[Call for Papers] Between reality and fiction on Canadian television

Sounds like this will be an interesting collection when it's finished:

Call for Papers
Between Reality and Fiction on Canadian

Historically in Canada, the focus of television studies has been on its
role as a technology of public policy and nation building. Studies
focus on either the public mandate or political economy of Canadian
television. Little work examines the content of Canadian television and
how it functions in everyday life in Canada. Our collection aims to
fill a sizable gap in scholarship about Canadian television content.
In his book Television: Technology and Cultural Form (1974), Raymond
Williams noted that television produces hybrid forms- from the blurring
of domestic and public spheres to the blending of current events and
drama. Canadian television has been a particularly fertile realm for
such hybridization. According to David Hogarth in Documentary
Television in Canada (2002), that is because much of Canadian cultural
funding is traditionally allocated to current events programming, as
well as education and other public services. Given this funding
climate, media professionals weave their dramas and other creative
projects somewhere between reality and fiction. The resulting hybrid
realism that seems so much a part of Canadian television is something
this collection wishes to explore.
We invite proposals for scholarly articles that are case studies,
either historical or contemporary, of programs made for broadcast on
Canadian television. We welcome cases from English-, French- and other
language programming. We encourage a broad range of approaches
including textual analyses, audience/reception studies, and studies of
the conditions for creativity.
The topic-between reality and fiction on Canadian television- invites
cases that could include but are not limited to:
… Historical Costume Dramas
… Docudrama/Drama-docs/Re-enactments
… Real Crime Shows
… Popular Genres in News Narrative or Documentary
… Mockumentary/Parody
… Reality Television
… Lifestyle and Travel Shows
Please email abstracts of 500 words and a brief biography (in English)
to Dr. Zoë Druick, School of
Communication, Simon Fraser University (druick@sfu.ca) and Patsy Kotsopoulos, Film Studies Program,
University of British Columbia.
Deadline: November 30, 2004

Dr. Zoë Druick
Assistant Professor
School of Communication
RCB 6228
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC
V5A 1S6
Phone: 604-291-5398
Fax: 604-291-4024

The Ultimate Yard Sale

When Shaun and Kathy Shivers moved from Mississauga to Oakville, Ont., four years ago, it took just two days to sell their home.
They were happy about the speed of their sale but wondered why they had to pay $9,000 in commissions to the real estate broker that handled the transaction.
“The real estate agent wasn't even there for the sale. She was away for the weekend so a partner of hers that we'd never met came and did the close,” Mrs. Shivers said.
“There was no advertising done,” Mr. Shivers said. “The only thing we got for nine grand was the sign on the front lawn and the . . . listing. We found it very hard to justify that kind of money when we only met the realtor once. That was it. It was, thank you very much, and there's nine thousand bucks.”
So this summer, when they moved from Oakville to a home just outside London, Ont., they decided to sell the Oakville property on their own, saving what they figured might have been more than $15,000 in commissions they would have paid a broker.
Each year, thousands of Canadian homeowners are doing what the Shivers did: Selling their own home without the services of a licensed real estate agent . .. [Read the full story in today's Globe and Mail and watch this story on tonight's CTV National News]

Zarlink's CEO vows margin "march"

After more than three years, chief executive officer Pat Brockett's work at Zarlink Semiconductor Inc. of Ottawa is starting to pay off.
This summer, he announced the company's first quarterly profit since he took over and analysts have been generally impressed by Mr. Brockett's initiatives, even if investors haven't.
“This . . . is a turning point for this company,” he told analysts. “We're beginning to see the results of three years of hard work.”
The company reported profit of $7.5-million (U.S.) or 6 cents a share on sales of $55.8-million for the fiscal first quarter ended June 25. Despite the improving financials, the stock has drifted down through the back half of the summer, off about 35 per cent from where it was at the end of June.
Brian Piccioni, Toronto-based semiconductor analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc., raised his rating on Zarlink to “outperform” from “perform” in the wake of the first-quarter results. He said Mr. Brockett and his team have “worked a miracle” to cut the company's costs and set it on what Mr. Piccioni believes is a good long-term strategy . . .
[Read the full story in today's Globe and Mail]

Tina Brown on Rather and Bloggers

A terrific column by Tina Brown in the Washington Post on the Dan Rather/CBS thing:
“…Now the conventional wisdom is that the media will be kept honest and decent by an army of incorruptible amateur gumshoes [and their blogs]. In fact, cyberspace is populated by a coalition of political obsessives and pundits on speed who get it wrong as much as they get it right. It's just that they type so much they are bound to nail a story from time to time …”
That sounds about right.

[What they said] Mobile phone detects bad breath

In the Just-What-We-Need category:

Siemens Mobile said that a new breed of phone will have a tiny chip that measures less than a millimetre to detect unpleasant odours.
It will examine the air in the immediate vicinity for anything from bad breath and alcohol to atmospheric gas levels. She didn't say what the phone would do if it found you too smelly, it might ring you or send out a high pitched scream that shouts bad breath to anyone who might want to get close to you.
[Read the rest of the story]

The Booker finalists

One day, when I have time to explain all the sordid details, I will write about my book lists. There are two: One for fiction and one for non-fiction. They are both lists of books I want to read and each book on the list — there are close to 2,000 titles on each list — is awarded a certain number of points based on a tremendously complicated scoring system I've developed over the years. As I said, I'll write up the details one day when I have time. One big influencer, though, in the scoring system are literary awards. In Canada, the biggies are the Governor-General's awards and the Giller Prize. Internationally, it's the Man Booker Prize and a variety of others like the Orange Prize.
Books get on my list in a variety of ways but one key way is by being named to the shortlist for these and other literary awards. If the book is already on my list, it and every other work by the short-listed author also gets mucho points.
The point of the points system is: First, it's a nice way to spend the time while having a coffee on Saturday morning and Second, it helps determine what I'm to read next. (I have a slightly less complicated way of choosing what to read next that involves these lists and other things, but that's another story).
All of this is to say that for those of us who watch literary awards for one reason or another, it was a big day today because the finalists for the Man Booker prize was announced. Every literary award has its own flavour but for my money, any book shortlisted for the Booker (and, in Canada, for the Giller) are the kind of books I like. The tastes of the Booker juries over the years and my own seem to be in sympatico.
Here, then, are the authors up for this year's Man Booker Prize:

  • Achmat Dangor
  • Sarah Hall
  • Alan Hollinghurst
  • David Mitchell
  • Colm Tóibín
  • Gerard Woodward

Read the full press release with all the titles and more info about the Booker.
The Guardian newspaper also has a report on the announcement.
And what am I reading now? Finally getting around to Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Englishman's Boy, a 1996 winner of a G-G. So far, terrific. The non-fiction book du jour is Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station. Interesting but it seems I will have to start all over again with it once I've read Vico and Michelet.

New NetNewsWire — and that's right on

I've not tried 'em all, but among the RSS aggregators/newsreaders I've tried on both Windows and Mac platform, Ranchero Software's NetNewsWire is my favourite. Like most Mac apps, it's intuitive and easy to use; has a neat notepad; a decent collection of AppleScripts exist; and had its own Weblog editor.
The folks at Ranchero just announced that they have a public beta of NetNewsWire 2.0 available. I downloaded and gave it a quick look-over. Nice. Biggest and best improvement is the speed at which it and the content you access loads. It's a lot faster.
The other big thing: The Weblog editor within NetNewsWire is gone. Now, when you want to blog something you're reading in NetNewswire, NetNewsWire will hand off some content, with pre-formatted HTML, to your favourite blog editor. (Mine happens to be Ecto on the Mac and on the PC I'm using BlogJet until Ecto for Windows gets some legs.)
The folks at Ranchero are also getting into the blog editor game, with the beta release of MarsEdit. Looks more than a little bit like Ecto's user interface. Haven't tried it yet but will fire that up over the next few days. Love to hear your thoughts on either one of those apps or your other favourite newsreading app or blog editor.
And the other big thing: In NetNewsWire 1 or most other aggregators I've used, you get a headline and a few grafs from the RSS feed. If you want to read me more you click on a link within the aggregator, and presto, you're whisked off to your browser where the Web site loads. In NNW 2.0, though, you get the Web page popping open with NNW. I'm undecided if I like that or not. I think I'll have to get used to it. If you do open the Web page within NNW, it's a simple click or keyboard combo to jump to your default browser and have the Window open. I like that flexibility.

Blogware gets a new version but Safari hates it …

This blog is published using the Blogware publishing platform developed by Tucows. The developer bees over there have been busy putting together a new version and Ross has the lowdown on everything that's new (see below). I've just fired it up using the latest version of Apple's Safari on the most recent build of OS X. I'm sad to say that the admin/posting pages render so poorly that they are almost unuseable. (Happily, I've got Ecto for my post creation.) Looks very clean, however, on IE 5.2 for the Mac. Don't have my Windows boxes fired up tonight to check it on that platform. (I'm thinking, incidentally, of moving off IE on Windows to Mozilla.org's Firefox browser. After three days of use, it runs cleaner and faster than IE and, the geeks tell me, it's a little more secure than IE.)
Here's what Blogware leader Ross had to say at his blog and I'm hoping v 1.2.1 or even 1.3 comes out darn soon:

We shipped v1.2 today. Probably the biggest single revision that we've ever done to the Blogware code base.

In my mind, this is the v1.0 that we *should* have shipped. Users syndicating with RSS 2.0 now get to drop ENT metadata into their feeds – the UI has been cleaned up a *ton* (I've started calling it “the useful version” – Useful Interface instead of User Interface? Hmmm…sounds like a whole different post unto itself) and we've nailed down user profiles pretty substantially as well – check me out here.

The feature I'm most proud of? The new picture posting tools in the Rich Text Editor… [Read the rest at: Random Bytes]

What will the Fed do?

When I have to answer that question, I turn to the experts, like the trained
economists who work for some of Canada's biggest banks. Now we know that the
U.S. Federal Reserve raised the benchmark interest today by one quarter of
one percentage point. But is this it? Are interest rates going higher?
Well, it depends on who you ask. Here are the subject lines of two e-mails
that landed in my inbox right after another within minutes of the Fed's

  • Scotia Capital Research: Fed moves towards a

  • [BMO Nesbitt Burns] The Bottom Line: Fed Raises Rates and Signals More
    to Come

The two economists in this case are Ladak Zubair at Scotia Capital and Sherry Cooper at Nesbitt Burns.
Now economists are paid a great deal of money to read between the lines of
central bank press releases. When central banks raise or lower interest
rates, they do so only in the form of a carefully worded press release.
There is no press conference. No chance to ask questions or clarify a point
or two. As a result, economists have to try and guess what kind of thinking
went into the press releases.
So here's Ladak Zubair at Scotia Capital:

… the Fed's statement opened the door to a near-term “pause” a
little wider, but for now the bias to raise rates at the next Fed meeting
remains in place. . . . All in, the statement was moderately more dovish
that the last Fed pronouncement, and should see yields move

Here's Cooper's take on the thinking behind the announcement:

… the Fed asserted that “even after this action, monetary
policy remains accommodative” and that “output growth appears to have
regained some traction and labor market conditions have improved modestly”.
They realize that inflation and inflation expectations have eased in recent
months, but they are likely to continue raising rates regardless. The days
of deflation fear are over . . . Even for those of you who are more
pessimistic about the growth outlook, the Fed needs to raise rates now, so
they could, if necessary, lower them later. I don't believe it will be
necessary. My view is the economy will grow at a 3.5+% pace next year. The
Fed will aim for 3%-to-4% fed funds.”

CBS, forged documents, the Blogosphere and journalism

CBS and Dan Rather apologized today for broadcasting information about George W. Bush's record while in the national guard when, as it turns out, they could not verify the authenticity of that information. CBS purported to have documented evidence that Bush ignored some orders and shirked some duties. Turns out the documented evidence was forged and CBS — and Rather, in particular — were forced to acknowledge that fact.
This whole issue may, in the end, have something to do with who gets to be the next U.S. president. But many also believe it has something to do with this new thing called Participatory Journalism, a kind of journalism in which bloggers are leading the way.
Bloggers are taking credit for doing what CBS ought to have done, namely, examining the documents carefully to see if, in fact, the could be real. One of the telltale signs that the documents were forged, for example, were some of the fonts on the documents in question. Some font nut on the Web saw them and knew that the fonts on the document had not yet been invented when the document was allegedly created. Within minutes, this information ended up on a blog and everyone started asking more detailed questions about the memos. After that the whole house of cards came down.
But before some hail this as a watershed moment in so-called “bottom-up” journalism, read some wise words from some of the blogosphere's wisest and most widely read pundits. Here's Steven Johnson:

Think about the other major stories that broke in the last year or so involving misrepresentations or other abuses of power: the Plame Affair, Abu Ghraib, the whole missing-WMD madness. Did the bloggers contribute anything substantive to the reporting — to the facts, not the opinions — of those stories? No, because the central elements in those stories were not matters of typography; …. Until the blogosphere figures out a way to contribute to those kinds of stories — and not just ones where a knowledge of font trivia makes you a genuine expert — I think we'll still prove to be better at framing the news than making it ourselves.

Scott Rosenberg believes the event may have less to say about the power of the Internet than it has to say about the passing of an era:

What really hurts, for CBS and the rest of the networks' news operations, is that, at this late date in media history, trust is the only advantage the broadcast networks can claim. They no longer deliver the news faster than rivals, they certainly don't deliver it in more depth or from more viewpoints or with more style. Their only remaining edge has been a sort of generic, fossilized authority…..n the end, it feels fitting that “60 Minutes' ” vaunted TV news operation was taken in through its ignorance of the Selectric-to-software history of typography. The typed word — TV's achilles' heel!.

Jesse Walker, writing at Reason Online's site, takes this idea of the end of an era a bit further, and suggests the whole affair demonstrates the beginning of a new era, not one in which traditional Old Media is supplanted by New Media but one in which Old Media is transformed or merges with some elements of this New Media to create a new media ecosystem:

That's what is most fascinating about the elimination of media entry barriers, the rise of distributed journalism, and the new influx of reporting and commentary from outside the professional guild. The new outlets aren't displacing the old ones; they're transforming them. Slowly but noticeably, the old media are becoming faster, more transparent, more interactive—not because they want to be, but because they have to be. Competition is quickening the news cycle whether or not anyone wants to speed it up. Critics are examining how reporters do their jobs whether or not their prying eyes are welcome. And if a network or a newspaper doesn't respond to those criticisms—if it doesn't make itself more interactive—then its credibility takes a blow

Walker goes on to say:

…mainstream reporters … are gradually getting locked into an uneasy partnership with their amateur cousins online. It's not a voluntary relationship, and there are news professionals out there who will deny until their dying breath that it exists. It's more like the partnership between Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones. But it's real.

Dave Sifry is trying to put together a timeline of the blogosphere's effect on mainstream media.