Thursday, April 26, 2007

The state of journalism today

Another positively Orwellian caption from a Reuters photo.

Palestinians attend a demonstration against violence in Gaza April 23, 2007. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA)


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Montreal street signs: five distinct types

I've identified five distinct types of City of Montreal street signs that are still in active use. Most people are familiar with the old black on white signs (all caps) and the new black on white signs (mixed case and city logo). (See the photo below.)

First a word about English on street signs in Montreal. As late as 1867, the population of Montreal was majority English-speaking. This explains why there were English mayors and why a lot of commercial and cultural life in Montreal was English.

By the time the first in the series of signs pictured below was posted (probably in the 1930s or 1940s), Montreal had a French-speaking majority. But there weren't yet any laws to hide English from the public sphere. It would have been inconceivable to cover up with white tape the English on commercial signs or street signs.

If you drive through the City of Montreal today, you'll notice that on the old street signs, French-sounding placenames (like Marcil) have a French street designation (Ave. Marcil). English-sounding placenames (like Old Orchard) have an English street designation (Old Orchard Ave.). A clever way to make bilingual the city's sign.

I mention this history so you understand why the sign below (Fielding Avenue) is in English and not bilingual.

Here are the five distinct signs:
  • All caps, full street designation below street name
  • All caps, abbreviated street designation on side of street name
  • All caps, full street designation above street name, corners more rounded, optional bubble below containing the direction if required, French-only sign introduced for 1976 Olympics
  • Mixed case, full street designation above street name, city logo introduced circa 1985
  • Mixed case, full street designation above street name, city logo modified and introduced in 1987 for new René Levesque sign

By the way, these are the correct relative sizes of the signs.

I didn't include in this the white-on-red signs in Old Montreal or the signs of the various Montreal boroughs. I was only looking at City of Montreal signs.

>> More about Montreal signs here

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Nigerian scammers act out dead parrot sketch

I've read about people in North America who turn the tables on those Nigerian email scammers by getting the scammers to hold up funny sign and do stupid things. The goal is to waste as much of their time as possible. And it's funny.

The anti-scammers have upped the ante. Making them hold photos of David Hasslehoff is no longer enough. Now they are getting the scammers to act out Monty Python sketches.

This is a video created by a Nigerian email scammer who thinks he is producing a video for a scholarship payment from a victim he tried to scam. Unfortunately for this particular scammer, the "victim" fought back and created a fake video production company with promises of cash!

It has to be noted that the two people who appear in this video are probably not scammers themselves. More than likely they are amateur actors paid to do the work on the scammer's behalf. Even though their acting is petty shaky, they do seem to have had previous experience!

Family Guy: behind the scenes

Neat behind-the-scenes look at voice actors in Family Guy.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Montreal street signs

An interesting post from the people at UrbanPhoto about street signs in Montreal, including types of signs, typeface and language rules.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Montreal map circa 1894

Montreal-based urban planning blog UrbanPhoto has a great map of Montreal from 1894. Today Crescent St. was turns into Lucien-L'Allier. Back then Lucien L'Allier was called Aqueduct Street. And Bleury St. went as far north as Pine Ave. before changing to Park Ave. Today Bleury ends at Sherbrooke St.


Canadian content, Sopranos style

This will be good.
Canadian content, Sopranos style
Globe and Mail

Montreal — When the first episode of the final season of The Sopranos is broadcast on Sunday, Quebec fans will be especially titillated: Two new characters are French-speaking Québécois smugglers who do business with the show's rough-and-tumble protagonist, Tony Soprano.

Denis and Normand are petty thugs who irritate Tony (played by James Gandolfini) because they speak joual (Québécois slang) and he can't understand them. They sell him prescription drugs that have been stolen from the Quebec health-care system, medication that is past its expiry date. This is not a problem, they advise: Just change the best-before date and the drugs are as good as new.

The petty thugs are played by Quebec actors.

Denis is portrayed by Philippe Bergeron and his sidekick Normand by Christian Laurin, and the duo are now reckoned to be something of a first: Quebec's seedy underworld finally making its debut on U.S. TV.
A funny thing happened on the way to New Jersey, as the Montreal-born actor Bergeron tells it. The Los Angeles-based 47-year-old landed his role through a strange and unusual contact: Guylaine Lecours, a fellow L.A. resident and Québécois expat who is a dental hygienist.

She was cleaning the teeth of one of the producers and writers for The Sopranos, Andrew Schneider. "He asked Guylaine if she could help him come up with some dialogue, to make a scene authentic between Tony Soprano and some greasy French Canadians," Bergeron recalls. "She said she didn't think she could do that, but she said she knew an actual greasy French Canadian. She gave him my name and number. Then she told me that someone from The Sopranos would be calling me. I was like, 'Yeah, right.' "

But shortly after Lecours and Bergeron spoke, Schneider called him to ask how petty Québécois Mafioso might bicker. In the following weeks, they had several long phone calls, during which Bergeron would explain how two characters of this type might operate. "Of course, writers for this show needed to know how the Québécois swear. I discussed the obvious: tabernac and calice [swear words derived from the Roman Catholic Church] had to be included."

Bergeron had a request: that the characters go by the names Denis and Normand, two childhood friends of the actor. Bergeron says his old friend Denis knows of the tribute, but Normand, whom he has lost touch with, does not.) Then it struck Bergeron. "I said to Andy, 'You know, I could play this part.' He asked me to send in a head shot to their offices in New York. Then they asked me to send in a DVD to their casting office in Manhattan."

After auditioning in New York, he got the part.

Filming the episode was thrilling, Bergeron says, and he drew on the petty crooks he knew while growing up in Ville St. Laurent, north of Montreal. "There was a dire bar there, where I bought my first beer when I was 14. I would skip school and go there. It was called T.P. and there were always petty hoods around. This Sopranos appearance is my homage to them."

"Doing The Sopranos made me very proud to be a Quebecker. When you're away from Quebec, there's a tendency to dilute your Quebec persona. Some people might not like the way we're represented in the show, but it's entirely authentic."


Decarie Hotdog steamie and fries

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sadly, not an April Fool's Day joke

Insane, but not surprising.
Teachers drop the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslims

Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a government backed study has revealed. It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.


The study, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, looked into 'emotive and controversial' history teaching in primary and secondary schools.

It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.

The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.

The report said teachers feared confronting 'anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils'.

In other news, the schools in Atlanta won't be teaching how bad slavery was because, you know, it conflicts with the beliefs of members of the Ku Klax Klan and White Power groups.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Gmail Paper prank

More April Fool's Day fun from Google. This one is from Gmail: Introducing Gmail Paper
New! Introducing Gmail Paper

Everyone loves Gmail. But not everyone loves email, or the digital era. What ever happened to stamps, filing cabinets, and the mailman? Well, you asked for it, and it’s here. We’re bringing it back.

A New Button
Now in Gmail, you can request a physical copy of any message with the click of a button, and we'll send it to you in the mail.

Simplicity Squared
Google will print all messages instantly and prepare them for delivery. Allow 2-4 business days for a parcel to arrive via post.

Total Control
A stack of Gmail Paper arrives in a box at your doorstep, and it’s yours to keep forever. You can read it, sort it, search it, touch it. Or even move it to the trash—the real trash. (Recycling is encouraged.)

Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe
Google takes privacy very seriously. But once your email is physically in your hands, it's as secure as you want to make it.

Is it free?

Yes. The cost of postage is offset with the help of relevant, targeted, unobtrusive advertisements, which will appear on the back of your Gmail Paper prints in red, bold, 36 pt Helvetica. No pop-ups, no flashy animations—these are physically impossible in the paper medium.
How about attachments?

All part of the deal.
Photo attachments are printed on high-quality, glossy photo paper, and secured to your Gmail Paper with a paper clip. MP3 and WAV files will not be printed. We recommend maintaining copies of your non-paper Gmail in these cases.

Is there a limit?
You can make us print one, one thousand, or one hundred thousand of your emails. It’s whatever seems reasonable to you.

But what about the environment?
Not a problem. Gmail Paper is made out of 96% post-consumer organic soybean sputum, and thus, actually helps the environment. For every Gmail Paper we produce, the environment gets incrementally healthier.

Click screenshots to enlarge or visit the page.

Don't miss the testimonials. I like the third one as it's a good swipe at folder-based email

“Gmail Paper is a scrapbooker's dream. I paper archive all of my son's emails, cut them out in creative shapes, and paste them in my binders.”

Anna-Christina D., Lifecoach

“I've always felt uneasy about the whole internet thing. With the help of Gmail Paper, now I'm taking matters back into my own hands, literally.”

Kevin S., CEO AdventaStar Inc.

"Now that I have Gmail Paper, I understand the difference between labels and folders. I had one message with two labels, but when I tried to stick the paper version into two filing cabinets at the same time, it just wouldn’t go."

Mayumi M., Associate

"It's paper, plain and easy. I sometimes find myself wondering: what will Google think of next? Cardboard?"

Bill K., Armchair Futurist

Google's April Fools Day product launch: TiSP

Ha. Fun April Fool's Day product launch from Google today.
Google TiSP (BETA) is a fully functional, end-to-end system that provides in-home wireless access by connecting your commode-based TiSP wireless router to one of thousands of TiSP Access Nodes via fiber-optic cable strung through your local municipal sewage lines.

Too many funny images to choose from. Click the screenshots below to see some of the FAQ pages. Or view the pages here before they get removed.