Monday, January 31, 2011

Bell is Strangling the Internet in Canada

The recent CRTC decision to allow Bell Canada to charge exorbitant rates on individual consumption of more than 75 gigabytes is an economic disaster in the making on so many levels. The opposition Liberal and NDP parties were against this attack on net neutrality. Net neutrality is essentially a consumer and competition based view that cable companies and telecom companies or gate keepers should not destroy the relatively free access to the web by charging fees which would hold consumers and the web hostage.

The inflationary pressures that Bell Canada is putting on the Internet will drive up costs for everybody at a time when the world is still reeling from the fallout of other disastrous economic policies. According to CBC news, consumers in Canada are being cut off to 90 per cent of the Internet traffic starting March 1st. Now if Canada was a dictatorship where the goal is to suppress the news that might be understandable.

As any barely literate web trafficker knows, even basic content from the web is demanding more and more bandwidth with a deflationary pressure on computer hardware and storage systems as proof.  Bell Canada is trying to drag us back into an artificially inflated economic trap, driving up prices where they are falling in every other country.

And I would argue that this innovation killing strategy runs afoul of our free trade agreement with our neighbours to the south since NAFTA is supposed to guarantee unfettered trade between our two countries without a legislative barrier or tariff prohibiting this trade. Bell Canada is using the CRTC to block American companies like Netflix, Apple, Google and Amazon from offering cheaper goods to Canadian consumers. This government initiated tax on free speech and free use of the Internet is government-legislated protectionism designed to prop up a weak business model.

Open source applications will conceivably suffer from the squeeze being put on the travel of goods and services over the web. This policy should effectively knock Canada back into the dark ages.

These Canadian gatekeepers are also strangling Canadian innovation on the web in both software and hardware by making it more expensive to compete. There is no reason Canadian companies can't compete with American companies but by sabotaging the Internet, Bell Canada is making sure that new Canadian companies will wither on the vine. By putting the squeeze on consumers this is also an insidious form of censorship, by charging what will be an ever-increasing tax on internet usage. It will be an ever-increasing tax because more and more bandwidth will be needed for basic communications, web visits, downloads and other internet applications. Even if you didn't use your computer for anything but email and visiting sites without downloads, you will be taxing your bandwidth limits in a few short years.

But when a company deprives the people of the goods and services that they want with heavy taxation, it is a doomed business model and when a government agency assists in the fleecing of the public it dooms its political masters.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Groupon in Kingston

Groupon: a Chicago-based coupon company has set up shop in Kingston. If you subscribe to Groupon you will get 'the deal of the day' emails letting you know about the hottest deals for you as a consumer in Kingston. Groupon started 2 years ago and has grown so fast that Google recently offered to buy them for 6 billion dollars. Groupon turned them down.

'Groupon Chief Executive Andrew Mason initially created a site called The Point in 2007 that would organize collective action around social or charitable causes. When The Point failed to turn a profit, Mason retooled the site to focus on daily deals for local services. The new idea became Groupon, which launched two years ago.

Earlier this year,(2010) the company rolled out personalized deals, a feature that targets offers to users based on gender, (location) and purchasing history. This program allows Groupon to serve up multiple deals in each market, keeping any single business from being overwhelmed by thousands of new customers. The move also loosens up a crowded queue of local merchants eager to participate in a Groupon promotion, since the company turns down seven businesses for every one that it features.'
from a piece by Melissa Harris and Wailin Wong of Chicago Breaking

Groupon currently operates in 500 markets in North America; Kingston being one of them.

“Known for its arts, entertainment and higher education, Kingston is an excellent match for the Groupon model,” said Rob Solomon, president and chief operating officer of Groupon. “We look forward to bringing unbeatable deals to Kingston students and residents, while driving new streams of revenue to local merchants.” Business Wire

To be able to take advantage of the discounts which range from 50% - 90% a group of people have to participate. The number is decided by the Kingston company. If you refer friends to Groupon. You get a further ten dollar discount for each friend you refer. The discount can be applied to any offer.

To sign up go to

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Secret in Their Eyes

The Secret in Their Eyes won the 2010 Oscar for best foreign language film. It is a 2009 co-production between Argentina and Spain, set in Eva Peron's Argentina, which was immortalized by Andrew Lloyd Webber in Evita. Directed by Juan José Campanella and based on Eduardo Sacheri's novel La Pregunta de Sus Ojos.

This film is a twisted journey through time, beginning with a lonely retired federal investigator; Esposito, (Ricardo Darin), who is haunted by the twenty-five year old rape and murder of a beautiful young woman. Apparently the crime was solved but justice was thwarted in Eva Peron's corrupt Argentina. By writing a novel about the case; Esposito struggles to find closure. He hopes to make sense of his life.

He seeks out his former boss; District Attorney Irene Menéndez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil). He has been in love with her for years and she him, but that secret remains in the glassy margent of their eyes. (To misquote Shakespeare)

When he tells her what he is doing, writing a novel, she gets him the old Olivetti typewriter he worked on years ago. Old like him. It is missing the 'A'. As she says, his handwriting is unreadable. Alone, in the night, he writes on a sheet of note paper; I fear. Perhaps he is like the mountain climber afraid to go forward because he has looked down into his past, at where he has come from and so he is afraid to go forward. He is stuck.

The film flashes between the past and the present, the crime and the aftermath. For all the characters, time essentially stands still for 25 years.

The young husband of the murdered woman; Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago) does not give up when the case is initially closed, watching and waiting to catch the killer. Esposito and he become close. Esposito has never seen such love for a woman. Morales says he was terrified at first to ask the beautiful woman who was to be his wife out. Esposito is similarly paralyzed by fear. He has let the opportunities for happiness and love with Hastings fall by the wayside. He writes in his notebook; I fear.

After the murder, Morales contemplates a future without his wife as a life full of nothing. Esposito, too sees his life without love as having been full of nothing as well.

Esposito's partner; Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francellais) a self-destructive drunk who is nevertheless a good cop, figures out where to find the murderer by enlisting the regulars from his bar as experts. Letters are decoded and the hunt is on. The movie is about passion, Men's passions, be it love, alcohol or in the case of a climatic chase scene wonderfully wrought in a soccer stadium, soccer.

The dead? Their final chapters have been written, but what about the detective on the hunt for the killer of a young woman, the killer who escaped justice, the grieving husband, the D.A. Their final chapters are yet to be written.

In the climatic scene Esposito sees how people are imprisoned by the choices they make and that is when he realizes the life he has been living has been one of fear and confinement. On his notepad, he adds the missing 'A' to I fear which in Spanish, in this film, translates to I love. He walks away from his prison. He has been set free. He has the courage to finally love, the passion.

The film starts slowly and quietly and rolls on a wave to its magnificent conclusion. Great acting, directing and writing.

Rating ****

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wall Street-Money Never Sleeps

Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas bring us the second act of the Wall Street saga. When the original came out, it starred Douglas and a much more innocent Charlie Sheen in a tale of corporate raiders, men like Canada's own Conrad Black who would take over companies and gut them, in the never-ending journey to turn a profit.

When Wall Street came out in the eighties, Stone had something to say. It was a stylish morality play with Douglas playing the cold-blooded Gekko.

In Money Never Sleeps, Douglas becomes a warm-hearted family man which dilutes the bite of this film, Josh Brolin is the bad guy here and does a commendable job. I think Stone wanted to do Eli Wallach a solid by putting him on screen. He wasn't doing him any favours. Wallach has a long and storied career and this appearance isn't going to add anything to his legacy.

Shia LeBeouf is good as the innocent, but in this film and the Crystal Skull debacle, he gets to escort aging Hollywood stars through their walk of fame.

Money might not sleep but you might as you watch this film. It lacks the edge and style of the original.

The movie takes us into the biggest crash on Wall Street in 70 years, but the mechanics behind it seem to escape Stone. In the original, Stone took us into the heart of Wall Street with the infamous; 'Greed is Good' quote. Summed up a generation perfectly. But the whole toxic soup of derivatives, easy credit, deregulation of Wall Street and the housing bubble seems to be beyond Stone's grasp, but of course, if the engineers on Wall Street didn't and still don't get it, then how could an outsider like Stone.

Now had Lebeouf been an engineer who turns from his dad's engineering firm to go into wall street mirroring the original and uses his skills to create one of those derivative formulas without knowing the consequences, then we would have been inside the maelstorm, but we are only on a park bench watching the bus go by.

An entertaining enough way to pass the time, but an opportunity lost.

Rating ** 1/2

Monday, January 17, 2011

Facebook-The Movie

The Social Network
Adapted from Ben Mezrich's book; The Accidental Billionaires. screenwriter Aaron Sorkin who penned dialogue for television's West Wing, has created characters with all the depth of a facebook profile. And I think, this is the point. Jesse Eisenberg, plays Facebook icon; Mark Zuckerberg as a monochromatic character. He is portrayed as an arrogant jerk. No doubt one reason for this is that the writer of the book only got to hear one side of the story, that from Eduardo Savarin, Zuckerberg's jilted ex biz partner. According to the movie, Facebook is birthed in college from computer nerds longing for girls. Sorkin's dialogue is clever, and the look of the movie (directed by Fight Club's David Fincher) is hacker heaven. When the two Harvard University geeks, Zuckerberg and Savarin (Andrew Garfield), find out that their nascent social networking site has given them groupies, they begin to move in circles reserved for rock stars, a point cemented by pop star's Justin Timberlake's star turn as Napster founder Sean Parker. The acting is top notch. But as far as getting to know the mechanics behind facebook and Zuckerberg, it is like Facebook itself, not an in depth character study but only a profile. Relationship statuses. I like you. I hate you, Take a hike; I am being business partners with somebody else. Fine, lawyer up, I'm coming back for everything. The seduction of Zuckerberg by Justin Timberlake's serpentine Sean Parker of Napster fame is a blast. The lawsuit scenes are witty and revealing. Armie Hammer plays the Winklevoss twins, who end up suing and winning a nice chunk of change from Zuckerberg. The twins had hired him to do a facebook-like project while they were all at Harvard, and Zuckerberg took their ideas to create Facebook. Zuckerberg is arrogant and dismissive of Hammer's twins. He resents them because they are what Zuckerberg is not; charming, athletic, moral, socially successful, and walking in a golden light. It is the revenge of the nerds. Rooney Mara plays the girl who lights the match that creates facebook by dumping Zuckerberg. Of note, she will play Lisbeth Salander in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo american remake.

The Social Network is stylish film making and is a cautionary tale about facebook friends and how quickly they can unfriend you.

Rating ****

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Killer Inside Me

Casey Affleck is a nice guy deputy who meets a prostitue played
by Jessica Alba that doesn't follow the rules and she drags him
into hell. She manages to pull a trigger that is hidden deep inside him and he switches from abiding law officer to homicidal maniac.

Because it is a first-person narrative, it is a disturbing foray
into a diseased mind.

Casey Affleck wears a flat and ineffectual mask that covers a
sociopath inside. Most of the acting is very good but Jessica Alba
is weak and unbelievable as the prostitute. Kate Hudson as Affleck's girlfriend is very good.

Jim Thompson wrote the novel in the fifties.

For those of us in Ontario that had to put up with the Russell
Williams saga, it rings a bell of truth.

Not a great film, with two glaring editing errors but a good
independent effort.

Simon Baker from Austrailia as the investigator was great and so
was Elias Koteas from Montreal as the union brother who knows
what is going on inside Casey Affleck's character.

A good film to cosy up to with criminal minds on a lost weekend.

It is disturbing because it drags you into the role of the
narrator; the killer