Blahgs, Kommints And Trololos

Back in the days (2009-2013) when Prairie Dog’s editorial staff (me) and core freelancers (including Beatty, Dechene, and LaRose for a long time there) had endless energy for a volunteer blog with three-plus posts a day, we used to talk a lot about reader comments. Yes, Prairie Dog comment threads sometimes choked-up with snark, condescension and trolling*, but they also showcased the intelligence, insight and public engagement of many Prairie Dog readers.

Somehow our comments sections avoided the worst Internet pitfalls: rampant racism, sexism, homophobia and gargantuan idiocy (see: CBC comment threads). Kudos to PD readers for that.

Even though our blog is relatively quiet these days (regular readers will have noticed it’s not even on the home page now), we still think about it, and about blogs in general, and comments.

Which is why I found this post on The Stranger’s website interesting:

Which is to say that the culture of unrestrained bigotry, hate speech, harassment, and sub-mental diarrhea graffiti that has characterized comment threads since the day they were born has succeeded in eating itself. Trolls have driven humans away, and more and more publishers are beginning to side with the writers whose work is routinely defamed and diminished by a tiny fraction of the people who read it […] I know not everyone agrees about comment threads. The Stranger made comments optional to writers last year. News folks rely on them for tips, and Dan Savage is a huge proponent of them as well. For my part, I think they are a bad idea and a worse precedent[.]

Over the years The Stranger has been a major inspiration for Prairie Dog’s editorial approach**. So when The Stranger, an unbending, long-time champion of anything-goes comment sections, makes their inclusion optional for its writers, it’s a big deal.

My professional interest aside, Sean Nelson’s post is an interesting read for anybody interested in comment culture, and how trolls ruined the Internet.

I’m all for criticism and discourse, but it’s nice to see reporters and columnists push back against the excessive ignorance, disrespect, hostility and armchair amateurism they sometimes face just for doing their jobs.

Power to ’em.

*Prairie Dog has certainly never published any blog posts containing snark or condescension, and no one who writes for this paper or its blog would EVER troll readers. Ahem.
**Other major influences: Now magazine, CBC’s The Current, plus The Guardian, The Onion, The Believer and the beloved Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert/John Oliver chimera.

Attack Ad Review: The Interview (Conservative Party of Canada)

I’m beginning to think that Harper has proven himself so objectionable as a prime minister that even his trusted civilian advisers hate him and are out to sabotage his campaign.

Just look at that mess above.

Presumably, the goal here is to say that Justin Trudeau is inexperienced and would make a total hash of being prime minister. But after watching this a few times, I’m convinced that a winning electoral strategy for any of the opposition parties would simply be to hold this ad up and say, “Would you really trust the people who approved this disaster to run your country?”

Continue reading “Attack Ad Review: The Interview (Conservative Party of Canada)”

Not All Men, But Apparently Enough Men

not all men

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending far too much time online this week (and it’s not even over yet). In my defense, much of it was for research, but too often I’ve found myself clicking on links to articles that just made me really angry and did little else. Is it me or does there seem to be a lot of news relating to the abuse of women and general misogyny in the ether? I’m really asking because I don’t know if it’s actually everywhere or if Google and Facebook have finally got me pegged. At any rate, the mainstream media has really outdone itself over the past few weeks, making room in their headlines for lots of stories that seem to be tailor made for click bait, but with very real social implications. I know it’s a drag, but I’m going to post a few of them here for your perusal.

Right around the time the Ragged Ass Barber vs. Evie Ruddy story broke, the CBC ran another story about a woman in Montreal who got into an argument with a lifeguard because she contested their order to “cover up” her three year-old daughter at a swimming pool. Apparently, the girl had swimming shorts on but no top and, because anyone who identifies as female – at any age – is understood to be a walking provocation for men who might sexualize them, this was a big problem at the pool that day.

Then there was the story about pictures of famous naked women being disseminated without their consent. Of course, much of the discussion around this seems to have been about cloud computing security and slut shaming rather than how the hackers felt justified in sexually violating these women in the first place.

The story around the backlash to Evie Ruddy’s human rights complaint (which has been absolutely heinous) wasn’t the only one last week. Canadian gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian was actually chased out of her home after threats on her life became very real. Apparently her attackers took umbrage at her charge of sexism in the gaming world.

This morning, CBC’s The Current examined another story that surfaced last week about how college students at North Carolina State University have invented a nail polish that changes colour when it comes in contact with “date rape” drugs (by the way, can we stop calling it that? Rape is rape). They’d apparently like their product to be included in frosh week kits and, if it takes off, probably stand to make a lot of money. I wonder if they’d consider kicking any of the profits into some kind of PSA aimed at men who rape women after they’ve rendered them unconscious. Or would that be bad for business?

This reminds me of a very short conversation I had with a friend many years ago in another city. I was talking to her about how passive aggressive it felt to have received a vodka company-sponsored rape whistle in my swag bag from a local film festival (“Drink up girls! But don’t get too drunk – otherwise, uh-oh!”). I wondered aloud why it was, more than 40 years after the second wave of feminism, I should still find myself walking home at night with my apartment key sticking out between my knuckles, ready at a moment’s notice to take a swing at any potential attacker. At this time, my friend was working on a large floral arrangement (she’s a florist) and from behind a huge spray of dogwood and salal, she deadpanned: “It’s because of men.” Now before you start getting all “not all men” on me, consider this: Why did the lifeguards ask the little girl’s mother at the pool to cover up her child? Who prompted Evie Ruddy to shut down her Facebook and Twitter accounts after hurling vicious language at her? Who are women trying to protect themselves from should they start using that roofie-detecting nail polish?

How else can one put this other than how it’s already been put? The culture really needs to change. 

Why Are Comments Always Closed On Paul Dechene’s Blog Posts These Days?

Well, it was going to be a surprise but since Dechene outed himself on Twitter this afternoon, I guess the secret’s out:

As I’ve said many times (mostly to Barb) , Prairie Dog has a fanatical pro-comment policy — but Paul’s special and awesome so if he wants a (previously secret) month-long break from you guys, he shall have it!

Comments will again be allowed on Dechene’s posts in June. In the meantime, share your opinions about online comments — or tell Dechene how much you miss commenting on his posts, or lavish him with support, appreciation and love, or call him a delicate little flower — in the comments below this post.

Weekly Reckoning: You Won’t Believe What’s Reckoned Next Edition

weekly-reckoning‘Sup? I found two beetles on my kitchen floor this morning as I was sweeping up. One of them scuttled for the corner but the other ran straight into the dustbin, which gave me little choice but to dump him into the garbage along with everything else. That’s evolution in action, folks. One will go on to found a line of successful Corner Beetles, the other a genetic dynasty of insects that enjoy hanging out in little piles of coffee grounds and cat hair. Anyway, let’s reckon with a few things.

1. GRAVE OF E.T. DISCOVERED  One of the most enduring stories in videogame history appears to be true after all. Back in the early ’80s, Atari’s legendarily awful E.T: The Extra Terrestrial tie-in game was rushed to market in order to take advantage of the movie’s popularity. The game proved to be so unplayable that thousands of unsold copies were said to have been dumped in a concrete-covered landfill somewhere in New Mexico. Well what do you know.

2. APPARENTLY BEATING WOMEN IS ALL PART OF THE AMERICAN DREAM  Entrepreneur and woman beater Gurbaksh Chahal, who was caught on video hitting  his girlfriend 117 times over the course of a half-hour, managed to escape jail time but has been booted from the board of his company. His defense, apparently, is that he “lost his temper” becasue  his girlfriend was sleeping with other people for money. That’s right, the old “I didn’t do it and anyway she was a whore so if I did happen to beat her brutally, you understand” defense. To sum up: Bam*117=Justified. He also mentions the American Dream for some reason.

3. AT LEAST YOU CAN’T PUT A COPYRIGHT ON IRONY  I keep on coming back to this story because I can’t quite believe it. But here it is anyway: publishers Lawrence & Wishart are claiming that the Marxist Internet Archive is infringing on the company’s intellectual property by hosting works from the 50-volume “Marx Engels Collected Works.” I would have thought that Marx and Engels’ writings would have passed into the public domain long ago, but intellectual property and copyright is a tangled and thorny issue, and most attempts to navigate through it end up in torn clothes and deep scratches and insect bites. The Archive has promised to delete all the offending texts by May 1, which some of you may know as International Workers Day. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cry into my means of production.

4. WHOOPS  It seems that some of the bodies sent home to families after the South Korean ferry disaster were, um, not the right bodies.

5. INCREASINGLY EFFICIENT CHURCH REPORTS 100% INCREASE IN WEEKEND CANONIZATION RATES  Pope Paul XXIII and John Paul II were canonized this weekend. John Paul II celebrated by killing a guy.

BONUS FOOTWEAR SIGHTING  I saw this shoe on a fence on 14th Avenue yesterday. Better claim it if it’s yours.

through the fence

Weekly Reckoning: Victory Lap Edition

weekly-reckoning1. WE WON. I say “we” won because I literally played in the Canadian Men’s Hockey team and scored at least one of the goals that ended in a 3-0 score in a game in which Canada just kept the puck the hell away from those nasty, greedy Swedes (video autoplay warning). Am I Jonathan Toews? Sidney Crosby? The other one? No, I’m the astral body of Guy Lafleur.

2. UPDATE YER IPHONES, FOLKS. A major security flaw has been identified in iOS devices that could allow “hackers” and “hacktivists” to read your “important emails,” because god knows the world is full of electronic sneaks who want to intercept your lunch plans with that vaguely racist guy from accounts receivable. Anyway, if you think you’re important enough, there’s an update available for your many devices.

3. WHAT’S WHATSAPP ANYWAY? By now everyone knows that Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. But what exactly is WhatsApp? And why does Robert Reich think that WhatsApp is everything that’s wrong with the US economy? I feel that it’s everything wrong with app naming, but maybe that’s just me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to develop WheresBeef, the newest app for locating your nearest butcher or cow.

4. FALL DOWN EVERY MOUNTAIN, DROWN IN EVERY STREAM. The last of the singing von Trapp family has died at 99.

5. TAKE THAT, PIERRE TRUDEAU. The Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled that its laws do not need to be printed and published in English and French. The ruling came down over a fight involving a decade-old parking ticket.

Satanists Turn Westboro Baptist Founder’s Mom Gay For All Eternity

gawkersatanistsI have nothing to add to this story that you can’t read on heavy metal website, The Gauntlet. Or on the Huffington Post. Or Gawker. In short, a group of Satanists performed a pink mass over the grave of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelp’s mother that, they say, will make her gay for all eternity.

From the Gauntlet article:

The Westboro Baptists, famed for their bombastic “God Hates Fags” anti-homosexual activism, raised the ire of the Satanic Temple months previous. “The idea for the Pink Mass ceremony and website came during the aftermath of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, during which time the WBC were threatening to protest the funerals of the bombing victims,” explains [Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves]. “Members of The Satanic Temple were in Boston, waiting for them, but they failed to show. Later, the WBC issued a statement that they had been present ‘in spirit’. We decided that a same-sex couple celebrating ceremony at the grave-site of Fred Phelps’s mother was an appropriate way to meet the Westboro Baptists, ‘in spirit’, but this time on our terms.”

Explaining the ceremony itself, Greaves continues, “The Satanic Temple now believes that Fred Phelps must believe that his mother is now gay, in the afterlife, due to our Pink Mass… And nobody can challenge our right to our beliefs.”

The Satanists in question have a website, westboro-baptist.com, with photos and commentary on the ceremony. It also includes a Gaying Post-Mortem, which reads…

Other same sex couples are invited to respectfully and tastefully express their mutual affection at Ms. Johnston’s gravesite. After a Pink Mass has been performed, every time a same sex couple kisses over a gravesite, the now-gay deceased is pleasured in the afterlife.

I’m sure some people may find this post-death forced reorientation offensive. But who knows? Phelp’s mother has been dead a while. Maybe this switch will help break up the monotony of an eternal afterlife.

Lindy West = Incredible

It would be nice if we could call it a day on the issue of rape in comedy. By this point, the basic arguments laid out so well by former Stranger and current Jezebel blogger Lindy West should just be accepted as facts. That there is a rape culture that comics should be aware of, that criticism isn’t censorship — these aren’t extreme notions. Or they shouldn’t be.

Instead, the worst goons subject West to endless torrents of awful over the matter. Right now, she has a post up detailing some of the reactions she received to a recent appearance on FX’s Totally Biased where she debated Jim Norton. It’s terrible. She filmed herself reading some of them aloud, and I couldn’t even make it to the end.

I don’t know how West endures all this, but I’m happy she’s willing to keep fighting back the jerks.

FINAL UPDATE: Rob Ford Crackstarter Goal Reached, Gawker Editor Speaks

It’s at (refreshes screen) $198,440 . Looks like some addictions non-profit is going to be $200,000 richer! Follow along at home here.

UPDATE: 1:48 p.m.: $198,642!

UPDATE 1:56 p.m.: Goaaaaal! And there it is, $200,246.

FINAL UPDATE: The closing tally is $251,254. Gawker editor John Cook posts about it:

The Crackstarter is now closed to further donations. We pulled in a total of $201,254 from 8,388 people. I haven’t contacted Indiegogo, the service that hosted the campaign, yet to investigate precisely when we get the money, in what format, etc. (As I write this, the Indiegogo web site is not cooperating with my attempts to get that info.) I do know that Indiegogo and PayPal extract certain fees before turning the proceeds over to us; we will post an update announcing the total amount that has been released to us as soon as we get it.

As for the purchase: We are working on it. As we noted before the campaign concluded, we lost contact with the people who have custody of the video. I updated the Indiegogo campaign site yesterday morning to reiterate that there had been no movement on that front, and am repeating it here right now. You won’t hear anything more from us about our attempts to get the video for some time. This will be a very delicate transaction. If the people who are in possession of the video are reading this: Please get in touch with our mutual friend, or with me at [email protected] We did what you asked.

Full thing here. And there’s more here. I like how Ford’s head has ignited in the graphic.

I Think Rob Ford Might Be Toast

You remember the Rob Ford Crackstarter, Gawker’s effort to raise $200,000 to buy a video of (allegedly) the Toronto mayor smoking crack? Yeah. It’s going to work. I’ve checked in on it a few times in the last day. As of right now, this second, it’s [checks] $140,832. Last night it was $118-something thousand.

I think it’s time to ask if Ford will make it to the weekend without resigning? If that video shows what two reporters and Gawker’s editor say it does, I can’t see a way out of this for Ford.

On the bright side, even people who’ve despised him are probably starting to feel bad for the guy. I know I do.

UPDATE: In the time it took to write this post (about five minutes), the crackster has increased to $141,003.

UPDATE-2:22 p.m.: $141,943

UPDATE-2:37 p.m.: $143,158

UPDATE-3:23 p.m.: $144,690

UPDATE-4:01 p.m.: holy shit, $155,240. Also, Ford has fired his chief of staff. Bad week for Conservative politicians’ chiefs of staff in this country today.

UPDATE-7:55 p.m.: $159,382. Earlier today someone donated $10,000. Alas, Gawker’s contact can’t contact the guy with the phone, so this my all be for naught. More here.

They’re Calling It The “Rob Ford Crackstarter”

This crazy thing keeps getting crazier. From Gawker:

As you may have heard, Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, smokes crack cocaine. We’ve seen a video of him smoking crack cocaine, and the people who have the video would like to sell it. Through the miracle of crowdfunding, you can help. Please consider donating to the Rob Ford Crackstarter.

How Much Do We Need? $200,000. That’s what the owners of the video want. That sounds like a lot of money. The good people at Indiegogo believe that, with the appropriate amount ofvirality, that goal is achievable.

Christ, That’s a Lot of Money. Yes, it is. But they’ve got the video! And it’s not all about greed, though of course most of it is. The owners of this video fear for their safety, and want enough money to pay for a chance to get out of Toronto and set up in a new town. Their fear is not entirely unwarranted. Rob Ford is a powerful if buffoonish man, and he was wrapped up in a drug scene that purportedly involved many other prominent Toronto figures.

What Will We Get? A crystal clear, well-lit video of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine, published on Gawker for the world to see. We will also be throwing in some perks, for specific donation amounts. But the main thing is the video of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine.

This is going to end with Ford fighting biplanes at the top of the CN tower, isn’t it? Oh Gawker. Oh Internet. Oh Rob Ford.

Gravatars: An Extremely Fun Thing You Can Do With Prairie Dog Now

Dog Blog commentators have probably noticed the big blue “G” logos besides their names. Those thingies aren’t decorative; they’re placeholders for Gravatars. What’s a Gravatar? You know how you have a profile picture on your Facebook page? Same sorta idea! Continue reading “Gravatars: An Extremely Fun Thing You Can Do With Prairie Dog Now”

Hyperlocal: Put Your Story On The Map

Hyperlocal screencapSeems I’ve scored a month-long gig blogging for the CBC’s new online project, Hyperlocal. You should check it out. Actually, you can even contribute.

Hyperlocal is a space on the web to share stories about neighbourhoods and what’s changing in them. There’s a map interface with little flags showing where people have written stories. Today I posted a piece about the Safeway construction (which I’ve been watching all winter with my son… he’s sort of obsessed with large trucks). And I’ll have other stories going up every Monday for the rest of April.

You can also post stories about your neighbourhood by going to the website, cbc.ca/Hyperlocal, and logging in. The idea is you tell stories about the things that are important in the area around where you live. And I’m pretty sure there’s more going on in Regina than my Cathedral-centric scribblings let on.

You can also comment on articles that are posted on the Hyperlocal site. So, for instance, if you think I’ve skipped a lot of important details in the Safeway story (kind of hard not to, had a strict word count I was writing to), then cut loose.

Hyperlocal just launched this morning so there aren’t so many stories in there apart from those by the official bloggers and featured writers (people like Miriam Toews and Will Ferguson). It’d be cool if Regina could turn up and take the place over.

Hope to see you there.

Damsels In Distress: Women In Video Games

Prairie Dog’s annual equity report came out yesterday and in it I ran a piece called “Revenge of the Nerd Girls“. It starts with the story of Anita Sarkeesian and all the flack she got for funding a video series through Kickstarter.

That video series is called Tropes Vs Women in Video Games and the first episode launched today, International Women’s Day.

Even if you have no interest in video games, this is well worth watching.

Continue reading “Damsels In Distress: Women In Video Games”

Get Dressed: Videos VS. Runways

So, fashion videos are starting to become a popular option for brands and independent designers who want to skip the expense of a runway show. That’s awesome, however many of those videos somehow end up being annoyingly twee. Enter Vena Cava and their latest video, which sends all of that up. Watch it to the end!

(click the image to check out the video)

On Inspired Routines, Free of Winter Madness

When the days are short, wintery and dark I personally feel the boundaries of my daily routines closing in about me until I realize that I am able to adjust them to Fit Just Right. As we collectively start into the winter ahead, might I suggest some blog reading and simple adjustments to make life more enjoyable? A daily cup of tea (Early Grey for its uplifting bergamot perhaps), some light therapy care of full-spectrum light bulbs to ward off the winter blues, dance parties and the Brain Pickings blog, which is chockful of inspiring ideas from famous smart people. Check out this recent entry, The Daily Routines of Famous Writers.

Henry Miller‘s daily routine according to Brain Pickings:

MORNINGS:
If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

AFTERNOONS:

Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.

EVENINGS:

See friends. Read in cafés.

Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.

Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.

Paint if empty or tired.

Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.

Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.

Six In The Evening: Eventide Edition

6 in the Evening1 IN THE FUTURE, YOUR WARTIME OBITUARY WILL BE 140 CHARACTERS. The Israeli Defense Forces are keeping up with the times by live-tweeting their assault on Gaza and keeping the world apprised with quotable sound-bites (“Ahmed Jabari. Eliminated.”) and video footage. I don’t know which side you’re rooting for in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the thought of death and blood and fire and loss being reduced to a blip of data on a social networking site… is unappetizing. On the other hand, it clears up the “fog of war” quite nicely. Twitter itself has been silent on the matter.

2 THE MITT WHO WOULD BE KING. American Hispanics react unfavourably to Mitt Romney’s leaked post-election call with donors, in which he claimed that Obama had courted the “ethnic vote” (ie. the American vote) with “gifts.” Gifts such as health care. It says something when a presidential candidate views the most basic social policies of an industrialized nation as largesse.

3 A LITTLE SOMETHING FROM BURMA. The government of Myanmar has ordered the release of 452 prisoners just days before a visit from Barack Obama. There’s no word on whether any of the pardoned are political prisoners, which comes as a disappointment to human rights groups.

On a related topic, it drives me nuts when people who escape from prison are described as “escapees.” As Irish author Flann O’Brien once said, it implies that prison jumped up and ran away from the prisoners.

4 SLOW YOUR ROLL, REGINA. Everyone knows that Regina has been growing at unprecedented rate over the last five years, with new buildings going up, new neighbourhoods emerging from swamps and the chime of many languages freshening the air. Statistician Doug Elliott would like to remind us that we’re in “the middle of the pack” compared to eight other Canadian cities. The leader of said pack? Some city to the north of us that’s all lousy with bridges.

5 FIVE HOURS OF ENERGY. A LIFETIME IN THE GRAVE? The snazzy little caffeine drink known as 5-Hour Energy has been linked to 13 deaths in the United States. Also linked to: heart attacks, convulsions, and one spontaneous abortion. Don’t worry, you can still buy it in Canada.

6 SNOW NEWS. I love stories about the difficulty of snow removal in Regina. That’s when you learn that roads have categories and the city has graders and cars were designed to litter the streets and spin their wheels uselessly in snow-slick gutters. Eventually we’re going to have to install giant fans in the sky to blow all the snow over to Moose Jaw.

 

 

Schadenfreuddit

There’s an excellent article on Gawker about Reddit and internet trolling — and about one troll in particular, Violentacrez, aka Michael Brutsch.  It’s absolutely riveting, and worth the second-hand exposure to pervy Redditors and their moral codes. (Posting thousands of pictures of 14-year-old girls? A-okay! Revealing someone’s real identity? Shocking!). Brutsch has lost his job over his posts (which didn’t stop at underaged creeper pics), Reddit is really mad at Gawker, the journalist who wrote the article feels mildly guilty, and a group of women is getting even. It’s a very satisfying read.

Ultrasonic Alarm Call: We Gots Scads…

… of stuff, that is… to talk about this episode.

First up, city hall. What’s going on? Not much. Well, except for that stadium dealie thing getting through council. And the downtown plan bylaw getting to Planning Commission.

And then there’s the Olympics. Is anybody even talking about that anymore? It’s so 2012.  But we’re the throwbacks keeping that flame alive as we discuss a prescription to save Canada’s Olympic program.

Then, the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound list of the best movies of all time. We talk about that. And that leads — naturally — into a discussion of The Dark Knight Rises.

Then we end off with Aidan and his Tales of New York, which is where he was recently, attending the BlogHer convention on social media. President Obama spoke at this thing. And Katie Couric.

Ultrasonic Alarm Call – We Got Scads: In our ultraswank podcasting chalet, Aidan Morgan (host), Shane Hnetka and Paul Dechene. Music by the Lazy MKs. Runtime 47 min 32 sec.