Friday, February 25, 2005

Where reporter is a four-letter word

I used to be a reporter, so I've watched the stories coming out of Iraq with a professional interest.

Today, Radio Netherland has a good story about what it's like to be an independent reporter covering the war in Iraq.

It's shocking how many journalists have been killed covering that war. And few, if any of the killings are even being investigated. This is a story worth reading, if you want another view of the way you've been getting the news from Baghdad.

These brave journalists deserve our respect.

And in the same vein, here's one about how tough life in Iraq is for an independent journalist.

Finally, here's an interesting piece about the flap over some swear words in a PBS documentary that was supposed to run on US TV. It's not strictly about Iraq, but it ties in to what we've been talking about.

(Thanks to for these links.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Finding Neverland is a great movie

Last night, I finally saw Finding Neverland (watch the trailer), the latest Johnny Depp movie based on the life of J.M. Barrie and his play, Peter Pan.

It was fabulous. That's not a word I use lightly. But I loved every minue of it. The script is great, the acting is top notch, the cinematography is breathtaking and the performances of the children (especially the young Peter) are thrilling. My, how I gush! In fact, I get a lump in my throat just thinking about the movie again this morning.

Last night, I found I couldn't even talk about it as we left the theatre. I was still choked up.

So what was it I responded to so strongly in this charming, low-key, lovingly-crafted story?

I think it was that this movie was so un-Hollywood. It's a story about a young man, seemingly in a difficult relationship with his beautiful wife, who befriends a young widow with four young boys. They begin spending every afternoon together and it's obvious the man is falling in love with the boys and their mother.

It goes without saying that in most modern movies, the story would quickly raise the spectres of child molestation, inappropriate touching, perhaps adultery, debauchery, abuse. Those are themes that we run across in almost all of our popular culture. It is so prevalent that it's almost taken for granted.

But in Finding Neverland, we gradually realize that we are not going to go down that road. Barrie's love for the children is real and is not warped, or dirty. He thrills the boys with tales spun from his and their imagination. And those tales, and their shared adventures become the basis for his most brilliant creations -- Neverland, Peter Pan, Tinkerbelle, the Lost Boys. It's a fabulous story and it plays out before us in a beautiful blend of fact and fantasy.

There is a great line in the movie where Dustin Hoffman, the cynical but supportive producer who puts on Barrie's fanciful play, bemoans the state of the theatre (this is the 1920's). The critics taken the fun out of theatre, he tells Barrie. They've made it too serious and forgotten why it's called a "play."

Perhaps that's what's happening today. Hyper-realism, helped by computer graphics, gritty dialogue and modern technology, have given us a whole slew of movies that explore the dark side of the human condition. But we can have too much of that. Sure, we still have Shrek, and Shark Tale, which supposedly give us the "other" point of view. But all too often, people that make movies fall into the trap of thinking that real life should be depressing. And they're not necessarily wrong. But when I go to the movies, I like to be made to feel good, as well.

I guess I'm tired of always being told about how wretched things are. How even the things that feel good or make us happy are probably bad for someone else, or ruining our children's future. Maybe that's why Finding Neverland is my choice for Best Picture.

Monday, February 21, 2005

My how time flies

I can't believe how long it's been since I posted anything here. Time can sure get away on you when you get busy.

I've been going non-stop on a few jobs lately, designing web pages for some new clients. It's a lot of fun for me, and I'm learning lots of new skills. But it's time consuming and meeting various deadlines have kept me chained to the computer for a long time.

You'd think that since I'm sitting at the computer all day, it would be easy to post something, wouldn't you? Well...wouldn't you? I would. But I'd be wrong.

At any rate, this is to let you all know that I'm still in the business, despite the rather alarming front page on my website. But redesigning that site with some new business content is right there on my to-do list.

Today, I took the early commuter train into Toronto for a client meeting. I'd forgotten just how crazy the commuting life is! I can't say I miss that routine. The zombies on the train, snoozing and drooling all the way in at such a ludicrous hour, followed by the frantic rushing to get off the train and pile into Union Station. What a crazy way to spend so much of each day. Oh's a different view when you only see it occasionally.

I'd point you to the work I'm doing but it's not quite ready for prime time yet. But these sites will be part of my new client gallery on the new site. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I told you that physics could be cool...

My good friend Melanie has a post today about a very cool story in the Montreal Gazette about quantum physics.

"Not my cup of tea," I can hear you saying...but wait. The subjects of this story make it cool. And their work is going to have an impact on the Internet - maybe on everything we do.

So go ahead, take a look. And remember, this is the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's amazing achievements, so don't be surprised if more of these "physics" stories crop up from time to time.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Health's a black-and-white issue: Colour-blindness is killing minorities

Andre Picard has long been one of my favourite writers at the Globe and Mail. He's been covering the public health beat for a long time and he does an exceptional job. His analysis of health issues is often right on, from my point of view. Today, his column is about the growing gap between the health services that Black Americans receive compared to the white majority. Some of the evidence he cites is startling:
Steven Woolf, director of research in the department of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., calculated that between 1991 and 2000, a staggering 886,000 deaths could have been prevented had African Americans received the same care as whites.

But Dr. Woolf and his team didn't stop there. They calculated that technological improvements in medicine -- better drugs, new medical devices, improved surgical procedures -- averted 176,633 deaths in the general population during that same period.

What this means, practically speaking, is that five times as many lives could be saved by correcting the disparities in care between blacks and whites, than in developing fancy new treatments.

"The prudence of investing billions in the development of new drugs and technologies, while investing only a fraction of that amount in the correction of disparities, deserves reconsideration. It is an imbalance that may claim more lives than it saves," Dr. Woolf said.

Although Picard doesn't come right out and say it, there are obvious parallels to Canada. One can't help but wonder whether Canada's aboriginal population suffers similar inequities in this country, despite our supposed equal access to health care.

Picard's column notes that February is Black History Month, at least in the US. Let's hope that stories like this start to get the attention of our leaders, instead of things like the hockey lock-out or the debate over same-sex marriage. There are real, life and death issues in this world that are crying out for some serious attention.

Fake journalist sets off a blog firestorm

Not long ago, President Bush held one of his rare news conferences. One of the reporters he singled out to ask a question has been exposed as a "fake." This is an interesting story, and looks at a lot of stuff about journalism, the White House and the blogosphere. Read what Tim Karr of says about the issue. Tim's blog also contains lots of links to other stories about this.

This is an interesting story for journalist-types and PR people. Of course, it's also just a great bit of sleuthing...with a real slimy side coming up as well. Did people go too far in "outing" this guy? Comments?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Grab Bag of Stuff

First, if you sometimes come here from my website you'll notice that things are kind of quiet over there. I hadn't checked it lately, but when I looked today, I discovered that someone had been tampering with some of the pages. Not sure exactly what's going on, but I've put things on hold for awhile. I've been planning to redesign it anyway, so this seems like a good time to do that. I should have it back up in a few days.

Second -- Even though it's warming up around here, this has still been a winter with lots of snow. So in the "If you can't beat them, join them," spirit, I offer you a website about snowflakes! That's right...everything you ever wanted to know, and a whole lot you've probably never even thought about before.

Third -- I've been thinking about cell phone etiquette lately. The other day, I suffered through an entire bus ride into Toronto with a woman divulging emarassingly explicit details of her personal and professional life to an entire bus full of passengers. And the wierd thing is none of us did anything. When someone is talking so loudly, for so long, you'd think that someone would say something, wouldn't you? And yet...nothing. It's not the first time I've noticed that either. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that it might be us needing to talk (loudly) on the phone the next time...

But today, riding on a city bus downtown, I was surprised to look around me at the many students who were chatting away on their phones. But I couldn't hear any of them. They were all speaking into the things, but in voices that didn't carry. Yet none of them seemed to be having any trouble with their conversations. I wonder if it's another example of "native" vs "immigrant" technology users. That's a term that's been coined to describe kids who have grown up with high tech, as opposed to those of us who have discovered it as adults. It's often applied to things like Instant Messaging, SMS on cell phones, etc. Not sure what I think of it (there's a lot of dissenting opinions on the subject) but it's an interesting notion.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

How Apple will take over the World

OK, I admit it. I like conspiracy theories. I love the way that some people can take just enough fact, and start weaving together their own speculation with "what if?" scenarios, to come up with a really plausible theory.

The computer/Web world is full of these theories. Part of it comes from the phenomenal success (and subsequent jealousy/envy/admiration) of people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. And a lot of it is because so many incredibly bright and talented people are working in that world every day.

One of my favourite writers about the technology world is Robert X. Cringely, who writes a weekly column that I never miss. I've written about him before at least once. Probably more.

His latest column talks about the Mac Mini one of Apple's latest offerings. But what makes this latest column really fun is the stuff that some of his readers offer, about how Steve Jobs is going to take over the world.

Read it yourself here.

And remember -- it could be true...