Transparency in Media – Importance for Democracy

I received an email from a very “in” person (i.e. a good source). The mail writes:

On MAY 10th, 2010, this open letter will appear in the Canadian magazine “The Walrus” (June and July/August issues). If you don’t know it, it’s like the New Yorker of Canada! The letter is also visible on JPS Film’s Facebook page (they who have sponsored this advertisement).


Dear Citizens of Democracy,

One of the fundamental signs of a healthy democracy is the transparency of and access to information. Among documentary filmmakers there is growing concern that this is being undermined and restricted.

Documentary filmmaking is about sharing stories that are either being ignored, suppressed or forgotten, to entice public dialogue and interest. We feel that part of our role as documentary filmmakers is to uphold these tenants of democratic dialogue. In a healthy democracy social, economic and political criticism and analysis is vital.

Unfortunately, even in democratic countries such as ours, a collusion of power entities are degrading these democratic values and inhibiting the release of films. Our profession, like democracy itself, is being obstructed.

We are writing this open letter to alert the public of the following problems:

• Intimidation, pressure and harassment of filmmakers and those they interview, especially when corporate financial interests are at stake;
• Conflicts of interest that hinder films from securing Errors and Omissions insurance (insurance companies avoid insuring films who investigate their biggest clients. Without
• E&O insurance, it is very difficult to release films in North America);
• Lawsuits that block the release of films denouncing corporate crimes;
• Consolidation of media outlets, unchecked by government;
• Broadcasters who place advertising dollars and lowest common denominator thinking before freedom of speech and information;
• Government agencies delaying and avoiding the transmission of public information or not making government officials available for questioning;

Emmanuelle Schick Garcia (Canada/France)—The Idiot Cycle
Peter Wintonick (Canada)—Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media
Fredrik Gertten (Sweden)—BANANAS!*
Hubert Sauper (France)—Darwin’s Nightmare
Matthew Groff (U.S.A.)—U.N. Me
JoAnne Fishburn (Canada/UK)—
Erik Gandini (Sweden/Italy)—Videocracy
Violeta Ayala ” Dan Fallshaw (Australia)—Stolen
Mat Whitecross (U.K.)—The Road to Guantanmo
Tracy Worcester (U.K.)—Pig Business
Neasa Ni Chianain (Ireland)—Fairytale of Kathmandu

PAID FOR BY JPS FILMS (Japanese Pop Songs is based out of Paris)

Given my recent posts on TheMyndset about the role of transparency in society and on Wikileaks, this above letter certainly follows in the same vein. What are your thoughts about this letter?

Film Review: Face cachée de la lune (Far Side of the Moon) by Robert Lepage

The Far Side of Moon Film JacketThe 2003 Québécois film, “La Face Cachée de la Lune,” — or “Far Side of the Moon” — by Robert Lepage (ingenuously written, directed, produced and headlined with dual lead roles) is a fabulous film that I highly recommend. Having just watched this film in the wake of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission, I thought I’d try to incite you to go out and rent it/download it…

Things I loved about this film:

  • the at-time very Gary Larson-like “far side” humour.
  • a reminder of the serendipitous nature of life and the many paths and voyages resident in one’s life.
  • how it showed the importance of your childhood in forming who you are.
  • the allegories played out by the different professions of the two brothers (Philippe and André): selling the Sun on the one hand and selling the weather on the other, all the while focused on the US-Russian race to the moon. Also notable: the links between the baby in the womb, the child in the washing machine, the goldfish in the bowl, and the astronaut floating outside in space attached by a technological umbilical chord.
  • the film within the film as Philippe, the missed Mad Scientist, records life on Earth for Extraterrestrials.
  • last, and probably least, the credits written with trompe l’oeil Russian Cyrillic characters (as in the jacket).

I found the text brilliant (I must own up that I watched the film in v.o. which actually means the version française) in the way that it treats the challenges of life and parallel universe of our thoughts. The film dances in and out of reality, playing with gravity and gravitas, Lilliputians and hallucinations.

Robert Lepage is a man of many talents, not least of which is that he also created the Cirque de Soleil permanent production of KA at Las Vegas. Here is a fittingly positive review of the film by Culture Vulture.

My final commentary on the film regards the “thesis” that Philippe develops in the film to explain why the Russians wanted to get to the moon. Philippe’s theory posits that narcissism was the driving force. The character Philippe says, “Before Galileo turned his telescope toward the heavens, we believed that the moon was a polished mirror whose darks scars and mysterious outline were in fact the reflections of the mountains and seas on Earth” [in French: “Avant que Galilée ne tourne son télescope vers le ciel, on croyait que la Lune était un miroir poli dont les sombres cicatrices et contours mystérieux étaient en fait le reflet des montagnes et des mers de la Terre.”]. In his foiled thesis, Philippe explains how the brilliant Russian scientist Constantin Tsiolkovsky came up with the concept in 1895 of an enormous elevator building — inspired by the Eiffel Tower — which would take people up into space and where the cost would be $40/floor rather than $400 billion for each person to go into space. Tsiolkovsky was a remarkable man and, despite being closed off from the advancements outside Russia, came up with much ground breaking work including the multi-stage rocket and air cushion vehicle.

For me, however, the film sent me back to my days at Yale, when my wonderful Russian lit teacher, Professor Victor Ehrlich (1914-2007), justified that the evident jumpstart the Russians had in the race for the moon. Mr Ehrlich’s thesis was anchored in the “enlightened” thinking, promoted in the middle of the 19th century by Russia’s intelligentsia, surrounding the Philosophy of the Common Good (всеобщее благо). Initially introduced into Russia in the early 18th century, the cause of the Common Good stimulated the 19th century intelligentsia to galvanise scientific research and to dedicate themselves to finding a way to bring back to life their much respected ancestors. Ehrlich recounted how Alexander Bogdanov, the physicist, philosopher, economist and revolutionary, came up with a pioneering blood transfusion theory which, put into practice by himself, gave life to one of his own terminally sick students and subsequently caused his own death. In paralllel to this research to unlock the miracle of bringing back the dead to life, another branch of Russian thinkers considered the challenge of where to put all the resuscitated ancestors, should such a solution be found. The logical lebensraum was the moon. Consequently, a number of Russian scientists began to theorise on how to propel a man-inhabited rocket into space. Prior to the work done by Tsiolkovsky, Ehrlich refered to the pioneering work of the ill-fated Nikolai Kibalchich, who was an explosives ‘expert’ and, just before being hanged in1881 for his part in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, wrote a letter in which he described in some detail a rocket propelled aeronautical system for the transport of men. It was not until 1918, however, that Kibalchich’s letter was published. His 1881 theory predated by 10 years the “groundbreaking” research of a similar nature by the German engineer, Hermann Ganswindt. Between Kibalchich and Tsiolkovsky, to mention but two, clearly the Russian scientists were truly ahead of the times in figuring out how to get man into space. [Incidentally, Alexander Bogdanov also wrote an utopian novel, Red Star, in 1908, in which the protagonist travels to Mars.]

Sputnik Space ProgrammeThus, Ehrlich’s thesis was that Sputnik and Soyuz were merely the logical conclusion to the century long obsession of how to get man (albeit in the form of resuscitated ancestors) onto the moon. Without doubt, we owe much of our knowledge of the Moon to the Russians. So, even if La Face Cachée de la Lune (Far Side of the Moon) did not refer to Kibalchich and Bogdanov, it is a very worthy film, especially for those of you who enjoy astronomy and astrophysics.

TV5 Quebec – Un spammer nuisif!

Cannette de Spam / Can of SpamDans la série “il y a du spam qui gonfle,” je constate avec ennui la souscription spammatique que j’ai faite au newsletter de du Québec.  Puisque j’ai quitté le Canada il y a deux ans et demi, je n’ai plus besoin de savoir ce qui passe sur la chaine TV5 au Québec.  Ainsi, il y a déjà longtemps que j’ai coché “dés-inscrire” sur l’ensemble des possibilités; mais je continue à recevoir mensuellement leur newsletter.  Ainsi, ayant parcouru les FAQ et n’ayant pas trouvé la question de la désinscription suffisamment fréquente, j’ai écrit un mot courtois au Service à la Clientèle et demandant de m’enlever de leur base de données.  Voici leur réponse par email:

Nous avons bien reçu votre communication électronique et espérons que vous avez pris plaisir à visiter le site Internet de TV5.
Il est important pour nous de recueillir vos commentaires et suggestions.
Compte tenu du grand nombre de courriels reçus, tous les messages ne peuvent obtenir de réponse personnalisée. Nous vous invitons toutefois à consulter notre Foire aux questions à l’adresse suivante :
Merci de votre intérêt pour la programmation de TV5.
* Ceci est une réponse automatisée. S.V.P. ne pas y répondre *
Service à l’auditoire
1755, boul. René-Lévesque Est, bureau 101, Montréal (Québec) H2K 4P6, CANADA”

Il va de soi que cette réponse est moins que suffisante. Il y a le spam non-sollicité qui est particulièrement embêtant et polluant.  Mais, juste derrière vient ce type de nonsense.

Voilà ma pétition à TV5 Québec:
Ecoutez-moi.  Je m’en souviens sans avoir besoin de vos mails!  Enlevez-moi, vous m’agacez.

Padel Tennis – The Best Racquet Sport in the World

I have mentioned in the past my singularly most favourite sport is padel tennis — even if I don’t get many chances to play. The New York Times ran an article in late December 2008 on the topic of the alternative tennis games: Tennis spawns variations (thanks to my father for passing along) in which it refers to this wonderful game, padel tennis.

Padel Tennis TournamentThis game is quite different from the platform tennis you see in the US and that is often played in the middle of winter. Padel is generally played in the warmth of the sun with walls rather than fencing around the perimeter. If you have never seen padel tennis, don’t be alarmed. The game is quite geographically limited: principally Spain, Argentina and Mexico, and there are a few courts dotted around elsewhere; for example, in other Latin American countries and, that I know of personally, in the south of France and with one in the outskirts of Paris. From my online scouting, meanwhile, it would appear that the game is sprouting up elsewhere… There was apparently a World Championship tournament held in Calgary this past August 2008 with competitors from 15 countries: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, USA and Canada. The site still says that the tournament is “coming” in August 2008… so apparently, the winner is as yet unannounced. There was even a blog from the UK about padel tennis (but it hasn’t been updated since 2006).

What makes padel tennis so enchanting? There are four main reasons why I love this sport:

Padel Tennis Hitting off the Back Wall1/ It is a wonderful combination of squash and tennis — the best of both worlds with walls, a net and a tennis ball. The racquet doesn’t hurt (plus they have very new snazzy racquets these days — see to the right).
Padel Tennis Racquet (Racket)2/ You can play at all ages… as long as we are talking doubles. In fact, padel doubles is the best game, especially when you have four equally matched players.
3/ The ball stays in play for what seems like hours because of the low margin of error — all the more so when you are playing with a good set of players.
4/ Certainly a bit of nostalgia here, but the game is generally found and played in warmer climates… and usually in Latin countries, which is all very appealing.

There is even a Federation of Padel Tennis… an important address for anyone who, like me who hopes one day to own a chateau, will want to install a padel court around the back.

A word of warning: don’t take any bets playing an Argentinian in padel… the apparent world’s number one (in the men’s) is an Argentine, albeit the ranking was stopped in 2006 — and on the women’s side, the top 10 is filled with Argentines too. Along with polo, the Argentines have tended to dominate padel (although, as the NY Times article suggests, the game is apparently in decline in Argentina). The Spanish currently dominate the men’s top 10.

For more information, here is wikipedia’s description of padel tennis. As a final aside: it is funny but virtually all the internet sites I found about padel tennis are no longer very active. All the sites seemed to have fizzled out oddly enough in 2006… I guess that means the community of padel tennis players is more interested in being offline (and on the court)!

Added in 2015 – an impressive highlight reel of the 2012 World Championships:


If you are a fan of padel tennis, let me know where you are!

Videocast direct from L’Oreal Business Forum 2008


Coming back from the 7th edition of the L’Oréal Business Forum, held September 29 through October 1, 2008, in Villasimius, Sardinia (Italy), I wanted to share with you the day-by-day videocast which was put up on line as soon as each segment was ended. There were 2,000 L’Oréal Professionnel hairdresser clients coming from 27 countries–largely from Eastern Europe–including nearly 1,000 from Russia and groups ranging from Australia, Canada, South Africa and Iran. A veritable coup to film, edit and post all within an hour so many sessions.

LBF 2008

The Forum included business presentations from Bertram K, Gary Rom, Tanya Chernova and Fred Aunis. Prestige shows from Carlo Bay, Berni Ottjes and Laetitia Guenaou. There were also Master Classes from Petra Mechurova, Bertram, Berni and Laetitia.

Right after each segment, participants were able to see the videocasts directly at an internet café set up outside the main tent. will see the 3 days on the left hand tabs, with a morning and/or afternoon session per day. Click on this and tell me what you think!

If the world could vote … they would vote Obama

If the world could vote in the next US Presidential Election…it would be a landslide

My friend Rodrigo (obrigado) sent me this link and I feel a compulsion to share it.

Below is a snapshot of a poll taken from over 49,000 people around the world currently casting their vote online. Many of the countries, granted have scant coverage, but in the mass, the results are quite remarkable. Naturally, the 122 million or so Americans who vote (as in 2004), the local of issues of economics, health care, education, etc., are not on the radar for the rest of the world. And, like any poll, it is only “intentional”. Moreover, you don’t see any abstentions or undecided. Nonetheless, the question is whether the international “vote” has any impact — and the answer is unfortunately no. Middle America is not preoccupied with the point of view of the rest of the world — too much like the current Administration.

In this poll, incidentally, there is presumably an nonrepresentational vote from 9,129 people (18% of the total in this online survey) in the USA, who are 80% in favour of Obama. That said, the role of the internet is increasing in every political campaign, so it will be interesting to review the numbers of the below poll as we get closer to the real vote — and more emphatically to follow how viral messages start to circulate to galvanize support within the US electorate. as of September 20, 2008 at 8am Paris Time.

Barack Obama 85.6% (41,987 votes)
John McCain 14.4% (7,059 votes)

Total number of votes: 49,046
Countries voted from: 149

Countries with a reasonably significant number of voters (ie above 60) where the proportion selecting McCain is higher include:

Czech Republic 42%
Venezuela 33%
Poland 28%
And, it would seem that the former USSR states are a little more right wing.

Another notion that is striking in this online survey are the countries with the largest number of voters (absolute numbers as of this morning).

Poland 7213, Spain 5283, Portugal 4493, France 2870, Iceland 2832, Canada 2058, Iran 1588….Israel 48 (and split 50-50).

Below is what it would look like if the world could vote in the presidential election, with the blue for Obama and the red for McCain.

A few others blogging on the same topic:
Paper Blog (Franco-English)

Or again on Facebook: If the world could vote

An alter ego – The Dials on Vinyl

The Dials Psychedelic MusicEver get the feeling you missed out on something in life with the career that you chose? Well, I have always enjoyed a few passions on the side, including writing and music. If I were to have created a band, I think to myself, what band would that have been? What name would I have given it? Anyway, someone else did the thinking for me as I discovered that, out of Brighton, a band was formed a few years ago named The Dials. And, among their influences? The Grateful Dead. (see on their myspace page). I am sure that the Travelling Wilbury’s are in there somewhere too, even if they don’t admit it. The name of a concert they put on last year even appealed to me: What’s Cooking?

And for my friends in Toronto, they have a gig there at the NXNE festival in June (13th).

And if you needed stunning wine review, try this goofy video: YouTube The Dials.

Quebec paves way in managing delinquency

Le Monde published an article in October (6th), entitled, ” Le Quebec en exemple,” in which it wrote about the Quebec [role] model for handling criminality. The article, subtitled “the challenge of prevention,” focuses on their efforts with regard to juvenile delinquency, sexual offenders and repeat criminals. And the results are evidently powerful. While I can’t find the article on line, I will share with you what I found stirring in this article. And the Quebecquers sure do know how to take a modern, original angle on topics like this.

There are several prongs to their strategy to manage delinquency. The first and foremost is in the realm of prevention (also under way in France, see photo to the left). The police force has a mandate to get into the social fabric of the community. Eliminate the “them” vs “us” mentality. Mine your information and sources. Secondly, what ever form of incarceration takes place, the focus is on re-integration including training, partial leave, residences in normal residential areas.

Other techniques cited include having a criminal finishing out his/her service by doing social services, including singing at a retirement home (music is a great soother, as we saw in the Philippines Prison Thriller set up in Cebu). Prison is considered as therapy and inmates are greatly encouraged to work, to learn, all in a goal to be re-insertable into society when their time is up.

The results show that the rate of criminality in Montreal has dropped by 13% since 2000 and by 38% since 19991.

Of couse, it’s not like shooting has disappeared. A naysayer might evoke the Freakonomics type argument that it was statistically probable (just like for NYC’s Giuliani) that crime was going to come down naturally.

And there are clearly people not happy about the “royal” treatment these convicted criminals are receiving. I would have to say that, if I were ever in such a horrid situation to be put away in prison, I would prefer the Quebec approach. Makes sense. It seems human, decent and, more importantly, effective in reducing the recidivist tendencies. Yet, of course, no program of this sort is without its risks (corruption, carelessness, connivery…)

But another sign of “modernity” in their program is their approach of workshopping topics such as Control of Anger, Emotional Management, Sense of the Other, Empathy, Acquiring interpersonal skills, etc., which are more accessible means of helping the criminally convicted to accept the therapy and get the benefits — as opposed to being set up for “psychiatric treatment.”

And for those of you scared to have a penitentiary house as your neighbour, less than 1% of the men who have lived in that “transitional” house has gone on to do further violent crimes.
Montreal, Quebec, had 43 homicides in 2006, 10x less than in a comparably sized city in the US, such as Philadelphia. For Quebec, it’s the lowest level of criminality since the 1960s. And Canada as a whole has seen global delinquency drop by a 1/3 since 1991. All seems to be very encouraging. Nothing’s perfect, but this approach does seem to speak to me. The article avoids the difficult task of proving reduced tax payer dollars (or even pretending that it is the ultimate goal), but lower criminality is the right objective and surely that has more than monetary value! Peace of Mind. Yet another reason why I loved living in Montreal.

And the part I liked best: “It all begins in the recreation yard…” with 11-year old students, where the policemen and women intermingle with generosity and humour.

Priceless. For everthing else, it’s MASTERFUL.


Facebook growing fastFacebook is growing at a rate of knots, it’s hard to imagine where it will stop. This pick up from Mashable is interesting as it speaks to the aforementioned (prior post “Googlotics”) role of the online presence in political races. Put your two cents into this Daily Poll about whether online presence will have an impact. The growth of the FB users in anglophone countries means that it is a veritable minefield for those candidates and/or companies that get a [right] foothold into the network. See Mashable’s chart about the exponential growth in Canada, UK and Australia (which is perhaps just on the verge of tipping).

I enjoyed the questions recently posed by Fabrice Grinda on his blog…seems like it is all very inflationary, but at the same time, the money that Microsoft put behind Facebook is not funny money. And, inspired from Psychology of Cyberspace (albeit a dead blog), Facebook is a great way, especially for us older folk, to stay in tune with what’s going on among the younger crowds. I foresee in the near-term people doing all their Join the Conversation Jaffecommunications on Facebook and instead of saying “what’s your email?” the terminology will switch to what’s you Facebook name? what’s your FB app? what’s your private Group? The ability to restrict access to your Facebook profile I believe is elemental and, in the relatively slow build of its userbase, there will be a stronger affinity and loyalty if they maintain that sense of restrictiveness (to your friends, networks, etc.). And soon enough Facebook will become a shopping centre (online shopping seems like a gimme doesn’t it?). I can just see it: buy all your family a Christmas present. Send your admirees flowers. Share the launch of your book via Amazon with all your “intellectual” friends (cf Joe Jaffe’s bumrush). See Adrant story.

Great idea is to review what they were saying about Facebook in the past… try the Mashable Facebook “Complete biography”. It was published in August 2006 (feels like years ago, doesn’t it?). The Wikipedia listing for Facebook will have to be one of the most updated items at the moment, considering it is so prevalent in so many people’s minds these days.

Facebook is growing, growing…grown? (aka off to the IPO). Its future growth will depend on three things in my opinion:

1/ the strength of its internationalisation rollout (not to do mistakes like Google with Baidu [thanks Fabrice])
2/ the willingness to leave the freedom with its users (we’ll have to see what restrictions Microsoft might impose)
3/ the ability to convert the Facebook application into a one-stop communication lab.