May 24, 2013

It's not the presence of evidence, it's the seriousness of the allegation

Here's the press conference I'd like to see Toronto mayor Rob Ford hold.

Rob Ford: Good morning. I would like to respond to the allegations made by Gawker and the Toronto Star about this video that has supposedly surfaced, showing me smoking crack. Before I begin, though, I have a quick question: Have any of you viewed this video?

Members of the press: [general murmuring that sounds like "No," "not really," etc.]

Ford: No, eh? Interesting. Has any legitimate news agency actually come into possession of this video?

Press: [more murmuring]

Ford: Really. How fascinating! Now, in this news article I just read on the CBC Web site, it says, "CBC has not seen the video and has been unable to verify its contents." In fact, every CBC news article has said that same thing. Is this true?

Some CBC reporters: ["Yes," "I guess so," etc.]

Ford: Well, then. It seems there's nothing to respond to, and I won't waste your time any more. If you'll excuse me, I've got mayoring to do. [exits]

I've got no particular opinion about Ford or his abilities as mayor. I don't live in Toronto, and I'll leave that to his voters. But, for the last week, this has been the most egregious case I have ever seen of the media manufacturing a news story out of thin air. The previous contender was "Rathergate" back in 2004. Arguably, that fictitious scandal had farther-reaching ramifications, but at least the perpetrators managed to publish their trumped-up evidence against George W. Bush.

By contrast, the allegations against Ford so far consist entirely of rumour. Smoke and mirrors. Of course, this hasn't stopped multiple commenters on the CBC site from calling for Ford to step down, because this made-up "scandal" has become a distraction to the running of the city. No, really. Well, I've never mistaken those who comment on for the swiftest people in the world.

This nonsense has gone on for a week. As I write this, there are no less than 13 links on the Toronto Star front page that mention the Ford scandal. So far, the incriminating video has yet to actually be made public, and it might not: the Star itself is reporting that Gawker's campaign to purchase the supposed video for $200,000 has a slight problem: they can't find the owner.

Who knew Somali drug dealers would be so hard to find? They're usually so reliable, but these days, it seems they're almost as elusive as journalistic standards. Congratulations to the Toronto Star and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: you're the latest joint recipients of the DIM BULB du jour. Shine it with pride, morons.

May 11, 2013

Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)

Ray Harryhausen, the special-effects pioneer best known for stop-motion movie monsters, died this week at the ripe old age of 92.

Normally, on Saturdays, I would be blogging about old Superman radio shows. But Harryhausen is certainly within the spirit of Serial Saturdays. What weekend afternoon wouldn't be made better by a science-fiction double feature of Harryhausen's brilliant B-movies?

The first feature film with Harryhausen's effects that I saw was the redoubtable 1981 flick Clash of the Titans, his last film. However, my favourite of his is the alien-invasion movie Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, along with Dr. Cyclops, which I first saw in a university lecture hall in my first year in a course on science-fiction literature, of all places. Finally, my favourite scene of Harryhausen's is hands-down the skeleton battle from Jason and the Argonauts.

Ray Harryhausen's jerky stop-motion animation looks downright Stone Age next to today's digital animation. But it has what so much CGI really lacks: heart and charm. I'm not putting down digital effects in fact, after I finish writing this, I'm going to a friend's place to watch Captain America and The Avengers on his 3D TV. Unlike the digital action-fests we see today, though, which throw the resources of multiple effects companies and hundreds of employees at the visuals, Harryhausen's work was a true labour of love. Artists like him are few and far between now.