortly after he stopped pissing on warmongers’ graves and became a sort of reverse-anachronistic John Cooper Clarke clone without the jokes. What people think of as “Bob Dylan” today is really a persona acted out by half a dozen octogenarian lesbian drag kings, who have perfected a marvellous can’t-actually-make-out-a-single-word-he’s-singing parody of what Dylan would probably sound like if he had continued his pretend-hobo faux-folkie act into late middle age, dragging in his wake an increasingly smug, flaccid and obese army of Mojo-reading male menopausal Peter Pans with biscuit crumbs in their spliff-yellowed beards, all just a few more years of nightly real-ale binges away from being permanently colostomy-bagged. In fact, that’s the one thing modern “Dylan” gigs have in common with the days when he played in front of thousands of screaming teeny-boppers – the stench of piss. But not in a good way.

How to Save the News…

Why thank you, James Fallows at the Atlantic, for swooping in and reassuring us all. But in all seriousness, in my opinion, the Atlantic is going to be a huge part of whatever media makes it through to the other side… they hire brilliant people and they have a great website…

Check out this article,  the whole thing is great, but I particularly like this part:

It was Krishna Bharat who identified a more profound form of inefficiency. As a student at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, Bharat had written for the campus newspaper while taking his computer-science degree. “In a second life, I would be a journalist,” he once told an Indian newspaper. (When the Indian newspaper asks me, I will say: In a second life, I would be a successful Google executive.) He got his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech and was an early Google hire, in 1999. After the 9/11 attacks two years later, he grew worried about the narrowness of news he was receiving through the U.S. media. “I felt that we really had to catch up with the world’s news,” he told me. “To get a broad understanding, you had to visit sites in Europe and Asia and the Middle East. I was wondering if Google could do something to make the world’s news information available.”

This last statement is the kind of thing many people at the company say in utter earnestness. In Bharat’s case, it meant devising a system that would collect news feeds from around the world, automatically and instantly cluster them by subject and theme, and move them up and down in prominence based on how many sources in various parts of the world were discussing the same topic. A few weeks later, such an automatic news-monitoring site was up and running as an internal demo at Google. In September 2002, it went public as Google News, initially covering 4,000 English-language news sources a day. Now it covers as many as 25,000 sources in some 25 languages, all by purely automated assessments of the main trends emerging in news coverage around the world.

Except for an 18-month period when Bharat founded and ran Google’s R&D center in Bangalore, his original hometown, he has been guiding Google News ever since. In this role, he sees more of the world’s news coverage daily than practically anyone else on Earth. I asked him what he had learned about the news business.

He hesitated for a minute, as if wanting to be very careful about making a potentially offensive point. Then he said that what astonished him was the predictable and pack-like response of most of the world’s news outlets to most stories. Or, more positively, how much opportunity he saw for anyone who was willing to try a different approach.