Friday, February 27, 2009

I Gotcher Cancon Right Here

I came across a very well written article in the Globe and Mail today. Not only is it enjoyable to read but it espouses some viewpoints very close to my own. I have often said that when I am king, the CRTC people will be the first against the wall.

According to their website, the CRTC's job is "regulating and supervising the broadcasting and telecommunications systems in Canada." This means that my cell phone bill is $50 a month because I have cut my usage to almost nothing; it used to be in the $100 range (and somehow Rogers lost money last quarter). It also means that when I listen to the radio, which is a rare occurence these days, I have to listen to at least some certain percentage of Canadian music, good or bad.

I can understand the want to maintain some kind of a Canadian culture, but I don't think that forcing it down peoples' throats is the right way to go about it. People, instead of being forced to consume Canadian culture, should want to consume Canadian culture. And there's lots of Canadian culture out there to want to consume. Watch Bon Cop, Bad Cop for a shining example.

The way to get good content is not to micromanage the cultural climate, but rather to foster creativity and a spirit of wanting to do something great. If I want to produce a Canadian television show and I know it's going to get played because of Canadian content rules, how much effort am I going to put into making it awesome? Probably not nearly as much as if I'm told: "here is enough money for a short production run. If you make something popular, there will be a lot more money." But maybe that's just me.

I disagree with the Globe and Mail article on one point:
The free-for-all of the Internet has not led to an abundance of high-quality free video content; it has instead yielded pockets of brilliance in a sea of YouTube pet videos.
This implies that all CRTC funding ever has produced excellence, that the CRTC has some magical ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. I disagree. At the same time as there is a lot of Canadian content which I love to watch, there is a lot of crap out there. Like, a lot.

And that's the great thing about the internet. With tools like facebook, digg and myriad bloggers and micro-bloggers, if you put something truly great on the internet, it will get out there. People will watch it. If it's awesome, they will come. And so, with the unregulated internet, we get the best of both worlds: anyone can produce content and nobody will force you to watch it if it sucks.

And if my internet bill has a "Canadian Content Levy" line-item on it next month, I'm moving to Norway.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Poor Judgement

Apparently photos recently surfaced of Olympic hero Michael Phelps smoking pot. In light of this, Kellogg has decided to stop sponsoring him. That's right, Kellogg, the people who make cereal.

One article I read called this "poor judgement" on Phelps' part, but I think it was poor judgement on Kellogg's part. I mean, seriously, could you alienate a more lucrative market segment than potheads when your main product is cereal? And let's not forget university students who aren't necessarily potheads but probably sympathize with potheads and who, for various reason concerning extremely limited supplies of money and time, eat cereal for several meals a day sometimes.

A spokesperson for the company said that Phelps' behaviour was "not consistent with the image of Kellogg." Well, I guess when your humble beginnings are rooted in stuffing corn up peoples' bungholes to keep them from wanting sex, someone actually enjoying themselves after achieving something tremendous is probably not consistent with your image.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some General Mills made Cheerios to eat.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bye, American

Can anybody explain to me why we need to create jobs*? It seems to me that there's enough stuff that needs doing to keep everyone busy and that's before you factor in (now fanciful but once standard) things like "everyone gets a new car ever 2 years."

The United States has started their protectionist sabre rattling. The US began yesterday debating a nearly $900b "stimulus" package which includes a Buy American clause. This has obviously got Canada, whose largest trading partner, the news is fond of reminding us, is the United States. So,what is Canada's response to this Buy American clause which is being taken as tantamount to a declaration of war? Why, in true Canadian fashion, it's a strongly worded letter, of course.

My favourite part of the letter is "If Buy American becomes part of the stimulus legislation, the United States will lose the moral authority to pressure others not to introduce protectionist policies." That's right, US, this is for your own good.

Since when does a 500 lb gorilla need moral authority? I think the US has shown time and again that if they want other countries to do something, they tell them to do it. And should the people of that country disagree with the US, they will suddnely find themselves unable to trade or or the hosts of the US military. I'm not going to weigh in on how many of those sanctions and invasions I think were or weren't justified: that is clearly a matter of personal taste.

The important thing is that the Canadian Ambassador's letter to the US Senate leaders is hogwash. It is not the product of a well-reasoned point-of-view about the wellbeing of the citizens of the Ambassador's motherland, but rather the product of prodding by politicians at home which is in turn the product of wanting to be seen to be doing something. Because really, isn't that what government is for?

Ultimately, I think that any sort of stimulus package is a bad idea. It has little chance of achieving any sort of lasting happiness or prosperity and it is all but guaranteed to prolong this balance sheet recession in which we now find ourselves.

Want to create jobs in Canada? How about joining a local community support agriculture program and pushing for sustainble farming practices? L and I are currently considering Plan B Organics, which some friends have belonged to for almost a year. And remember, it's good for the environment, the food is better for you and sustainable agriculture is labour intensive so it creates jobs.

* I am well aware of the arguments for creating jobs, but I believe they are predicated on an outdated system which is a lot like feudalism but the landowners are now the bankers with bigger brains, armed with confusing economics instead of the lords with bigger muscles, armed with swords.