By Carolyn Thompson, The Associated Press - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 0 Comments
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The latest in a string of lawyers who have represented a…
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The latest in a string of lawyers who have represented a man in a multibillion lawsuit against Facebook is expected to ask a federal judge Tuesday for permission to withdraw from the case.
Ohio attorney Dean Boland filed the request last month, a few days after his client, Paul Ceglia, was arrested on criminal charges accusing him of doctoring and destroying evidence to support his civil suit.
Ceglia has pleaded not guilty.
The request also comes as a motion by Facebook seeking to have Ceglia’s lawsuit thrown out is pending.
Boland has not publicly said why he wants to withdraw, only that it has nothing to do with any belief that Ceglia engaged in fraud. He submitted his detailed reasons privately to the judge.
Attorneys for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook have asked the judge to make the reasons public, or at least disclose the reasons to them. Facebook won’t oppose Boland’s motion as long as it does not delay the case, the attorneys said in court filings.
At least a half dozen lawyers and firms have withdrawn as Ceglia’s attorney before Boland. Their reasons have not been publicly disclosed.
Tuesday’s hearing is expected to be conducted by telephone. Facebook’s attorneys from the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher are based in New York City, while Boland’s office is in Lakewood, Ohio. Ceglia also is represented by attorney Paul Argentieri of Hornell.
Ceglia’s 2010 lawsuit claims that he and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 signed a software development contract that included a provision entitling Ceglia to half-ownership of Facebook in exchange for $1,000 in startup money for Zuckerberg’s then-fledgling idea.
Zuckerberg counters the document he signed had only to do with a street-mapping database called Streetfax that Ceglia had hired Zuckerberg, then a Harvard University student, to help develop.
Earlier this year, attorneys for Facebook and Zuckerberg filed a motion to have Ceglia’s lawsuit dismissed, asserting that Ceglia had forged documents, fabricated emails and destroyed evidence. They also said he had waited too long — six years — to bring his claim and the statute of limitations had expired.
© The Canadian Press, 2012
By Jesse Brown - Monday, November 26, 2012 at 3:28 PM - 0 Comments
In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare myself Mayor of Toronto.
As a result of the Bourne Convention (my unsolicited screenplay), I hereby attach my copyright to all of my personal details. You know how I freak out over scary chain letters and jump on every ill-informed social media cause? Remember Kony 2012? Or when I posted that Oprah died? That’s a personal detail, and I own it. Shut up.
For commercial use of my photos, etchings, relationship status and Farmville score, my written consent is needed at all times.
The content of this profile is private and confidential information. That’s why I put it on Facebook—for privacy.
Facebook is now an open capital entity. It used to be a private entity, which was better for me I don’t know how. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing Facebook to commercialize your information. You may have explicitly allowed Facebook to commercialize your information when you joined Facebook, but that was a really long form so I don’t know.
Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. I know that I just prohibited you from copying me, but whatever, work it out guys.
Posting this notice to your Facebook Wall will place you under protection of copyright laws. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.
Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown
By Julia Belluz - Friday, November 9, 2012 at 3:05 PM - 0 Comments
This is the second part of a series of articles adapted from the 2012 Hancock Lecture, “Who Live and Who Dies, Will Social Media Decide?” recently delivered at the University of Toronto by Julia Belluz. This installment looks at the use of social media for health campaigning about organ donation. Read parts Read parts one, three and four.
Anyone who opened a newspaper or turned on the television some time in the last eight months has probably heard of Hélène Campbell. She’s the 20-year-old Ottawa native who was admitted to hospital last July with collapsed lungs. The doctors said it was pulmonary fibrosis, which scars and thickens the lungs to the point of incapacity, death. Her only option: a double-lung transplant.
In January, Campbell was placed on the donor list. In the past, the story probably would have ended there. The would-be donor recipient would wait quietly for her call. But in January, Campbell turned to social media. She started a blog to document her journey and raise funds for the move to Toronto that was necessary as she awaited lungs.
Out of that initiative sprang a third goal: to raise awareness about the need for organ donors. She tweeted to the pop star Justin Bieber. He, in turn, shared her story to his 29 million Twitter followers. This absolutely silly, spontaneous interaction gave Campbell a global audience.
By Emma Teitel - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Amanda Todd didn’t do anything online that most others of her generation haven’t done. That’s what’s so disturbing.
The Canadian public is mourning the loss of Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old teenager from Port Coquitlam, B.C., whose social-media tormentors dared her to take her own life, and rejoiced in cyberspace when she eventually did. Todd died last Wednesday, one month after she posted a heartbreaking eight-minute YouTube confessional about the events that drove her into a severe depression. Over 100 Facebook walls have been erected in Todd’s memory since her death, and some anti-bullying activists have called for Pink Shirt Day, a national anti-bullying initiative, to honour Todd’s memory. NDP MP Dany Morin introduced a motion in the House of Commons that proposes increased funding for anti-bullying organizations as well as an in-depth study of bullying in Canada.
This is all great news. It confirms we’re a well-meaning country: we take care of our own—albeit too late in this case. But it also confirms that Amanda Todd is now an official martyr of the anti-bullying movement, a movement bent on proving that bullying is a social construct, and that perhaps if we all love each other a little more and hug each other a little longer, it will one day disappear.
I’m of the belief that bullying will always exist because so will bullying’s parents—discord and cruelty. But I’m equally uncomfortable with the increasingly common assertion that bullying is a rite of passage; that kids will be kids, and bullies will be bullies. After all, just because something exists, doesn’t mean that we can’t limit its presence. The question is, how do we go about doing that? Unlike Mark Steyn—and anyone else with a crippling fear of political correctness—I don’t think Pink Shirt Day is a scourge, but I do think it’s largely ineffective. Why? Because nobody can see your anti-bullying T-shirt on the Internet, where Amanda Todd was arguably bullied to death.
I came of age on the Internet. Like 43 per cent of kids today, I was a victim of cyberbullying—though I didn’t really think of it as such because the term hadn’t been invented yet. I was also, undoubtedly, a cyberbully. My parents—God bless them—had no idea what I was doing on MSN Messenger and ICQ (precursors to Facebook and Formspring, today’s most popular cyberbullying destinations). When I was eleven, I saw middle-aged men masturbating on webcam. I saw a video of two raccoons mauling each other to death. I saw two boys from my homeroom class strip for me in an online chat room. And I returned the favour. In fact, this was a weekly afternoon ritual for my girlfriends and me. While mom and dad were upstairs watching Frasier, we would be in the basement “exploring” the Internet. Sure, our parents checked in every once in a while (the sound of their footsteps leaving us more than enough time to close the page and delete the history) but it was when we went out, to the movies or a party, that they checked in with greater frequency and angst. “When will you be home?” they’d ask again and again, when what they probably should have been asking was, “Why do you clear the browser history every time you use the computer?” Or “What exactly are you doing down there in the basement?”
The public consensus about Amanda Todd is that she made a mistake by exposing her breasts on the Internet. What isn’t being said, however, and what should be said, is that Todd’s mistake is an extremely common one; one I made several times at her age—and one for which I am extremely lucky to have never paid the price.
And I’m not unique. A recent study by Plymouth University found that 80 per cent of respondents aged 16-24 “used a smartphone or the web for sexual purposes.” In an investigative piece for the Telegraph in July called Let’s Talk about (teen) sex, journalist Clover Stroud writes that half the teenagers she interviewed had “some experience with cybersex.” One subject, an 18-year-old girl named Amber, illustrates this point perfectly. “When we were younger,” she tells Stroud, “we quite often used chatrooms or MSN to flirt with guys. Occasionally this went a bit further, with people taking their tops off on a webcam, for example.” What’s more interesting, however, is what she says next. ‘I think this kind of stuff, like cybersex, happens more as a young teen, between 13 and 15,” she says. “I’d be surprised if this was something my [18-year-old] friends were doing.” Webcam voyeurism, then, is the ‘truth or dare’ of my generation—and, I suspect, will be for every wired generation to come. And the cyberbullying that often accompanies it is this generation’s version of the schoolyard vendetta, only magnified by the breadth of the cyberworld and protected by its anonymity. A recent comprehensive study determined that one out of every five adolescents has at some point cyberbullied someone else. Yet parents are usually shocked to hear that their own kids are preying on the weakest, piling on the vulnerable.
A lot has changed since I was a teenager on the Internet. Photography and photo-sharing is now completely ubiquitous (today’s teens need only look at their own parents’ online behaviour for proof). Yet one thing remains the same: despite Internet parental controls, and increased awareness, most parents still do not monitor their kids as closely online as they do offline. If they did, cyberbullying would not be so endemic.
A recent study by Consumer Reports found that 7.5 million children with Facebook accounts were younger than 13, and that the vast majority of those accounts were unsupervised by the users’ parents. Another study found that 87 per cent of kids surf the Internet without parental rules.
What happened to Amanda Todd was a tragedy that should never happen to another young person again. But the solution to cyberbullying and lewd photo-sharing isn’t outreach. It’s supervision. Where are the parents when these kids are sitting upstairs in their own bedrooms posing topless? Or posting hateful messages on the Facebook page of a girl who was bullied to death? There is nothing at all old-fashioned about parents monitoring their kids. After all, Todd’s biggest bully wasn’t really a bully at all, but an extortionist she didn’t even know. Parents need to understand that for the first time in history, their kids are more likely to get into trouble in the presumed safety of their own homes than they are in the outside world.
By Michael Friscolanti - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 9:51 AM - 0 Comments
Can B.C. teen’s tragic story help foster needed change?
In the opening moments of the video, Amanda Todd flashes a brief smile. Fifteen years old, her hair long and curly, she is holding a white piece of paper in front of the camera. “Hello!” it says, in black marker. (The bottom of the exclamation mark is shaped like a heart.) Without saying a word, she flips to the next page in her pile. “I’ve decided to tell you about my never-ending story,” it reads. Again, Amanda Todd smiles.
What transpires over the next eight minutes is utterly heartbreaking. At last count, more than five million YouTube users have watched it unfold.
Using only her printed words, the B.C. teenager recounts the despair and isolation of her adolescence—how a brief encounter with a cyberpredator triggered relentless bullying that followed her from city to city, school to school. “In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam,” she wrote. “Then got called stunning, beautiful, perfect, etc.” A stranger on the other end asked her to lift up her shirt. “So I did.”
A year later, the man tracked her down on Facebook and threatened to share the footage unless she “put on a show” for him. When Todd refused, she received a knock on her door. “It was the police,” she wrote. “My photo was sent to everyone.” Devastated, she turned to drugs and alcohol. Her friends abandoned her. Later, when she transferred to a different school, the man found her again and shared the pictures with her new classmates. “I can never get that photo back,” she wrote on one of her flashcards. “It’s out there forever.”
Shunned and ridiculed, she ate lunch alone. She enrolled in yet another school—and another. But the bullying and the beatings did not stop. Todd drank bleach, hoping to die. When that didn’t work, she tried to overdose on pills. “Every day I think why am I still here,” she wrote. “I have nobody. I need someone.”
Seven weeks after ﬁlming that video, Amanda Todd was found dead. After so many attempts, she had finally managed to kill herself.
Her death has generated headlines around the world, triggering the inevitable rhetoric about anti-bullying strategies and the need for tougher legislation to crack down on seedy Internet predators. Christy Clark, the premier of British Columbia, posted her own video, full of pronouncements about how “bullying has to stop” and “everyone needs to feel safe at school.” But it appears that everyone—from school officials to police to Todd’s own parents—knew exactly what was happening. And that’s what makes this story so tragic: nobody can say they are shocked by the outcome.
Repeatedly, Todd told her own mother that she wanted to die. “We talked about how it would make her family and friends feel worse for a long, long time. She understood that,” said Carol Todd, speaking to a Vancouver radio station. “But with mental health—something didn’t click . . . She was really sad and she didn’t like how she felt. It overwhelmed her.”
There is hope, of course, that Todd’s story can somehow make a difference. Maybe the next bully will think twice. Maybe the next victim will find strength in her plight. Strangers across the country have already organized impromptu memorials for a girl they never met, and dozens of Facebook pages have been launched in her honour. “She was very courageous and I really love that she made that video,” said her father, Norm. “She told me why she made it: she wanted to send a message out so that it wouldn’t happen to someone else, so no one would have to go through what she went through . . . No matter how many haters there are out there, they can’t hurt her now and her message can keep going strong.”
Sadly, there are still haters out there. Even in death, Todd remains a target. One Facebook user uploaded a doctored photo that made her look like a zombie holding a bleach bottle. “I hope they sell Clorox in Hell,” the poster wrote. Another said Todd probably killed herself because “she was lazy.”
The RCMP is investigating—not only the mystery man behind the web cam, but the online commenters who have been trashing her memory. “We’ve got upwards of 20 to 25 full-time investigators that are working on this to try to gain enough information and enough evidence to potentially lay charges,” said one Mountie. (Police have also set up an email address for tipsters: email@example.com.
One tip was quickly deemed a priority: Anonymous, the infamous online “hacktivists,” independently posted the name, address and email of the man they say tried to blackmail Todd with her topless photos. They identified the culprit as a 32-year-old New Westminster, B.C., man who—in yet another twist—was recently arrested on unrelated charges of sexual assault and sexual interference of a minor. (Anonymous, it turned out, was completely wrong. The man they fingered had indeed corresponded with Todd online, but he had no involvement in the photos that made her a target—or the bullying those pictures triggered.)
If police do eventually track down the real culprit, it will be too late for Amanda Todd. Even if she was still alive, an arrest may not have prevented her suicide. As she wrote on one of those pages in her video: “What’s left of me now? Nothing stops.”
By Tamsin McMahon - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 10:54 AM - 0 Comments
As the social media site once again tries to grow its revenue, a familiar fear returns
Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement last week that the company he founded in a Harvard dorm room had surpassed one billion users should have been good news to investors, given that Facebook’s value lies in the sheer size of its database of subscribers. But while they heralded the news with a bump in the company’s share price—to $22—investors are still holding it well below its $38 initial public offering (IPO).
Their concern is the inherent contradiction in Facebook’s business model: the bigger the company’s user base, the harder it becomes to harness all that personal data for profit. Since its bungled IPO in May, Facebook has been under intense pressure to monetize its massive social network by selling demographic information to advertisers while somehow still keeping everyone’s name, email address and baby pictures private.
It is walking an ever-thinner line. Last month, it announced it would allow advertisers to match their databases of customers’ email addresses and phone numbers to users’ Facebook accounts to target ad campaigns. Contact information would be partially obscured, Facebook said, so that only computer algorithms, not human eyes, would see it. In August, it revealed it was partnering with retail data collector Datalogix to examine the in-store shopping habits of Facebook users, again promising not to disclose the names of actual users.
None of this has gone over well with privacy advocates. The U.S. Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over the Datalogix partnership. Bloggers complained after Facebook confirmed it scanned users’ messages for mentions of the websites of its advertisers so it could increase the “Like” count of the advertiser’s Facebook page.
Facebook’s ethical and business dilemma, however, didn’t seem to phase Chief Operating Operator Sheryl Sandberg when she declared at last week’s Advertising Week forum: “We don’t make more money when you share more and we do not give your information to marketers.” As Facebook continues to look for ways to grow its $3.7-billion revenue, convincing people of that may be its biggest challenge.
By Scaachi Koul - Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 3:42 PM - 0 Comments
The Facebook glitch that got users in a panic earlier this week was no…
The Facebook glitch that got users in a panic earlier this week was no glitch. The supposed “bug” caught the attention of world wide media—including here at Maclean’s—after allegations spread that users’ private messages were showing up on their very public Timeline, going back as far as 2007. Facebook maintained that the system was working fine and users were mistaking public wall posts for private conversations.
An investigation by France’s privacy regulator confirmed that this was, in fact, the case.
By Jesse Brown - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
Either Facebook has screwed up bad, or the world is experiencing a paranoid delusion, en masse.
Metro France broke the story (first time I’ve said that) earlier today. It seems that private messages from users’ Facebook archives have popped up on their public timelines! Metro says they confirmed that the glitch has exposed user to user mail from 2007-2009 on some smattering of accounts. As word of this breach went viral on Twitter, Facebook users worldwide raced to their screens to see if they were affected, and new reports of compromised accounts began popping up in country after country.
Except that it may have never happened. Facebook has announced that after investigating the matter, they are satisfied that nothing happened at all. Afflicted users say this is impossible, and point to revealing public messages containing phone numbers and addresses as proof.
Here’s a likely scenario: someone was navel-gazing into their digital past and was shocked to see something on public display that they were absolutely certain was a private message. Except that it wasn’t.
Once this patient-zero user yelled “fire!” on a crowded Internet, thousands scoured their own Timeline in a paranoid tizzy, and surprise! A handful of users also discovered public posts they could swear were originally private. I checked my own timeline when I heard about the “leak,” and though I found things online from 2008 that I wish I had never made public, the fact is I kinda know that I did.
That’s my best guess: we exposed ourselves, we forgot about it, we saw it years later and are now blaming Facebook. Perhaps a real glitch will be revealed, at which point I will eat these words. But at this early moment, I’m thinking that nothing was exposed here except how little we trust Facebook, and how little we understand the extent to which we compromise ourselves on it every day.
Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown
By Scaachi Koul - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 2:23 PM - 0 Comments
The glitch reveals private messages on Timeline
Just one more security glitch for Facebook.
If you have any secrets you shared on Facebook in the past five years, you might have something to worry about. Reports suggest that private messages have just recently become available to the public—if you know where to look.
From 2007 to 2012, some private Facebook messages are now viewable on Timeline. They’re grouped alongside public wall messages, leading many users to believe they were just old comments.
Users now have to go to each year separately on Timeline, and hide the messages from public view. If your friends don’t hide them, though, they’re still publicly available.
Facebook is denying the breach of privacy. It says users are confusing public wall posts with private messages. This is in direct contradiction with users who claim to be finding their private messages on Timeline.
For now, many Facebook users are opting to simply deactivate their accounts until the website restores their privacy. You can hide your Timeline posts entirely by clicking on Privacy Settings, then on Timeline and Tagging. You can change settings to restrict who can view your posts, and who can post to your Timeline.
By Julia Belluz - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 5:02 PM - 0 Comments
Just when you thought Facebook couldn’t become any more omnipotent: In May, the social networking giant announced it would allow users to declare their organ donor status on their profiles and link to donor registries in the hopes
of becoming “a big part of helping solve the crisis out there,” as CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it then.
At the time, Science-ish mused about the role the social network could play in getting more people to donate. Today the tool launches in Canada, Mexico, Norway and Belgium—that’s 18 countries in total—and we actually have some preliminary data on the “Facebook effect.”
According to David Fleming
, CEO of Donate Life America, the initial response after Zuckerberg’s announcement “dwarf[ed] any past organ donation initiative.” In California, for example, 70 people each day usually register online as organ donors, while in the 24 hours following the Facebook announcement, 3,900 Californians did the same. But, according to a new report from the U.S., “the dramatic increase in registered organ donors was quickly followed by a dramatic decline. Within two weeks, the rate of registration of new organ donors returned to previous levels.”
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 7:10 PM - 0 Comments
Business schools are rethinking what and how they teach their students
Peter Thiel’s career is the stuff of business legend. He co-founded PayPal and was the first outside investor in Facebook, paying future CEO Mark Zuckerberg $500,000 for 10 per cent of the company back in 2004. When the social networking giant held its IPO earlier this year, Thiel took home $640 million after selling off part of his stake. Since then, Facebook shares have lost half their value, but Thiel still managed to recently pocket $400 million after a regulatory lock-up agreement for insiders expired. In other words, while just about everyone else lost money on Facebook shares, Thiel made out like a bandit. It pays to get in first.
Thiel’s extraordinary vision and willingness to go against the grain—he also bet against the U.S. housing market prior to 2008—are qualities many business school students no doubt hope to emulate. However, they may be disheartened to learn Thiel isn’t a big fan of M.B.A.s, or any post-secondary education, for that matter. Ever the contrarian, he argues we’re now in the midst of an “education bubble.” Students, he says, are throwing away their money on university when they could be using the cash to start new companies and develop new technologies. His controversial 20 Under 20 program in the U.S. pays 20 university students $100,000 each to drop out of school and focus on building the next Apple or Google. “Rather than just studying, you’re doing,” the Thiel Fellowship’s website tantalizingly promises.
Some incensed academics have pointed out that Thiel himself holds two degrees, in philosophy and law from Stanford University, and he taught a class there last spring. Plus, not everyone can expect to become the next Steve Jobs. But others say he has a point. “Business schools are way overdue for a wake-up call,” says Mihnea Moldoveanu, the associate dean for the M.B.A. program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management—one of several Canadian schools that’s rethinking the traditional M.B.A. approach. “And for reasons that go way beyond what Thiel talks about.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 8:50 PM - 0 Comments
Tech giants are builiding off-campus data centres for storage
From above, the warehouses look as nondescript as a Costco. But inside they house the backbones of some of today’s biggest, most important companies. As online services like cloud computing grow, and people move to store more of their lives online, the push is on to build ever more efficient and secure data centres. Firms like Facebook, Google and Apple have spurred a mini-building boom in server farms for the computers that keep their services humming.
In Prineville, Ore., Facebook recently built a 330,000 sq.-foot data centre. It uses outside air to keep computers from overheating (most centres use pricey air conditioning to regulate temperature). Next door is a smaller, 62,000 sq.-foot building dubbed “Sub-Zero.” It will house a new type of backup storage system that powers down when not in use, further cutting electricity consumption. Facebook is surprisingly transparent about its centre’s features. Many rival operations boast security guards and iris scanners, and their precise locations are kept secret. Recently, aerial shots of Apple’s new 500,000 sq.-foot facility in Maiden, N.C., were released by Wired. Apple is also building a 21,000 sq.-foot “tactical data centre” on the same lot. Some speculate it could be a biofuel cell plant to power the centre. Apple is also said to be building another new data centre in Reno, Nev.
Data centres tend to be built in Oregon, North Carolina and Virginia due to the cheap, plentiful electricity and generous tax incentives. In turn, the centres have sparked a mini-employment boom in local communities. Facebook reportedly spends $3.5 million in payroll for its data-farm employees.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
As a follow-up on yesterday’s discussion—see here, here and here—of the F-35, what the Harper government once said about its procurement, Chris Alexander’s understanding of the public’s “misunderstanding” and what the Harper government now says about the procurement, here is more of the exchange between Chris Alexander and one of his Facebook friends that occurred yesterday.
Friend. It seems to me that Wherry is addressing the history of the F35 procurement process and communications strategy, not its current iteration as represented by the seven point policy. In this sense, the quotes ARE relevant if we are to properly evaluate your claim that the public somehow “misunderstood” the government’s intentions before April and the AG’s report. Based on the public record of high-level officials, it’s simply incorrect to suggest that the public misunderstood the government’s stated intentions before the release of the Auditor General’s report. Whether the public clearly understands the government’s intentions TODAY, and whether or not the government is communicating them with comparable levels of clarity and directness is another story entirely. In this case, I don’t think it’s fair to malign Macleans and Wherry for providing empirical context to a controversial claim about historical process.
Alexander. No, he’s not: he citing very selective quotes from 2010 and 2011 to imply that we have, in fact, signed, sealed and delivered a contract for new planes. This is entirely false. It is hardly fair to claim you are reporting on government policy (about which I was apparently “confused”) without anywhere citing the principal and most recent statement of that policy.
Friend. Thanks for engaging me thoughtfully on this issue. I understand that no contract has been signed, but I would respectfully argue that this isn’t the question at hand. The quote by you to which Wherry responds directly addresses the public’s historical perception of the process, not the contemporary one. Doesn’t it seem fair to question the reliability of current policy statements by contrasting them with those of the recent past? Should we have simply doubted the statements of the Prime Minister, Mr. Fantino, Mr. MacKay, as well as the official Press Releases when they were being made throughout 2010 and 2011? If they weren’t accurate then, how are we to judge the reliability of similar statements today? Surely you can see how this is problematic. Consistency is a requirement of credibility. Surely there must be accountability where consistency is absent? Is a 7-point policy plan so totalizing as to erase the recent past, rendering it irrelevant and beyond scrutiny?
Of course there is also a relationship between historical perception, and contemporary perception, and the statements on which they are based. It is precisely for this reason that Wherry contests your assertion that the public was “misunderstood” during 2010-2011. In fact, the government made itself perfectly clear. I understand the reason that the government now wishes to take control of the narrative by re-writing this history as one of “misunderstanding.” Such a revision will eliminate the contradiction between historical statements and contemporary policy, and shield the government from the embarrassment of having called an election to avoid disclosing cost estimates, only to have their hand forced by the AG after the fact. However, again with all due respect, such a revision is simply inaccurate.
John Geddes provides more context here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 4:44 PM - 0 Comments
Another Facebook post from the parliamentary secretary.
Aaron, your latest post is better — much better. But unlike the initial item, it can’t be independently shared on Facebook. Shame, as this tends to perpetuate the confusion. But we are agreed, right? No contract yet for new fighters to replace the CF-18s. Right?
There currently seems to be some technical problem with sharing this post on Facebook. I assume it will resolve itself eventually.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 3:26 PM - 0 Comments
The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of National Defence has posted a link to this blog post on Facebook with the following note (which I can see because Mr. Alexander just added me as a “friend” on Facebook).
Check out this remarkably skewed blog from Aaron Wherry, which does not even mention the government’s new seven-point policy on fighter jets, released on April 3 and heavily discussed inside and outside ever since. Where has he been? Should we not expect better from Maclean’s?
One of Mr. Alexander’s Facebook friends added a note seeking clarification.
Chris, could you clarify how this is skewed? With all due respect… all that Wherry has done here is contrast the Government’s attempt to revise history with their own quotes on the record going back as far as early 2010. Senior government officials repeatedly made it clear in high-profile public statements that a decision HAD been made — to suggest that the public “misunderstood” as you did is simply incorrect. The public understood perfectly. You can change your communications strategy, but you cannot re-write history.
Mr. Alexander then responded as follows.
“Inside and outside parliament” is what I meant to write above. Really though, since when do year-old quotes on an issue have more weight than a seven-point plan issued in April of this year that has been repeatedly supported by the government in Question Period, in Committee of the Whole and in dozens of interviews since then. Does Aaron Wherry simply not remember Chapter 2 of the Auditor General’s report, and the government response to it?
Aladdin, he has reported on an issue in August 2012 using quotes from 2011 and 2010 when in fact the plan that represents government policy was announced on April 3 of this year. That will be deeply confusing for his readers….
I do appreciate Mr. Alexander’s concern for my readers.
If any of you find yourselves deeply confused, allow me to explain. In the previous blog post, I was merely comparing Mr. Alexander’s comments about there having been a “misunderstanding … in the Canadian public opinion” so far as a decision, contract or obligation to purchase the F-35 is concerned with what some of Mr. Alexander’s colleagues said previously about a decision, contract or obligation to purchase the F-35.
In responding to the auditor general’s concerns, the government announced a new plan to guide the procurement of new fighter jets. The debate around the F-35 has been covered fairly extensively in this space (see here). This particular matter of tone and wording has been previously covered here, here and here.
By Scaachi Koul - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 10:54 AM - 0 Comments
What investors feared has happened: Facebook insiders have been dumping their shares of the…
What investors feared has happened: Facebook insiders have been dumping their shares of the company, dramatically increasing the volume of stocks traded and driving down prices for all shareholders.
That’s what Facebook director and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel just did last week, cashing out most of his stake in the company, a whopping $400-million worth of shares, according to regulatory fillings.
He did so right after the end of the first so-called lockup, which barred company insiders and early investors from trading Facebook shares for a given period after the initial public offering. Thiel sold his shares on Thursday and Friday at prices ranging between $19.27 and $20.69 per share. That was down nearly 50 per cent from the stocks’ offering price of $38 a share in May.
And with four more lockups, worth another 1.64 billion shares, set to expire in October, November, December and next May, Facebook’s stock price is likely to continue to tank.
By macleans.ca - Friday, August 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
In 2005, Losse became the 51st employee at Facebook and felt like the “token” female surrounded by “Harvard computer bros.” She was a failed literature grad student who stumbled into a job moderating hate and creep speech for the fledgling site. She eventually became the virtual mouthpiece for the “little emperor” himself, CEO Mark Zuckerberg. As the company boomed, her doubts about its mission grew, but so did her paycheque. After five years, she cashed out and now offers a humanist mea culpa for her complicity in world conquest by engineers.
It is perhaps unsurprising that a company founded by young men and overwhelmingly populated by male engineers boasted an “unrepentantly boyish company culture.” She recalls office playgrounds filled with tactless man-boys playing with expensive toys and sending her obnoxious instant messages; they had nothing but disdain for non-technical staff who made a fraction of their salaries. Losse resented the fraternity feel, but she didn’t let it show too much, lest it compromise her unlikely ascent up the company ranks.
Work devoured most of her life; outside of it, she stopped seeing faces and saw potential Facebook profiles. Her skepticism about the merits of connecting everybody and sharing everything took root. She developed inconvenient concerns about privacy and authenticity. At times, her lament can get a bit rich—“I was starting to wonder exactly who my friends were”—but mostly she reflects thoughtfully about her time promoting a medium that converts real life into grist for virtual performance. Alas, it turns out “instant, distant communication” can’t solve loneliness.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 5:17 PM - 0 Comments
SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook’s stock plunged to a new low Thursday after the expiration…
SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook’s stock plunged to a new low Thursday after the expiration of a ban that had prevented some early investors and insiders from dumping millions of additional shares they own in the social-networking leader.
Firms ranging from Accel Partners to Goldman Sachs, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus and Facebook board members James Breyer, Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman were among those free to sell stock they own, after the lifting of a ban known as a lock-up period.
If many of them took advantage of that, Facebook’s stock could decline because the market would be flooded with nearly two-thirds more shares.
It’s not yet known whether any of those investors had sold any stock because they have three business days to disclose any sales, said Sam Hamadeh, the CEO of PrivCo, which researches privately held companies.
But many of them likely did, he said.
“A lot of people have been waiting,” Hamadeh said. “Facebook was expected to go public a long time ago.”
Venture capitalists who invested in Facebook as early as 2005 were likely itching to sell at the earliest opportunity. Though it’s trading at about half of its IPO price, Hamadeh said Facebook’s stock is still very expensive.
“With VCs, they know that waiting for a better price is a fool’s game,” he said.
Thursday was only the first of several lock-up expiration dates for Facebook’s stock. The biggest one is coming in the fall.
Only 271 million shares became eligible for trading Thursday, but by the time all the lockups expire, that’ll come to 1.91 billion. That’s nearly four times the 421 million shares that had been trading since Facebook began trading publicly 90 days ago.
On Tuesday, shares of online reviews service Angie’s List suffered the biggest one-day drop and closed at a new low following the expiration of a similar ban. The price dropped, even though there was no word on whether any of the major investors had dumped their shares.
Facebook Inc.’s stock traded as low as $19.69 before bouncing back to $20.14 in afternoon trading Thursday. That’s still 5 per cent down, or $1.06, from Wednesday’s close and about 47 per cent below its initial public offering price of $38. If the stock hits $19, it will have lost half its value since Facebook went public in May.
By 1:30 p.m. EDT, nearly 120 million shares had traded — nearly four times the average volume on a full day.
It has been a rough run for Facebook. After one of the most-anticipated IPOs in history, Facebook suffered what may be the most-botched public offering as trading glitches marred its first day. It’s been almost all downhill for the Menlo Park., Calif., company since then.
Investors have been concerned about Facebook’s ability to keep increasing revenue and make money from its growing mobile audience, even as many analysts hold positive long-term views.
Those eligible to sell stock on Thursday were the investors and directors who had participated in the May IPO. The exception was CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who will be ineligible until November. Microsoft Corp., an early Facebook investor, was eligible to sell, though it was unlikely to do so because of partnerships it has with the social network.
Lock-up periods prevent insiders from unloading shares too close to an IPO and can help prevent volatility that might occur if too many shareholders decide to sell a newly traded stock all at once. They generally start to expire 90 days after a stock makes its public debut. Thursday marked 90 days since Facebook’s began trading publicly on May 18.
Other shareholders, including many Facebook employees, will be able to sell beginning in October. The last lockup period expires next May, a year after the IPO.
Facebook’s stock is likely to be volatile until the end of the year when the majority of the lockups expire. Hamadeh called them a “dark cloud on the horizon.”
“There is no way around it. It’ll be painful,” he said. “But hopefully once that selling pressure is gone, it will find its floor and could be a basis for a more stable stock through 2013.”
By Scaachi Koul - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM - 0 Comments
The social network flies far under the parental radar, which is precisely its appeal
Nexopia is one of the few social networks where a young girl still has to write, “I won’t get naked on webcam” on her profile. Girls are accustomed to inboxes full of requests to meet or swap pictures with boys and adult men. Other profiles boast come-hither urgings, like “MESSAGE ME ;).” Here, strangers are friends you don’t know yet.
Although the social network lost members to Facebook in 2009, the Edmonton-based site is experiencing a resurgence in Western Canada. That small but dedicated core audience is due in part to the fact that its users can be anonymous. The site’s slogan says it all: “Because your mom’s on Facebook.”
While a social network like Facebook aims to offer privacy, Nexopia has no such concerns. “Talking to strangers online is a big part of Nexopia,” says 16-year-old Jayden Burnett from Prince George, B.C. “It’s kind of like a gathering of people for a party.”
By Luke Simcoe - Monday, July 30, 2012 at 12:12 PM - 0 Comments
Everything is going wrong for Facebook lately, it seems. First, there was the very public spat with GM–which the car giant seemed to time just so it could poo-poo Facebook’s grand debut as a publicly traded company (although now it’s trying to make up)–, then the technical glitch that confused investors at the IPO, not to mention the controversy about Facebook’s underwriters, and finally, last week, some pretty disappointing earnings results. But the one thing that must be keeping Mark Zuckerberg up at night these days is the creeping suspicion among investors that online ads are not quite the moneymaker they thought they would be–even on Facebook.
The bad news on that front, though, just keeps coming. Only last week, in fact, research emerged hinting that, in the world of online advertising, the best ad may be no ad at all.
In a recent experiment conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) a blank banner ad received more clicks than the average Facebook ad, twice as many as your average “branded” display ad (a static ad which promotes a brand rather than a specific offer or call to action), and only one click in ten thousand less than the average banner ad.
The experiment began when ARF executive Ted McConnell and his friends–including an astrophysicist–decided to test how much clicking on banner ads represented actual user engagement versus how much was just noise–people clicking on the ad by mistake. To do so, the team created and trafficked a blank ad, under the assumption that clicks on an empty ad would qualify as noise. They wired it to measure everything that happened to it, anywhere it ran, and programmed it to ask users who clicked through whether they had done so by mistake or out of curiosity. They even monitored things like mouseovers, and used a heat map to guard against click fraud. (Heat maps detect fraudulent clicks because bots–automated software applications that are sometimes used to inflate click-through rates — tend to click on the same spot every time).
The results are shocking. The click-through rate on the blank ads was 0.08 per cent, just 0.01 per cent short of the average ad. According to independent research from Web Trends, the average click rate on a Facebook ad is only 0.051 per cent, meaning that people click on about one of every 2,000 ads. If that’s the case, then the blank ad performed 60 per cent better.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Google and Facebook are not pals. Amazon has never played nicely with eBay. Yet all four, and undisclosed others, have gotten together to form a bickering supergroup more unlikely than the Avengers. It’s called the Internet Association–a Washington lobby group created to sway U.S. legislators as efforts to regulate and control the Internet ramp up.
Here’s what they’ll be fighting about:
- Net Neutrality: The Internet Association doesn’t want Internet Service Providers like ComCast to play favourites with customer’s data. Without Net Neutrality, ComCast could slow down Skype calls or Youtube videos to make their own phone and video services more attractive. The Internet Association will likely argue that ISPs have no right to discriminate between different types of data.
- Sales tax: Lawmakers have been confounded by the explosion of Internet sales and how to tax them. Amazon (and its customers) have benefitted from some antiquated tax code language requiring a business to have a “physical presence” in a state in order for that state to demand the collection of sales tax. This loophole will be closed. What legislation will replace it, and what will it mean for businesses like Amazon and eBay? Billions are tied to the answer to these questions, and the Internet Association will likely do whatever they can to keep a competitive advantage over brick and mortar retail.
- Privacy: Facebook and Google are data-hungry advertising businesses hell-bent on collecting personal information about their users. Both have fallen afoul of privacy laws around the world. The Internet Association will likely fight to “modernize” privacy legislation. Expect “modernization” to mean “less privacy.”
- Copyright: Hollywood has a massive Washington lobbying presence that steers U.S. copyright law and enforcement, as well as America’s foreign trade policy. Hollywood, along with the video game, publishing and software industries, have been fighting tooth and nail against the open Internet through copyright. The Internet Association can be expected to fight back and send politicians the message that dot-coms are major industries worth protecting too, with big coffers for campaign donations to boot.
Follow Jesse Brown on Twitter @JesseBrown
By macleans.ca - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 3:40 PM - 0 Comments
A Syrian general defects, dogs are good for infants and cases of black lung are on the rise
A Syrian general and commander in the elite Republican Guard, Manaf Tlass, defected last week to France. Tlass is the son of a former Syrian defence minister and family friend of President Bashar al-Assad. His departure, which coincided with an international summit on Syria’s crisis (death toll: 14,000), should send a strong message to Assad’s remaining international backers standing in the way of reform—namely Russia and China. When such a high-ranking insider like Tlass thinks something is wrong with the regime, well, something is most definitely wrong.
Almost all the foreign troops will be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the world community isn’t totally abandoning the war-torn nation. At a 70-country gathering in Tokyo last week, more than $16 billion was pledged to help aid the government of Hamid Karzai forge a lasting peace and rebuild a shattered land. It won’t be enough to complete the monumental task, but it’s a generous start, especially given the fiscal troubles stalking Europe and the U.S.
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
Twitter is so silly, isn’t it? Just a bunch of quasi-literate narcissists publicizing their snack habits and trying to out-zing each other. And really, how can you say anything important in 140 characters?
That’s what I thought before I was on Twitter. Once I signed up, I learned a few things:
- Nobody is asking you to say anything. You can just listen. It’s fine.
- If someone is trivial, or self-promoting, or banal, you needn’t listen to them.
- You can say a lot in 140 characters.
I initially wrote off Twitter because it seemed like nothing new–a homely and feature-poor version of the Facebook news feed. But Twitter’s brilliance is its simplicity. Its innovation isn’t technological, but editorial. Like any good editor, Twitter is merciless, demanding absolute brevity which in turn imposes a strict house style. It has quickly established universal norms, chief among them being the hashtag, an ingenious way to quickly tell everyone just what the hell you’re writing about, something all writers should do regardless of their medium.
Under these constraints, language flourishes. I have read great poetry on Twitter. I get my news through Twitter, quicker and from more perspectives than anywhere else. Again and again I laugh, sometimes out loud. Often a tweet is an advertisement for a longer piece of writing. Sometimes a tweet says it all. The “network effect” on Twitter amplifies some tweets and marginalizes others. This automated filter does a wonderful job, the retweeted tweets are usually the ones I find most relevant. Retweeting also brings me information from outside of my personal networks, calming that early-Internet fear that we would each end up trapped inside a bubble of our own narrow interests. Yes, Twitter is addictive–just like reading. Twitter is an excellent reader’s medium, and a challenging but rewarding writer’s medium as well.
The editors of the boutique literary magazine (redundant?) N+1 take a dimmer view, here.
They may be a year or two late for Twitter-bashing, but timeliness is a Twitterish concern for such erudite folks. Contrary to my experience, the editors feel that anyone who’s on Twitter can’t possibly offer clear thinking about it. To truly understand it, one must shun it, and then it will reveal itself to you as “a scrolling suicide note of Western civilization.”
Twitter is where we “devalue one another through mutual self-importance.” Twitter has wrought “an internet-induced cheapening of language”. Twitter has “opened up vast new space for carelessness, confusion, whateverism.” At least N+1 is spirited in its snobbery — for a while, anyhow. Then comes the inevitable academic wankery, the honors thesis hangover that, thank God, gets beaten out of reporters and Tweeters alike by age 25, but which festers into something incurable among certain literary types.
Boringly citing David Foster Wallace as the “accidental progenitor” of the “blogorrheic” Twitter style, the N+1 editors explain that:
“What distinguishes Wallace’s writing from the prose it begot is a fusion of the scrupulous and the garrulous; all of our colloquialisms, typically diffusing a mist of vagueness over the world, are pressed into the service of exactness.”
The above sentence is overwrought, imprecise, indulgent, and 94 characters too long to tweet.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 1:55 PM - 0 Comments
Cross-border shoppers, restored rats, Mark Zuckerberg on honeymoon
Increased duty-free exemptions kicked in last week for cross-border shoppers (up to $800 for longer visits). They couldn’t have come at a better time. The price gap between U.S. and Canadian goods—up to 15 per cent in some cases—has not disappeared despite the continued strength of the loonie. Retailers have made numerous excuses for higher Canadian prices, from label requirements to import taxes. None hold water. Canada is a big and competitive market close to the U.S. border. The new rules should serve as a wake-up call to retailers, and shoppers should take advantage.
Ottawa won a court appeal to block RCMP members from forming a union. Unions are useful tools to protect workers’ rights, but this is hardly a group in need of more protection. Given the long list of complaints the Mounties have faced (most recently accusations of sexual harassment in B.C.), it looks like an agency still in need of shaking up. The RCMP needs employees—and that includes management as much as anyone—who can be easily disciplined if found to be not living up to the high standards the red serge once represented.
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 11:41 AM - 0 Comments
Canadian comedy legend on life in the fast lane, his hepatitis C diagnosis, and the miracle he is praying for
Mike MacDonald has been described as a “comedy legend” and inspired a generation of Canadian stand-up comedians. He holds the record for most consecutive appearances at Just For Laughs, the Montreal comedy festival. But last year the 57-year-old was diagnosed with hepatitis C, and following a serious infection, his liver and kidneys have shut down. He posted a message on Facebook seeking a live donor with type-O negative blood for a liver transplant. Friends have created an online campaign to raise money for his medical bills and there has been an outpouring of support. It overwhelmed MacDonald, who spoke to Maclean’s from his mother’s home in Ottawa.
Q: Were you surprised by this campaign?
A: It’s been totally unreal. Like I said in my thank-you note, I feel like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s been beyond my wildest dreams and I can dream with the best of them. It’s been less than a week and the response has been amazing. Thank God for Facebook. I have a bit in my act about the top three uses of the Internet: No. 3, hate-mongering, No. 2, the downloading of free music, and the top one is porno. But something like this, this is what the Internet was intended for: to help people, to pass on information, the positive things in life.
Q: Before you had to stop working, how were you doing financially?
A: Well, I was trying to work as much as possible, but for the last two or three years, for the first time in my entire career, I was starting to feel the economic crunch of the time. Especially the corporate gigs, the gigs where sometimes in one night I could make what I could make in a whole month in the clubs. They were dwindling because major corporations weren’t doing as well as they could, so they weren’t having the big celebrations and hiring the big entertainers. And then with the complications of being bipolar and manic depressive, it seemed to go downhill. So financially, we were in and out of debt, with a heavy credit-card debt. To my wife’s credit, she pulled and scratched and crawled our way out of the debt.
Q: When did you find out you had hep C?
A. My father passed away in July after a long bout with diabetes. When I went up there to Ottawa about a month before, I’d displayed some slurred speech, and I was dropping things and tripping, which is uncharacteristic for me, because I’m very physically adept in my comedy. My wife insisted that I check in with a doctor. I checked in with the family doctor in Ottawa, they did some tests, and they said “some of these numbers are a little weird.” They checked it further, I went to a specialist, and they diagnosed it as hep C. That changed everything. Now it’s this situation where I can’t work at all and I’m stuck in Ottawa.
Q: Did the doctors say how you got it?
A: The No. 1 way is intravenous drug use. Going back 25 years, I went through my bout of trying to emulate my heroes like John Belushi and Richard Pryor, getting involved with heroin addiction and cocaine and all that stuff. I got through all that and did anti-addiction documentaries for the CBC, figuring it was the least I could do. I was so lucky I got through all that and I’m still alive. The doctors said my symptoms should have shown up sooner. My friend who went through hep C, when he found out about it, he said, “This is so weird. About nine or 10 other people have popped up from that scene alone who have hep C.” It’s like a generational time period thing, almost a mini-epidemic. I read somewhere that hep C is something that anyone from the ages of 45 to 60 should be tested for, because there’s something about that era.
Q: Do you think comedians take drugs in part to emulate other comedy idols, like Belushi, who died of an overdose, and Pryor?
A: I think that was a factor. I think another thing is that you go back to the hotel by yourself, and you have the choice between picking up somebody else, getting into that debauchery, and using the booze and the drugs to subside the loneliness. It’s all self-destructive. It took me a long time, especially after the drugs, to learn how to be by myself.
Q: Is it necessary for a Canadian performer to move to L.A., or is it possible to make a career in Canada?
A: I certainly thought, when I moved there, that it was necessary. There was all that “go to Hollywood” thing in the back of my mind. In hindsight, the only reason to go to L.A. is if you want to be on an American sitcom or in an American blockbuster movie. You can make films just about anywhere. I have bad luck stories about my experiences in L.A. There was an agent who approached me and said, “I always liked you, I thought you deserved to be farther up in your career than you are.” He said, “I just got my two top clients, John Candy and Steve Martin, five years of work, and now I would like to concentrate on you.” The next night, the guy wakes up in the middle of the night, gets a glass of water from the fridge, has a heart attack and dies. I’ve got a million bad luck stories.
Q: Why did you decide to come back?
A: It just feels right. I’m a Canadian citizen. I started here, I’ll end here. I used to exaggerate a little bit with the jokes I made about Americans, but now I don’t have to exaggerate any more. They’re really crazy down there!
Q: Has anyone come to visit you?
A: One or two close friends that I’ve known since high school. But so many people want to come and see me, so many people want to talk on the phone, so many people have offered to drive me to the health food store. When we were in B.C. or Vancouver Island, there were places where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a health food store. But here in Ottawa, when you start looking for salt in everything, boy, you realize that the salt barons are out there laughing their asses off at the heroin and coke dealers. They run their products with impunity. They make tons more money than anybody else, their product is everywhere. At Tim Hortons the bottled water has five milligrams of salt in it.
Q: Before people started calling and donating, were you aware you had so many friends and admirers?
A: No. There have been people, especially comedians, who I’d met once or twice at Just For Laughs, and I thought there would be politeness, but I had no idea of the deep respect and concern or the outpouring of love and prayers they’d have now. It’s been a humbling experience to say the least.
Q: Have you tried over the years to encourage younger comedians?
A: Not so much, but according to the messages, apparently I have. People remind me of stuff. I would do little things, like have these seminars. I would sign up a maximum of 10 amateurs, and we’d go through their act, examine it, take it apart, and answer any questions. And by a collective think-tank kind of thing, they’d all walk out learning something. To me it was just a little thing. But according to the messages, it was such a big deal. For some of them, it started their careers. But if you’d asked me before all this happened if I had any influence, I’d have said, “I don’t know. Maybe. One or two.” It’s comforting to know that I wasn’t an asshole every second of my life, that at least I did something good. I have a tendency to remember the bad times more than the good. But it’s like one of my favourite song quotes: “Only good people wonder if they’re bad.”
Q: Is there anything you see differently about your life now?
A: Absolutely. This has been a life-changing experience. I have a responsibility, if I get the miracle ending that I’m praying for, to use that gift properly. There’s also the realization that if you touch people in a positive way, you can touch people in a negative way. Let’s say you’re in a restaurant, and the waiter comes over and says, “I’m sorry, I got your order mixed up earlier.” Instead of saying “Well, yeah, maybe next time you’ll do better,” say, “It’s okay, you came with the right order and everything’s fine now.” Maybe he’s had a bad day, and your answer could be what makes him go and be mad at somebody else, to quit his job, to take the drugs that send him into the spiral.
Q: How do you look back on your career?
A: There was a time that I wished I would have been more famous, made more money. But who knows? I could have killed myself with more money and more fame. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that I’ve been most popular in Canada. At my level of fame, people would come up to me, and say, “I loved you on Just For Laughs,” and then they’d walk away. Where I’ve been out in public with friends that are much bigger and more famous and popular than I am, like Tim Allen and Drew Carey. People come up and expect the world from them. And I’m sitting there going, “I am so glad I’m not you right now. Even though you have tons of money, and I’d love to be able to buy my wife a new house, I don’t envy this moment at all.”
Q: Will you keep doing Just For Laughs?
A: They’re arranging a special benefit for the 30th anniversary. Originally, when they asked me last month, I had to turn them down. But lately I’ve been feeling so positive with the energy, that I said that I’m really going to try to at least get down there just for the day. I’ll take the train, because I can’t fly, and try to appear at the benefit, because Montreal’s not too far from Ottawa. My wildest dreams would be to stand up on stage and just do one joke, to get a laugh, to thank the audience for being there and thank the comedians for working for free.