July 2006

I thought I’d already blogged it, but I hadn’t: my friend John Bristowe, developer evangelist for Microsoft and brother of Ashley Bristowe, whom I met fourteen years ago at Crazy Go Nuts University, interviewed me for his podcast, Developer Night in Canada. We talked about DemoCamp, BarCamp and the development of the Toronto tech scene, and you can catch the podcast on his blog.

John, my apologies for not blogging this sooner!

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In the National Post: Divided They Blog

by Joey deVilla on July 31, 2006

In the Issues & Ideas section of today’s National Post, you’ll find Adam Radwanski’s op-ed piece titled Divided They Blog [paid registration required].

Here’s an excerpt:

Last week, a contributor to a popular Canadian weblog posted a blistering attack on Islam. Under the heading “Islam Must Be Stopped“, someone called “Right Girl” weighed in on “the devil that they call Allah”, labelled Islam “a death cult” and called for the entire religion to be banned in Canada.

If Right Girl has stood on a street corner calling for Islam to be banned, passers-by would either have shouted here down or dismissed her as a kook. Any newspaper that publsihed her views would have been deluged with disgusted letters to the editor. But in this forum, the comments that followed her post lauded her for taking such a brave stand — and in some cases, went even further in their attacks on Muslims.

The blog in question was The Shotgun, found on the Western Standard’s Web site. But the issue wasn’t the conservative magazine, which of course can’t be held responsible for the messages that wing nuts post on its blog. The issue was the broader blog medium that’s having a nasty effect on public discourse.

Radwanski’s article looks at the increasing polarization of the blogosphere, a phenomenon that didn’t truly get its start until after the September 11th attacks. The combination of the attacks and the hotly-contested U.S. presidential elections months before have certainly stoked the political fires on both sides, and technical factors such as the rise of blogs, the drop in computer prices and the increasing availability of broadband internet over wires or WiFi, has lowered the barrier to entry for anyone to make his or her opinions heard.

This combination of increased poltical ire and cheap and ubiquitious tech has had an effect on discourse. There’s a natural tendency for people to gravitate to others who reinforce their own beliefs and ideas. That in itself isn’t a bad thing — that’s how communities get formed — but there’s a tendency to form what bloggers sometimes refer to as “echo chambers”. “Both sides would have you believe that they’re engaged in a righteous war with one another for the soul of America,” writes Radwanski, “But because they never actually engage each other, it’s not a war at all — it’s just two sides endlessly rallying the troops”.

That certainly holds true for the local blogosphere. I’ve attended a number of gatherings of political bloggers where the lean was either clearly left or right; it’s very rare that people from either group ever mingle. In fact, a good number of bloggers on each side have never heard of the more popular blogs on the other side. They might as well be speaking different languages.

I do make an effort to go and attend gatherings of bloggers with whom I don’t agree. I even maintain cordial relations with people with whom I’ve sparred online, which is easier than one might think. It’s one thing to flame someone with a blog entry or in a comment; it’s another thing to do so face-to-face.

As for RightGirl, Wendy and I have met her. If the topic of politics were guaranteed to never come up, I doubt that Wendy would object to having brunch with her sometime. That’s less likely in light of some of the noxious things RightGirl wrote, but I hold out hope that someday such a gathering will be possible. I am mindful of the fact that people tend to be a little more strident when writing, and that judging her solely on her recent articles about Islam reduces her to a one-dimensional cipher. Yes, what she wrote was in my opinion hateful, wrongheaded and downright ignorant. But if we close the door on dialogue — remember, we’re only pointing blogs at each other, not bullets or rockets — what hope is there for the people actually aiming lethal weapons at each other?

Here’s the closing paragraph of Radwanski’s article:

True, we don’t yet have entire TV programs devoted to advancing an ideology [if some of the shows on FOX News don’t already do so, they come pretty close — Joey]. But with commentators increasingly emulating the zealous partisanship of the online crowd in the hope of eliciting similarly strong reactions, it might not be long. It’s a trend that should remind us to hold ourselves to a higher standard, to seek out dissenting views and think critically about the perspectives being sold to us — because the last thing we need is a nation of Right Girls and their sycophants.

I would say: Right Girl, si, some of Right Girl’s vitriol, no.

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"Ask Tucows" Chat Tomorrow!

by Joey deVilla on July 31, 2006

Ask Tucows - Tuesday, August 1st - 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT - http://chat.tucows.com

Here’s your second-to-last reminder: tomorrow, we’ll be holding the third “Ask Tucows” online chat session of the year. I and a number of my coworkers will participate in an online chat session where you’ll be able to ask us questions, make comments and suggestions and get to know us and the company a little better. Whether you’re a customer of ours, one of our customers’ customers, a developer who’s either building or thinking of building applications on our platform, an investor or just curious, you’re welcome to participate in the chat!

The chat will be held on the Tucows Chat site at chat.tucows.com tomorrow, Tuesday, August 1st between 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (that’s 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon Pacific Daylight Time, or 16:00 – 19:00 UTC). The chat system is built right into the web page, which means that all you need is a browser to participate. Join us tomorrow!

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The Protocols of the Drunk Drivers of Malibu, Part 1

by Joey deVilla on July 31, 2006

Mel Gibson, looking his Saddam-iest.
An actual photo of Mel Gibson, who now resembles Saddam Hussein physically and not just in terms of anti-Semitism, taken during an interview in Mexico.

Another chapter got added to Mel Gibson’s downward slide from indie film hero to real-life Eric Cartman with an uncanny resemblance to Saddam Hussein on Thursday. He was arrested while on the Pacific Coast Highway, where he was doing 87 m.p.h. in a 45 m.p.h. zone and soon discovered to also be doing 0.12% blood alcohol content in a 0.08% zone. The ensuing arrest went from bad — Gibson’s lamenting “My life is fucked” — to worse, with Gibson attempting to bolt back to his car and then threatening to end an arresting officer’s career. It went from worse to cartoonish, with his confronting a femal police officer with “What are you looking at, sugar tits?” to asking an officer if he was Jewish and uttering the now-infamous line: “asked the officer if he was Jewish and stated that “fucking Jews…The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”

Photo of Saddam Hussein's 'We Got Him!' arrest with Mel Gibson's face Photoshopped in.
Photo borrowed from Mel’s Musings.

Mel’s drunken rants are a radical departure from what he said in an interview with the Daily Variety in 2003:

“If the intense scrutiny during my 25 years in public life revealed I had ever persecuted or discriminated against anyone based on race or creed, I would be all too willing to make amends. But there is no such record.

“Nor do I hate anybody — certainly not the Jews…They are my friends and associates, both in my work and social life. Thankfully, treasured friendships forged over decades are not easily shaken by nasty innuendo.

“Anti-Semitism is not only contrary to my personal beliefs, it is also contrary to the core message of my movie…For those concerned about the content of this film, know that it conforms to the narratives of Christ’s passion and death found in the four Gospels of the New Testament…This is a movie about faith, hope, love and forgiveness — something sorely needed in these turbulent times.”

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over Mel’s statements, with some people commenting on various internet forums that he shouldn’t be held accountable for what he said since he was drunk. Perhaps these people don’t get out much, or perhaps they haven’t heard the old Latin maxim: In vino veritas. News flash, people: There’s a reason that some of us who’ve worked in the bar-and-tavern trade refer to Mike’s Hard Lemonade as “sodium pentathol“. Nothing “opens the vault” like a little booze, especially when you don’t have a publicist, handler or even a friend with good judgement there to tell you to zip it.

It’s another case of the South Park guys being on the money (see the episode titled The Passion of the Jew, in which Mel Gibson is portrayed as completely bonkers with masochist tendencies). It’s tough to be a satirist these days when the real world keeps trumping you.

Mel Gibson in the 'South Park' episode titled 'The Passion of the Jew'.
A scene from the South Park episode, The Passion of the Jew. Click the image to see the scene on YouTube.


Next: Mel’s Dad, his apology and how the South Park guys were right on not one, but two counts.

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It’s Begging for Captions!

by Joey deVilla on July 31, 2006

Photo of Boing Boing people Mark Frauenfelder, David Pescovitz, John Battelle, Cory Doctorow and Xeni Jardin.

Pictured above is a photo of the Boing Boing brain trust, which appears in this entry. A bunch of captions came to mind when I saw it:

  • The dating scene in Silicon Valley, captured in a single photo.
  • “We’re missing three dwarves!”
  • “Hee, hee, hee…we’re going to repopulate the Earth!”

Can you come up with better? Let me know in the comments.

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Your Suggestions for My Accordion Repertoire, Please

by Joey deVilla on July 29, 2006

Joey plays accordion for Wendy at Kickass Karaoke.
Me and Wendy at Kickass Karaoke at the Rivoli

It’s time for me to freshen up my accordion repertoire! It’s been far too long since I’ve added songs to it, so I’m looking around for ideas of songs to cover from my MP3 collection, internet and regular radio, the song selection at Kickass Karaoke and you! If you’ve got suggestions as to what I should cover, let me know in the comments.

Some points to give you a general idea of what I’m looking for:

  • Cheese is okay. I’m not going to turn up my nose at a song because it’s bubble-gum pop aimed squarely at the “hanging out at H&M in the mall for hours” demographic or because it’s a staple of those “EZ Rock” stations. Sometimes — as with Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time they translate very well into accordion numbers.
  • Forget that I play accordion. It’s amazing how many people say “I didn’t know that that song could be played on accordion. As long as the song was written using the notes of the conventional even-tempered scale (which should account for 99% of the music you hear on mainstream North American radio), it can be played on any melodic instrument you can find at most music stores, including the accordion. I get a lot of mileage out of AC/DC numbers, and they wouldn’t be considered an accordion band (except by me).
  • I’m looking for a mix of current and old. Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy is a likely candidate, as is Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.

I’m planning to record my perfomances of these songs as videos and post them on this blog, so choose wisely!

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"Ask Tucows" Chat Next Tuesday

by Joey deVilla on July 28, 2006

Ask Tucows - Tuesday, August 1st - 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT - http://chat.tucows.com

Another quick reminder that we’re holding the third open online chat session, “Ask Tucows” on Tuesday, August 1st between 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (that’s 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon Pacific Daylight Time, or 16:00 – 19:00 UTC). Feel free to ask us questions, make suggestions, comment and get to know us! Join us at chat.tucows.com!

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