Swaggering Braggadocio

Some interesting discussion in response to my note yesterday about the unlawful posting of a megasign by Charlottetown developer Tim Banks who “says he has no intension of following Charlottetown’s heritage and signage bylaws.”

It is immaterial to me whether or not the sign is good or bad, nice or ugly.

Our community has established a mechanism for controlling parts of our visual environment; by arrogantly ignoring the standards we have collectively established, Mr. Banks is insulting all of us, especially the law abiding businesspeople who have gone to the time, effort and expense of actually bothering to follow the law when erecting their own signs.

One correspondent writes “Are there really people out there who would rather have that building filled with more dollar stores?” I would rather have a dollar store that follows the law than a swaggering braggadociocrat who holds our community hostage by playing the role of benevolent developer.

Perhaps next Mr. Banks will find the burden of PST insulting to his sensibilities, or environmental regulations, or employment standards?

It’s one thing to laud actions of oppressed groups who flout senseless laws in the cause of social justice; it’s entirely another to support developers who flout community bylaws just because they think they can get away with it. Mr. Banks should be ashamed of his callous disregard for our community.

Lawless Anarchy in Charlottetown

CBC reports that developer Tim Banks has decided that the heritage and signage bylaws of Charlottetown don’t apply to him. Or at least that he’s going to ignore them.

That’s all very well and good for him to think, but to openly defy the law because it doesn’t meet with his personal style is arrogant and irresponsible. We as a community elect politicians to represent our interests, and those politicians have, on our behalf, developed a set of laws to protect our heritage district.

If you think the laws are flawed or if you “think behind the scenes there’s a group of people who have a belief that our city is built in the past and I think our city is built on the future,” as Mr. Banks does, then the avenue open to you is to lobby to have the laws changed, or to run for office and change them yourself.

How Tobey MacGuire made me $3.36

Okay, this is getting weird. Earlier in the month, as regular readers will know, I started to notice a lot of traffic coming to this website from people searching for keyword Toby Mcguire on Google. Careful spellers will know by now that the famous actor, Tobey MacGuire, does not spell his name this way.

In other words, I was the beneficiary of the traffic of the misspelling teen idol fans of the Internet.

Near as I could tell, this traffic was coming this way because a fellow named Matt Mcguire from Tyne Valley commented on a story about West Prince last July.

Of course as I mentioned this, with several uses of the target phrase Toby Mcguire, the popularity of the site in Google, vis a vis Toby Mcguire, the misspelled idol, grew and grew.

As I mostly missed out on the big Internet bubble, I decided that it was time to cash in on my (Toby’s?) newfound popularity. And so I scrounged around and found a poster company with an affiliate program and signed myself up. Then I modified this website so that any traffic coming from anywhere else that has Toby in the URL ends up going to this special page.

The result. This website is now the most popular one on Google for the search Toby Mcguire Photos.

For the first couple of days I carefuly checked my affiliate report two or three times a day, waiting for the teen money to start flowing in. Then I lost interest, and forgot to check for an entire week.

Imagine my surprise today when I checked in and found that I’d earned myself $3.36. That’s US dollars!


Well, one person bought a Toby Mcguire/Tobey Macguire photo.

And, strangely enough (and more lucrative), someone else bought a print of Vase of Roses by van Gogh.

At this rate, I’ll have enough for Oliver’s college tuition in about 97 years. There’s always Spider-Man 2 to hold out for, though, and the new Spike Lee.

The Knowledge Engine

Here are some interesting examples of how the Internet is like a big, useful, knowledge engine. Insert query in one end. Let simmer. Extract knowledge.

  • For the past two years I’ve made a hobby of finding retired China Marines for my friend Steve in Thailand. He sends me a name and some sketchy details like “the last time I saw him was in Memphis in 1948” and I spend a couple of weeks hunting around the shockingly voluminous sources of public information about people on the Internet and, with luck, make contact. There are few greater feelings in the world than hunting for a 77 year old Marine, last seen in 1948, and finding him hunkered down in North Carolina (or the woods of Minnesota, or…), giving him a call and telling him that one of his long lost buddies wants to chat. Wow
  • Yesterday I sent two friends, Buzz Bruggeman and Oliver Baker a wacky idea for making WiFi waves visible. I thought it might make a neat event for Pop!Tech. I received back carefully considered thoughts from Oliver on how this might or might not be possible. Buzz posted a note on his weblog (which, in turn, Doc Searls pointed to. I’ve already gotten one interesting response back from Buzz’ network of smart people.
  • In response to my note about airline timetables XML, someone I’ve never met, a guy named Lars Marius Garshol from Oslo, wrote me asking for more data, and offered me help on improving the format of the XML file. I took his advice, sent him an updated file back, and now he’s building some neat thing around it.
  • I ran into Matt Rainnie and his burgeoning family yesterday at the coffee shop; he mentioned that he was going to see Insomina. Inspired by this mention, I decided to go and see it myself. I reported this on my website. Matt read this, and wrote me back offering to lend me a DVD of the Norwegian version of the film.
  • Having something of an obsession with the film Heaven Can Wait, I found that the papers of Harry Segall, who wrote the play the film is based on, are in the collection of the University of Texas at Austin. I sent an email off to a librarian there, and received a very helpful response inviting me down to Austin to examine the papers.

I don’t really think the Internet is anything new in this regard: it’s simply a “performance enhancing drug” for knowledge adventures, making things that would have been so inconvient or unlikely as to be impossible in the pre-Internet world suddenly quite easy, and compressing space and time in the process.


The Top Seven Things I Wonder about Empire Theatres

If you want to go to a mainstream first run movie in Charlottetown, and you don’t want to go to the drive-in, you’ve got to go to Empire Theatres.

I saw Insomnia there tonight; it was a good movie that I wouldn’t have gone to see if I knew anything about it, so I won’t say anything about it so as to not jeopardize gentle readers’ possibility of going to see it.

But the experience did leave me with the following questions about Empire Theatres:

  1. There are now 4 or 5 electronic ticket machines available at the entrance. You can’t miss them. It takes about as long to buy your ticket from a machine as it does from a person, yet even when there are 30 or 40 people in line, the ticket machines remain largely unused. Why? (Companion question: similar situation exists at Terminal 2, Pearson Airport in Toronto: you can check in with a terminal in about 15 seconds or wait in line for 1/2 an hour to check in with a real person; the terminals are seldom used).

  2. There is a new ritual of having an usher enter the theatre just before the show and say (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here): “Hello my name is Fabian and I’m an usher here at Empire Theatres. I’m just here to let you guys know about our Stash the Trash Program…” Fabian (or whoever) then goes on to tell us that we can “really help them out” by using garbage pails, and mentions at the tail end that if we have any temperature or volume problems we can come and talk to him. I’m wondering (a) why they put shy adolescents through such public speaking hell, especially when many in the audience are no doubt their classmates, (b) whether this scheme actually convinces people to stash their trash or not, and how much money they save from some number of the audience members doing so and (c) whether other audience members find this annoying rather than helpful. I always thought the opportunity to callously throw litter on the floor was part of going to the movies.

  3. The ushers and their overlords are all wearing headset walkie talkies. What are they talking about? “We’ve got a callous trash non-stasher in aisle 3; all agents respond.”

  4. The ushers that take tickets now refer to the theatres as “stadiums,” or rather “Stadiums” as in “Insomnia… that’s in Stadium 6, second door on your left.” Does this really impress anyone?

  5. Has anyone else noticed that the toy plastic “stadium style seating” they apparently bought from Wal-mart is rather flimsy and has the annoying property of echoing every tick, kick and jossle of anyone in the row behind you directly into your spinal column?

  6. Said Wal-mart style seating also incorporates cup holders, which while they make soda storage much easier, also render useless the arm resting feature of the arm rests. Did the designers not think of this?

  7. Why do you young teens think it’s okay to talk at the movies? I never talked at the movies as a young teen. Talking at the movies is wrong. Such people should not be allowed to attend movies. I consider them one step below the “hey, let’s roll some M&M’s down the aisle for kicks” people.
I would appreciate answers to any of the above from those more knowledgeable than I. And do go and see Insomnia.