Because sometimes, when it is the slowest of all slow news days, and when your work email is down because technology is a jerk and you are combing the Forks and braving the throngs of squealing children flooding through the Manitoba Museum, your photog takes one look at a kid posing inside a replica cosmonaut helmet at a really quirky space exploration exhibit, and has an idea.

“I think we just found your blog picture,” he says.

I think we did!

Of course, no matter how much you love your photog, they can’t do much for the smears of mascara you couldn’t clean off your face from the Saturday night before, and for your general eye-bags born of bad genetics and lack of sleep.

Long day, friends. Tomorrow a holiday; I’m working nights. Cheers to everyone I met at last night’s Tweet-up: sorry I wasn’t more outgoing. Every day right now is a bit of a struggle to smile. I miss someone like a hole in the heart, and feeling that way, my first instinct is to run and hide like a hermit.

But Chris D. tells me I should self-promote more. Here’s a start: in a minor blogkeeping note, I have added an email feed. You can receive my natterings directly in your inbox by signing up in the box on the sidebar! Are you not terribly excited by this? I am.

I am the champion of this warming hut.

Photos by my frequent photographic partner in crime, Trevor Hagan.


I am told the second-year Creative Communications students have been discussing reporting on suicide lately, including such issues as whether media reporting drives up suicide rates.

Me? I don’t think the question isn’t whether or not we should report suicide, because the question isn’t useful. The question we should ask in every case is, why would we report this? And how is it news?

When tragedy strikes, news is the first salvo in a public dialogue: it is the names, the details, the charges. Who was the deceased? Why are they dead? What does this mean for the rest of us? It is a preview of a someday-trial. It is the promise of a call to change an intersection, put up a speed bump, find the witnesses. It is a hunt to humanize a headline, and let them not be remembered as a “24-year-old male.”  

But when news crosses the blurry line between public and private, you are no longer making news. You are now  producing suffering porn: gaudy, lascivious suffering porn. It is a lurid picture of loss, blown up on a television screen. It is grief amplified and broadcast to become perverse entertainment, an invitation to the uninvited to gawk around the water cooler. “It’s just so awful, Glen, isn’t it just so awful?”

With a murder, the line between news and suffering porn is fuzzy, but distinct. With suicide, that border blurs and runs. Before you take a step, stop. Check to make sure you are not trespassing. You may not inspire imitators. But you may become a pornographer of other people’s pain.

I reported on a suicide, once. The call came in right before I started my shift: someone had been hit by a train. I drove straight there, parked, struggled out of my car, paper in hand. Time slows down with stories like this. Images grow sharper.

Hi-def reality: knots of people on the corners, watching. Police cars, police officers, a man in coveralls sitting on the ground next to the engine, staring east. The tinny wail of the crossing sign. TING-TING-TING-TING-TING-TING-TING-TING.

The woman here, holding her hands to her cheeks. Maybe she saw something?

“No,” she said. “But my friend saw it.”

What did her friend see?

“She said she walked out onto the tracks, looked at the engineer, and waved,” she said, and cried. ”She waved.”

I stopped running. I sat down on the curb. I made the sign of the cross: I don’t know why. I’m not Catholic. It just seemed something to do to mark her next step on the journey. A deaf man walked up to me and motioned for my pad of paper.

“What happened?” he wrote.

“An accident,” I wrote back. “Woman hit by the train.”

He took back the pad. “Will she be alright?”

I shook my head. He put his hand over his heart. We stood there for awhile and looked at the tracks.

Because the crossing was closed for hours, I wrote a brief about it for the paper, and a brief only.  The last line was my silent protest to comments on the earlier website story. “She must have been listening to her iPod or something like that.” No. She wasn’t. I never looked for the family, though I inadvertently found them in a small city; when I did, I didn’t do anything about it. I let them alone.  

Does this mean we should only ever write briefs? No. There is a better way to handle reporting about suicide, a way that doesn’t turn human agony into titillation. With suicide, sometimes you have to let it breathe. You have to give it time. You have to give yourself time to ask the question that initially separates suffering porn and news: what does this mean for the rest of us?

A week after I sat on the tracks, Lindor Reynolds did that. She found the more important story, the human thread and the message at the heart of grief. The day I reported on it, that could not have been done. So I’m glad I didn’t take it any farther.

And if you want to talk about how to report about suicide — or anything — an instructional tale from the New Yorker. In 2003, Tad Friend penned this stunning, impeccably researched and gracefully written article on suicide and San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve read this story about once a month for the last seven years, just to remind myself: this is everything that reporting on anything, especially suicide, should be.

The New Yorker has the space to do that, of course, but their luxury doesn’t excuse the rest of us from doing a worse job on suicide, technically speaking. And if we’re talking about how the media should best navigate suicides, page four of that article is an absolutely necessary read to understand the nuance between cause and effect, porn and propriety:

In 1995, as No. 1,000 approached, the (media) frenzy was even greater. A local disk jockey went so far as to promise a case of Snapple to the family of the victim. That June, trying to stop the countdown fever, the California Highway Patrol halted its official count at 997. In early July, Eric Atkinson, age twenty-five, became the unofficial thousandth; he was seen jumping, but his body was never found.

- Jumpers by Tad Friend, from the New Yorker. Emphasis mine.

Eventually, the media pulled back and stopped reporting the suicides, except for extraordinary cases; the number of suicides did not drop. But it is not for prevention alone that we report suicide at our peril: it is for the preservation of our own humanity. Lose that, and you lose everything. Lose that, and you can no longer be a journalist; a reporter, maybe. But never a journalist.

But keep your caution, and take care with suicide reporting, and you can find not just platitudes to prevention, but a true narrative of the human experience. Example: Friend’s article also inspired an equally beautiful and difficult documentary, The Bridge. It was, in addition to being beautiful and difficult, also incredibly controversial.

See, to make The Bridge, the filmmakers obtained a permit from the city to continuously film the Golden Gate from a nearby park. They told city officials they were filming the bridge to “capture the powerful, spectacular intersection of monument and nature that takes place” there. City officials claimed they had been misled; in a way, though, the statement is incredibly accurate. During filming, they captured 23 suicides on video.

The filmmakers were courageous in what they showed, but they were not, in my opinion, suffering-porn peddlers. The film was controversial because it allowed the starkness of its storytelling, the unveiled truth of it, to illuminate human wounds so raw that few can look, without seeing something about ourselves we do not want to see.

But it was fantastic journalism, and most of all, it explored suicide without either extolling or exploiting it.

That’s a tricky line to walk, and one I do not believe can be done in an immediate, we-want-it-now, no-wait-more-like-five-minutes ago hard news context. It’s a line I don’t believe can even be walked in every case, even most cases, no matter how much time you have — at least, not without tripping and falling into someone else’s private grief and splattering it all over a page to be consumed, clucked over, and forgotten.

We talk a lot about teaching reporters how to look, how to examine, how to ask questions. But sometimes, the most important skill you can learn as a reporter is when to look away.


Well hello again! Now that I’ve had some time to “percolate,” to borrow Dave Pensato’s lauded phrase from my story today, it is time to make my full TEDx wrap-up.

In short? I had a great time. I met some great folks, got in on some really energizing discussions, and was consistently impressed by the quality of talks on the stage. And I left feeling very positive — which is unusual, because despite my love of ideas, I am generally fairly cynical about the human species.

Organizers mentioned how the breaks were designed to facilitate discussion. And I think that they were extremely effective at that — the quantity and sheer quality of between-talk chats was refreshing and, sometimes, exhilerating.  More than anything, I appreciate that the breaks were long enough to actually have those talks. Fifteen minutes would not have been enough; it always felt like we had lots of time to really get chatting about what we’d just seen… and a lot of other things, too. The state of politics in Winnipeg seemed to come up often.

So without further ado, I present the Double Em Martin awards for Outstanding Performance at an Independently Organized Manitoba-based TEDx Event:

Best Feedback

Norm Lee from the TEDx Manitoba organizing committee called me this afternoon to chat about my blog yesterday. We had a nice chat, which probably could have been nicer if I hadn’t also developed a cold exactly halfway through TEDx, and am now dripping fluids all over the place and not thinking clearly on Tylenol Cold PM so, yeah, sorry ’bout that Norm.

One thing I should add to yesterday’s post — because I am always afraid of lacking clarity — is that by no means was I implying that I felt there was any prejudice on the part of TEDx organizers. Not at all. They did a great job, and Norm and I chatted about some speakers that had to make last-minute cancellations which would have brought more diversity to the line-up. Hey, these things happen.

In writing yesterday’s post, my hope was simply to make the observation, and raise a discussion -  because I think this society doesn’t have the discussion about true inclusiveness enough (especially in the media, but that’s another post for another time), and how important it is for us to consciously and constantly work to correct the fact that many voices are not given equal time and space to be heard.

Norm mentioned that they intend to bring more diversity to future events. I think that’s a wonderful commitment — and I appreciate that he gave me a call and engaged the discussion directly, because it creates an opportunity to create real synergy in that dialogue.  As I mentioned to Norm, perhaps one idea to consider going forward is how to develop broader networks to generate speaker ideas and contacts, so that there will be a more diverse selection of speakers to pick from in the event of last-minute cancellations in the future.

Worst Feedback

Someday, I hope to understand the mindset of a person who will call you, and I mean actually call you on the telephone, and tell you you “need to go back to journalism school” and make a few choice ad-hominem attacks (which I shan’t repeat, they were unfortunate) all because you didn’t write out an acronym on first reference. Why do people do this?

Granted, the story was written pretty muddily, especially for people unfamiliar with TED, and of course this morning I woke up and had no fewer than five ideas for a stronger lede and opening paragraphs, because that’s how it works, and actually I originally explained the acronym clearly but it got messed up in editing and it wasn’t fixed, and the acronym aspect of TED is a bit obsolete now and… whatever. Why am I even defending myself? Dude, I appreciate the correction, but why do we have to be jerks to each other?

The Golden Martin Award for Melissa’s Favourite TEDx Talk

WINNER: Scott Stirton, Intelligent Buildings

RUNNER-UP: Robert Sawyer, Creating The Future

A tough category, this one. Too many gems to choose from. But in the end, I have to go with my gut and pick architect Scott Stirton’s talk. See, I freely admit I know very little about architecture and environmental design; what was great about Stirton’s talk is that I left it feeling like I really knew more. He did a fantastic job of making his ideas both accessible and fun - comparing the Manitoba Hydro building to a camel was genius — and I loved how he zeroed in on the fact that sustainable architecture hinges on building an environmentally authentic experience.

This ski hill in Dubai is not an authentic experience.

In a country like Canada, so challenged by the competing realities of environment and human needs, Stirton’s talk was a clear call to how we can rethink the relationship between those things, meet the needs of both, and make it look pretty, too. Well done, Scott — and though I haven’t done an actual count, my impression is that he dominated the Twitter quote-machine yesterday, too.

Quote of the Day

“We don’t get the cows fatter if we just weigh ‘em every day.”

- Former farmer Les Foltos, memoralized as “cow guy!” in my program guide, presenting the world’s best and most succinct explanation of why a laser-beam focus on improving test scores does not a good education system make

Talk That I’m Probably Too Dumb To Understand

Kerry Stevenson’s talk, How 3D Printing Will Change The Way You Think, was neat. And it did produce the runner-up to the best quote of the day (“You can print MEAT!”). I didn’t know that 3D printing existed, and it is very cool, but I’m not sure I follow his statement that if you upload plans for an object in one part of the world and print it in another, that you are essentially “teleporting” it. To me, teleportation would require the actual matter being moved from one spot to another, and that isn’t the case here. So in this talk, I think there was a gulf between the present and the future that my mind didn’t manage to leap, and instead just got a little lost.

Talk I Wasn’t Expecting to Love, But Did

WINNER: Len Brownlie, Helping The Swiftest Be Swifter

RUNNER-UP: Nicole Buckley, Canada Alive In Space (I have a long-standing phobic terror of the very idea of space)

At first blush, I wasn’t immediately fascinated by the subject of Len Brownlie’s talk, Helping The Swiftest Be Swifter. I’m not a sporting girl, or one interested in highly specific physical achievement, and other talks grabbed me more: HIV researcher Frank Plummer’s talk on evidence for natural immunity to HIV, for instance. And Robert Sawyer, who was amazing.

To my surprise, I was absolutely smitten with Brownlie’s talk. I was so engaged that I think I outright gasped when he explained how the wind-tunnel showed how much drag could be reduced by taking a decal off a bobsleigh helmet. More than anything, the idea opened up a world of wonders for me: I was envisioning these athletes, trying the wind-tunnel again and again, making small adjustments, measuring little improvements. It sounded like so much fun.

This talk, to me, turned out to be one of the things I had to actually see to really grasp, and engage. I’m really glad I did.   

The “You Had To Be There” Award for Best Small Touch

Lunch. No, seriously. I don’t want to elevate the contents of a lunch bag over all the great ideas on stage, not at all, but like — that was a really really good turkey wrap. Damn, that was tasty. So good. I’m still thinking about it today and wondering what about it exactly made it so tasty, because I’ve made some wraps in my time and they were never that delicious.

EDIT: Oh no, I just got Tweetered. Now I wish I hadn’t used the word “great” and “dude” so liberally. And actually posited some thoughtful ideas of my own. What all you new visitors must think of me!


Like so many others out there in Winnipegland, I had a fascinating experience with TEDx Manitoba today.

Also, I was wearing pretty smashing shoes. Photo by David Lipnowski.

I will certainly be doing a lot of blogging about the many ideas shared and swapped at the event. It was inspiring, to be sure.  Sadly, I don’t think my article in tomorrow’s paper is that great, but I think most of you will understand that it was hard to accurately capture the scope of the ideas presented, while explaining the event itself, and doing so in less than 40 minutes of writing time and under 500 words.

Anyway, more on that later. For now, a humble suggestion to make any future event better:

Make TEDx Manitoba more diverse. Please. 

Consider today’s speakers. There were 19 credited speakers slated to speak at the Park Theatre today. Of these, 17 appeared to be white. Only five were women. None appeared to have a visible disability; it was evident that all spoke English as a primary language and, if I may hazard a guess, most appeared to hail from middle-class backgrounds.  

To be clear: the talks at TEDx Manitoba were excellent, I enjoyed each one immensely, and I don’t expect speaker line-ups to perfectly reflect population demographics. But this speaker roster didn’t even come close, let alone reflect where Canadian demographics are trending — which is a worthwhile thought for a forward-thinking conferenceInstead, the roster was overwhelmingly male, white, and apparently able-bodied

I hope that there will be some introspection and discussion on why that was so - and about what can be done in the future to include a broader range of voices on a TEDx Manitoba stage.  

Because diversity is important, and all too often overlooked. A call for increased diversity is not about being arbitrarily “PC,” but about embracing what we can learn from other people’s lives and experiences — especially the further removed those experiences are from our own. Members of the dominant culture often muse on what they can teach others; only rarely does the mainstream ask what others can teach us, in their own voices.

When we don’t open up space for those voices, everyone loses out. The painting of human ideas is left unfinished: shapes, but no shadows. Colours but no shades.

Witness the standing ovation at TEDx Manitoba for the three aboriginal men, ex-gang members, who were interviewed onstage by Terry McLeod. The three men were not credited as speakers, but clearly made an impact.  ”When will we stop being ex-cons, and start being normal people?” pleaded one man, named Chris. “I’m doing my best, and going to school. I watch my kids. I teach ‘em how to be good kids.”

His was a good question, and one that was striking for how far removed it was from the experiences of so many in the Park Theatre today — myself included.  In a room filled with comparatively privileged people, Chris’s story was outlined and punctuated not just by what it was, but by what it wasn’t.

So there’s my hope for future TEDx Manitobas. When we’re talking about a conference of ideas, it is key to ensure that ideas are heard from all quarters. It is key to make a conscious effort to correct our society’s tendency for only certain types of voices to be heard in the mainstream.

Do this, and we will come that much closer to discovering who we really are, as a species, and what we are collectively capable of accomplishing.

In other — well, similar — news… I will be doing a TEDx Manitoba round-up post. But in the spirit of giving myself time to dream (thanks Columpa Bob) I am going to write it tomorrow evening. Because it will indeed take some time to digest. Feel free to swing by tomorrow after about 8 p.m. for the post!

EDIT: Here’s the new post!


Who doesn’t like a good linky-post? Nobody doesn’t like a good linky-post! So here is my first linky-post, because endlessly posting links on Twitter gets old to me.  

From me to you, a round-up of some of my must-read and must-see items from around the web this week:


+ I love One Man Committee’s in-depth exploration of Princess Street.

+ We’re talking incarceration and crime up in hurr! I left a million-word comment, I’m sure James is thrilled.

+ Kenton Larsen was there when some Food Network guy totally bombed at a charity dinner, and it sounded sort of completely fascinating and trainwreckish. I actually wish I had gotten something about that in Thursday morning’s paper, but I didn’t so whatever, that’s that.


+ Slacktivist (the blogging world’s best-kept secret) muses on how to act his conscience (and his faith) as the U.S.’ s biggest newspaper chain demands its employees track their work to the minute.

+ The proposed Republican federal U.S. budget cuts are out, and they are as predictable as they are sort of facepalm-terrifying. In a nutshell: not cut? Military spending. Cut? Massive swaths of environmental, scientific, public health and social programs. As I noted on Twitter, though, you can find a silver lining in a fun game. It’s called ”what lobby group or corporate behemoth is angling to kill this program?” Hint: the answer to at least two of them is “Monsanto.” Anyway, I’m no budgetician (hah!) but I do know that if I was given a razor and asked to slash $75 billion from U.S. federal spending, my first targets would not be, um, like 70% of the things on that list. I have tomorrow off; I might actually go through the 2011 budget myself and see what I would cut. Actually nevermind, I already know.


+ Confused by the Penny Arcade dickwolf debacle? Never heard of the Penny Arcade dickwolf debacle and have a lot of time to kill? No problem: a brilliant Tumblr walks you through it, step-by-step, in a thoroughly objective fashion. Note: the anonymous owner of the Tumblr says that s/he will use it to document future Internet debacles. One of the highlights of this one is when game blogger Courtney Stanton, who was targeted by absolutely revolting verbal attacks for daring to speak up and identify herself as a sexual assault survivor, analyzes her comments to prove how monstrous Internet trolls are.


+ The New York Times takes a frolicky look inside Pixar HQ. Nerd heaven. Cereal bar. Oversized chair and uh, Michael Cera’s autograph.

+ The Onion can be hit or miss when it comes to properly skewering stuff relevant to sexual violence — sometimes, frankly, it just makes it worse — but this video feature is so awesome, in so many awesome ways. For some reason it seems not to be working for me right now, oddly. But I’m sure it will be back soon.

+ And finally, something to make life just so much better than it was two seconds ago. The below video is best summarized by paraphrasing a comment somewhere way back in the comment thread on the original YouTube: “Anything the Internet has done that isn’t this is wrong.”


Over on Twitter, Ryan Reyes noted:

Most don’t realize #Winnipeg has a deep pool of local talent. We have to overcome our inferiority-complex. Thoughts?

It’s a good question. So good, in fact, that asking it has spilled enough ink in this city to repaint the Exchange. I started writing about arts and entertainment in this city in 1999. This issue of overcoming our inferiority complex was top o’ many people’s minds back then. I have been assured it was top o’ many people’s minds well before then, too.

This inferiority complex even inspired the name of this blog. And it’s obviously on other people’s minds, too. Just check out some of the Google search terms that landed on this blog in just the last handful of days:

Omitted search term: "bisexual couples in Winnipeg." They must have been very disappointed to end up here!

See, I named this blog as a joke to myself. Because after almost a decade struggling against what I — and many others — believed was a persistent refusal of Winnipeggers to look around and realize how much great stuff is going on here, I had another thought.

Maybe our inferiority complex is a feature, not a bug.

Let’s be honest: at this stage of the game, it’s obvious that the Great Winnipeg Navelgaze of Misery isn’t going anywhere. Many have tried to correct it, and many have failed. To most Winnipeggers, there’s still nothing in Winnipeg (except all the stuff in Winnipeg) and this place still sucks (except when it’s awesome) and we’re still crap compared to Tronnah or Vancity.

Yeah, that’s one stubborn belief. But maybe the reason it’s such an intractable belief isn’t entirely because people aren’t aware of what’s out there. Maybe it’s because this inferiority complex — this sense of the city as lesser-than or, dare I say, weaker-than - is an integral part of the culture of an urban waypost awkwardly stranded in the middle of a quiet prairie.

In other words: maybe our talent is talented because of our inferiority complex, and not in spite of it.

I remember my very first interview with Damon Mitchell, then of the New Meanies, circa early 2000. He came over to my very first apartment, plunked himself on my couch, and noodled on my guitar while we talked. And I was all very new to the scene, and I remember very clearly what he said when I asked him about growing up a musician in Winnipeg, and how we assemble so much talent here.

“Because,” he shrugged. “In the middle of a Winnipeg winter, the only thing to do is play music in your basement.”   

This story has since been repeated to me — no lie — a hundred times, by a hundred different musicians. So what if, instead of weakening us, the conviction that there’s nothing in Winnipeg drives people to create, experiment and build small and close-knit networks of artistic and entertainment talent?

What if the defining features of Winnipeg’s artistic communities — their stability, longevity, community activity and sheer volume of creative production — occur precisely because they are bred in a city where nothing much happens? When there’s little pressure or financial lure in developing talent, the balancing factor is that most creation becomes genuine. And that has been one of of Winnipeg’s strongest cultural exports: truly honest, frequently unpretentious and unfettered art.

On that note, when I was heavy-duty in music writing, it always surprised non-musician Winnipeggers when I told them that players outside of Winnipeg envied the scene here. That is true: artists across Canada and even the U.S. frequently spoke in spontaneous and genuine praise of the state of Winnipeg’s talent. They were giddy about seeing the Royal Albert. They knew dozens of the more obscure rock bands and folk artists to come out of the city. “Winnipeg makes the best music,” they’d say. And they meant it.

For the most part, Winnipeggers don’t get that. They’re stuck in the Winnipeg inferiority complex. But I’m starting to think that’s just fine. I no longer seek to change it. I no longer write articles bemoaning its existence. Instead, I’ve come to love it as a curious feature. People who believe that there’s nothing in Winnipeg find a way to make their own something.

The beautiful thing is, they don’t even realize what kind of talent and art they’re building, until it has been built… and then, all of a sudden, there is something in Winnipeg. And it’s real, it’s up close’n'personal, and it’s as genuine as only great art can be.

Just don’t tell anyone, okay?


Coming in a little late — due to lingering surgery-blahs, and general malaise over my life  - but as many have seen, the Free Press is taking an apparently unconventional step and opening a News Cafe.

But is it really so unconventional? I’ve known of the idea for months now, though I was privy to few details other than dreams. The first time I heard of it was on an early episode of John White’s and my now-defunct radio show, when Bob Cox phoned in live from Ink and Beyond. I think the shape of it eluded me then. I’m a muller. I need to mull things.  

Now that I’ve mulled, I have concluded that the real shape of the thing won’t be known until some time after it opens. A Connecticut paper also has a News Cafe that is useful for broad brushstrokes of what the Free Press cafe could become. But if the space is to be shaped by a community, a Winnipeg version will necessarily be unique.

For now, what strikes me most about the News Cafe idea is that, if it works — and part of the adventure is that this will remain to be seen — it may end up looking more like the past than the future. And as we’ve recently learned, I do love the past.

Almost every day, my love for the past takes me to a certain spot in the Free Press lobby, where a certain picture hangs on the wall. It’s a photo of an election day in turn-of-the-century Manitoba. Outside the Free Press office, newspapermen stand atop scaffolds, scrawling vote totals as they come in. Below them, a crowd of men in dour dark coats gazes up intently. They are mingling, talking, watching.

Election time in old Winnipeg.

A caption below the photo explains that before television, and with only a few radios in the province, Manitobans gathered round newspaper offices to get — and discuss — breaking news. And when we talk about what’s missing from the media, this picture always looms large in my mind.

See, things don’t happen like that anymore. Google knows almost everything. Election results stream in on live-updating websites. When we suspect that Big News is happening, our first instinct isn’t to gather together in a physical space, but to get the hell on Twitter. After all,  if it truly matters, Twitter will be tittering. It ain’t chalkboards stretched over dirt roads anymore, folks.

But is this exclusively where we want to go?  

Social media’s marriage to mainstream media isn’t an experiment anymore; it’s a rigorous science, painstakingly developed by a million diligent web-heads theorizing about online community-building. Driven by these orchestrations, mainstream media outlets have slowly but surely pulled out of the meatspace and buried themselves in distant offices and increasingly dense websites.

The advantages of this are obvious. But it cannot be good for a media outlet, a community, and even a society to cede so much of its community-building to the online world, and the online world alone. We still yearn for faces, voices and touch; what fascinates me the most about the techosphere is just how much of its energy is devoted to making the digital world a less imperfect simulacrum of the real one.

With that in mind, if the News Cafe works, it could marry the urgency of the present with the flesh-and-blood news community-building of the past. I could pull not just the Free Press, but actual news off the Internet, and put it back onto the street. It could carve out a real flesh-and-blood space for the intersection of information, the people who inform, and the people who are informed. 

I dig that idea, a lot. I’m no technophobe — I am, like many of you, something closer to a human-Blackberry cyborg — but the further we get from that picture in the Free Press lobby, the more I wonder if we haven’t turned social technology into a social trap. I want to get back into the street again.


In other media news, tonight I sat through my first full episode of Piers Morgan Tonight, CNN’s new post-Larry King interview flagship.  

The experience reminded me of another interview show I saw once. It was just past midnight in a Minneapolis hotel room, and a friend and I landed on the public-access television channel. The host of the show was an exuberant, portly man in his early 40s, who used a marker to draw thought-balloon diagrams on sheets of wrinkled looseleaf to explain his plans for a peaceful overthrow of American society, or something, it was really hard to follow.

Then he took calls from viewers. All of which turned out to be his friends.

“Shawna!” he squealed at his first caller. “How are you? I saw your cousin at the supermarket, did he tell you he saw me at the supermarket? Hey, you’re married to a strong black man. How is he doing? How are the kids? What do you want to say to all the sisters out there, who are also looking for a strong black man?”

It was a very strange show. 

But I am reminded of him tonight, because that guy would have been a better hire for CNN than Piers Morgan. He was a better interviewer. Actually, everyone’s a better interviewer than Piers Morgan. Rick Campanelli was a better interviewer on MuchMusic when he was still Rick The Temp. Bill O’Reilly is a better interviewer, even when he’s flaming sheer lunacy at some squishy liberal pincushion. Paris Hilton was a better interviewer on My New BFF. Perez Hilton is a better interviewer on  anywhere and all he does in interviews is squeal and act titillated.

Lest I’m not entirely clear here: Piers Morgan is the worst, the absolute worst, interviewer I have ever seen on television, heard on radio, or eavesdropped while out on an awkward first date. A computer program reading questions from MySpace surveys would have delivered a more insightful performance.

What baffles me most is that the Twitter advance for tonight’s show promised that Morgan would “grill”  Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the men who did not become accidental billionaires. That got my attention. ”Grilling” the Winklevoss twins implies a thumbing-of-the-nose at the current cultural narrative of the twins as ”gentlemen of Harvard” standing firm against the evil Zuck, and I like devil’s advocates. Count me in for a grillin’!

Sadly, I didn’t get one. See, I thought that a “grilling” meant tough questioning. What I didn’t know is that it actually means continually interrupting your subjects, posing disastrously leading and closed questions, putting belligerent words in their mouth, and spending most of the endgame sneering at the sources’ good looks, family connections, money and athletic prowess, then cutting off any rational discussion of their new lawsuit by asking ”how sorry should we feel” for “you poor boys” that they were so blessed. 

But don’t take my word for how awkward it was. See for yourself. 

I just don’t get it. Morgan’s approach wasn’t just bad, it was downright bizarre. What was he trying to accomplish with this interview? I sure hope it was “make self look like a puerile, clueless chump, and the Winklevoss twins like pillars of patience,” ’cause otherwise I got nothin’ to explain this trainwreck.

I did get one huge laugh out of this show, though, right as Morgan tossed from the Winklevoss brothers to his first commercial break.

Morgan: “Coming up next… I’m going to ask you if you’re on Facebook.”

(Awkward silence.)

Winklevoss twin: “… … Oh… kay…”

That may not be the exact wording, but it’s damn close and come on Piers. I realize you used to be a newspaperman but really, you’ve been on TV long enough to know that that was the least suspenseful teaser perhaps ever uttered on CNN. “Coming up: you won’t believe what this man has accomplished… with his beard trimmings” would be more likely to keep me glued to the channel.

The more worrisome part of that toss, though, was that the only reason he asked if they were on Facebook was so he could point out that by doing that, they’re “making Mark Zuckerberg richer.”

I just… I don’t even… whatever. This show is freaking awful.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but tonight I started to really miss Ol’ Nipplestraps.

Come back to us, o' great saviour.


This is a personal post, about personal things, and it’s very long. Most of you probably won’t be interested.  

I feel weird about making it, because everyone has kindly linked me from their very intelligent blogs about Winnipeg, and now people are going to come here thinking “perhaps here is another intelligent blog about Winnipeg,” and get only this very personal post that is only very tangentially about Winnipeg.

But it has to be made, now, so I am making it now, and then — I promise - I will be back to blogging about Winnipeg.

Continue reading »


Found taped to a gurney at the Victoria General Hospital, Winnipeg, Jan. 31 2011

I am home from the hospital, home and still giggling over the note found taped to a hospital bed above. In my mind, Winnipeg is a place of blunt practicalities, a place with little truck for euphemistic conversation; apparently it shares this with the health care industry.

I may have been far too optimistic about my ability to blog much in these, the early days of recovery. Even yesterday, after waking up from surgery bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with minimal pain, I figured I’d be bounding out of there in no time, reading for a relaxing recovery week at home and cranking up the posting on my blog, especially about all the media stuff I’ve been mulling.

Then came the overnight, a nine-hour stretch of swelling, bleeding, and pain that Tylenol 3s don’t seem to reach. Last night was a nightmare, despite the ministrations of the very kind VGH staff that tended to me as best they could while I just flat out wept.

I am now at home, and it’s a little come-and-go; a few good minutes, followed by 60 bad ones. If anyone reading this has had nose surgery, drop me a line, will ya? I’d be interested in hearing how your healing went. I think I was drastically unprepared for this part of recovery, and I really want to know when the worst will be over. “It’s different for everyone!”

I will say  this: besides the unexpectedly grotesque physical fallouts of surgery (my first surgery! At least, first that I can remember) it was overall a pleasant experience and a stirring reminder to me of just how much I generally appreciate our health-care system.  I feel lucky to be able to access this for a quality-of-life procedure that, I hope, will really change my life.


A moment now to say goodbye to a guy I haven’t seen in a long time, but nonetheless left a big impression: Chuck Green, owner of the Osborne Village Inn, died today. Lots of nice condolence messages on the Osborne Village Inn Facebook page, if you’re interested. And Dave Sanderson wrote a  nice story about Chuck  and the Zoo back in 2007 that we can fondly enjoy.

Chuck was one of those unforgettable figures that pepper the better novels of urban disarray: all sort of gruff and blustery on the surface, but actually all big-hearted and full of stories. The first time I ever met him, I was terrified: I would have been 18, and just broken into the music-writing scene. But my intimidation soon passed. The last nights of my teen life passed largely at the Zoo, and the Green brothers were far too kind to me. Always.

What saddens me, tonight, is that I have no specific memories to enjoy. Dim recollections, at best, but time moves fast and memories fade: I remember watching Chuck eat some prodigious amount of food during an interview at that divy little cafe in front of the hotel. He was worked up about something, but I don’t remember what I was talking to him about.* I remember him teasing me back in the days I used to hang around in the office, but I don’t remember why or what about. That’s about it.  

I haven’t seen Chuck in awhile; the end of my days writing about music loosely coincided with the end of my nights stationed at the Zoo, drinking in that delicious Zoo smell. But he was a good guy, and more than that — he was a Winnipeg character through and through, larger-than-life and full of stories only he could tell, with words only he would tell ‘em with.

He’ll be missed — and his passing reminds me that my rock’n'roll days, too, have maybe passed.

Though I do have a pretty killer collection of Betsey Johnson dresses…

* EDIT: I now remember what I was talking to him about. Something about the changing face of live music in Winnipeg, the struggle to pay bands fairly in an age of declining live-music attendance, and the precipitous decline of local rock’n'roll.

*EDIT 2: Since my Google indexing seems to work too well, and since hundreds of you have landed here while Googling for Chuck’s obit, here it is