Au Courant stinks

Martine and I just watched the first episode of the new CBC NewsWorld show, Au Courant. That’s the thirty-minute weekly English TV show about what’s going on in French Canada, the one that has seen some controversy over the choice of Mitsou as the host.

I thought it was a tempest in a teapot — just a couple of Quebecois journalists who take themselves too seriously taking this small matter too seriously. After all, it’s not supposed to be a news show, or even a serious current events show. I figured it would be a puff show, focusing on cultural this and that, and poking fun at all those silly little things that divide this country.

Then we watched the show. Or to be precise, we watched half the show before we gave up.

It was unspeakably bad. Downright ghastly.

Mitsou, bless her, gives it a good try, but she just doesn’t read or speak well. Her intonation and enunciation are way off. Her expressions and gestures are what you’d expect from the host of a children’s show. Clearly, she got the job because she’s a pretty face and a former pop star who people in English Canada might actually remember. If there had been auditions, she wouldn’t have made the first cut.

But I won’t put all the blame on Mitsou. In fact, the show is bad from stem to stern, from top to bottom and from inside out. The production values are terrible, with some interviewees sounding like they’re talking from the far end of a long metal tube. The editing is awful, and the stories are badly conceived and poorly produced.

They seem to be rushing through everything. The segment on Quebec’s so-called "star system" left me baffled and uninformed. The best they could do for French Canada outside of Quebec was a happy-go-lucky quickie on video lottery terminals in Manitoba — the menus are going bilingual! Then there was something about a fire chief in western Quebec who doesn’t speak French but apparently it’s not a problem. Or something.

Sadly, this much-hyped Anglo outreach is a dead duck. It looks and feels no better than something slapped together by a bunch of high-school kids.

When it comes to telling English Canada about French Canada, Au Courant can’t touch C’est La Vie, the thirty-minute radio show on CBC Radio 1 (88.5 FM in Montreal, Fridays at 11:30 A.M.). That show is fun, insightful, sometimes a bit silly, always informative, and never cloying or embarrassing. Why couldn’t the producers of Au Courant take a few hints from the radio people?

Today’s bugaboos (vol. 32)

Bugaboo #1

I hate it when people confuse the employment dimensions of part-time/full-time and temporary/permanent. Part-time and full-time refer to how many hours a week you work. Temporary and permanent refer to the longevity of your job — usually in terms of a short-term contract (temporary) or a no-endpoint position (you will only leave when you quit, are fired, or retire).

Believe it or not, I see this mistake all the time, even in job listings. I see "part-time" jobs listed that are actually full-time temporary, and I hear people say their job is "full time" because they are permanent (even if they work only 25 hours a week).

Thus, to be clear, the cross-dimentional matrix is like this:

  • Part-time temporary means you’re working less than 35 hours per week on a contract with a known end date. It also probably means you’re poor and desperate.
  • Part-time permanent means you’re working less than 35 hours per week but you are a full-fledged employee with no set "expiry date."
  • Full-time temporary means you’re working 35 or more hours per week on a contract with a known end date. This is the most common arrangement for contractors. Remember the mantra: full-time temporary!
  • Full-time permanent means you’re fucked. You’re doomed to waste your life in some unfulfilling office job only to be turfed out in your prime because of downsizing — or worse, kept on until you are old and lonely and useless and then given the boot with a ceremonial gold-plated watch. (But I digress…)

Bugaboo #2

I hate it when people who work on document design confuse headers and headings. No real designer would make that mistake, but people who include some elements of document design in their host of word- and biblio-smithing responsibilities (such as me)– often get them mixed up (although I never do).

For those who are unsure, the header is the line of text at the top of the page of a printed book. It echoes the name of the book, or the chapter or section name. Headers share their duty with footers, which appear at the bottom of the page. Headings, on the other hand, are the titles that introduce sections of a book. Headings are used hierarchically (levels 1, 2, and 3) to help the reader understand the organization of the book.

Bugaboo # 3

Why do people use the automatic date field in Microsoft Word documents? That’s the thing that automatically updates to the current date whenever you open the document. When I open a memo, or a press release, or any other document, I want to see when it was written or last updated, not today’s date! If I want today’s date I’ll look at a calendar!

Bugaboo # 4

I really hate it when people say (or write) "wallah" when they mean "voilà." (What, you haven’t seen this?) It usually goes along the lines of "then you bake it for an hour and wallah! Dinner’s ready!"

This is unspeakably lame. If you know it’s "voilà" then that’s how you should spell it. If you don’t know it’s "voilà" then what the heck do you think you’re saying? Some kind of made-up conjuring word? Something out of "Lord of the Rings" or "The Flintstones?" (I’ve also seen "walah," "wolla," and "walla.")